Bike shipping to Ecuador

For our trip we have planned to start in Ecuador. After the trip I can say a great choice.

Now how did we get the bikes there, what were the problems, what the choices.

We decided to airfreight. To Ecuador by boat is really difficult and not cheaper when summing all up. I did quite some research on that. Here are the main reasons why we think airfreighting is better:

  • Shipping procedure super easy from home
  • Crate the bikes at home and have them picked up at your house
  • You know the exact date and time when they arrive (by boat that can be +/-2weeks)
  • Picking up the bike done in 1 day (boat: up to 1 week not unusual in Ecuador)
  • Picking up is really relaxed and no nightmare (boat: running around a huge port with papers you don’t understand and don’t know where to go next)
  • Bikes are safe

So we airfreighted. We used intime from Hamburg/Germany. A good solution. Olaf, the expert there for bike shipping helped us to get everything sorted out with very little effort from our side. We crated the bikes in boxes ourself which was the biggest trouble.

The costs:

The overall cost for shipping the bikes from Munich to Quito were:

  • Shipping F650GSDakar: 2425 Euro
  • Shipping G650GS: 2321 Euro
  • Transport Insurance (both bikes): 320 Euros
  • Pickup of the bikes from our house by truck: 275 Euros.
  • Crates for the bikes: approx 250 Euros each
  • Shipping paper in Quito: 18$
  • Customs in Quito 210$ for both bikes.

So to sum it all up: 5784 Euros for two bikes. You could have safed easily 500 Euros by taking the front wheels off, but i think it is worth to have as little to work on the bikes as possible once to get them out of customs.

Olaf told us though that this price can change a lot from year to year, so it might be cheaper or more expensive in the meantime.

Crating the bikes:

That was quite some work. Well, I am an engineer, and I was overdoing it a little bit. You may have used them as anti-tank obstacles as well, but i wanted to be on the safe side.

You cant use normal wood to crate the bikes. You either need specially treated wood (so that there are no bugs in the wood) or you use simply plywood, which is treated anyway and surely has no bugs. This means you need to make posts out of planks that you screw together though. You have to disconnect the batteries ( I secured the cables and batterie poles with plastic tape so they would not accidently re-connect with vibrations) and get the fuel out of the tanks.

Here are some pictures:

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The crates have been picked up, we got our gear together and flew to Quito. After our bike arrived (we planned it so that we would have one week without the bikes to relax and enjoy the city) we picked it up. Super simple if you know where to go (which WE didn’t but you will after you read this through.

Get the bikes out of customs:

Here is an overview of the different locations at Quito Airport.

Airport Quito

  1. Get the SOAT (see below); you may get it later  as well, but you have less trouble and discussions with the customs.
  2. Go to Cargo Area (there are signs at the roundabout)
  3. Go to your forwarder ( e.g. Iberia, Lufthansa Cargo…)
  4. You have to pay a fee there (for 2 motorbikes it was 18$ for us; cash only) and receive the shipping papers.
  5. Go to Customs
  6. 6. At the receipton there show your papers (you need passports, shipping papers, registration, SOAT)
  7. Be ready to wait … read a book
  8. They bring you to the crates and so you have to open them (bring the tools with you, there are no tools there!)
  9. They check the chassis and engine number (we always said this motorbike does not have a engine number “its the same like the chassis number”)
  10. After that be ready to wait some more (read another book)
  11. You have to pay customs (for us 210$ for both bikes) Have it cash! No ATM at customs, only at airport and you need a taxi to get there.
  12. Take your bike out. We asked the workers there if they would like the crates.
  13. You have to roll it out of customs. In the front there is a parking where you can work on the bike, but you are not allowed to work on the bike within customs.
  14. Connect batteries, fill up gas with a canister you brought.
  15. When leaving customs, the sign tells you to go left to Quito. Thats a really small steep , bad and very busy road. Take a right instead, pass the airport, and enjoy the ride into Quito on a new large and broad road.

It took us a whole day to get the bikes out, but mainly because we ran from airport to customs to cargo area because we did not know the procedure described above. Don’t expect european effectiveness though. Be patient and relax. Your trip is just about to start :-))

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In front of customs filling up the bikes and reconnect batteries.

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Get the SOAT:

Even if you have an international insurance you need to get the local insurance. It is very cheap and required. You need to have it BEFORE you get your bikes from customs. We did not know that and discussed with customs quite a bit before we were allowed to get our bikes from the airport.

Soat1soat2

It is cheap, required and (when knowing where to go to) a matter of minutes to get it. So here is how to get it:

  1. DON’T try to get it any other place than the one describet. A lot of places say they do it, but after waiting 15 minutes they find out that this is only for renewals (=locals) and that they can not help you.
  2. Go to QBE Seguros Colonial
  3. Adress: Av. Eloy Alfaro N40-270 y José Queri PBX
  4. Tel: (593)3989800 /(593)3989700
  5. Bring your passport, driving licence and registration of the bike. Also bring the paper that you get when entereing the country. It will say how long you are allowed to stay.
  6. There are different options you can choose from: 1 month, 3 months, 6 months , 1 year. We paid 6,85$ for 1 month and 2 bikes
  7. The whole procedure took no longer than 10 minutes.

The last stretch…

Azul – Buenos Aires

We said good bye to our new friend Pollo and left the LaPosta around noon. It was boiling hot and the road to Buenos Aires was somehow unremarkable. This would be the last part of our incredible trip. Sadness slowly crawled upon us.

With the carneval going on the roads were surprisingly empty. Later we learned that the whole city goes to the beaches during these few days. That made the ride into Buenos Aires real simple and easy.

We found a hostel very close to the centre of town. We had a nice welcome from the great crew of the hostel and parked the bikes securely in the garden of the hostel.

The next day we went to DakarMotors who are very well organized in shipping the bikes. We spend an afternoon talking with Javier and Sandra and they gave us all the necessary information. All we had to do is to bring the bikes to the airport and pay the shipment the day after. The payment turned out to be a little bit a hassle. Due to the crisis in Argentina all major payments have to be made in cash. Problem is: you only get the maximum amount of 1500Ps (around 150€) at a time out of a ATM. So the next few days we ran around town to get the money for shipping the bikes. Since we had to pay around 20000Ps per bike we ended up with a whole backpack full of 100ps bills…. I never felt that rich!

In between we enjoyed Buenos Aires, good steaks, rode around the city on rented bicycles and did some sightseeing.

We enjoyed the last few days, even though our hostel wasn’t that good after all. The rotten smell in the bathroom didn’t hide long, but all the animals we shared our bedroom with only showed up one after one. At least the cockroaches seemed to have a sense of cleanliness. They took a bath in our shampoo..

After we have sent our motorbikes we switched to another hostel which was just on the other side of the road. Clean beds and airconditioned room made the last 2 nights a lot more comfortable.

On Thursday the 26th of February we finally boarded our plane back to Europe…

Our great adventure has finally come to an end.

It was fantastic and we are so glad that we did this.

 

Going east

Villa La Angostura – Azul

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The following day was offering a great surprise as we expected a little bit boring riding. Instead we followed the Rio Limay north in an amazing valley. Rocky needles and walls on both sides of the valley accompany a green winding river. The road is in good condition and so riding is a blast. When we stopped for gas the whole valley was covered in dust. The fine dust was everywhere in the air. A small and dusty dry riverbed crosses the valley of Rio Limay and the strong wind blows up the particles in the air and into the valley. We followed the cloud of dust for many kilometers until the valley opened up and formed a huge lake. The landscape became less and less hilly until it became what we expected: vast, flat, boring.

We stopped in little roadside hotels in little towns with nothing to offer. Except one thing: it is Argentina here! So we enjoyed the great steaks for dinner.

We past an area where they produce a lot of fruits. On both sides of the road endless fields of apple trees. Heavy trucks transport the fruits on the road. The heavy load is often secured very poorly on the trucks, so we keep our distance when we pass them. On one of the stops we meet Karl from Türkenfeld, not 30km from Munich. He is a great guy travelling the world without speaking anything else than Bavarian. We shared a coffee and had a great chat with him. He had quite some stories to tell.

The more east we got the dryer and vast the countryside became.

We stopped 2 more times before we reached Azul a little boring town with nothing to see, except La Posta and Jorge. But that is something for the next blog entry….

Back on the bikes

Puerto Montt (Chile) – Villa La Angostura (Region 7 lagos – Argentina)

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We are back on the bikes! Finally! It is fantastic! On a sunny day we leave Puerto Montt and ride the road back to the region of the seven lakes north of Bariloche in Argentina.

Christy is doing fine, but every time we stop we get funny looks from people. It is quite an unusual sight when Christy is taking her crutches off the bike and wobbling around on them in her biker dress.

We take it easy and stop for the night in a small roadside hotel. I will remember that place very well for the low door on which I bumped my head almost every time I passed it. Even though I got reminded of the low door with a quite painful event every time I just didn’t seem to learn it. It was great fun to put on the helmet the next day.

The boarder crossing to Argentina was quite busy but at least here Christy’s misfortune was good for something: we could pass the long line to get upfront so the crossing was done in no time.

We have seen it a couple of times on border crossings, that in between the Chilean and Argentinian customs there is quite some distance. But nothing like here. It is more than 30km from leaving Chile to entering Argentina.

Till here it was a pretty cold and cloudy day. But the Argentinian side welcomed us with nice and warm weather. We went 40km into the area of 7 lagos on the road to San Martin. The area reminded me a lot of the Black Forest, my home in Germany. There are many huge lakes and the road winds through them beautifully and making it a great day on the motorbike. A short gravel part stopped us (we didn’t want to risk too much gravel since for Christy’s foot it was still painful to get vibrations on the bike). So we turned back to Villa la Angostura. We found a nice campsite and had a relaxing evening with other local bikers.

Chiloe

Island of Chiloe – Chile

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After we gave back our truck we stayed in a hostel for a week. It was very nice with a great view on the harbor of Puerto Montt where huge cruise ships anchored and big birds flew by our window every day.

Christy was getting better every day, but the doctor we visited here said she should rest another week before we can get back on the bikes.

After a few days I got bored and I decided to take the bike for a little spin on the Island of Chiloe.

So I packed some things together and rode on south to the short ferry crossing that would take me to Chiloe.

It was great to be back on the bike again. After the short ferry crossing I took the road to Ancud and further to a penguin colony. The ride was fantastic. A curvy road, the sun shining, little traffic and finally the rocky coast of the island. The road ended in a beach from where little boats take the tourists very close to the penguins. I decided not to join them and instead enjoyed the fantastic beach that ended on both sides in huge rock formations.

In kept going south and rode great gravel roads through forests and farming areas. All very nice and enjoyable. When I finally ended up in the little town of Castro I had a day full of great riding and I enjoyed a beer with some life music that was played in front of the colorful church of the town.

The next day I headed southwest to Culcao and Quilan. The road got a bit sandy and I enjoyed playing with the bike in the sandy bits. It was never difficult there though. The road ends at a parking spot from where you could hike 45 minutes to an outlook. The guard at the parking told me I may go there by bike that I intended to do immediately. The track was wide in the beginning and easy, but soon it turned into a very steep narrow track with big steps. It was great fun to ride it, but it would be unnerving if I met hikers on this track. There was no way to bypass hikers. So after a while I turned around and rode the steep track down again.

The landscape was incredible. The steaming and roaring sea covered the coast in a mist of salty water. Steep cliffs and flat sand beaches formed the coast. Riding was a blast and so I returned back to the north with a big smile on my face.

Short stops at some of the beautiful wooden churches contributed to these great days I had on that island. It is really great motorbike country here.

Going north

Ushuaia (Argentina) – Puerto Montt (Chile)

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It was a strange feeling. After Ushuaia we would go north. Of course, there is no road going south from there…

We had arranged to bring the pick-up back to Puerto Montt. From there the roads to Buenos Aires are all paved and we hopefully wouldn’t hit strong winds. With Christy still hobbling around with here crutches we didn’t want to risk her not feeling safe on the motorbike.

We had to cover 2300km. It was mainly flat and vast country we drove through. Unusual for this area we had very little wind. And so it was a very relaxing driving. Little traffic, straight roads, no wind, nothing to destract you from driving. For some time even Christy took over, driving with cruise control. For me it was a nice break and I enjoyed not having to concentrate on the boring road.

But the landscape had its elements. The incredible vastness is something that just makes you dream and take it easy. It is like a visual relaxation program.

The last few hundred kilometers became actually really nice. The area gets hillier, and finally the hills become mountains. We didn’t stop in Bariloche but continued to a hotel next to one of the lakes in the Argentinian Lake District. A very beautiful area with dark forests and lots of lakes.

Finally we arrived in Puerto Montt where we dropped the car. For the next day we planned to visit a doctor another time to see what he says. He instructed us to wait another week and then we would have green light. Soon we would be back on the bikes again…

 

 

Penguins

Even though penguins are are to be found many thousands kilometers north as well, the proximity to Antarctica is making Ushuaia one of the best places to see penguins.

So we book a tour on a boat to see these wonderful animals.

It was a fantastic day. Lots of animals, not just penguins on a relaxing boat trip.

We were really enjoying this a lot.

Ushuaia: To the end of all roads

Puerto Natalaes – Punto Arenas – Ushuaia

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When approaching the southernmost point of America you have to cross the border of Argentina. Even though the southernmost point of America is in Chile, the southernmost on-land accessible city is Ushuaia in Argentina, which again is only accessible in a car via Chile. It is a result of the boundary treaty of 1881, when the two countries defined their border in only 7 articles.

The ride from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas was kind of unremarkable. The only interesting thing is the vastness. It is flat and the flora is very reduced. This open land is dong something with your mind. Every time we stop I get on the road and look in both directions. These long lines of the road going all the way to the horizon make you wanting to follow these lines. They pull your mind away. It is quite an experience.

The wind is very strong. The few bushes that are growing here are forced to grow into the direction the wind pushes them to. There is a penguin colony with king penguins on the way. But after we have approached the entrance we realize that the wind is too strong for Christy. It is impossible to walk on crutches in this wind.

Punta Arenas has a big harbor and lots of bikers start or end their trip here. For us it is only a short stopover and we continue the following day to Ushuaia

Again the landscape is pretty flat with little vegetation. The amount of Guanacos we see is getting less and less. We saw a couple of foxes though. Just 50km before Ushuaia the landscape changes though. First the trees start. They are covered in moss hanging from their branches like old spider webs. It gets more green and hilly. The road changes from a boring straight line to a fantastic mountain road, crossing a small mountain pass just before reaching Ushuaia

The road continues a little bit further on into a little national park. This is where the network of streets of South America ends.

You can not get further south on a motorbike. But you don’t really understand where you are until you have a look at a world map… That is what really blew our mind.

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3P-Info Part: Carretera Austral

General Information

The Carretera Austral is a fantastic ride. It will bring you to one of the most beautiful places in South America. You have to bring a little bit of time with you though and be ready for some delay on the road. Another thing not to forget is proper rain gear. You will most likely see a lot of rain and heavy winds here.

There is lots of construction going on to turn this road from a dirt road into a good tarmac road. In many parts this has already been achieved, most of the road is still gravel. The majority of the gravel parts are in very good condition though. There are many people on regular bikes (e.g. choppers) on the road so it is not as bad as some people say. The construction sites are pretty bumpy though, so you have to take your time.

The Carretera Austral is a pretty young road. It was only in the seventies when the southern part of Chile was connected with a road. Chiles dictator Pinochet ordered to build the road to get easier access to it. Originally the roads name therefore was Carretera General Pinochet and was only changed later into the actual name Carretera Austral.

There is no lack of fuel here. You do not need more than 200km range on the Aarretera Austral.

There are plenty of gas stations on the Carretera Austral, here is an overview of the Copec ones.

There are plenty of gas stations on the Carretera Austral, here is an overview of the Copec ones. There is a gas station between Coyhaique and Cochrane, it is just not a COPEC one.

But you need extra cash, since ATM are only available in a few towns (mainly in Coyhaique).

In the whole area there are lots of salmon farms. So if you like fish: this is where you probably get the best salmon.

 

Background:

We only rode the part from Hornopiren to LaJunta on motorbikes.

The part from LaJunta to Puyuhuapi and the most southern part from Cochrane to Villa O’Higgins I only know from describtion of other motorbikers which I interviewed in detail.

The part from Puyuhuapi to Cochrane we did on a 4×4 which we rented in Coyhaique.

Christy had an accident and broke her foot when we wanted to bypass Puyuhuapi since there was a larger landslide that completely blocked the road in December.

 

Getting there; the ferries:

The Carretera Austral is not connected to the rest of the Chilean road system. It is reached by the use of ferries.

There is a ferry going from the island of Chiloa. I have not found an actual timetable for it though. As far as I know they run once a week.

The main connection is by use of a total of three ferries.

You start the ferry connection in La Arena, 45km south of Puerto Montt. The ferries go every day every 45 minutes from 7:15am till 8:45pm. The duration is approx. 45minutes.

Motorbikes usually do not need a reservation, but of course you can do that if you want to be sure.

The three ferries

The three ferries

This ferry will bring you to a peninsula from which you continue on a partly paved road to Hornopiren.

In Hornopiren there are a couple of hostels, hotels and cabanas. The town has a nice flair and is nicely located at the end of a fjord.

From here Ferry two brings you from Hornopiren to Leptepu where you take a 10km dirt road to the next ferry. The loads of the two ferries are always connected so do not make a longer stop in between (thats not advisable anyway, since the road is terrible dusty). You will arrive at the third ferry after ten kilometers and you will be loaded on the third ferry which will bring you from fjord largo to Caleta Gonzalo.

The second ferry from Hornopiren leaves during highseason at 10am and at 12am. It takes approx. 3,5 hours.

After the short ride to ferry 3 you will immediatly boarded there.

The prices for ferry 2 and ferry 3 are connected, so you only pay on one of the two ferries. Ferry 3 is a 45 minutes crossing of a fjord.

You find the detailed ferry schedule, high- and lowseason prices more information here: http://www.taustral.cl

The homepage is in most parts spanish only.

The ferry rides are really nice. Since the bays are pretty protected there are no high waves. The ferries are all ex-marine landing boats, so they only have one ramp (meaning first-in last-out, and that means you have to turn your motorbike around for disembarking).

From disembarking of ferry 3 to Chaiten it is about 60km.

Take your time for this part. It leads through a fantastic national park with lots of green, nice views and ground zero of a desaster (the volcano Chaiten blew off with little warning in 2008).

There are a couple of campsites along the way and they are really nice, so if you own a tent, this is great camping here.

Chaiten has a couple of hostels and restaurants.

 

Chaiten to Puyuhuapi (187km)

Chaiten - Pyuhuapi

Chaiten – Pyuhuapi

 

The road from Chaiten to Puyuhuapi is again very nice. It starts as a well paved road and turns into a good gravel road after some 30km.

Between LaJunta and Puyuhuapi there is some construction going on. The road is closed between 1pm and 5pm, so make sure you are there before or after or take a book to read.

(Of course this construction is only temporarily, but from what we understood it will take some time, so check HU or ADV for update info on this).

In Puyuhuapi you will find many nice hostels, hotels and restaurants.

See our trip of this part here.

Puyuhuapi – Coyhaique (233km)

Puyuhuapi - Coyhaique

Puyuhuapi – Coyhaique

 

After Puyuhuapi make sure you take your time to go the Colgante glacier lookout. It is easily accesable and a great view. A few kilomters after the glacier there is a construction site again. The road is blocked from 1pm to 5pm (again check this for updates, search HU or ADV or ask the police, they know).

After an impressive and bumpy construction of approx. 5km the road gets better even though it is pretty bumpy with lots of potholes. You leave the fjord now. Enjoy the nature around you, it is beautiful.

12km after leaving the fjord you will hit a steep mountain pass. The road up is a bit bumpy in the curves. On the way down you will find the last 3 kilometers to be a construction site. This is probably the worst part of the whole Carretera Austral. Take it easy here.

You will find deep gravel with large rocks, all pretty steep and partly slippery. Go slow (unless you really know what you are doing in these conditions). It is only for a short distance.

Soon after the mountain pass the gravel road turns into a perfect tarmac road.

The road leads all the way to Puerto Aysen and from there to Coyhaique. There is a direct road shortcutting the road to Puerto Aysen. This shortcut is a very good gravel road.

Coyhaique is the biggest town on the Carretera Austral. It has lots of accomodation and a couple of good restaurants. Here is the only place where you can get securely cash on the Carretera Austral.

There is a surprisingly good hospital. They have good doctors and a very good x-ray machine (that’s what a swiss doctor said when he looked at Christy’s x-rays a few days later).

See our travel of this part here.

Coyhaique – Puerto Rio Tranquillo (220km)

Coyhaique - Puerto Rio Tranquillo

Coyhaique – Puerto Rio Tranquillo

 

The road is paved all the way to Cerro Castillo (100km). Cerro Castillo is a little town with some a restaurant and some simple hostels. You have a great view on the fantastic mountain that gives the name to the little town. The road till here is stunning and it is even getting better.

After Cerro Castillo the road turns into a gravel road. It is pretty good. Most difficult part in terms of riding is to keep the eyes on the road: the surrounding is one of the best areas I have seen in South America. The rivers and lakes have incredible colors, the nature is changing from really rich to some really brown parts.

The winds can be really strong here, so be ready to swerve over the road a little bit. If you feel exhausted think of the daredevils who ride this on bicycles. That will cheer you up!

In Rio Tranquillo there are a couple of restaurants and accommodation and a gas station. There are boat tours to the marble caves. In the morning the sun is shining into the caves, but you have to be lucky to have sun at all. The boat ride is pretty bumpy and you can get pretty wet (especially at the back of the boat).

One of the highlights on my entire SA trip was the boat trip to Laguna San Rafael. It is very pricy (around 200$ per person).

I have seen calving glaciers before (Iceland) and after (Perito Moreno). But this trip was fantastic and I highly recommend it to everybody. You need to ride yourself to the valley of Exploradores where the tour operator picks you up. The ride there itself is fantastic, so if you do not want to do the boat trip, at least have a little tour into the valley. It is really nice.

See our trip of this part here (1st part) and here (2nd part).

Puerto Rio Tranquillo – Cochrane (115km)

 

Rio Tranquillo - Cochrane

Rio Tranquillo – Cochrane

The road goes along the fantastic lake of General Carrera for some time. The color of the lake is fantastic and the road offers some nice views on it before it follows the Rio Baker south. The river cut a deep canyon into the mountains and so the road goes up and down following the river. Again the road is pretty good and only very few areas with a little bit deeper gravel are on the road. I general the road is in really good condition. It is getting narrower though.

Don’t miss the little hike to the junction of Rio Baker and Rio Nef (approx. here : S47° 06.902′ W72° 46.406′). There is a really nice waterfall there. A great place to do a little walk (it is only 15 minutes) and rest at the waterfall. The color of the Rio Baker is really strange and combines with the grey color of Rio Nef.

In Cochrane again you find nice accomodation, restaurants and a bank (even though I was not able to get money out of the ATM there).

See our trip experience of this part here (San Rafael) and here (road to Cochrane)

Cochrane – Villa o’Higgins

We did not do this part of the road, but I was told the road condition are even getting better. You have to ride this part of the track back though, since there is no way for motorbikers to continue to Argentina.

Cyclists can take a ferry and do a hike (pushing the bike) on a small, narrow trail. They take another ferry and end up close to Fitz Roy in Argentina. For motorbikers this does not seem to be an option.

 

Getting out:

There are multiple passes to or from Argentina:

From north to south:

  1. Futaleufu to Esquel (Ruta40): we did the road till Futaleufu (and from there we went back to the Carretera Austral). It is very nice and you end up in Esquel in Argentina, where you will also find multiple gas stations. Futaleufu is mainly known for massive class 5 whitewater rafting.
  1. Alton Palena – Carrenleufu – Tecka (Ruta40): (just south of Futaleufu) we did this after the Carretera Austral was blocked. The bordercrossing was simple and fast, the landscape on the Argentinian side is stunning. The road was mainly in good condition. There is a simple campsite in Tecka and the gasstation there has accomodation (4 appartments) which are nice and clean. In Tecka it gets pretty windy.
  1. La Junta – Lago Verde – Jose San Martin: we heard it is possible to cross there. We met one motorbiker who tried, but the rode was destroyed there because of a landslide (you may want to check with locals about the up-to-date road conditions.
  1. Coyhaique – Rio Mayo (Ruta40): we entered here from Argentina to Chile. On the way Christy had her accident. The road is quite difficult: deep gravel of large rocks. You either have to go very slow or go very fast. We both had a couple of “saves” before Christy couldn’t save it at one point. (see here). Rather difficult and not recommended.There are a few hotels in Rio Mayo, a gas station (only takes cash), a bank (we did not get any money though, thats an issue in Argentina and small towns in general).
  1. Puerto Ibanez – Chile Chico – Perito Moreno (Ruta 40): we only heared about this possibilty: many people use it, it is all paved, you can take a ferry to Chile Chico. Coming from north you miss nice parts of the Carretera Austral though
  1. Cochrane – Paso Roballos – Bajo Caracoles (Ruta40): this is a road leading through the property of the Tompkins. The “future National Park Patagonia”. A great landscape, many Guanacos, a nice visitor center of the NP already in place (worth a stop for a coffee). The road is stunning, but a bit bumpy at times, never difficult though. So just take your time. You can also go from a junction up north to Perito Moreno (must be nice, we didn’t see it). Anyway, a great ride. Bajo Caracoles has accomodation in the gasstation there. North of there there is the Cueva de los manos (see some pix here), a great site to visit. On the Ruta 40 you will have heavy winds. Read about our trip of this part here.

Walls of ice and rock

Perito Moreno – Torres del Paine – Puerto Natales

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Perito Moreno is one of the main attractions in Patagonia and so there are loads of people visiting it. We had Christys foot re-checked with a doctor in the morning and so we arrived at the glacier in the late afternoon. That turned out to be great because most visitors and all the organized bus tours had already left. So it was a very nice afternoon.

You get very close to the glacier on solid ground here, since it does calve into a lake, but its tip hits a little peninsula where a walkway brings you as close as 100m to the glacier.

We continued to follow the Ruta 40 down to the National Park Torres del Paine. The road is nice but very repetitive and we has lots of wind. We were truly happy not to be on a motorbike. You really have to say, that even though we see more motorbikes than ever on this trip, this area is not a great place for motor biking. Too boring, too windy and therefore too dangerous.

It got dark and so we started looking for accommodation for the night, still outside the national park Torres del Paine. We saw a sign of a hotel and followed a gravel road to get to it.

The road looked real nice and the hotel was nicely integrated into the natural contours of the area. It looked pricy. But we didn’t care. We were tired, we knew the Torres del Paine is expensive so we didn’t care for the costs, it is only one night!

Well, I changed my mind when they actually told me the price: 487US$. That really is out of our budget. They were very friendly though and called different other places and finally found something just a little bit outside our budget: 175$, but that would be in a dorm with shared bathroom. WHAT???? That is CRAZY!

We thanked, continued and finally found a simple room for 50$ just before the entrance to the park.

That’s where we met John. He is a retired UK soldier and travels already since 6 years on his motorbike. He is a great guy. We had a beer in the evening, had a great and fun talk and went off to bed quite late.

The next day we drove through the national park. There are tons of people at every bus stop and you just need to have a look at the amount of backpacks here to know the trails are packed. No need to do this….

Instead we stayed on the road that offers great views on the mountains.

Again I am experiencing the feeling that “supersights” like the Torres del Paine almost always disappoint me a little bit.

Too many people and high expectations just lower the effect that the impression could have if it was a little bit less known and visited.

That means for me simply that the most beautiful places usually are not the most known ones.

Still, Perito Moreno and Torres del Paine are quite neat places and we did enjoy the views on these wonders of Mother Nature.