Concepcion is the second largest city in Chile, situated on the coast about five hours south of Santiago. Concepcion gets a blog of its own because the most incredible thing happened on our arrival in this big city and we had so much fun the three nights we stayed.
The Pack Track had a late departure from Malalcahuello on Monday, 23rd of March 2015. It was 300km to our next destination, Concepcion, so we decided to have a lazy last morning at our friends place. The ride was quick, we were on good roads, so we stopped along the way and arrived in Concepcion at 5pm. We rode directly to the main Plaza to find wifi and look for accomodation online.
The motorbikes were parked in a designated motorbike parking area beside a restaurant in the Plaza. We had not even removed out helmets when we were swamped by high school students asking questions and wanting photos. We tried to tell them we weren't famous but they didn't care. The crowd grew and three gentlemen who had been sitting at the r...
We were back in Argentina and back on sealed roads in Trevelin. Its a pretty town with strong ties to Wales, just like Gaiman directly to the east on the coast of Argentina where we had stayed a few months earlier. We found a nice campsite for the one night we stayed in Trevelin before riding 190km to Lago Puelo where our friends Lucas and Florencia were visiting family.
Travelling along Ruta 40 on the west side of Argentina is completely different to Ruta 3 on the east coast. Ruta 3 is flat as flat can be, with towns about 4 hours riding apart in the Patagonia region with nothing in between, not even trees. Conversely, Ruta 40 hugs the famous mountain range of the Andes along the western side of Argentina so it has beautiful twisting roads with forests, rivers and simply inspirational riding scenery.
It was a cold day when we left Trevelin with clouds threatening to rain on us. By this point in our trip we would throw our wet weather riding clothes on top of everything we were we...
Southern Chile consists of a narrow mainland interspersed with many islands. Therefore it makes sense that there are lots of ferry's connecting islands and mainland in southern Chile. The Pack Track had been on a few of these ferry's but all had been relatively short, lasting a few hours at most. Navimag is a company that contracts ferry routes in southern Chile including a 3 night voyage from Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt. To ride this distance, depending on the route you take, can be around 1,800km with a mixture of good and bad roads. It's actually a really popular section of riding for motorcyclists travelling the west side of South America to Ushuaia because its relatively untouched still with stunning scenery and challenging gravel roads.
There are a few reasons we decided to take the ferry over riding this section of Chile. Most importantly, our motorbikes still hadn't been serviced and we didn't want to push our luck so it saved us a lot of kilometres. Probably the second...
Punta Arenas is one of the largest cities in Patagonia. It was historically established as a strategic military stronghold over the surrounding waters. The port grew in size and eventually a free zone was established; this can mean a few things, but to us it meant tax free shopping. We needed to service the motorbikes and hoped we could get the parts and materials we needed in the free zone at a reasonable price.
Michelle and Brian were already settled in to Hospedaje Independencia when we arrived. It was really cheap accommodation by Chile standards, made even cheaper for us because we camped in the yard along with a bunch of other campers. Brian was well under way servicing his and Michelle's motorbikes so was able to give us some tips on where to go shopping. We bought 6L of oil plus some other bits and pieces however we just couldn't bring ourselves to do the work. It was so cold there, even in the middle of the day, and we just weren't that tough so decided to put it off until ...
After the dramas of finding accommodation in Ushuaia, we were finally free to relax. It's pretty exciting being at the 'end of the world' and it marks a certain achievement or milestone on the journey. However, we weren't without drama. We'd lost one of our sleeping bags in Venezuela (it fell off the bike when it wasn't put away properly) and until now we had been getting by with just the one sleeping bag because the climate had been warm to hot. Now we were camping at the end of the world amongst snow capped mountains with all three of us huddling under a single sleeping bag.
When we left Australia to embark on this adventure we put a lot of time into researching camping gear, especially our sleeping bags. We decided upon an Australian design by Sea To Summit. The Xt-II is 95% Goose Down, weighs 1.2 kg and squashes down to a really small size which is perfect for the limited space on a motorbike. The other important factor is that we bought a left and a right bag so they zipped t...
We departed Puerto Deseado on a near perfect day, very much by design, light winds as predicted by Wind Guru , a cool temperature for riding and no rain clouds. Our plan would be to make it to Rio Gallegos but we weren't in any great rush. Passing through the province of Santa Cruz we decided to pull in to a town called Puerto San Julian and see what we could find in the way of accommodation.
We easily found camping on the waterfront and met another adventure riding couple traveling north having just been to Ushuaia. Mike and Claudia invited us over to have a drink so after dinner we joined them. Mike had been on the road for nearly 8 months while Claudia had only just joined him for the last section. Its always interesting to hear peoples stories if they're willing to share so Mike told us how back in Germany he is a paramedic, who works hard for 3-4 years then takes a sabbatical which equates to around 6 months leave. He's fortunate to be able to have this arrangement with his wo...
Puerto Deseado is a little coastal town located 125km off the main highway south, Ruta 3, on the east coast of Argentina. It has a latitude of 47˚ South so gets quite cold and of coarse windy like most of Argentina. The town itself is situated on the north bank of the Ria Deseado at the mouth of the river. The rivers name is interesting in Spanish in that its called a "Ria" and not a "Rio", in other words, it is a female river. To be completely accurate its not even a river but a tidal estuary taking the form of a river. Long ago it once was a river with water flowing down from the Andes on the other side of the continent but this flow has long since ceased. Now the riverbed is below sea level and the inlet ebbs and floods with the tides quite dramatically; around 6m we were told at certain times of the year.
While the geography of Ria Deseado is extremely interesting, the reason we visited the town of Puerto Deseado was to see the marine life. Abundant but seasonal penguin and sea...
After our 3 nights camping in Gaiman, we were up early and ready for a big ride to Comodoro Rivadavia. We had a contact in Comodoro, through our friend Pablo from Buenos Aires, and had advised them that we would be arriving that day. We decided to take a short cut from Gaiman to Ruta 3, the national highway down the east coast of Argentina. This shortcut was about 60km long and probably saved us the same distance again. Unfortunately the road was slow going, it had been a long time since wehad been on gravel and this section was throwing us in the deep end. The road had little traffic and therefore little maintenance to match, but we were able to travel comfortably at 60-70km/hr for the most part. So a little over an hour later we were relieved to find paved road again.
The famous Patagonian winds had started by this section of Ruta 3 although they would get worse as we headed south. We had full tanks as we left Gaiman, confident we'd make it to Comodoro without the need to stop. We...
Nearly 150 years ago a ship load of immigrants from Wales landed in Puerto Madryn, Argentina. Their intention was to set up a welsh community with no English influence. In fact they ended up establishing a number of these communities but today, the most notable is a place called Gaiman where there is still a strong Welsh culture and the Welsh language is commonly spoken. Stuarts boss in Australia, Dave, was of proud Welsh decent. So when Stu talked about his upcoming world-wide adventure, Dave mentioned the Welsh history in Argentina so The Pack Track starred the towns of Trelew, Gaiman and Trevelin on Google maps so we'd remember when we eventually reached Argentina.
Janell was a little confused about where exactly we were going to see dragons and drink tea, probably because she hadn't been listening to Stu when he was describing the Welsh history of the area. Trelew was the first town encountered as its situated on the main highway Ruta 3. Trelew sounded really Welsh to Jane...
Even travellers need inspiration and motivation from time to time. It can come in a range of forms from a chat with a stranger, to marvelling at nature, to grand designs. Travelling as two (or two and half with our little friend) we often draw on each other for strength during frustrating situations and when we feel weary from simply long days of riding. The Pack Track had been on the road for nearly 11 months by this stage and found inspiration in the form of a young couple living in Puerto Madryn.
Puerto Madryn is situated on the east coast of Argentina in the state of Chubut. We were taking Ruta 3 from Buenos Aires to Puerto Madryn and the two words that came to mind for this route are flat and windy. The landscape was bland, characterised by a sandy-dirt with little prickly-looking shrubs. Riding at 100km/hr, no faster because of the strong winds, we would look to the horizon for a sign of something different but even 5km from Puerto Madryn the landscape was unchanged with no si...
Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, is home to the tango and it's no wonder when you walk the streets of this romantic city. The Pack Track arrived in Buenos Aires on the 30th of December 2014. What an amazing year 2014 had been and what a fantastic place to say goodbye to the old and bring in the new year.
We booked in to Hostal Tercero Del Sur. It was perfect for us at $40 a night. We had a room with en-suite and air conditioning, it was very pet friendly (the staff really loved Weeti) and located on a street lined with restaurants and host to markets on weekends. There was always lots happening!
New Years Eve has always been an important event for us in Australia, getting together with as many of our friends as possible. We had one friend in Buenos Aires, Pablo, so we messaged him to see if we could tag along with his plans. Turns out, New Years in Argentina is a bit different to Australia but just as special. Pablo's extended family gathered in the home of his brother-in-l...
Entering Argentina meant returning to a country with a black market exchange rate significantly different to the government official rate. We had learned a lot from our experience with parallel rates in Venezuela so there were no feelings of apprehension this time and we did our research online to find out what we should be getting.
At the time, the official rate was ARG$8.5 to US$1. Research online and chatting to travelers indicated a good black market rate was ARG$13.5 to US$1. To be able to change money on the black market you have to have all the US dollars you need before entering the country. Paraguay has banks with ATM's where you can withdraw US dollars but only in lump sums of $300, every time charging a 6% transaction fee, ouch!! We'd also heard something similar about Uruguay which was our Plan B if we had difficulties in Paraguay.
We first crossed in to Argentina from the Paraguay border near Asuncion. The Cambio's at the border were all working together and wouldn't ne...