One of the world’s last great wildernesses, Patagonia is a region of superlatives hand-crafted by the riding gods to give you the world in a week. Kevin and Julia Sanders of Globebusters give us the lowdown on this incredible place.
Remote, dramatic and diverse from the tip of its volcanoes and canyons in the north to the extreme temperatures of the south’s glaciers and mountains, it’s a perfect playground for any self-respecting adventure-seeking rider.
Shaped by the geographical influences of The Andes and Patagonian Ice Cap, its extremes roll from the glaciers of Torres del Paine and Mount Fitz Roy to the wilds of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago at its most southerly tip.
A road trip along the 1,200km Carretera Austral in the western mountains or the 5,000km central Ruta 40 allows memory makers to feel the sheer size of the region shared by Argentina and Chile with the Andes Mountains as its dividing line.
Tempted? Here’s a quick guide on what else to expect…
A relatively high proportion of unpaved and gravel roads but nothing an off road skilled Tiger rider couldn’t handle. Practice first.
The Main Ruta 3 is tarmac with light traffic but – and it’s a big but – has long gaps between fuel stops. Fill up wherever you can.
If jaw-dropping scenery isn’t enough, then how about being able to say you’ve ridden to the most southerly point reachable by road on the planet?
Ushuaia is a seemingly endless wilderness of colossal ice fields, massive rock outcrops caused by shifting fault lines, vast flat steppe and shimmering lakes of travel brochure turquoise.
It’s pristine and sparsely populated but with enough infrastructure to stay in lakeside cabins, drool over the region’s famous roast lamb and sip some of the planet’s finest red wine.
What’s the riding like?
The roads are generally in good condition and traffic outside the main towns is sparse. If you have basic off road skills the gravel and unpaved stretches aren’t too extreme… in fact the biggest threat comes from sometimes gusty crosswinds, roadside traders and native wildlife.
The rhea, a large ostrich like bird, the vicuna, a smaller but quicker version of the alpaca and the llama-like guanaco all have one thing in common – no road sense.
When to go
The warmest, most settled months are December through to the start of March, but this place can just as easily bring you four seasons in a day.
Strong wind, heavy rains rolling down from the Andes, baking heat and biting night-time cold mean you’ll always need riding kit that can cope with anything. Insulating base layers and waterproof, breathable outers will mean you can change as quickly as the weather.
Where to stay?
Campsites abound along with opportunities to wild camp around every bend, but there’s a great choice of hotels and lodges. Try to avoid peak season from November to March when prices in popular tourist spots rise.
How to get there
Sea freighting your Triumph will take around six weeks but is definitely the best option at £800 each way from Europe. Flying it there is around double that, but if you’re in the States anyway there’s no excuse not to do this trip.
Alternatively look around for one of the growing number of rental companies offering the Tiger 800XC as standard rental prices.
Passport – valid for at least six months beyond your entry date
Driving licence and international driving permit
Vehicle Registration documents
Insurance – your own nation’s policy may not cover you.
US Dollars – more easily exchanged for Chilean and Argentinian Pesos
Learn some Spanish – even the basics will make the trip better
Carretera Austral – One of the best adventure riding roads in the world, it passes through lush temperate rainforests, skirts fjords and is surrounded by snow-capped peaks, hanging glaciers, open plains, meandering glacial river and lush green valleys.
Construction of the Carretera was begun in the 1970s on the orders of General Augusto Pinochet, the de facto Chilean president of the time.
Torres Del Paine – A world biosphere reserve recognised as one of the most magnificent national parks in the world.
Bahia Lapataia in Tierra del Fuego National Park – the most southerly place on earth reachable by road. Quick tip: Go to Estancia Harberton for the best views.
Ruta 40 – One of the longest, wildest and least travelled highways in the world, it starts at the Bolivian border and runs parallel to the Andes through the heart of Patagonia past the ice caps, all the way to Puerto Natales and the tip of South America.
Dance – with penguins, sea lions and whale watch at the Peninsula Valdez
Visit – the Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park, a World Heritage site and one of the few ice masses that isn’t receding.
Kevin and Julia Sanders hold the Guinness World Record for the Fastest Circumnavigation of the World by Motorcycle. In 2004 they set up GlobeBusters, an overland motorcycle expedition company that specialises in taking riders on amazing journeys to unusual destinations. Find out more at www.globebusters.com