BackpackerMoto: ADV Noob vs. Patagonia

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by BackpackerMoto, Mar 10, 2014.

  1. SavannahCapt

    SavannahCapt Long timer

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    This is not the ordinary "run of the mill" ride report. Thank you for entertaining us with your story.
    #41
  2. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

    Joined:
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    And that's really the great thing about reports... feeds the desire to get out and ride, around the block, to the next city, next state, next country, whatever.

    Thanks very much!

    For other folks who just prefer images over words, I made a page on my website that is dedicated to nothing but photos from each day. None of my inane babbling, just images!

    Backpacker Moto photo galleries
    #42
  3. LWRider

    LWRider Been here awhile

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    Lake Wales, Central Florida
    Gotta be in on this one!
    #43
  4. theycallmetrinity

    theycallmetrinity Adventurer

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    Los Angeles
    What a great entry you wrote!! I can tell you this you are not alone with the opinions from others. I've been asked all the time why I even ride a bike...."do you wana kill yourself???" :)

    Another thing is you will never be alone...there is always I mean always someone around (even when you wish there weren't ) :D

    Most people on this planet are genuinely kind and helpful with innocent curiosity...the reason we hear the bad stories is because it makes good TV for the news channels.

    Wish you all the best Mate!!!!
    #44
  5. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

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    Admittedly, I've had some very close calls.

    I mean, I almost washed my dishes in the wrong place here at Torres Del Paine!

    [​IMG]

    Bless the gods for warning signs. I'd be dead without them. That and more coming up on Days 11-12!!

    Thanks for the encouragement, Trin! And for coming along, LWRider!
    #45
  6. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

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    It's 1994.

    Dad has been gone for two months now. I am not coping well.

    Thus far, there is a small gain that has stemmed from the unexpected loss. I learn at a relatively young age (25) to make time to do the things that are important to me.

    Like this: I'm sitting in a Motorcycle Safety Foundation class. Since the days of that Honda ATC, I've wanted to learn how to ride. So here I am.

    The instructor is discussing how to handle adverse conditions. Heavy traffic, poorly paved roads, rain soaked streets, and what he deems as the most perilous... gusting high winds.

    I pay close attention, but I do not truly understand.

    Holy shit do I understand now.

    My layover Day 11 in Puerto Natales was mostly spent watching the pouring rain and sleet come down at a sharp sideways angle, all from the warm comfort of my hotel room. I used this time to prepare my backpacking gear for an assault on Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine (TDP), and I also found a local mechanic who confirmed I had a crap chain on the bike. He replaced it, straightened the rear wheel, and gave the KLR a "complete going over". Uh huh.

    I set off this morning (Day 12) with blue skies and warmer temps (low 40s), yet the potent gusts blowing across the bay in Puerto Natales was a harbinger of doom. The forecast had called for 60-70 mph storm gale winds, and that was looking more or less accurate. Far off in the distance, gray clouds stubbornly clung to the peaks of the park. By chance, I encountered a trio of Canadians who were also heading into TDP; they'd been riding 19 months since leaving Vancouver. We convoyed up as we motored north on Ruta 9.

    [​IMG]

    They turned around at the 25 mile mark, deeming it too foolhardy to continue. Once the pavement ended and the road turned to gravel ripio, we were reduced to 10-15 mph, and the wind further increased its intensity. Two of the Canucks were blown over twice each, me once.

    [​IMG]

    Though it would have been smarter to join them, I didn't turn around for two reasons. 1) We were almost at the halfway point anyway, and 2) As I gazed ahead at the topography, I could see less of the wide open plains that were the mother of these winds, and more rolling hills and mountains that would provide occasional respite.

    Though, those hills were still about 10 miles away. I watched the Canadians trundle back towards Puerto Natales as I took shelter on the quiet side of an abandoned shack, needing a bite and a think.

    The wind that I'd encountered on Ruta 40 a few days ago had absolutely nothing on what I was seeing here. Cars, trucks and buses coming the opposite way on this road were struggling to keep their vehicles straight. Several tour bus drivers had chosen to park and wait it out. One shuttle bus driver offered to drive me back to Puerto Natales. Nice girl.

    As I've mentioned previously, I've been riding for 20 years, but other than a paltry handful of dual sport outings on logging roads, it had always been on the street. The South American dirt, gravel, washboard, ripio, craters, that by itself had been a reasonable but not insurmountable challenge. By staying within my limits, I was doing okay and was learning pretty fast. Gusts of wind while on pavement, I could handle. These roads, I could handle. Combined... the wind, these roads, dropping temps, errant buses and trucks coming the other way, my list of allies was growing thin. Into the park or back to Puerto Natales, the conditions would be the same. At least by going forward, I would end up where I wanted to be.

    As I pulled the helmet back on, a giant tour bus headed into the park went chugging by. I laughed. My Puerto Natales hotel concierge had informed me that those buses take about three hours to cover the 80 miles to the park. I had grinned smugly, quite sure that not only could I beat that time on the KLR, but I wasn't some soft-bottomed tourist who needed a reclining seat while someone else did the driving.

    SITREP. I'd come half the distance in two hours, and those soft-bottomed tourists looked awful comfy in their out-of-this-goddamn-wind reclining seats.

    Continuing at a snail's pace down the road, I now added "wayward llamas" as something else to avoid running into.

    [​IMG]

    I later encountered a hitchhiker quartet who jokingly asked for a lift, they being the only creatures on this road looking more miserable and moving slower than me. And even that was temporary; half hour later they'd found a ride in a van and passed me by, another reminder that I was due a sacrifice to the Humility God.

    [​IMG]

    Blissfully, about 90 minutes later, I reached those distant hills and got occasional relief from the wind. Though, the sides of the road still displayed the fresh snow that had fallen with yesterday's storm. I was thankful the skies were clear, as the sun's warmth was the only thing making this day tolerable. Not too long thereafter, I rolled up to the park entrance, where it was somewhat similar to entering the Chilean border. Once again, "where are you going?" (ummm, in the park?) and "where are you staying?" (ummmmmm... in the park?) were the dominant questions. I then had to sign my life away, declaring that I wouldn't camp anywhere but in their designated sites, and that I wouldn't start any fires.

    Sheltered now from the winds, I cruised the last few miles to the Las Torres Refugio, a bunkhouse-style place that was booked solid, a bit odd for the late season. Campsites were filled too. I briefly contemplated parking the bike, grabbing my backpack, and hustling the 3-4 mile footpath to the next campground along the "W" trail within TDP. It was time to put some "Backpacker" in Backpacker Moto! Though, it was now almost 5 PM and such an endeavor would suredly be in poor judgment...

    ... especially after I checked out the nearby Hotel Las Torres!

    [​IMG]

    Shackled by my, errrrm, fierce lifelong devotion to national park regulations, I couldn't in good conscience just throw down my tent in a restricted area. Reluctantly, I would have to settle for the hotel's roaring fireplace, cold beer, hot chocolate, and tasty pizza.

    Dragged along by the cruel hand of fate, I reluctantly checked in for the night and coped with the miserable accomodations. As the sun went down, the stable hands did their evening routine of letting the resort horses roam the hotel grounds, roll around and eat the grass. No question, they were some happy, content animals, joyously free of whatever whiny, clumsy, overweight tourists they'd been forced to carry throughout the park that day.

    Gazing over at the KLR, I reckoned that's probably how it felt, too.

    [​IMG]
    #46
  7. sodajones

    sodajones Adventurer

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    Tempe
    Really enjoying this. Keep it up. I need to head to South America, soon.
    #47
  8. Kawi-Mike

    Kawi-Mike Been here awhile

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    Santa Fe, New Mexico
    BPM
    I am still with you and loving the read! Out of all the elements I have encountered in all my many years of on and off road riding to me nothing is worse than the wind. The pics are great.
    #48
  9. lakota

    lakota Geeser

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    Annapolis MD
    Love the pictures from Torres del Paine. Did the circuit back in '99. Great place to put the backpacker into play.
    #49
  10. dano619

    dano619 Been here awhile

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    sunny san diego
    All caught up------thanks for taking us along. And sharing your thoughts and remembrances from the past.
    #50
  11. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

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    Thanks, soda. As for South America, every rider I've encountered has just loved it here. Some prefer Chile/Argentina, others love Colombia, and lots of affection for Peru/Bolivia.

    With only a few weeks in-country, I am really enjoying Chile and parts of Argentina. I loves me my mountains and soaring peaks, and it feels like that's all I've been riding through. Magical places.

    Mike, it's actually kinda reassuring to me that someone else feels that way. I do count myself fortunate in that at least the sun has been shining! That Patagonian wind AND rain... I'm sure many others have had to deal with it, I'm glad to have dodged it thus far.

    Ah, the circuit! I had hoped to have time to visit the back of the park, but alas, not this trip. As it stands, the weather is going to be a challenge for the W. Rain, clouds, wind.

    Nice to hear there are some other rider/backpackers around here. The two communities don't exactly love each other!

    Book him, Dano!

    Sorry. Thanks for reading along, I appreciate the support. Everywhere I go, I am reminded of past experiences, or of friends who would enjoy a particular stretch of scenery. Riding alone... I'm really not.
    #51
  12. FongMan

    FongMan Been here awhile

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    Jan 1, 2014
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    Free State Wyoming
    More please... :1drink
    #52
  13. Mr Head

    Mr Head Adventure Hippie

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    Location:
    San Clemente, CA
    Subscribed. :clap

    Great writing man. Can't wait to see this unfold. Watch the minivans and suv's here in SoCal. :wink:
    #53
  14. Northstar Beemer

    Northstar Beemer Been here awhile

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    Frozen Prairies USA
    Very nice combination of skillful writing and AMAZING pictures. Breathtaking!!!:clap:clap:clap
    #54
  15. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

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    [​IMG]

    Oscar material right there, man.

    I would like to thank all the well-wishers and concerned fellow inmates who've been worried about me since checking into this hovel. I am pleased to report that, against the odds, I survived the night at Hotel Las Torres...

    [​IMG]

    .... and joyously abandoned its inferior accomodations as I headed off into the coveted isolation of backpacking and tenting in Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine, eager to commune with nature without a soul in sight....

    [​IMG]

    Ummm. Or not, as it turned out.

    More to come....
    #55
  16. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

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    It's 1988.

    I am on my first-ever backpacking trip. On Memorial Day weekend, nine of us are attempting to cross Kearsarge Pass in the lower Sierra Nevada. As we approach 11,000 feet, the trail vanishes into a seemingly endless field of white powder.

    "Go straight up, just make your own path in the snow," encourages group leader Shawn. "We'll make camp somewhere over that far ridge if we can find a good spot."

    I turn, face the mountainside, and step from the trail to make my own path.

    As I prepared to depart Hotel Las Torres and put some backpacker in this Backpacker Moto, I felt a strong urge to clear up some misconceptions that have left the reading public in a state of befuddlement.

    First things first. This is NOT backpacking:

    [​IMG]

    It is a frequently misused term, usually by what the insightful Ian Anthony B. referred to as "spunky chunky freshmen girls" who eagerly proclaim their intent to "backpack across Europe!" It's often accompanied by an enthusiastic squeal as they dream of romantic encounters with hairy Greek men on some Mediterranean beach.​

    In reality, all they are doing is taking the crap that they'd normally stuff into something like this...

    [​IMG]

    And stuffing it into this:

    [​IMG]

    That's not backpacking. That's luggaging, usually from one major city to the next via bus, rail or thumb, staying in hostels or the like. Nothing against it, done it myself, had a great time doing it. But it's not backpacking.

    With all that straightened out, I strolled over the flat open fields that highlighted the early steps of the Mirador Las Torres trail, part of the "W"-shaped trek in TDP. Assaulted by a multitude of signs regarding park regulations , I quickly concluded that this was the most restrictive preserved wilderness I'd ever visited. Some of Muir's finest words seemed sadly forgotten...

    "Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer."

    Since that first backpacking excursion near Kearsarge Pass in 1988, and throughout the past 25 years of outdoor adventures, I've had a distinctly Muir-esque perception of backpacking. You load up whatever you need to survive (food, shelter, clothing) for (X) days, and then enter a region of extreme beauty and seclusion. Yes, you usually follow a trail, but never hesitate to leave that trail in search of new adventures, different vistas, or coveted solitude. All that's asked is that you show healthy respect for that environment, and the overwhelming majority of backpackers do exactly that. Want to go off-trail, scramble over that distant peak and do a high altitude bivy? Go forth, my sons and daughters, and taste the freedom.

    [​IMG]

    Like many national parks outside of the United States, Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine is organized very nicely for the odoriferous henhouse luggaging crowd. There are bunkhouses every few miles, complete with beds and prepared food, and tent cities so cramped you can share guy lines with the neighbors.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The isolation, the soul-replenishing experience of walking into the cathedral of the outdoors and having it entirely to yourself, is mostly wiped clean away. Strict TDP park regulations offer two choices: sleep in the bunkhouse a few feet from stinky Vlad and Sven, who just washed their socks and underwear in the bathroom sink and are drying them on your bedpost, or pitch your tent a few feet from Vlad and Sven, who just washed their socks and underwear in the creek and are drying them on your tent pole. Either way, they snore louder than the 3:10 to Yuma. Unattractive options both, and not what I'm accustomed to. Now, there are parts of the U.S. that offer similar cush/crowded amenities in the remote outdoors. But the critical difference is that you are allowed, even encouraged, to freely sidestep those outposts of the norm and forge your own path.

    Which, perhaps oversimplified, is the very definition of America. It is that trait which confounds and (sometimes justifiably) frustrates the rest of the world, and yet it perhaps remains our single greatest quality as a nation.

    [​IMG]

    Forging onward, I struggled to reconcile another of TDP's restrictions. The park has actual "Closing Times" for most of the trails. As in, don't hike on this trail, or don't start your hike, past a certain time late in the day. Uh. Say what? I brought my headlamp for nothing?

    As I scrambled higher and higher upon the trail (2550' elevation gain) toward Mirador Las Torres, the weather report was proving annoyingly accurate.

    [​IMG]

    On and off rain, 100 km/h winds, and lots of clouds greeted me as I entered the basin of the famous Torres. Two large guided tour groups were gathered on the near shoreline, so I predictably picked my way along the loose rocks and scree until I was about 200 yards from their chatter. I found myself a large boulder and broke out a late lunch, content to listen to the constant small rock slides that routinely echoed throughout the canyon. And I waited. The crowds and the clouds began to dissipate a little. I waited some more, enjoying the occasional beams of sunshine breaking through while stretched out on my rock, mostly sheltered from the wind.

    Around 4 PM, when the smart hikers had already begun their return hike, I found myself utterly alone at the base of the Torres, and the clouds finally gave up their grip. I decided that for just the second time on this trip, I would attempt a self photo. Steeling myself, I summoned my best dark, complex loner-type with a thoughtful, brooding personality look, the planet's social inequities heavy upon my shoulders, whilst gazing pensively off into the horizon....

    [​IMG]

    And failed. I was just too damn happy. Here I was, near the bottom of the world, on my own, having ridden almost 2000 solo miles on desolate roads and through challenging weather, arriving safely in spite of the shortcomings of myself and the bike. The work and effort it takes to get to this place is part of its mystique, its appeal, its romance. The Humility God be damned; for many long minutes, I bathed in my triumph.

    For another hour I enjoyed my celebration in complete solitude, until a small group of quiet hikers showed up. I chose that moment to retreat back down to Tent City to make my supper, during which the weather underwent a massive shift. Daytime temps had been in the low 40s, yet a welcome warm front had me in the five iron of jackets (Arc'teryx Atom LT) and a pair of shorts at 10 PM. Grabbing my Crazy Creek chair, I meandered away from the campground and found a wide clearing where, for the first time on this trip, the late sky was empty of clouds, and I enjoyed a night of crystal clear Southern Hemisphere stars.

    Heaps more Day 13 photos at Backpackermoto.com.
    #56
  17. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2014
    Oddometer:
    209
    Location:
    The Teton Range
    A few extra images from my first day of backpacking in Torres Del Paine...


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #57
  18. riverflow

    riverflow Project P̶r̶o̶c̶r̶a̶s̶t̶i̶n̶a̶t̶o̶r̶ Finisher

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    Danville/Louisville, KY
    Keep 'em coming! Great report in the making!
    #58
  19. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

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    The Teton Range
    Kind thanks, I really appreciate the support. Patagonia is this amazing corner of the world that tells so much of the tale all by itself!

    Here's a photo from upcoming Days 14-15... this snowpack looks like springtime, not late summer/early fall!

    [​IMG]
    #59
  20. BackpackerMoto

    BackpackerMoto Outcast

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
    209
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    The Teton Range
    Next morning and I started my hike toward the center of the park, forced to backtrack a few miles of trail that I'd done yesterday. I marveled at the snow pack on the nearby peaks; you'd have thought it was spring and not early fall.

    Last evening's warm front was a fond memory; a brief clear morning in the low 30s quickly turned into more rain, clouds and gusty winds, but not before I got a few photos of the clear Patagonian valley below:

    [​IMG]

    Shortly past Campamento Italiano, park rangers exercised their right to restrict passage to certain trails. The gale winds were too dangerous, they claimed. Additionally, the catamaran across Lago Pehoé was not running, nor the boats on Lago Grey. To the protests of about two dozen people, the rangers requested that all westbound hikers remain at the campamento or nearby refugio/bunkhouse.

    "Inconceivable," I muttered, unimpressed. These rangers were becoming a serious impediment to my mission. As ever, I looked for a thinking rock to mull over the options. It was simple. I could stop and wait until the next day, hoping that they'd let me pass. Or, if the rangers weren't going to let me walk to the western part of the park, I could retreat to the east and the KLR, and then ride to the west.

    The days I'd lost due to the bike's problems had finally caught up to me, creating a rather strained timetable. The uncertainty of just hanging out and waiting on the whim of the rangers, especially with the weather reports looking no better for tomorrow, sounded like a fool's errand. At least the roads would still be open, as park officials dared not stop the flow of double-decker buses loaded with fat-walleted tourists. I smirked. It's never quite THAT dangerous, now is it?

    The rain continued to fall, the wind continued to blow, and I started my hike back to Hotel Las Torres where the KLR was stationed. Surprising myself, I wasn't terribly discouraged. I was still riding high from yesterday's four hours at the base of the Torres and the fortuitous parting of the clouds that I'd earned for my patience.

    The rain and fog resulted in very little visibility and a perfect veil for some of the park's signature views.

    [​IMG]

    By the time I'd returned to the hotel, loaded up the bike and donned my gear, it was late afternoon. The wind assault did not relent, and I rode about halfway to Lago Grey before camping the night near the southern shores of Lago Pehoé.

    As warm, clear and comfortable as the previous night had been, this one was cold, stormy and soggy. The winds off of the lake were ferocious, yet my tent (Mountain Hardwear UL2) was bombproof. No matter the wind and rain, I was toasty and dry. The only other nearby tent was not up to the task; I heard its angry soaked occupants abandon ship at around 2 AM. Classic packing mistake.

    Next morning was the worst weather yet; solid rain and the familiar wind. The going was as slow as ever, the fog heavy, the visibility suspect. It was about 10:30 AM when I arrived at Hotel Lago Grey, where the half day/full day boat trips out to Glacier Grey are launched. Even as I rode, I knew that if said vessels had been anchored all day yesterday, it would almost certainly be a similar outcome today.

    And it was.

    The staff at Hotel Lago Grey held out some hope that the afternoon would clear up enough to allow a half day boat. With nothing else to do but wait, I dried out in their bar and had some food with a pair of young Mexican boys who attend a Japanese boarding school; they spoke to each other in an enviable mish-mash of Spanish, English and Japanese. I call Unfair Headstart on life.

    [​IMG]

    I then had a chat with two women from Santiago, who were also in a holding pattern for the boat. They were extremely interested in hearing about Yosemite and Yellowstone as future backpacking destinations, so they insisted on seeing some of my photos from those two great American icons.

    [​IMG]

    Which ended up being the only scenery I looked at on this day. The boats were cancelled again, and from the hotel patio, all I got was this fleeting glimpse of the distant glacier...

    [​IMG]

    I wouldn't know, but on a clear day, I'm told it looks like this:

    [​IMG]

    Sitting in the bar, I examined the calendar and tried to find a way to spend another day here. Tomorrow's forecast looked extremely favorable, but there was no 7 AM boat, only one at 11 AM. I did the math. At best, I'd be done with the tour by 3 PM, then two hours to the park entrance, and another two hours (at least) for the 80 miles south back to Puerto Natalas for gas (contrary to what I'd been told, there was absolutely none available in the park). That would mean a full 24 hour delay on the commencement of my 2200 mile ride back to Santiago. Given the pace of the bike (max speed about 70 mph), plus its uncertain reliability, and it truly seemed a bridge too far. I needed to retreat to Puerto Natales today and start my return ride on the morrow.

    My emotions bounced around. I was initially bummed, but the destinations on this trip have become increasingly less and less important. More than ever, it really is about the journey, and of all the journeys I've taken in my life, never had that cliché been more true.

    [​IMG]

    And, a large part of me was comfortably content that I'd missed out on some of the grandeur of Torres Del Paine. It meant that one day, when I return with my Blonde (aka World's Best Traveling Buddy), she and I could experience them together, each looking upon those splendors for the first time. Few things are more valuable to me than those shared moments.

    Once clear of the park entrance, I scouted out the border crossing at Cerro Castillo that I'd do the following morning, as I had no desire to revisit the Rio Turbio charlie foxtrot (Day 10). Heading south to Puerto Natales, I took a look back at the shrouded mountains of the park. Yup, it had mercilessly chewed me up and spat me out, reluctant to give up some of its wonders.

    It's parting advice: put a whoooole lot more days in the quiver, next time you wander this way.
    #60