Friends Jonathan Tillett and Rob McLachan biked and hiked their way over 3,000km in Patagonia, South America.
This stunning, desolate part of the world between Bariloche and Ushuaia offered them amazing mountain views, fantastic wild camping and encounters with friendly locals.
Fickle weather, including some fierce headwinds, and rough dirt roads were among the challenges they faced, as they tell us in the following 10 Questions.
See more of Jonathan’s beautiful photography on his site World Images.
1. Patagonia encompasses a massive section of South America. How did you pick your 3,000km route from Bariloche to Ushuaia?
Patagonia is a sparcely populated wilderness with dramatic scenery, and the distances are large. It’s both a rewarding and challenging place to bike. We were looking for something reasonably tough where self-sufficiency is essential.
It’s a reasonably well-trodden path. We met several tourers, ranging from an American who’d biked all the way from northern Alaska, to two old men on a two week trip, fighting the headwinds smoking pipes.
2. Which resources did you use to plan your trip?
Planning a route is a simple affair as there are essentially only two roads running down Patagonia – one in Argentina and one in Chile.
The road through Argentina runs east of the Andes and is dry and stark, while the Chile route is exposed to the Pacific fronts and is wet and for the most part more challenging. It’s possible to cross in places and we enjoyed a combination of the two extremes.
Towns and villages become scarcer as you get further south so this largely dictates your planning for you.
A single small scale map and a guidebook is all you need.
3. How would you describe the experiences and sensations of cycling in Patagonia?
Wide open spaces. Strong winds (from all directions). Huge skies. You feel incredibly small. Bumpy. The roads are mostly gravel, often corrugated. The population of the region is tiny so most of your interaction is with the mountainous scenery, although the people are friendly and hospitable.
4. What were some of your favourite parts or experiences of the trip?
Biking No-man’s land between Villa O’Higgins in Chile and El Chalten in Argentina. The road on the Chilean side ends at the town of Villa O’Higgins but by taking ferries over a couple of lakes and some exciting single tracks through hills and forests, it’s possible to link up the 70km gap.
Be prepared for a bit of hike-a-bike and wading with the bike through the odd river! (You can avoid this excitement by taking the Argentina road all the way down Patagonia)
And the small pleasures – relaxing with a bottle of local cervesa in a friendly hosteria in remote little towns after a long day in the open air.
5. What kind of day-to-day conditions and population density can people expect. Are towns regularly placed along the route?
Expect all conditions – warm, cold, sun, wind, perfect days, storms. And that’s in summer. Any other time of year would be a bold undertaking, with short days and cold, blustery weather.
The density of towns varies but we rarely if ever had to wild camp more than one night in a row (while biking) so logistics are not a problem. Even very small towns will usually have a handful of cheap, friendly family run hosterias (like a B&B) which will also give you a good filling evening meal.
Wild camping was never a problem and on one occasion the road was so quiet we pitched our tent literally on the side of it without a single vehicle passing.
6. Patagonia is renowned for its wild winds. How did you deal with them?
Most of the time the wind didn’t give us too many problems but some days could be extreme. One day we biked all day into a headwind so strong it kept catching the front wheel and pushing us off the road. We struggled to maintain 7km / hour and only managed 40km in 6 hours of hard riding. We couldn’t stop because we’d planned to meet some friends at the start of a hike!
What kept us going was the thought of promised tail winds to shoot us across Tierra del Fuego but in the end we had a headwind there too! But when the tail winds do blow, there’s nothing like the feeling of cruising along at 40kph with almost no effort and we made well over 200km on one day.
7. Were there any other challenges you faced, that other cycle tourists might also encounter in this region?
No rabid dogs or gun toting rebels to be afraid of here – it’s peaceful and safe with just you, your machine and the mountains.
8. You not only cycled, you also hiked on this journey. How did you manage to combine this with bike touring?
We found it a great pleasure to switch between biking and hiking. Patagonia has some of the best hiking in the world – we walked the Torres del Paine circuit, the Fitzroy mountains and even across the island of Isle Navarino south of Ushuia where you can see the islands of Cape Horn on a clear day.
We also scaled Aconcagua (6,962m, the highest peak in the Andes) as a warm up before starting the tour.
We each took a 40L backpack on top of our rear racks which also served as useful storage when biking. With careful packing and using the side straps of the backpack to bolt on extra gear, we found we could do a 5 day unsurported hike quite easily using these backpacks. It was never a problem leaving the bike and panniers somewhere safe for the return.
I used trail running shoes as my only pair of shoes for the trip – both for biking and hiking and found this compromise worked well and saved a lot of weight. There was no need to carry any extra gear.
9. Was language ever a problem? Did you learn any Spanish?
A bit of Spanish is essential but it’s easy to pick up enough to get by.
10. What’s one piece of advice you’d give to other people thinking of doing this journey?
Use the best rear rack you can find as it will get a real pounding on some of the corrugations. By the end of our trip, Rob’s rack was broken in multiple places and was held together with cable ties and some copper wire we found in a gutter! Miraculously though, it lasted the distance.
Thanks to Jonathan Tillett for answering the questions and providing the photos. Do check out his website World Images, with Jonathan’s wonderful photos of places all over the world.
Need more information? Check out these helpful resources for cycling in Patagonia:
- Patagonia Against The Wind – A site with a downloadable PDF of a 4-week mountain-bike expedition in Patagonia.
- The Carretera Austral and Patagonia – Lee Taylor’s account of a 40-day tour in 2009.
- The Fuego Project – A journey from Alaska to the southernmost tip of South America.
If you’d like to answer 10 questions about a favourite cycling destination, read the guidelines and then get in touch.
4th September 2010 at 11:40 am #
i want to leave right now 🙁
unfortunately, no more free days left at the office, bike in bad condition. I will have to save some money for this great trip!
4th September 2010 at 9:04 pm #
Thanks for the inspiration and congrats on an amazing journey! This and NZ’s south island are battling for the top spot in our list of must-dos!
5th September 2010 at 10:22 pm #
Great timing for this post–we’re in Bolivia headed to Patagonia. I’ve heard tales of horrific winds, so this post is reassuring. Thanks for the inspiration. Hoping for as much luck with the winds as you had.
7th September 2010 at 2:31 pm #
Great write up trying to persude my girlfriend to take this route when cycle from blighty to NZ in a few years time .
Your words might just do the trick.
7th December 2011 at 11:38 pm #
Hello Guys – Great ride
I would like to Cycle from Buens Aries to Ushia in Patagonia
I Did want to start around Mid october to see all the wildlife – MArine Life on the East coast. But I have been busy working – Even Now I am in BAKU offshore on a ship.
I hav work to do when i get back in January – would starting from Buenos Aries n the 1st Feb bee too late – or would it be better waiting for Next november
Me age 54 – Not not supe fit at all 17st. 40miles a day would be fine for me. with 4 panniers Tent and Handelebar bag not much more than 40miles a day.
Any advice would be helpful
Regards Graham Downey
16th April 2013 at 11:07 pm #
hi. is possible ride bike with patagonia with folding bike?
27th October 2016 at 9:34 pm #
We just posted a blog that references this great resource blog.
Ours is titled ‘Cycling Patagonia: Everything you need to Know’ and perhaps it will also be helpful to future Patagonian cyclists.
26th January 2022 at 12:12 pm #
Thank you a lot for providing individuals with an extremely memorable opportunity to check tips from here. It’s always so useful and as well , jam-packed with a good time for me personally and my office acquaintances to search your website at a minimum 3 times weekly to read through the new items you have got. And of course, I’m actually astounded concerning the sensational secrets served by you. Selected 1 ideas on this page are in reality the very best we’ve ever had.
5th February 2022 at 9:47 am #
I happen to be commenting to make you be aware of what a wonderful discovery my wife’s child had viewing your blog. She even learned some issues, not to mention what it is like to have an excellent coaching nature to make certain people very easily comprehend specified very confusing subject areas. You undoubtedly surpassed our own expected results. Thanks for providing such warm and friendly, healthy, educational and also fun tips about this topic to Jane.
13th July 2022 at 8:55 pm #
I needed to send you this little bit of word to help thank you as before over the pretty principles you’ve featured in this article. It was really remarkably open-handed with people like you to provide freely precisely what a number of people would’ve distributed as an electronic book in making some dough for themselves, precisely seeing that you might have tried it if you ever wanted. These suggestions also served as a good way to be certain that someone else have similar fervor like mine to know the truth more and more when considering this matter. Certainly there are lots of more enjoyable periods up front for those who read carefully your blog.
13th July 2022 at 8:56 pm #
I have to show my admiration for your kind-heartedness for those who require help on the situation. Your special dedication to passing the message across has been incredibly insightful and has specifically made ladies like me to realize their dreams. Your personal informative guideline denotes this much to me and still more to my office workers. Many thanks; from everyone of us.
27th July 2022 at 5:51 pm #
Needed to create you that very small note just to thank you so much over again for the nice solutions you’ve featured in this article. It was quite remarkably open-handed with you to deliver unhampered just what a lot of people could have offered as an e-book to earn some cash for themselves, especially seeing that you could have done it if you considered necessary. The inspiring ideas additionally acted to become fantastic way to be sure that most people have similar keenness just like mine to find out more and more with regard to this matter. Certainly there are thousands of more pleasurable periods ahead for people who looked over your blog.
27th July 2022 at 5:51 pm #
I have to show my affection for your kind-heartedness in support of women who must have help with this one content. Your real commitment to passing the solution all through turned out to be certainly practical and have surely permitted girls much like me to realize their goals. Your personal helpful suggestions can mean this much a person like me and substantially more to my fellow workers. Thanks a lot; from all of us.
3rd August 2022 at 12:48 pm #
I wish to get across my appreciation for your kind-heartedness in support of men who absolutely need help with this important concern. Your very own dedication to passing the message all over had become definitely important and has truly encouraged girls like me to achieve their objectives. This warm and helpful report can mean a lot a person like me and still more to my peers. Thanks a ton; from all of us.
3rd August 2022 at 12:49 pm #
I have to voice my appreciation for your kind-heartedness giving support to those individuals that really want guidance on your theme. Your personal commitment to passing the message all through had become definitely practical and have all the time permitted ladies like me to attain their aims. Your amazing helpful advice means a lot a person like me and further more to my fellow workers. Thanks a lot; from each one of us.
3rd August 2022 at 12:49 pm #
I wish to voice my appreciation for your generosity for persons that require help with this topic. Your real commitment to passing the solution all-around appeared to be surprisingly good and has continuously enabled men and women like me to achieve their desired goals. Your entire warm and friendly instruction denotes a lot a person like me and even further to my office colleagues. Warm regards; from everyone of us.
9th August 2022 at 4:29 am #
Thanks for all your valuable efforts on this site. Kate take interest in doing investigations and it is obvious why. Many of us hear all regarding the powerful form you present sensible guidelines by means of the website and even improve contribution from others on this concern then my daughter is really being taught a whole lot. Have fun with the remaining portion of the year. Your performing a glorious job.
9th August 2022 at 4:29 am #
I precisely needed to say thanks once again. I’m not certain what I would have worked on in the absence of these points documented by you relating to this problem. It was actually the intimidating setting for me personally, however , witnessing the professional technique you processed that took me to jump for gladness. Now i am grateful for your assistance and even expect you know what a great job you are carrying out educating many people all through a web site. Probably you have never come across all of us.
9th August 2022 at 4:30 am #
I simply desired to appreciate you once more. I am not sure what I would have done in the absence of the type of strategies discussed by you concerning such question. It previously was a troublesome problem for me, nevertheless coming across the well-written manner you solved it took me to weep for joy. I will be grateful for the work and thus hope that you know what an amazing job you’re doing teaching many people all through a web site. More than likely you have never got to know any of us.
12th August 2022 at 8:28 pm #
I wanted to create you this little word to finally thank you very much the moment again over the wonderful information you have featured at this time. This has been unbelievably open-handed with people like you to convey extensively what most of us might have distributed as an ebook to help with making some dough on their own, principally considering that you could possibly have done it if you ever desired. The advice as well served to become great way to comprehend other individuals have the identical passion similar to mine to find out good deal more with regard to this condition. I know there are a lot more enjoyable moments ahead for people who go through your site.
14th August 2022 at 2:37 am #
I must point out my affection for your kind-heartedness giving support to folks that actually need help with this important subject. Your real commitment to getting the solution across came to be extraordinarily important and has always enabled some individuals much like me to get to their desired goals. This valuable hints and tips means a lot to me and substantially more to my peers. Best wishes; from everyone of us.
21st August 2022 at 1:12 am #
My husband and i got so satisfied John managed to finish up his survey from your precious recommendations he received from your very own weblog. It’s not at all simplistic to simply be giving out tips and tricks others could have been trying to sell. We acknowledge we’ve got you to give thanks to because of that. The type of explanations you have made, the easy site navigation, the relationships you will assist to engender – it’s mostly astonishing, and it is facilitating our son in addition to the family understand that subject matter is exciting, and that’s unbelievably pressing. Many thanks for the whole lot!
22nd October 2022 at 5:08 pm #
I precisely wanted to thank you so much again. I am not sure what I might have created without those secrets provided by you directly on that area. This has been an absolute frightening dilemma in my position, nevertheless encountering a specialised tactic you handled the issue forced me to cry over gladness. I am just happy for the help and believe you find out what an amazing job that you’re providing teaching men and women via a site. Most probably you’ve never encountered any of us.
24th October 2022 at 10:36 pm #
I enjoy you because of your entire effort on this site. My mum takes pleasure in engaging in investigations and it’s really simple to grasp why. I learn all relating to the compelling manner you offer informative items on the web site and as well as inspire contribution from others on the topic then our own child is actually becoming educated a whole lot. Have fun with the rest of the new year. Your doing a superb job.
8th November 2022 at 5:27 am #
I and my pals have been checking out the good information and facts found on the blog and at once developed an awful suspicion I had not thanked you for those strategies. Those women became consequently warmed to study them and have in effect in fact been taking advantage of these things. We appreciate you truly being indeed thoughtful and for making a choice on this kind of terrific resources most people are really eager to discover. Our own honest regret for not expressing appreciation to earlier.
11th November 2022 at 9:04 am #
I must show some thanks to the writer for bailing me out of this particular problem. After scouting throughout the internet and getting tips which were not helpful, I believed my entire life was gone. Existing without the strategies to the difficulties you have resolved all through this review is a critical case, as well as the kind which might have adversely damaged my career if I hadn’t discovered the website. Your actual natural talent and kindness in handling almost everything was very useful. I am not sure what I would have done if I had not discovered such a solution like this. I can at this moment relish my future. Thanks for your time very much for this professional and results-oriented help. I won’t be reluctant to suggest your blog to anyone who would need care on this area.
13th November 2022 at 4:37 am #
I wanted to create you one very small observation just to say thanks over again for these lovely pointers you’ve provided above. It has been so surprisingly open-handed with you to grant without restraint just what most of us would have sold for an ebook to get some bucks on their own, primarily given that you could possibly have done it in case you desired. The things as well served to be the great way to be aware that many people have the identical desire similar to my very own to know significantly more with regard to this matter. I am sure there are a lot more fun moments up front for individuals who looked over your website.
17th November 2022 at 9:21 pm #
I must get across my affection for your kindness supporting people that require assistance with this content. Your personal dedication to getting the message up and down has been especially good and have in every case made employees like me to arrive at their aims. Your amazing informative tips and hints means a whole lot to me and even more to my peers. Regards; from everyone of us.
21st November 2022 at 8:03 pm #
Thanks a lot for the blog. Great.
24th November 2022 at 6:23 am #
I as well as my friends appeared to be reading through the nice points from the website and before long got a horrible suspicion I had not thanked you for those secrets. These boys came for that reason warmed to read all of them and already have in reality been taking pleasure in them. Appreciate your really being very accommodating and then for settling on varieties of cool resources most people are really desirous to understand about. Our honest regret for not expressing gratitude to sooner.
1st December 2022 at 5:36 pm #
Truly all kinds of very good knowledge.college athletes should be paid essay courses work online cv writing services
3rd December 2022 at 8:22 pm #
I precisely wanted to thank you very much yet again. I am not sure the things that I would have sorted out without those strategies revealed by you concerning such concern. It had become a real challenging difficulty in my view, but witnessing this professional fashion you handled it forced me to cry over contentment. Now i’m thankful for the support and even wish you know what a powerful job your are putting in educating the rest by way of a blog. Most probably you have never met any of us.
4th December 2022 at 7:56 am #
Thank you so much for giving everyone an exceptionally marvellous opportunity to check tips from here. It is always very pleasing plus stuffed with a good time for me personally and my office fellow workers to visit the blog at least three times every week to read the latest things you will have. And indeed, I am certainly fascinated with the fabulous tips you give. Selected two tips on this page are without a doubt the simplest I have ever had.
9th December 2022 at 11:09 am #
amalfi apartments rentberry scam ico 30m$ raised the pavilion apartments
12th December 2022 at 6:41 pm #
over the counter ed medication at walgreens
19th December 2022 at 12:52 pm #
I like reading through a post that will make people think. Also, thanks for permitting me to comment.
20th December 2022 at 12:41 am #
ivermectin indications what is ivermectin derived from
22nd December 2022 at 9:41 am #
Nicely put, With thanks.how to write an admission essay writing essay paper pay for writing an essay
29th December 2022 at 7:35 am #
town center apartments apartments in carson city nv glo apartments
29th March 2023 at 2:33 am #
I value the post. Really Cool.