Two months ago riding in Colombia we were finding some very remote tracks and posting them on my ride report on ADVrider
A Colombian rider contacted me and asked where I found the tracks as he had no idea there was a way through some of the areas we had shown and that tracks even existed there.
Paper maps are great. In the western world if you get a good scale map they will show everything, even down to footpaths. The Delorme Recreational Atlas & Gazetteer for individual states come to mind, usually 100+ pages and amazing detail and a perfect size to fit in your panniers/saddlebags and updated on a regular basis.
In Europe you can also find similar, but what about the developing world? How do you find dirt tracks to try and ride from Cartagena to Ushuaia. How do I do it?
Google to the rescue, sometimes.
Google has been mapping the planet for years and sending drivers out in cars with cameras on top to let us see imagery. Most people will probably know this. There is a little yellow guy in the bottom right corner. If you drag him over a map it will light up with blue lines
What I look for is where those blue lines end, there is a very good chance that that road will or does turn to dirt where the blue stops…I try to plot a route thru a country not using anything that highlights blue.
You can confirm this also if you do a satellite view and zoom in.
Other ways I have found tracks is with Google Earth, local knowledge, mapping programs, paper maps, route sharing sites.
- Google Earth. Can you really map out a route using it? Yes, have a read of @Colebatch Ride Report Sibirsky Extreme was plotted in part using Google Earth as there was no other way
- Local Knowledge is a great source but some locals might not have gone further than the next town, so keep asking as you ride
- Mapping programs. I find that RideWithGPS.com is a good site. They have NINE different types of maps to assist in plotting, some showing tracks that others don’t
- Paper maps are great but not always accurate, sometimes printed years before, some have roads that were planned but never built. A lot of riders have found this to be a fact in the middle of nowhere!
- Route sharing sites are great as long as you know they are actual ridden tracks, not just a route that someone plotted and has never ridden. Some good ones are Rever, ADVtracks, GPSxchange, motogpsroutes, and Wikiloc.
What are your favorite ways that you have had great success to find international remote tracks?