Chile & Argentina – (Crossing The Andes)

Posted by on Apr 7, 2012 in Travel Blog | 0 comments

Chile & Argentina – (Crossing The Andes)

I turned the ingnition key and started the motorcycle. Being new, there is no question regarding its reliability, but I would be lying if I said the engine rumbled to life. Being a small 125cc engine, it was often hard to hear the engine running at idle.  I double checked the tension of my straps that held down my backpack. They were tight. We were now ready for our motorbike trip through South, Central and North America. The plan: 30,000kms in 6 months . The goal: to explore 3 contients. The method: improvision. I couldn’t believe this day had come. After being inspired by my favourite movie: The ‘Motorcycle Diaries’ and book ‘Into the Wild’ I decided to combine the two on my biggest adventure to date. Dale and I plan to ride all the way from Argentina to Alaska. Mitch on the other hand has taken 5 weeks off work and will tour with us from Chile, down to Argentina, across Uruguay and up to Rio where he will sell the motorbike and fly home. Our base for the last week had been a friend’s home. It was sad to leave as we had been welcomed into their home like a family member. They had helped the three of us immensely and I  will always be grateful for that. I went over all the things I needed in my head. “Ownership papers….check, international driver license…..check”. I hoped that we had all the correct paperwork needed to cross borders. I have read so many mixed reports online from different overland travelers many of which contradicted each other. Chile was the best option to buy motorcycles in South America, less bureaucratic paperwork and we could travel across borders within a week of registering the bike in Chile. Other countries like Argentina required a foreigner to own the motorcycle for one year before departing internationally. Please read the ´how to’ guide if you are interested in doing a similar trip.

I had always planned to do the trip on a small/cheap motorcycle. I wanted to travel on a bike that was sold locally. Any problems could be easily fixed and parts should be readily available. I had completed an overland trip from London to Sydney without flying which included riding through Vietnam on a 1973 Russian built 100cc motorcycle. I didn’t want to rush the trip and lets face it, the locally built Honda XR125cc would not allow me to.  We had time on my side. I had resigned from my Job at Roadshow Films. A trip like this needed no time restraints.

The city of Santiago felt familiar as we had spent the last week visiting different governing bodies sorting out our paperwork. We were heading into the unknown with no GPS, no mobile phones, and no road maps. Just a Lonely Planet travel guide that provided basic information on attractions. It was this uncertainty and freedom that I loved about travelling.  Heading north we pasted countless wineries. The air was warm, the sun was shinning, my music was blarring. It was a great day riding and we were blessed with an amazing ride over The Andes.

Crossing The Andes

As our elevation rose it became apparent that we had not prepared for the freezing conditions ahead. My face became numb as the cool air blew up underneath my helmet. My finger tips and toes were next to lose feeling. The snow began to build up along the roadside. It was a strange sensation as only 30 minutes prior we wore only T Shirts and jeans. It was much like a scene from Dumb and Dumber when Lloyd and Harry travel across America. Eventually we made it to the Argentinean boarder. It would be the first test to see if our paper work was in order. The process was quite simple. Go to migration and have your passport stamped. Visit customs and export the bike. Then ride across ´no mans’ land and visit immigration and receive a stamp in your passport and then visit customs and have your bike temporary imported into Argentina.   We didn’t expect it to take 2.5 hours. So as a result when we finally jumped back on the bikes it was late afternoon. The scenery was breathtaking, as we travelled back down the other side of The Andes. The afternoon sun hit the mountainous landscape and it felt like we were riding across the moon. As day turned to night, the temperature dropped dramatically again. I was leading and our intended destination was the scenic wine region of Mendoza. We had agreed on a policy of never riding after sunset but unfortunately there were no hostels or accommodation options so we pressed on into the night. Eventually I could see a glow of lights on the horizon. My teeth stopped chattering and my spirits lifted. We had purchased a 3 way intercom system called a (Scala Rider) that attached to our helmets. An essential accessory for any  motorbike trip. I explained that “we are nearly there, I can see the town”. However as we travelled closer we realized that they were not city lights but infact a cement works. We were cold and exhausted.  We eventually made it to Mendoza at 9.30pm. Needless to say we enjoyed dinner that night and with our stomachs full we fell asleep within seconds.

For the next few days we rode across the Argentinean country side stopping off at cowboy towns along the way. It reminded me of somewhere like Texas. Properties alternated between cattle ranches and crop farmers. We reached Buenos Aires and being our first major city we thought the best option would be to ride into the central area and look for a hostel in the Lonely Planet. Feeling like we had hit the centre we pulled over and turned to our trusty travel bible. However it must have fallen off while we rode into the city. As it turned out we stayed in a overpriced hostel that night, 5kms out of the down town area. The next day we changed hostels and enjoyed our time in this beautiful city. We rely on the internet for our trip planning and online revealed there was an inlet of water separating Buenos Aires and Uruguay. It would be an 820 km around trip or an hour ferry ride. We took the ferry option but later found out that a bridge had recently been constructed cutting down the trip to 120kms. That’s life I guess. I knew it wouldn’t be the last time we went the long way.

Leave a Reply