When we started TAMARBIKES, 4 years ago, it was one of our life’s dreams to reach South America, and especially, Ushuaia the most southern city on earth. Consequently, when I finally reached with our first Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego Adventure, it was a threefold success for us: 1. We had reached the End of the earth Ushuaia and made one dream come true; 2. We came leading a tour with 8 other riders, making us one of the few touring companies that go to the end of the earth, and; 3. This was also the end to a year where we were on 4 continents in one year Asia (Himalaya Adventure). Europe, Africa (Africa Expedition & Morocco, and South America.
Our tour begins in Osorno Chile, a medium sized town in the middle of the agricultural hub of Chile. “They sell here milk and meat”, told me our driver on the way from the Airport into town we see cows laying in the meadows all very beautiful well kept and cared for with a very strong feeling of France or Switzerland, but on second look it is more beautiful. Its spring time here the air is crisp, and the back drop is snow-capped volcanoes all around and tomorrow pristine alpine lakes of amazing beauty. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Arrival day is always about welcome, getting acquainted, having a first briefing and having the traditional welcome festive dinner and off to an early night to sleep away the Jet lag. And get ready to the long and challenging ride to el Fin del Mundo.
Leg 1 – The lake district
Our first days of the tour are relatively easy we cross to Argentina and back to Chile the next day and roll round some breathtaking views some great asphalt as well as a little gravel to make thing interesting. Rumbling rivers amazing flowers lakes and Bariloche the St Moritz of Argentina all make for a fabulous warm up for the road ahead. We still don know what the fuss was about as things are still easy and we are all still very fresh on the bikes.
Leg 2 – The Carratera Austral
Day 4 begins with a roll down from Futalefu through the mountains down towards our second chapter – the Carratera Austral – This Mega project of the Generalissimo Pinochet the head of the military Coup that headed a military regime over Chile during the 70 and 80s. For many years there was no real land connection between central Chile and the southern region of Patagonia which is very lightly populated. Transportation was based on a 3-day ferry ride up to Poerto Montt, or simply crossing to Argentina and riding up the Quarenta, Highway 40 that crosses Argentina from north to south.
The Carratera Austral is still not paved its full length so you can find yourself winding through tricky curves climbing steep inclines on gravel. If you happen to hit some rain, which is not unlikely, you may be riding on some tricky muddy or slippery surfaces so bare this in mind. As we work our way south, villages become smaller and more picturesque. We find German villages (Puyuhapy), and beside one regional town of Coyhaique, its wilderness and small villages right the way down. The Chileans call HW 7, The Caraterra Austral the road to the end of the world however it only reaches the end of the Chilean world. We however will take this task a little more seriously when we cross to Argentina for our third Leg across the planes of Argentina through its Estancias and very long roads (1 specific one – AR40) continuing our voyage southbound.
Leg 3 – Glaciers and granite massifs.
We start the third Leg of our ride when we leave the Carratera Austral and cross over to Argentina once again. The remainder of the day and the next day are all about getting some serious miles under our belt and we are going to break for the night at a genuine Estancia (farm house) where the gauchos (Cowboys) will prepare for us a real Argentinian BBQ. Food is fabulous, we drink ourselves silly with local beer and wine and were off to our beds which are in large rooms of a number of beds (3-4) in each for a cozy but intensive sleep after a long ride. Next day we are on our way to El Calafate, The Mecca of trekkers and our rest day destination.
El Calafate is a typical trekkers town with lots of hotels of all levels, god restaurants if you know where to go, a souvenirs market, and much more. We rest get some laundry arranged for all – after 9 days – and get ready for the Perito Moreno – the famous collapsing glacier that keeps this town alive among others. The well-known trek of Mt Fitz Roy is also less than a day’s ride away as well as our next stop. We opt for a van instead of riding the next morning leaving the bikes behind which is a good decision. It’s a short ride to the Glacier and then a couple of hours of the best nature scenery and photography and areal show by mother nature crackling and collapsing into the lake with a thundering roll ever so often. Amazing!
Next day we are back on the bikes and heading to, yet another top of the world nature reserves this time on the Chilean side. Torres del Paine is undoubtedly one of the most amazing nature reserves in the world. It built for trekking and also has a Luxury flare to it with in park luxury hotels however we are riding through it. A prehistoric giant bear, and the huge and magnificent granite mountains creating a postcard like picture from almost any lookout you stop to take in the view. It’s a great easy gravel riding and a fabulous way to get some of the best nature pictures possible.
Leg 4 – Tierra-del-Fuego and Fin-del-Mundo
This is our Final Leg. It will take us 2 days to reach Ushuaia as we stop in Cerro Sombrero before we cross again to Argentina. This allows for some time for the ferry over the Magellan straits, something which can be tricky, and very prone to weather and tides, as we would find out the hard ways on our way back. So, we ride by the turnoff to the southern port of Puerto Natales on our way to the Tierra del Fuego Island. The ferry is bumpy but it’s a 15 minute run across these straits at their slimmest part of the “waist” and then another hour to the Cerro Sombrero village and Hotel.
Nest day its an early start and we are on our way to the end of the earth. When the wind picks up we find ourselves riding at ridiculous angels while riding in a straight line. However, once we get the hang of it its actually fun. Another challenging situation we get to master on this tour. Ushuaia welcomes us with its famous gates 2 columns bearing the name of the city which creates a photo op and an opportunity to hug and pat each other’s egos for a job well done. Tomorrow is a day for rest and reflection, some excursions are available to us too. We take the last morning in Ushuaia to really hit h end of AR3 right to the end of the road and tour around the Tierra del Fuego national park. Then its off back north we will stay at Rio Grande tonight just to break the ride and Finish in Punta Arenas the next day.
The mandatory photo-op at the entrance to Ushuaia
Departures and goodbyes
The Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego adventure brings with it a real sense of accomplishment. Reaching the most southern city on earth is considered by many an adventurer a ‘must do’ for their adventure list. For my first time it was as exciting as imagined it would be. I’m going to hazard a guess that coming back this year will be different. However this ride is certainly up there with my very favorites in the world. The Patagonia Adventure encompasses so much of what we love about Adventure riding.
Don’t miss out on it.
Always Ride safe
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