Gobernador Gregores to El Chalten

February 13, 2016

As I ride along the 40 miles of unpaved Ruta 40 between Gobernador Gregores and Tres Lagos, I imagine a conversation between the Ruta 40 construction supervisor and his road crew, discussing this section of road:

Supervisor: “Ok guys, we’ve only got about 4 billion truckloads of gravel left, so we have to decide where best to use it. Here are my recommendations: First, if the road is straight and the wind is blowing straight down the road, don’t bother to put gravel down. It will be too easy for the motorcycles to get through. However, if the road curves sharply, or in any area where the wind is blowing hard at sharp angles to the road, be sure there is a deep layer of gravel. And if you can find a few big rocks to put in the road, use them too. You will also need to smooth the gravel out every few days in order to prevent the cars from making tracks that the motorcycles can follow more easily. Don’t fix the road; just make the gravel depths inconsistent.”

“Next, we want to be sure the motorcycles have to ride in the deep gravel, so we have to prevent them from getting off the gravel and onto the old road that runs right next to the new deep gravel. This old road is in great shape, and it would be very easy for motorcycles to operate on it, so build a large rock barrier between the old, good road, and the new, deep gravel road. If you can’t find enough large rocks to build a barrier, dig a deep trench between the two roads.”

I took this photo after crossing through the trench and climbing over a low portion of the rock wall, thereby gaining access to the “old road” which was in much better shape. The “new road” (deep gravel) is on the other side of the rock wall on the left.

“Last, we have separated the gravel by color. Be sure to use the gravel that best matches the dirt color so that it will be more difficult for the motorcyclists to tell where the deep gravel begins. Also, when possible, after a long distance of deep gravel, be sure to use a section of gravel that appears to be pavement from a distance in order to give the motorcyclists false hope.”

It only takes about a minute of riding in this gravel with a 40mph crosswind to realize that you have to make tiny corrections, and if you want to change “lanes” to a different car tire rut, you need to do it deliberately but cautiously. More than once, I went to change to a different rut, and the wind and gravel carried me all the way across the road to the opposite side before I could re-correct. My front wheel just kept pushing gravel regardless of what direction it was pointed. There is a point somewhere between about 9mph and about 40mph that works well, but you are at the mercy of what the wind and the gravel are going to do. The paved sections aren’t a problem with the wind, as long as you remain aware of the turbulence caused by the guardrails and various “hills” next to the road. 

The last 60 miles into El Chalten are good pavement and straight into the wind. 

Hmmm, how bad do I need gas? Not THAT bad!


Lake Viedma, on the way into El Chalten


Nearing the entrance to El Chalten. Note the clouds obscuring the mountains in the background. This would soon turn to rain.

As I pull into El Chalten, a small town that looks and feels a bit like Crested Butte, Colorado, I see Daniel and Joey’s BMWs parked on the main street. I stop and look around but can’t find them. It’s beginning to rain, so I decide to head for the campground. On the way out of town, I pass Thomas and Yazmin’s rental camper van on the other side of the street. 

The last six miles northwest of town is unpaved, and the rain continues, turning the road to puddles and mud. When I finally arrive at the campground, I decide to keep my camping gear dry, and rent a dome that has a kingsize bed inside. It’s cold, but comfortable. 

Dome Sweet Dome


Campground pets

Morning dawns clear and sunny. The road has begun to dry, and as I leave town, I glance back at the incredible Mt Fitzroy and Cerro Torre.

Cerro Torre and FitzRoy. Note the clouds that appear to be coming from Mt. FitzRoy. “El Chalten” literally means “smoking mountain”. Apparently the early settlers here mistook the clouds for smoke, and thought FitzRoy was a volcano.


El Chalten has become one of the great trekking destinations of the world. But with my ankle still swollen and bruised from my Bolivia crash, I’m in no condition to hike. So I will have to take a rain check on the trek and plan to return another time. Onward towards El Calafate and the bottom half of the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.

9 thoughts on “Gobernador Gregores to El Chalten

    • It looks a bit odd, but I’m going to push it to Punta Arenas where there is a better selection and pricing. I read last night that an Australian couple paid US$1,000 for a set of tires in this town! Ouch!! Argentina definitely knows how to shun tourism.

    • It still has knobs on it, so it’ll get me a little further. The tread pattern down the center of the Pirelli MT-21 front tire is basically two knobs, one knob, two knobs, one knob…kind of like a hopscotch layout. On my tire, the one knob is full height, while the two knobs are worn almost all the way down on the trailing edge and slightly taller on the leading edge. Looks really odd. Feels okay on smooth pavement; a little squirrelly in the gravel. Taking it about 100 km at a time and checking the condition as I go.

  1. Mt. FitzRoy is unreal. Must be well over 10K feet. Did you swing by Wal Mart and pick up a new phone. 😉

    • Ha! If my phone had died a little further north, I did stop at the giant Wal Mart in Mendoza…
      Ended up buying a phone at an electronics store here in El Calafate. Upside: I have a phone again, and one that actually plugs right into an Argentine outlet. Downside: I lost all of my contacts and have to reload all of my apps, which could take days with the slow internet here. Oh well….one thing at a time. it could be worse; I could be sitting in a cubicle dealing with all of this!

  2. Pat, , , you may have this already but I dug around & found some Tire info!! Some of it is older so maybe not reliable, , , but info none the less!!

    First from AdvRider.com in 2012:

    Alejandro Lago, has a workshop in Punta Arenas, address is Ona 0471, I think he works on bikes for Motoaventura, one of the bike tour companies in Chile, he’ll have tyres to fit a KLR. ~$250 a set I think plus fitting.

    email is alelago@123.cl

    2nd also from same thread, , but 2014

    Joined:Sep 15, 2009
    Location:back in Denver
    I was less enthused than most in dealing with Alejandro, so I didn’t. This little family run shop was exceptional, had some Pirelli’s in stock, and know their way around Honda’s in particular:

    Pablo Paredes Motos
    Magallanes 330
    Punta Arenas
    Fono/fax: (56-61) 224239
    Cel: (09) 92267148
    Emal: pablo_paredes_motos@yahoo.es

    GPS: S 53 deg 09.370 min / W 70 deg 54.033 min

    I’ll let you know if I find more


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