Chilean Patagonia in Mountain Bike

Glaciar Ohiggins

Glaciar Ohiggins

My 2011 got off to a great beginning. I spent New Year’s Eve with an eclectic group of people, the family that runs the hostel I was staying at, some Americans, and some Dutch cyclists. After being up way too late and waking up way too early, I was now off south with the Dutch cyclists to hook up with Boris, a German Cyclist. We were off to the ferry, some distance south where we would travel over the fjords. Together we rode across deserted roads in Southern Chile, cycling 4 wide in most cases. The roads were in much better condition than we had been led to believe, and they were all ours, at least until the next ferry came in, at which point we’d be taking our leave. The temperature was perfect, with a nice little tailwind to help us along.

This valley was all but unspoilt by the hand of man, and was breathtaking. Thinking at one point that a plane was flying over head to disrupt this tranquility, we looked up to see the shadow was being cast by a giant condor, it’s large wing span allowing to fly quickly and effortlessly over our heads. The size of these birds makes them somewhat frightening, but their majesty of the skies is truly something to behold. That night we shared food and stories with some other cyclists, and the whole lot of us departed on the ferry the next morning. Our destination, Villa O’Higgins came soon enough, and we were back on our bikes again for a more difficult journey over the rugged terrain dividing the Chile/Argentina border in the southeast. This area is almost entirely devoid of roads, making it inaccessible to most travellers. We had pack horses with us to carry our luggage, as it would be much too difficult to bike over this terrain with it strapped to us. From a biking perspective this was the highlight of our Chilean leg, a constantly shifting, 20 km long stretch of mountain biking paradise.

Glaciar O'HigginsWe felt very sorry indeed for those we passed on road bikes, as they must’ve been having a terrible time of it across this terrain. After a terrific ride wefinally arrived in El Chalten in Argentina, a little border hamlet, but well provisioned. It was nice to be able to enjoy fish and other delicacies again after a long stretch of mostly roughing it. With Chile behind us, I look back on it with fondness. The Chileans are a very proud people and love to talk about their country and history. I wish I knew more Spanish so I could fully indulge them and be an attentive listener. The land was beautiful, and the bike trails were tremendous. This has given me a great experience to take back to New Zealand with me.