Officially in Patagonia

February 1, 2016

Today I officially entered Patagonia. There was a sign on Ruta 40. It said Patagonia Region, Argentina. On the north side of the sign was desert. On the south side of the sign was, well, more desert. But I am confident that, after days of riding due south on Ruta 40 through the desert, tomorrow will make all the difference.

I continue to learn interesting lessons. Well, interesting to me, anyway. Like, when you camp for two days in a campground that only turns the electrical outlets on from 9pm to 2am, and all of the outlets are nailed to trees, and it rains all night, you end up with dead electronic devices. Dead phone, dead iPad, dead laptop, dead camera battery. So, since I couldn’t charge anything except my waterproof Delorme inReach GPS tracker in the rain, I instead ran everything dead sitting in my tent reading. So I have no photos from the past couple of days. (Perhaps it is a sign: “Put down the electronic crap and spend more time looking around and enjoying the ride!”) Last night’s campground in Malargüe had only one outlet that my adapter fit (there are two different kinds of plugs here in Argentina), and it was in the office, which closed around 9pm, so I charged my laptop, then drained half the laptop charging my phone. Finally tonight, the campground here in Las Lajas has a power strip near my tent that my adapter fits, and it is turned on even though it’s only 7:30pm. And it’s not raining. So the camera battery is finally getting charged.

There are definitely pros and cons to camping, in addition to the odd electrical outlet provisions. One of the biggest advantages of course is cost: most of these places are municipal campgrounds, and are relatively nice for tent camping. They have cost me between free ($0) and five dollars a night. You also meet a lot of interesting people, but most are also traveling; some are from Argentina, some from Chile, a few from further away. I’ve seen no other overlanders (motorcycle, camper, bicycle or otherwise) in these campgrounds.

One of the biggest downsides to camping is that you miss the actual city. I camped outside of Mendoza for two nights. (Side note: when you check into a campground, ask if they allow bass drums. No, really. Long story, but there was a huge soccer match Saturday in Mendoza and a large party turned up at my campground, complete with bass drum and trumpet, all in their matching jerseys and ready to party. And they beat the drum all day, and half the night). It wasn’t until I packed up and left my campsite, and stopped at an ATM downtown (after stopping at the giant WalMart to do some grocery shopping), that I saw what a beautiful city Mendoza is. Imagine a small-town downtown feel, with sidewalk cafes, except the sidewalks are about 15 feet wide, and there are huge trees lining both sides of the streets. Very nice.

Malargüe is another example. Small town with a lot of adventure tourism. I saw signs for ski rentals, ATV tours, lots of camping, and for the first time since leaving the States, I saw a lot of pickup trucks with real dirt bikes in the back, and even a few pulling trailers with Polaris RZR side-by-sides.

The past few days have been primarily on Ruta 40, which as I think I mentioned earlier, is the National highway that runs the length of Argentina (over 5,000 kilometers) on the western side from the border with Bolivia to Rio Gallegos near the tip of South America. In the north and central parts, where I’ve been, this is like riding though the desert portion of Wyoming, or Utah, and/or Arizona, for days. South of Mendoza, towns are very far and few between, as are people. In places, such as today near Barranca, the road suddenly turns to gravel, sometimes for more than 60 miles at a time. Yesterday, when given a choice between taking the long way around on a dirt road to Malargüe as my GPS suggested, or the shorter road which had the sign indicating it was the official route to Malargüe, I chose the official route. And spent 40 miles riding gravel washboard so rough that I understand much better the term “detached retinas”. I ended up standing for most of the 40 miles, which wasn’t easy on my bad ankle. But I figure all of this is preparing me for the southern portion of Ruta 40, much of which has not been paved yet, and is constantly windy.

Kilometer marker on a paved section of Ruta Nacional 40. Only 2712 kilometers to go if I were to stay on this road all the way south. (Note the volcano in the background).


Not sure of the significance of this arched flagpole. I’m sure it has to do with the incredible constant wind here.

Tomorrow I will cross back into Chile to continue south on the Carretera Austral (Ruta 5). I think the real scenery is coming soon.


How Do You Stop an XT250? Just Add Water!

February 2, 2016

I was definitely right about a day making a difference. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my most recent week in Argentina, there is a very definite “green line” along the border between Argentina and Chile down here.

As I left Las Lajas, Argentina and headed up the mountain to cross into Chile, the scenery began to change from desert brush to piñon trees.

Sitting in line at the Argentina border exit. Piñon trees begin to appear about here.

The closer I got to the border, the less power the bike seemed to be making. It definitely felt like it was running very lean, and perhaps had a fuel issue. I was convinced pretty quickly that the issue was in the fuel I purchased not far before arriving in Las Lajas the night before.

After crossing into Chile I decided I needed to stop and find the problem before it became a major problem. While I couldn’t hear any detonation, I was concerned that the bike was running so lean that it could be causing some internal damage. I found a shade tree and pulled off under it to investigate.

A little roadside downtime to fix my running problem.

After removing the fuel tank and turning it over, I took the fuel pump out and cleaned it, dried it and reinstalled it in the tank. I was thankful that the pump itself looked to be in good shape, with very little debris present, and the inside of the tank was clean. Most of the water (and it wasn’t much but it doesn’t take much) had settled to the lowest spot, which was the fuel line between the pump and the throttle body. I drained the line and dried it as best I could, reassembled everything, and fired it up. Problem fixed. For now, at least.

As I was putting everything back together, a guy pulled up on a BMW F800GS. He was from the UK, and had rented the BMW in Pucon, Chile (my destination for the night). This was his second day on it, and he had a flat rear tire. He was complaining about the cracks in the sidewalls, and believed they were the cause of his flat. I disagreed, but didn’t voice my opinion; the cracks were a result of him riding the tire flat for a lot of miles . I was feeling better about my situation. At least I could continue. He was headed to a campground about a mile away, and was planning to wait for a tire to arrive by bus within a day or two.

I continued on to Pucon with no further issues. Going through Villarrica I was surprised by the sheer numbers of tourists on a Tuesday. I have to remind myself that it is summer here. Just because it is Tuesday doesn’t mean families aren’t vacationing during the summer. The “beach” area along the lakeside was packed with people. Traffic was backed up for miles. It’s a beautiful tourism destination with a major tourism traffic issue. Cars line the road along the edge of the lake for miles between Villarrica and Pucon.

View of Villarrica Volcano, looking across Lago Villarrica, from the town of Villarrica. This is one of Chile’s most active volcanoes, with the last eruption on March 3, 2015.

My destination for the evening: Cris Maragaño’s place. More about Cris and his project in the next post.

MotoCamp Chile

February 3, 2016

I spent two days with Cristian Maragaño, his girlfriend Tamara from Serbia; another traveler, Javier, who is staying with Cris and helping out; and Diego, who is working on MotoCamp Chile with Cris.

The MotoCamp Chile crew: (L-R) Diego, Javier, Tamara, me, Cris.

Cris spent more than four years traveling through 135 countries on his bike, and it was during this trip that the idea for MotoCamp Chile was born. When he returned to Pucon, he began to plan and execute this “motorcycle destination”. He has a beautiful wooded piece of land on Rio Pucon, and is in the process of building a small hostel, camp sites, cabins, a community kitchen, a performance stage, a workshop, and several large decks overlooking the river. Cris sees MotoCamp as an Event Center for motorcyclists. It’s a huge undertaking, and he is definitely taking it seriously. I toured the property with him this morning, and many aspects of the project are well under way. He plans to open for business in September of this year. This should be a perfect location to stay and do day trips out and back. There are many beautiful roads in the area, and Cris has a number of loops already laid out.

Official MotoCamp Chile Vehicle


Entrance area to MotoCamp Chile.


Huge deck being constructed overlooking the river at MotoCamp. The kitchen area and a BBQ will be attached. Just below this deck on the river side (to the right in the photo) is a series of terraced seating, with a gorgeous view of the river.


Looking out from MotoCamp Chile at Rio Pucon.


Looking from the future kitchen area to the campsites and future cabin areas.


MotoCamp Chile creator and RTW rider Cris Maragaño, at the beach area at MotoCamp.


Those of you who know me, know I drink very, very little alcohol. So after a beer and two bottles of wine over dinner, Cris broke out this really cool bottle of “rakia”, a vodka that Tamara’s father in Indija, Serbia gave him, and we all had a shot. I’m not really a wine drinker, but I had several great red wines here. Chilean wine is cheap in Chile. I paid between $3 and $5 for a couple of nice bottles of merlot and carmenere.

This afternoon, Javier took me into Pucon and I dropped my bike off with a small shop to have a fork seal replaced. (Javier rode a DR650 Suzuki from Chile to Alaska, and planned to return to Chile on it, but a failed main bearing made the repairs too expensive for him to continue. He sold the bike and returned to Chile, bought a Chinese 200cc bike, and plans to continue traveling around South America soon.) This is the second time for the left seal and it’s pretty clear that there are some small scratches to the inner fork tube that are causing it to continue to leak. It’s a bit frustrating not having the ability to do the work myself, or explain what needs to be done, to correct this problem. I’ll continue to work on it. Meanwhile, the right seal is beginning to leak. I have one more new fork seal, but will wait until Punta Arenas (another 2,000 miles) before replacing that one. Hopefully I can make it to Buenos Aires on these last two seals. My “to do” list for BA keeps getting longer and longer.

Small shop, great service in Pucon. He was quick to point out that the “ripio” (washboard dirt roads) and “polvo” (dust) contributed to my seal failure. No doubt. A lot more of both to come.

Heading south again tomorrow. Poco a poco.



Pucon to Puerto Varas

February 4, 2016

It’s been a week without internet (not necessarily a bad thing), and I just found an open spot in Cochrane, Chile that is smoking fast and hopefully will continue to work long enough to get this loaded. I’ll load about five short posts with photos if all goes well. After today, it may be another week before I find good internet again in Punta Arenas.

I left Cris and the MotoCamp Chile crew and headed south on the Circuito Siete Lagos (Seven Lakes Loop) out of Villarrica. This is a nice road climbing and twisting past green countryside and beautiful lakes. Eventually I dropped onto the Pan American Highway (known here as Ruta 5) and headed south to Puerto Varas. Ruta 5 here looks a lot like Interstate 5 between Portland and Seattle.

Puerto Varas lakeshore



I wanna live in the cuckoo clock.

Puerto Varas is another lakeside tourist attraction much like Villarrica and Pucon, and it was also full to the brim with vacationing Chileans. I checked into a hotel overlooking the lake and then rode another dozen miles south to Puerto Montt for a salmon dinner. Lots of salmon in this area, and the restaurants at the wharf (known as Angelmo) here came highly recommended. 

Tonight’s dinner.


Carretera Austral, Part 1: “No Tickie, No Ferry”

Feburary 5, 2016

The Carretera Austral, (also known as Ruta 7) begins in Puerto Montt, and continues south for around 800 miles, through rainforest, past glaciers and lakes. Spectacular scenery. But to get there requires three ferries: the first and last are about a half hour each. The middle one is about four hours. 

Ferry #1 of 3.


You would think I was the only motorcycle the workers at the second ferry had seen in a long time, based on the confusion that ensued. When I arrived at the dock, I went to the office to buy a ticket. There were four young women working at the counter. I was told by one of them that they don’t sell tickets to motorcycles until all of the cars have been loaded and they determine that there is space for the motorcycle. Okay, I can live with that. 

So I hung around for a few hours and waited for the ferry, along with about a hundred cars (the ferry only holds about 70 or so vehicles). There was a line on one side of the street that appeared to be those who had reservations or had purchased tickets. The line on the other side of the street appeared to be “standby”. I was the only motorcycle.

When the ferry was nearly full, the man on the ramp directing cars approached me and asked for my ticket. “I don’t have one”, I said. “They won’t sell me one until all the cars are loaded.” (All of this is happening in Spanish, of course.)

He looked at me and said “You need to go get your ticket, NOW, if you want to get on the ferry.”

Okay. Clear enough. I got off the bike and walked back into the office. Once again, I was told they wouldn’t sell me a ticket until all of the cars were loaded. 

“But the guy on the ramp just told me to come get my ticket”, I said.

“We can’t sell you a ticket until all of the cars are loaded.”

Confused, I walked back out to the ramp. The guy directing cars asked for my ticket.

“They won’t sell me one”, I told him.

He motioned for me to follow him back to the office, where he told the girls to sell me a ticket.

Now she asked for my vehicle documents. Back out to the bike to retrieve those. Turns out she just needed the license plate number, but didn’t ask for that. 

While waiting, I overheard the other girls saying (in Spanish of course) that I was scared that I was going to miss the ferry. Nope, not at all. Frustrated, but I have plenty of time if I miss this ferry. So just do your job.

Ticket in hand, I rolled onto the ferry, and it became clear that it is necessary to load the motorcycles before the last three cars, otherwise you can’t get the motorcycles in place. There was absolutely no need for the confusion that took place, but it didn’t matter now. I was on my way. 

Have to load the motorcycle before blocking that space with cars. Duh?


Third ferry.

In between ferries is a gravel road, and all of the cars unload and take off for the next ferry in a dust cloud so thick you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Being the only motorcycle, I was a bit nervous about this arrangement, since I couldn’t see the car in front of me, or the condition of the gravel road, or the car behind me. Eventually I decided since I was going to board last anyway, I’d just pull over and let the cars and trucks go first. 

Lots of curious people on the ferries, asking about my trip. Not sure why (perhaps it was the afternoon ferry rather than the morning crossing) but I was the only motorcycle on all three.

So after five hours of ferries and about a hundred miles of total riding on this day, I arrived at Campground El Volcan in Pumelin Park, just north of Chaiten. It was so nice that I didn’t want to leave the next morning. 

Camping El Volcan in Pumelin Park.

Carretera Austral, Part 2: Losing Pavement, Gaining Scenery

February 6, 2016

The Carretera Austral is slowly being paved. From the ferry landing at Caleta Gonzalo to Puyuhuapi, the road shifts back and forth between gravel, pavement, and construction. Often, it’s 20 miles of pavement, followed by 20 miles of gravel. Rinse, Repeat. 

Much of the Carretera looks like this.


But there’s this one wide spot in the road…why? It’s the runway. Yep. The highway IS the runway.


Scenery just keeps getting more spectacular. Paved section.

At Puyuhuapi I looked for a campground that I had intended to stop at, but it apparently no longer exists. So I decided to continue south of town and see what else turned up. Not far out of town on the lake was a sign that said “Camping Toninas”. It didn’t look like much but I decided to give it a try. It was mid-afternoon and spots were still available. I pitched my tent and decided to do some maintenance on the bike. 

Coming into Puyuhuapi.


Campground on the lake.

A couple of hours later I noticed two BMWs pulling in. It was Daniel and Joey from I had last seen them in Cuenca, Ecuador. I invited them to share my campsite, and Joey cooked dinner. It was nice to eat from a plate rather than a mug. There are definitely advantages to two people traveling on large bikes with large panniers. Joey has a full kitchen setup with a nice selection of spices. Sure beats my pasta-in-a-mug dinners. 

Sharing my campsite with Joey and Daniel. Thanks Joey for the great meal!

The campground filled up and was less than great, with limited facilities considering the number of campers. But it served the purpose, and I got to visit with Daniel and Joey again. 

Carretera Austral, Part 3: Multiple Choice

February 7, 2016

Multiple Choice:

Carretera Austral is to Chileans in January and February as ____________ is to people in the U.S. in July and August:

  • A. Disneyworld
  • B. Yellowstone
  • C. Yosemite
  • D. Burning Man
  • E. All of the above

“E” is probably the closest correct answer. A bit less like Disney and more like Burning Man and Yellowstone, as it isn’t easy to get to and takes a real commitment. But once there, you stand and look around and think, “Wow”. The visitors are a combination of what you would expect to see in the above venues: families in their SUVs loaded with camping gear used once a year; lines of 20-somethings beside the road, literally in the hundreds, hitchhiking; bicyclists, typically slightly older and in smaller numbers; and motorcyclists from all over the world.

The pavement currently surrenders for good just south of Coyhaique. From here to Villa O’Higgins — another 350 miles and the end of the road — it is all gravel.

Stopped for construction delays…

There is no such thing as a short day on the Carretera Austral. The overall distance might be less than a hundred miles, but between the gravel, the road construction stops, the traffic, and the fact that all of the hotels, hostels, campgrounds, etc are sold out through March, days can end up being much longer than expected. Just the same, I had planned for shorter distance days and hoped to find a place to camp by no later than 3pm each day in order to possibly beat a few people to the last remaining spots. And so far it has worked, for the most part. 

I passed through Coyhaique, stopping only for groceries. It’s a fairly large town, and was completely booked. About twenty kilometers south of town I stumbled on a beautiful and small National Reserve with an open camp site. 

Another great campsite, with a shelter from the wind for cooking and eating.

Thomas and Yasmin from Austria. They bought a round-the-world air ticket, and are hitting their highlights. They flew into Santiago, rented a camper van, and are dropping it off in Punta Arenas, then boarding another flight. They plan to hit Tahiti, Australia, and Japan along the way.

The next day was on to Puerto Rio Tranquilo.

Carretera Austral, Part 4: Puerto Rio Tranquilo and the Capilla de Marmol

February 8, 2016

Puerto Rio Tranquilo is a spot on the road. There isn’t much here, but this time of year the population swells dramatically as bicyclists, motorcyclists, backpackers, and families in cars pour into town, mostly to see the Capilla de Marmol, or Marble Chapel.

The town of Puerto Rio Tranquilo. The whole town.

The lake here is large and beautiful, the color hard to describe and changing constantly under sun and clouds.



It’s a short boat ride to the Capilla de Marmol



Yep. Crazy. They drive the boats right into these caves.








This is a photo of the wall of the marble. That’s not a reflection: it’s the marble striations continuing below the water. Impressive.


The actual Marble Chapel.

I stayed in Puerto Rio Tranquilo two nights. On the second evening, two women pulled into the campground: a German on a BMW F800 and a French woman on a DR650 Suzuki with Chile plates. As they set up camp I introduced myself. It didn’t take long to figure out that the woman on the BMW, Ira (who also goes by Diana, because Ira is about as common as Pat in South America and nobody can understand it), was the same woman that Judith had ridden with through Cañon del Pato in Peru. She had since met up with Celine, who arrived in Santiago with absolutely zero motorcycle experience, and after four hours of instruction bought a DR650 and hit the road. Wow.

My campsite overlooking the lake. There were some sites with better views further down, but much more wind as well.


Poor photo taken well after dark. Ira (Diana) and Celine invited me for dinner. Two meals in a week not in a mug! Woo Hoo!

The next morning I left for a short ride to Cochrane and more stunning scenery.


This will be as far south on the Carretera Austral as I go. While it’s possible to continue all the way to Villa O’Higgins, there are no more rideable passes to Argentina below here. Tomorrow morning I plan to head back toward Argentina via Paso Roballos. Depending on availability, I hope to camp at Kris Tompkins’ newest park before crossing into Argentina.

As of now, I still need to make it another 1100 miles on these tires to Punta Arenas, where I hope to find new rubber. The front tire is beginning to wear in a scallop fashion, which makes the gravel even more tricky. The rear is just wearing down, but I think (fingers crossed) it will last until Punta Arenas. The chain and sprockets are another story, and could become a problem somewhere between here and Buenos Aires. But I’ll worry about that when the time comes. For now all I can do is keep adjusting and lubricating the chain, and trying to take it easy on them, which is difficult with nothing but gravel, dust and ripio.

Cochrane, Chile to Gobernador Gregores, Argentina: A Good News/Bad News Day

February 11, 2016

Bad News: I discovered this morning that my rear rack is broken completely through in two places where it meets the left pannier rack. The ripio (badly corrugated roads) along with the heavy weight I have on the rear of the bike has finally started to take its’ toll.

Good News: I’m in Cochrane, and there’s a welding shop here.

Bad News: The welding shop is closed. The guy is out of town until next week.

Good News: There’s a hardware store here, so I bought a few hose clamps, and used one of my tire irons, the hose clamps and some zip ties as a brace until I can find a welder. 

Bad News: It’s another 120 miles of ripio across Paso Roballos today, and in the process my front fender pouch manages to fly off somewhere before the border crossing. Of course I didn’t see it. So I lost a spare inner tube, my other tire iron, and a few CO2 cartridges I was keeping as a backup inflation method (my compressor works fine so far).

From my campsite in the National Park outside of Cochrane.


Heading towards Parque Patagonia on X-83, just north of Cochrane. The road here is relatively smooth and nice.


Lots of these guys running across the road. Also ostriches at one point.


Valle Chacabuco


I’d like to thank Dr. Michael Bell, DDS in Austin, Texas, and Dr. Stuart Anderson, DDS, in Corona, CA. Both of these guys are clearly excellent dentists, as none of my fillings fell out over the 100 miles of hellish corrugated road. The scenery was a nice distraction also.


Parque Patagonia headquarters. This is where Doug and Kris Tompkins spent their time. I didn’t ask if it was Doug’s plane out front, but that’s my guess.

Good News: I still have one tire tool, clamped to my rear rack. It wouldn’t be the first time I’ve changed a tire with one tire tool, and luckily these tires are fairly easy to change. 

Bad News: My phone seems to have also suffered today, though I don’t think the ripio is that bad in my tank bag, since the package of cookies next to the phone was fine. Not sure what’s up with the phone, but it definitely topped off today’s cascade of fiasco. It won’t power up or charge. It’s a brick at this point.

Good News: Ever since I bought a Garmin Montana in December, the old Zumo has behaved itself and worked fine, even on the ripio. I definitely don’t need to be carrying two GPS units (although my phone was my backup, and it’s now dead, along with several apps I’ve been relying on), but as soon as I get rid of one GPS, I’ll wish I had it.

Another “road goes on forever” photo. Ruta 40 north of Gobernador Gregores, just before the rain started. This was the first pavement in many days, and also the beginning of the brutal crosswinds that will just get worse further south. Anything over about 45 mph was scary. It’s amazing how much guardrails change wind direction. After a while you learn to prepare for the beginning and end of the guardrails by leaning less and more.

Bad News: Twenty miles out of Gobernador Gregores, it starts to rain, and my fuel system woes start to appear about the same time. I just barely limp into Gregores in the rain before dark.

Good News: The nicest guy I’ve met in Argentina is a welder in Gobernador Gregores.  It ain’t pretty, but in 20 minutes and for $4 my rack is back in one piece, for now at least (would have been faster, but he’s a funny guy and we were enjoying joking with each other, even though he doesn’t speak a word of English and my Spanish is pretty poor). I also managed to clean my fuel pump/filter/injector again this morning. My fingers turned black pressing on the filter screen…not a good sign. I wish it was a detachable/replaceable filter, but like many fuel injected bikes, the filter is in the fuel tank before the pickup for the fuel pump. Thus it’s integral to the pump, which I think is about $350 retail. Ouch. I’ll keep cleaning it as long as possible.

Bajo Caracoles, Argentina. Notice the pumps: completely covered in travelers’ stickers. That’s what I noticed at the time. About fifty miles later is when I noticed how badly my bike was running.

Bad News: My front tire is definitely beginning to look “iffy”. Still just under 800 miles to Punta Arenas. Fingers crossed.

Good News: As my Spanish teacher in Guatemala likes to say: “Es La Vida”. I always liked his attitude.

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.