Our First Motorcycle Adventure: South America, Day 3-7

Sep 24, 2012 View Comments by

Day 3: Bariloche to Esquel

We left Bariloche and spent our first few hours riding near amazing lakes, mountains, and scenery. The landscape, the views, everything was so stunning that it was difficult to imagine what else nature could possibly reveal—but we soon got to find out. Suddenly, everything changed to a desolate, tundra-like terrain, where there was nothing to see but dirt for miles and the mountains that receded into the distance. It was beautiful. The wind picked up and started blasting us with unreal strength. We were fighting to stay on our bikes, sometimes riding at a 45-degree angle just to stay straight. We avoided any falls, but the memory of the wind filling our ears and the noise it made will stay with us forever. Hopefully tomorrow will be calmer as our journey on dirt roads begins; it is going to be quite a change!  

Day 4: Esquel to Puyuhuapi

In the morning I opened the window to see heavy rain falling and thick gray clouds covering the horizon as far as I could see. I wasn’t too excited about spending an entire day getting soaked, but that’s part of the adventure. Suffice it to day, the day had turned out to be much different than we had initially planned. To summarize: rain, rain, and more rain, wind, dirt roads, and–you guessed it–more rain! We did not see a ray of sun all day. The biggest problem, though, was that our face-shields were always covered with water, making it very difficult to see. Mix that with 155 miles of dirt roads, and, instead of taking the five hours we planned to do the road, it took us more than ten! We were cold and wet, but that didn’t keep us from laughing all day long. Between the two of us we dropped the motorcycles over ten times. Romain dropped his motorcycle almost every time he crossed a bridge, and I dropped mine each time I attempted a U-turn. This was because the gravel roads were quite sandy and the motorcycle tires slipped quickly; the bikes were so heavy that once they leaned, we just couldn’t keep them from falling to the ground. We saw a lot of cows and sheep on the road today, but we had little chance to see the landscape because the visibility was so low. We finally arrived at a hotel in the middle of nowhere—and nowhere near where we had expected to stop. We will always remember this day for our fight against the elements.

Day 5: Puyuhuapi to Coyhaique

Adventure! Today began with a few hours of heavy rain. The road we were following took us high into the mountains on the worst dirt tracks we’d seen so far. There were holes everywhere and many obstacles to avoid. We fell off the motorcycles several times, once simultaneously while taking a steep turn uphill, which invoked a good laugh from us both. The vegetation around us was thick and looked like a tropical rain forest. Half way through our journey, we had passed only two cars, until finally, we reached the road that led to Coyhaique. By the time we arrived, we were exhausted by the extreme concentration needed on those mountain roads—and even more so by picking up the motorcycles so often!

Day 6: Coyhaique to Cochrane

The day started out with a dog chasing Romain out of the hotel, which was actually quite scary! We rode for about an hour through an amazing landscape that looked a lot like the French Alps. There was a tiny village at the spot where the paved road became dirt. Since we weren’t sure we could make it to Cochrane without refueling, we found a villager that had some gas we could purchase. After refueling, we saw these two old broken buses lying on the side of the road that someone had welded together and transformed into a mini-restaurant. We had a delicious meal there, and continued our journey in sunshine—a welcome change from the rain we’d been experiencing. Cochrane turned out to be a microscopic village. We stayed in what would turn out to be the worst “hotel” of the trip. We had a six square meter room with bunk beds, our suitcases didn’t even fit inside! The plywood floor kept bending and cracking beneath our feet, and we were concerned that the floor would collapse at any moment. However, we did have a good home cooked meal and got to watch a soccer game between the University of Chile and a Brazilian team with half the village, which was great fun.

Day 7: Cochrane to an Estancia in Argentina (still not sure where it is)

Today we saw the most fantastic landscapes. Everything was just breathtaking and unbelievable. The road was difficult, but we made it with only a few falls each as our experience had started to kick in. The scenery contained a mix of snowy mountains, grand canyons, and green prairies. We were riding between tiny Chilean villages—the next town with even a thousand inhabitants was 375 miles away; the isolation was crazy. We saw many wild horses running in the prairies as well as ostriches, sheep, pink flamingos, and animals that look like Lamas but aren’t. The behavior of the sheep was most peculiar: they get extremely scared when you ride up on them, and instead of running away from you, they all start gathering in the middle of the road and it gets very tricky. After 155 miles, we arrived at our planned gas stop in the middle of nowhere. But of course, there was no more gas at the station and they didn’t know if they would get a supply in that week. We managed to have the station owner call an estancia 105 miles away, and they agreed to send someone to meet us on the road. He met us just before we ran out of gas, but it cost us a fortune—we don’t want to have to do that again. At the estancia we ran into a group of 25 motorcyclists from France doing the same trip as us, but with BMW R 1200 GSs, chase vehicles following them, a mechanic, and even a doctor. It must be nice to have all the support, but I am sure it is not the same as the adventure and freedom we have been experiencing. This was our first night camping and the conditions were good despite how windy it was. We were so exhausted from riding 13 hours straight—my hands were so cramped that I couldn’t even hold a fork.

Text and Photography: Christopher L Berthe

Check back next week for the exciting conclusion of Chris and Romain’s first motorcycle adventure through South America!

Missed the beginning? Catch up here:

Our First Motorcycle Adventure, Day 1

Our First Motorcycle Adventure, Day 2 

Tags: , , Categories: On The Road