When I started this trip through South America almost 3 years ago I had no idea what to expect. My bicycle “touring” experience could all be summed up in a tumultuous three week trip to Perú where I spent half of the time with my head hovering over a toilet while suffering from typhoid and a quick one week trip through Norway that resulted in an emergency room visit with frostbite on my toes that still affects me today. I was working on roughly a 5% success rate. Would I quit my “stable job” of almost ten years only to head off into the Andes all by myself and realize that this just wasn’t my thing? Come crawling back a few weeks later, asking for a do-over? I honestly had no idea and these were extremely realistic possibilities in my mind. All I knew was that I’d regret it if I didn’t try.
The Carretera Austral is without a doubt South America’s bicycle touring capital. No place on this continent sees a higher influx of Ortlieb-clad folks from around the world looking to enjoy Patagonia’s natural wonders. With good reason too. There’s a more advanced tourist infrastructure, bringing more luxuries from back home more frequently along the way (toilets and hot showers are cool). The challenge-to-scenery ratio along the Austral is also extremely generous, and the road surface suits just about any bike you can strap a few bags to. You don’t have to suffer too much to have a good time in nature here.
If you had told me 5 years ago that I’d be riding across a 7-foot deep river in Argentinian Patagonia on a horse with a bike hoisted on top, I would have probably said you’ve gone off the deep end, yet here we are.
Already into Episode 32 of documenting his journey bikepacking from Alaska to Argentina and around the world, Iohan Gueorguiev shares a rather intimate look at Chile, from the mountains to the coast. Watch the rest of Iohan’s episodes at his Youtube Channel.
Autumn Amongst the Araucarias
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson
After committing to spending another winter cruising around South America, I figured I might as well go all-in. With no focus on getting much further south where the weather would be turning toward ‘unpleasant for bike touring’ even sooner, I instead looked to embrace the short window of perfect Autumn riding that was dropped in front of me, and go over Chile’s mountainous Araucanía region with a fine-tooth comb.
This area is often overlooked by folks making a bee-line for Southern Patagonia, but it is a favorite amongst the local Chileans looking to escape the city during the summer, highlighted by a seemingly endless string of volcanoes, lakes, and forests filled with Araucaria trees. These tall and spiky evergreens, sometimes referred to as “monkey puzzle trees” give the region its name, and are often considered sacred to the natives of this area who are known as the Mapuche.
El Camino de Los Huasos: A Ride Through the Central Chilean Andes
Photos and words by Ryan Wilson
More than anything else, I’ve learned two things in my time in Northern Argentina and Chile. First and foremost, never trust a zipper. Little known fact: over 8.9 million zippers have been destroyed in Argentina’s desert in 2018 alone. OK, so maybe I made that up, but if I owned 8.9 million zippers that would definitely be true. The second lesson? Avoid shipping here at all costs, but if you must, you’d better have it planned out well in advance. Unfortunately, after damaging my derailleur and a number of other pieces of equipment in the harsh northern desert, planning and shipping in advance were not really on the table, so upon arriving in the sprawling urban center of Chile known as Santiago, my trip was in the notoriously slow hands of the Chilean customs offices and postal system.
Justin sent over this video he made while on tour in the lakes district of Chile and through parts of Northern Argentine Patagonia. It’s a bit long of a watch but well worth it to kickstart your wanderlust.
“Every new trail you travel on or off the beaten path brings uncertainty. Riding bikes in a place like this forces you to pay attention to the terrain, listen closely to suggestions on how to move through it. Instead of success and failure you became to think in terms of adaptation and forward motion.”
Lorraine Blancher explores the mountain bike trails on the border of Argentina and Chile, known as the Atacama.
We’ve fallen behind on posting these videos over the long weekend, but alas, riding trails in Chile still looks fun!
Usually by the second day on a trip like the Rally Aysén Patagonia, your legs begin to feel all the climbing and hiking. For me, my back pain from carrying camera gear almost always adds to the pain. Not even the previous two day’s beauty, or the loud and obnoxious birds, nor the mooing cows could persuade me into leaving my tent. Needless to say, my usual rise-and-shining at 5:30am was pushed back a few hours on the morning of day 03.
You can’t throw a press launch in Patagonia without a solid plan and you can’t throw a race in Patagonia without experienced organization. The Rally of Aysén began as an idea, born in the offices of Santa Cruz Bicycles, some 10,446km away from Coyhaique, where the event would take place.
The idea was simple: in a time where enduro is hyped up, bring a rally format, multi-day event to the Aysén region of Chile, where mountain biking is in its infancy. The event would include timed climbs, timed cross-country, timed descents and downhill segments. It’d be a true battle of the most well-rounded riders and was not for anyone afraid of a bit of navigation or pushwacking…