It is still summer when a party of 4 Italian friends contacted us regarding our Exclusive Moto Tour in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. Stefano, Marco, Roberto and Annamaria are intrigued at the idea of being able to roam through Chile and Argentina by bike and reach Ushuaia in 16 days.
“A dream I did not want to give up to, even if I have had it for so many years” – admits Stefano.
Osorno, our starting point, is 3980 km away from the End of the World. 35% of the route is on dirt road. There are 6 borders, 2 ferries on the Magellano Strait as well as all the beauty of these fascinating and suggestive lands. The package this group of friends chose is called PREMIUM and will alternate bike routes and overnight stays on high quality facilities such as the 5 star Boutique Hotel and the Lodge & Spa carefully chosen by Ride True ADV.
The group chooses to ride our BMW R1200GS and asks not to be provided with a support vehicle (option available for all private groups with less than 5 participants), making this journey an even more epic adventure. The Carretera Austral and the Ruta 40 will be a good chance to improve their driving technique, especially for people like Roberto, who has never been on dirt roads before. This is why Ride True ADV is always available for any kind of support and suggestion the group may request.
On November 28th 2013 the four Italians meet up with our Moto Guide Gionata in Osorno, who explains them the first steps of tomorrow’s leaving. After picking up their bikes, packing their bags and briefings, the group has their first dinner all together and enjoys grilled meat and a local red wine.
The leaving is exciting and the 5 BMW R1200GS leave the city and slowly make their way up the Ande, which in this region boast thriving prairies, pastures and the chance to enjoy wonderful lake and volcanic panoramas. The morning dampness fades away to the sunny peak of our first Andean passage (1500 m above sea level), which, past the customs, features a huge volcanic ash valley all the way down the crest. It feels like being on the moon, but a welcome sign takes us back to Earth and says: “Bienvenidos en Argentina”.
We stop for a gourmet packed lunch (carefully prepared earlier in the morning by the hotel chef) facing the magnificent view of Lago Nahuel Huapi located in the National Park with the same name. Annamaria is amazed by the smell of the native flowers and by the vibrant colour standing out in this paradise. The San Carlos de Bariloche valley is 60 km away but still clearly visible in the distance, while we are going along the asphalt bendy roads of the Andean range, which fades away and eventually turns into a much more arid plain. After checking in the Suite Hotel overlooking the lake and having a warm bath in the pool (with a view) the group reaches Bariloche town centre on foot and discovers its best corners by mingling with locals and try local food. A few hours later we are sitting in front of a real Argentinian steak with red wine: Marco turns out to be an expert and will always be matching the right wine with the food.
Before leaving Bariloche, we enjoy the view of Lake Nahuel Huapi through the suggestive Llao Llao circuit which hides amazing beauties through its mountains and pine forests. The Andes crest in this section features a series of beautiful bendy roads going downwards and everyone enjoys the agility of their motorbikes to get to El Bolson where we will fill up. We are in the pre-Patagonian area, and here is where the first dirt road comes, giving us an idea of the km ahead. Once we get to Esquel, we will continue through Los Alerces National Park, with the Ande in the background. The entrance is also the beginning of the 120 km of dirt road which will lead us to Trevelin, our destination at the end of the day. The dirt road is excellent (except from the engineering works in some sections) and stretches along lakes, valleys and tiny villages. We reach one of the best restaurants in the area offering a highly sophisticated gourmet lunch, garnished with local flower petals. Before heading on, Annamaria experiences the intense scent coming from the river of the valley. The dirt road is not finished yet, however we get to Trevelin early in the afternoon and, after filling up, we head towards the Chilean border and we stay overnight in one of the best fishing lodge of the pre-cordillera, hidden in the thriving Patagonian vegetation and exclusively booked for all our group. The suggestive view of the river between us and the sunset accompanies a recently fished Patagonian trout based dinner. Finally, a toast to the first day of dirt road.
Custom formalities keep us away from the Carretera Austral for a few hours, and (including a baggage check performed by the Chilean SAG) then we head towards Futaleufu, a small town where the Ruta 7 dirt road starts. A biker’s dream. The scenario suddenly changes and in a few minutes we are thrown in a wonderful painting we will cross on our bikes. The Futaleufu river is the background for our coffee break, and as we reach the Villa Santa Lucia exit, the group gets in trouble because of an extremely brittle and pebbly ground as this section is not paved yet. Then we make our way through the puddles of the path which goes along the Puyuhuapi fjord, and we reach the embarcadero where we park our bikes. Beyond the gulf, 15 minutes away by boat, we land on the pier of the most beautiful Lodge & Spa of the area, where the group is welcomed with a welcoming drink and offered to chill in the several natural spas. The group made full use of the facilities as there were no other guests on that particular day. The panorama is unique and the reinvigorating effect of the spa gives you back the energy you lost in such a difficult route.
We head off to hit a more compact and sliding dirt road, however, the constant rain forces us to wear fluorescent waterproof suits, which give us a better visibility in the mist. The Nalca leaves surround the narrow and steep routes stretching up and down the crests and finally we hit the asphalt. We reach Coyhaique and the sun is out once again. We stay overnight in a luxury fishing lodge, which is built on the river Simpson and overlooks the Andes. The following day will be one of the longest ones, with plenty of dirt roads, so the riders opt for a dinner in town and an early sleep.
We set off at 7 and take advantage of the 120 km of asphalt through Balmaceda and Villa Cerro Castillo. We speed up but also enjoy the valleys of these heavenly areas. The dirt road is back but the bikes flow pretty well like on our first day. The only difference is the unique landscape we can see from here. The sun is up and everyone is ecstatic. We follow the route, take some pictures, stop for a coffee and enjoy wonderful views. The turquoise colour of Lago General Carrera and the thriving vegetation of the region fade away once we get to Chile Chico and are replaced by the Patagonian steppe after we get to Los Libertadores, back in Argentina.
The next day Ruta 40 takes us to our daily destination in just a few hours: an authentic estancia (farm) in the Gregores area, where the owners welcome their guests in a humble venue and show them the rural reality of such a remote place. Here, in the middle of the Patagonian steppe, wind and silence rule. Gaucho Telhuelche, who works for the family looks after the sheep and the horses, cooked an excellent cordero al palo which is served with red wine and grilled vegetables. The sunset and the peace of this place touch Annamaria’s soul and the four Italians decide to go for a horse ride early in the morning to get to know this massive area a bit better.
Ruta 40 is still a dirt road and it’s time to get back on track and say goodbye to the owners of the estancia and venture in the most difficult ripio of the whole trip. Despite the strong wind and the brittle nature of the gravel (piled up by the passage of the vehicles and creating big debris piles), the group make its way through the dirt road an gets to El Calafate where they stay at the luxury Hotel Suite overlooking the lake and from which you can spot icebergs moved by the wind. We are here to enjoy the second day of rest of our trip and visit the Glacier of Perito Moreno. The Premium package includes the pick up from a private van at the hotel. Their personal tour guide will walk them all day through this unique place and they will learn about the Glacier formation. After a lunch with an exclusive view, the group will be boarding on a cruise which will take them around the big Ice giant for one hour. In the meantime, our guide Gionata will perform maintenance checks on the motorbikes and will set them for tomorrow.
From one beautiful geological feature to another, we say good bye to El Calafate and head back to Chile to explore another national park which has been recently named the Eighth Wonder of the World: Torres del Paine. The hotel chosen for this group is located in the National Park itself and boasts an exclusive view of the Towers which can be seen from any window of any bedroom. Before getting there you need to go through the wonderful dirt road that goes through the park. Our riders had to stop because of some paving work and only after our guide Gionata manages to convince the operator, the group reaches its destination. Sitting in front of these majestic Towers that look so close to us, the group eats cochayuyo (an austral seaweed typical of the Chilean coasts), a starter that catches Stefano and Annamaria’s attention.
We leave the national park and close the circuit on dirt road and head close to the border. This time we head south towards Puerto Natales though, where the group takes advantage of a fuel stop to take some pictures of the pier which is just a few metres away. Stefano is caught red handed in the attempt of dusting off his bike with a water stream coming from the petrol station:
“Now my bike will go faster and consume less fuel” – says ironically and smiles.
The wind is strong now and does not leave you alone. We are getting to one of the most important moments of the journey: the crossing of the Magellano Strait and the conquest of the Tierra del Fuego by motorbike. A few km before the ferry boarding point we stop near San Gregorio beach and its correspondent Estancia, established in 1897 by a French colony and abandoned in 1932. Today there are just a few empty buildings left, together with the run aground steamboat Amadeo. The group heads to the Tierra del Fuego and celebrates this moment with a symbolic dance in front of the official welcome sign.
Cerro Sombrero is 450 km far from Ushuaia, 120 of which are made of dirt road. We are soon back to Argentina and by lunchtime we are already half way through, so we stop for a lunch in the Tavern that overlooks the wonderful Lago Fagnano. The wind does not get through the mountain ranges of the southern point in the world and most streams and lakes here (Lago Garibaldi) offer the perfect view to take a few pictures. A few km later, we spot the city of Ushuaia and we are welcomed by the wooden totem that opens the city’s doors. The group made it and celebrated this personal achievement by toasting in a restaurant by the port, tasting some king crab and mussels galore served in a massive shell.
The celebrations are not over in Ushuaia so the next day we head towards the End of the World, located in the Lapataia National Park. Finally we get to the iconic sign, and we celebrate surrounded by a peaceful bay and we get ready for the leaving day, which will be very long.
We have to catch a ferry, and we have lots of dirt road ahead and a busy border to cross. We decide to leave at 5am, and after redistributing our loads in a different way (Gionata will carry Roberto’s watertight seal bag whereas Annamaria will go on Stefano’s bike) we will reach Porvenir on time and board on the ferry heading towards Punta Arenas.
The bikes have been returned, the journey is over and the guys enjoy their last dinner together before heading back home. It has been a pleasure to go with this group of Italians on these 3980 km and share adventurous and challenging moments throughout the journey.
On our side we hope we will repeat this experience as soon as possible and experience a new wonderful adventure on the motorbike.