There and back again - My solo ride from NC to Ushuaia and back - Currently in Chile

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Windham, Sep 27, 2018.

  1. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    Reality quickly shattered my plans to have to ridden my DR to the highest altitude ever achieved. I had mapped out a route to nearly 6000 meters using google maps satellite and a few other sources but when the day came, the rain, which had been coming down hard for several days had completely blocked the Bolivian salt flats which I had to cross to get the mountain. I woke up early, still eager to give it a shot but when I arrived at the salt flats this is what I saw.

    [​IMG]DSC_2299 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSC_2295 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    This is the day I arrived to the salt flats. Should have gone and taken pictures then because I think it would be hard to have a much worse experience than I did here.

    [​IMG]DSC_2283 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    I turned around and stopped by the tourists offices that are scattered through Uyuni and asked about road conditions out of Bolivia. They showed me pictures of deep snow in the mountain passes to the south and said that all the tourists were being evacuated due to extreme flooding. I didn't feel like sticking around another day so I decided to take the easiest route out of Bolivia and into Chile, despite the rain which had really started to come down. What should have been an easy ride through 170 miles of well maintained dirt roads turned into a nightmare of freezing temperatures, deep water crossings, and slick red mud.

    I knew the border closed at 7 which gave me about 10 hours to reach it. The first few hours were ok but after a time, the rain picked up and the wind was howling though the 12,000ft mountains which left me freezing to the bone and wishing I had some shelter. At the top of the passes, the rain turned to sleet which stuck to my visor and made visibility almost 0. About half I stopped for a quick lunch and realized that to make it before close I was going have to pick up the pace. I pushed on as fast as possible, but with numb hands and treacherous roads I was only able to keep moving in second gear. The last 5 hours I did without stopping and finally rolled up the border at 6:50 - 10 minutes before it closed.

    The Bolivian side was shutting down but stamped me out right before they closed. As I was wearily climbing back on the bike, one of them rushed up and told me due to the time change I wasn't aware of, the Chilean side had been closed for an hour. I was tired and not feeling like setting the tent up again that night but before I could start, they invited me inside the Aduna and handed me a beer. We chatted for an hour or so while I warmed up and then the kindly told me I was welcome to stay in the guard shack on an extra mattress. I gratefully excepted and it didn't take long to pass out that night. Too tired to bother making dinner.

    The only picture I took all day. Far too wet to take out my Nikon.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    The next morning I was up early and the first one at the border while I waited for it to open. It was an easy crossing and I was into Chile in about an hour. The scenary changed rapidly as I rode into the Atacama Desert, the dryness that Northern Chile is famous for still took a couple days to dry my boots out.

    Not a lot going on here so I spent the last few days high tailing it to Santiago. 1,200 miles of highway on a DR isn't exactly what they are designed for!


    Stopped at the famous "hand of the desert".


    [​IMG]DSC_2309 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSC_2308 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Pounding pavement

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr


    Took a dirt road off the main highway to find a campsite. No traffic so I set up right beside the road.

    [​IMG]DSC_2335 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSC_2337 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSC_2340 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]DSC_2353 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Another 400 mile day saw me close to Santiago. I camped out in the mountains again and woke up early pick up a couple things in the city. I needed a new RAM mount and front tire.

    Tunnel was out of commission but the construction worker told me since I was on a motorcycle I could use the trail over the top. He even held the chain for me while I drove under. Managed to take a few wrong turns before I found my way across...

    [​IMG]DSC_2355 by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Had a little life left in the old tire but it was not doing well on dirt. Not bad though, 16,300 miles on it.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Arrived to hostel "Casa Matte" which is a famous biker hostel in Santiago. I don't think I mentioned it but my bank cards were stolen in Bolivia so I'll be here waiting for replacements for a couple of days before leaving south. Still deciding on what route I should take to Ushuaia. Chile or Argentina?

    Nice to hang out with some like minded travelers. We have cooked dinner together and hung out on the roof top late into the night talking about our many adventures on this incredible continent.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Enjoying Santiago but I'm ready to see Patagonia and ultimately Ushuaia. Won't be long now!
    knight, ColeK, powderzone and 11 others like this.
  2. boristhebold

    boristhebold Been here awhile

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    Shame about the weather and your bid to ride at 6000m but you got to see a flooded salt flat and continue your journey...and the Mountain will still be there for you in 2020, 2030 etc. Safe travels
    powderzone and Windham like this.
  3. Lostmike

    Lostmike Cruising

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    Mate go down the Carretra Austral, its a million times better. If you want the most direct way to the good riding catch the ferry from Puerto Montt to Chaiten. The southernmost land border crossing you can take a vehicle through is through a little cutoff road through puerto rio tranquilo where the marble caves are (worth a look there a few pics on our rr) and into chile chico. (Its also one of the easiest border crossings we went through) The whole ride is absolutely spectacular. If you go down 40 in Aregentina its bloody windy without too much to see. Have fun!
  4. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    Yeah I’m thinking that’s the plan. It looks like a better route from here. I’ll probably pass into Argentina pretty far south.
    fasttortoise, 95Monster and Lostmike like this.
  5. fasttortoise

    fasttortoise Smartest Idiot Here

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    How’s it going?
  6. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    After 6 days in Santiago, I managed to pick up my new card at the fedex center, hopped on the bike and did the longest day of the trip so far at 507 miles. I left early as I knew it was going to be hot and I'm glad I did, because when I arrived at Pucon it was 39c/102f. Went into a small market while I looked for a campsite and bought two ice creams and a Gatorade. While recovering, I met with two sisters working with their dad at the market. I had them update my windshield and they gave me some tips for the nearby area. They said they were off work soon and wanted to take me to a hidden beach on the lake. it wasn't hard to convince me and the water was clear and freezing cold. Amazing end to a long day.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Chile has been added!
    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Sunset at the beach

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    I'm starting to feel a bit of pressure to reach Ushuaia. Reports of snow and bad weather have me hurrying more than I would like through Patagonia.

    30 miles of jeep trails and I saw this massive tree

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    And this hot springs.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Didn't swim though because it was already pretty hot outside and they wanted a ridiculous entry fee. $30 US I think.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Another day south. Another incredible spot to throw up a tent.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr


    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Had a chat with some local fisherman before they went out for the night.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Incredible sunset

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Back on the bike headed south on R7. Its an beautiful road, half paved, half gravel that runs though western Patagonia. It's an easy ride but the glaciers, blue rivers and clear lakes make it one of my favorites of the trip.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Ran out of road and had to take a ferry. It was booked full online but I chanced it and showed up 5 minutes before it left. Enough room for a couple of bikes and I quickly boarded and we were off. 4.5 hour ride.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    I want to know who owns this house and can we be friends. It's on a beautiful small island.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    What a road

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    2 inches of rain overnight though. Patagonia weather quickly changes and it left me having to dry out my tent at a gas station more than once.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Glacial river running into a fjord.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    The paved parts are almost as good as the dirt...

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Another day of camping. How many in a row is this? I need a shower...

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Spent the evening watching the dolphins and sea lions swim through the bay.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Sunset at 9:30pm

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Glaciers like this one dot the mountains every few miles.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    A small viaduct.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    One night Coyhaique for a shower and laundry. Today I will be crossing the border to Argentina and heading straight for Ushuaia. It's still 1000 miles away and continued reports of bad weather may slow me down. There is supposed to be 50mph winds as well and possible snow farther south. Hopefully I can push through these last few days before I reach the end of the world and make it their safely and without too much frostbite. :-)

    I will update when I arrive. Signing off because the hostel is -1000 degrees and my hands are numb :rofl
  7. rider1150gsadv

    rider1150gsadv Long timer

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    Enjoyed the pics and update a lot. :clap Just stay safe, no sense in taking undue risks..:deal
  8. Gbags

    Gbags Been here awhile

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    Hello mate,
    I’m glad you took the Chile side. Chilean Patagonia is so beautiful.
    We started in a hike and after going down to Ushuaia headed north. We’re now in Culiacan, Sinaloa and aiming to head through the Copper Canyon.
    I read your report about Creel, Fuerte but I’m having trouble plotting a route from Choix to Chihuahua. Is there a road? I only have maps.me and it’s very hard to find a route. Can you help?
    Thanks,
    Graham
  9. Gbags

    Gbags Been here awhile

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    Started in a hike?
    No! Started in CHILE.
  10. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    I have arrived in Ushuaia!

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Celebration at the Hard Rock Café with another rider I had met in Santiago@! Congrats, Karl and the KTM990 on completing your trip!

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr


    I'm extremely happy to have arrived in one piece, with the same bike, and had zero flat tires or crashes in 18,395 miles. I'm thankful for all the incredible people I've met over the last few months and all the amazing places I've seen. I'm thankful that nearly everyone I've met has been kind and helpful, I'm thankful that I have a great family back home supporting me, I'm thankful for the experiences and different cultures I've been able to see first hand and the incredible hospitality given to me daily by the locals of a more than a dozen countries.

    Some people say they didn't really feel like arriving in Ushuaia was a very special point in their trip but I would disagree. If my engine grenades now, at least I know I've already ridden as far south as possible. Its been an unforgettable trip so far, exceeding all of my expectations and I'm looking forward to the last month, exploring more of Chile and Argentina before I head home in April.

    I also hope that I may have shown a little of how Latin America really is. So many people (Americans in particular) think that anything south of the US border is a war zone of gangs and violence but that's simply not the case. There is definitely poverty and crime here, but also strong family values, friendly neighborhoods, and honest police, for the most part. My rule over the last five and a half months is simply "don't be a dumb ass". I've had zero negative interactions with military or police, been ripped off zero times and haven't been mugged yet. The biggest problem I have it with petty theft. I had my gas cap stolen while trying to purchase a part in Bolivia, and my pocket knife taken when I left it in a kitchen overnight. Also a shirt was stolen of a line in Nicaragua when I was sick for a couple days and didn't remove them. I take responsibility for everything and overall have had nearly all positive experience since I left.

    To back up a week or so here is the crossing from Chile to Argentina.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Giant iron balls in the middle of nowhere...

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Unique weather is everywhere down here. The day I crossed into Argentina I had a nearly 50mph tailwind. Drove all the way across Argentina, to the Atlantic coast and got my best ever gas mileage at 74mpg. Unfortunately the tailwinds never seem to last and I was bashing my head against strong winds nearly the last 800 miles.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Don't have a lot of pictures of the next thousand or so miles. Its mostly this:

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Flat tundra and high winds

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Green lake about 2 hours from the border of Coyhauque

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    I've camped all but one day from Santiago to Ushuaia so that's why this report is a little late. Anyway, here's a nice sunset

    [​IMG] by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Met my good friend Yun, while he was riding north and I was headed south. I bought my motorcycle from Yun about a year ago and we have been talking about our trip plans for the last couple of years. He is riding with a Colombian he met on the road.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Over the last few days I had started to notice my RPM gauge was spiking really high a random times. It seemed to related to speed and only happened above 4k RPMS. I thought my clutch must be slipping so I found a shop and took it apart, only to find that the plates and disks were fine. I could find no problem except some old oil had built up a little inside the stator but it took me a full day to go over everything and finally decide that the bike was ok.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    When I finally got it back together at about 9pm, the clutch would not disengage even when I pulled it in. Regretfully, I pulled the case back apart, looking for the problem but again, everything seemed perfect. I put it all back together again and let it run in neutral awhile to warm the oil. After 10 minutes or so the plates were functioning properly so I assume the fresh oil I dipped the clutch plates in made them stick a little. Finished up at midnight and drove back to my campsite for some much needed sleep.

    On the ferry the next day. Bike is working perfectly.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Stopped to see a group of King Penguins

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Finally, when you start getting close to Ushuaia the scenery starts to change.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    A picture of me

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    Anyone know what kind of bird this is? Its wing-span looked to be around 7 feet if I had to guess. Maybe more.

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    And the triumphant arrival!

    [​IMG]Untitled by Windham Taylor, on Flickr

    I'm headed back north now, going to rest a couple days in Punta Arenas and try to put the bike up for sale somewhere and see if anyone is interested. Otherwise I'll ship her home from Buenos Aires sometime in April.

    Right now I want to see more glaciers so I'll be in Torres Del Paine and El Calafate in a few days doing some shorter hikes and exploring the park.

    Cheers to everyone who has made it this far. Fair winds and following seas!

    More updates to come
  11. rider1150gsadv

    rider1150gsadv Long timer

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    Congrats on your amazing trip!
    Windham likes this.
  12. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    I don’t know a lot about those roads I’m sorry. I was still figuring out how I wanted to navigate in that part of Mexico and I just ended up using google maps though there I think. Besides the road away from Batopilas that is. Beautiful area of Mexico though.
  13. Aces 6

    Aces 6 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over

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    Bikes a keeper man! A lot of memories tied up in it and a ready thrasher for other adventures.
    I regret selling one or two of my bikes but whatever happens, good luck. Great read.
    Windham likes this.
  14. FishHunt

    FishHunt slow poking...

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    Fellow North Carolinian here, thanks for sharing your amazing trip and pictures.

    <>< Fish
    Windham likes this.
  15. panchogarrancho

    panchogarrancho Been here awhile

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  16. SalsaRider

    SalsaRider Been here awhile

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    Windham,

    I’ve been home since 20 Feb 2019 from a similar ride: Colorado to Ushuaia. Haven’t read all your posts, yet, but enough to know that you have a big heart, an open mind, and lots of grit!

    Well done!!!

    SalsaRider/Monte
    95Monster and Windham like this.
  17. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    Thanks. I’ve had many great experiences over the past 5.5 months. I feel very blessed.

    Also I’m 90% sure I met you at Motohell in Quito. Glad you finished your trip!
    95Monster and SalsaRider like this.
  18. Windham

    Windham Adventurer

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    Its more about the money than I would like to admit. My budget doesn’t leave much room for being sentimental .
    95Monster and Aces 6 like this.
  19. SalsaRider

    SalsaRider Been here awhile

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  20. holckster

    holckster dougholck Supporter

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    Nice report on your trip, congratulations on reaching your goal.
    BTW the bird in question is a Condor, we also have them in California.

    Interestingly I have a guest staying with me for a couple weeks from Punta Arenas, driving his Rat Rod to Alaska and back.
    Left home last March on a 3 year quest.
    See Rat Rod Patagonia on Face Book.
    Windham likes this.