South we go! When I last reported on this Patagonia adventure, we were in Bariloche, Argentina, after riding west across the Andes from Osorno, Chile. Now we’re headed towards the end of the continent. Sorry for the delay between posts, but connectivity out here isn’t like the big city – or even little cities – in the U.S.
First a word about this ride – it’s an industry invitational event hosted by RIDE Adventures. Participants on “The Patagonia Experience” tour include Eric Lange (RIDE Adventures), Chris Olin (Rox Risers), John Bettencourt (MotoAmore, U.S. Heidenau tire distributor), Pierre Shäffer (Heidenau Germany), Nic Mentis (Kaoko Ltd.), Patrick Kant (SplashDesign in Holland, makers of Macna riding gear) and Erik Stephens (Twisted Throttle, U.S. importer of Macna). Chris and Eric have equipped my R 1200 GS with Rox Risers and a Kaoko cruise control, I’m wearing the Macna Oasis jacket and Alpine pants and we’re all riding on Heidenau K60 tires, so you’ll be hearing how these products handle the rigors of Patagonia as the ride goes on.
Our day began with temps in the high 40s and a tour around Lake Nahuel Huapi outside of Bariloche. Leaving the chaos of Argentine traffic, we found peaceful riding on a winding road through the forest to a high point where we could look down on the high-dollar Llao Llao resort. As you might guess, I was happier riding a motorcycle on the local roads rather than hob-nobbing with the rich and famous. Besides, the only suit I have along is my Macna riding gear!
Our southern adventure began in earnest after topping off the tanks. In the time it took to fill up eight bikes, trip leader Eric Lange discovered that the Argentine border station had shortened its hours, so we had to hustle a bit or we’d be stuck in Argentina instead of relaxing in our hotel just inside Chile. To the delight of all, the pavement turned to gravel as we entered Los Alerces National Park. Separated by the distance it took the dust behind each rider to settle, we got a feeling of how the Heidenau K60 tires would handle the many miles of dirt and gravel roads that lay ahead. Seventy kilometers later, they were deemed a good choice for the journey. It took some time for me to dial in suspension and tire pressure, but I was particularly happy with grip of the front K60 on the loose surface. Riding in Patagonia is a delicate combination of taking in the scenery, missing the occasional oncoming car (they don’t like to give an inch down here), and keeping your motorcycle on the road. The predictable traction of the K60s greatly simplified the latter, allowing us to concentrate on the towering trees, snow-capped mountains and expansive views of the three large lakes we skirted.
We finished the day with a 35-kilometer run to the border on a freshly graveled road. Motorcycles make plenty of dust in those conditions, but oncoming vehicles left us choking on plumes a half-mile, and slower traffic ahead was no better. With options of hanging back, riding in a cloud, or passing, the choice was always to pass. Didn’t want to miss that hotel! I was leading the pack and thinking life was good each time I passed a vehicle and got into clean air, until I came up on a bus that sent up enough dust to be seen from space. Holding my breath, I twisted the grip and let the BMW and K60s do the rest. Then it was fresh air all the way to the Argentine border.
Rolling into the border post with time to spare, we were processed quickly for this part of the world – after being told how many of us could be in the tiny office at one time (only one), where to stand once we were in, and when to approach the next station. With passports checked and immigration forms stamped, we headed to Chile and the next grilling. On top of the usual customs and immigration routine, they add a no-nonsense agriculture inspection to protect one of their biggest industries. We were ushered through without incident and were soon stripping off dusty riding clothes and cleaning our throats with cold Dolbek beer at the El Barranco Hotel, in the fly fishing and kayaking mecca of Futaleufú!
Continue reading: Day 3 dispatch