The last two times that Scott had briefly disappeared, he had returned with an immediate call to action, hiking. So when we awoke to find him missing the morning after our five glorious days on the Huemel Circuit we knew something was coming. With our Dutch friends working away on an incredible stack of post-hike pancakes, Scott returned to Mariano’s house with the news that not only had he found three motorbikes online, but they were as good as sold….. to us. Fast forward a few hours and you’ll find Scott and Pat on a 23hr bus trip north to Bariloche and Lachie shooting 600km south back to Punta Arenas on motorbike buying missions. This is the story of how a snap decision revolutionised the trip and has taken Team Dumb Things to new heights that even Paul Kelly would be proud of.
Hola, top dog Lach here.
Fuelled by some incredible Dutch pancakes, we found ourselves poised outside a closed café with numb fingers trying desperately to send messages through patchy WiFi. We were talking to an American couple selling their motorbikes in Punta Arenas and an Israeli guy in Bariloche trying to move his ride on. With the WiFi barely functioning, we decided to do things the old fashion way and just go have a look. This meant throwing Pat and Scott on a marathon bus trip that afternoon and sending me on a journey back south, to hopefully reconvene somewhere, somehow, preferably on motorbikes.
Back in Punta Arenas I had a week to kill before being able to collect the new bike from its American owners. Fortunately, Arturo’s family took me right back in and the Dutchies we’d done the Huemel Circuit with were in town too.
Finally, after a week of waiting around, my new bike rolled into town. Everything was set to go, the money was transferred, the clothes and tools sorted, the route north planned, it was just the small detail of legally riding the bike left to be sorted out.
A whole day was spent at the Chilean customs office and a local notary trying to legalise a foreigner to foreigner sale, something the Punta Arenas office had never done before. Eventually they came back to us with the news that the reason they had never done this before is because this type of sale is actually illegal in Chile. Fortunately, since we’d already done it, the custom officers in this ‘officially unofficial’ country did me a solid. The result; a hand written letter with some stamps was eventually arranged to hopefully get me across the border. Sounds promising, right. Well, with a lot of ambiguity still in the air I strapped my gear to the bike and set off to try get into Argentina.
By some miracle, everything went smoothly. The border officials were a little confused, but let me into Argentina with my hand written note anyway. Now all that was left was to ride nearly 2000km through the Argentinean desert to find Scott and Pat. The same distance as Melbourne to Brisbane. Easy peasy.
Roughly 1,200 of the kilometres were composed of dead flat desert that stretched as far as the eye could see in every direction. With tussock grasses as the only vegetation this also meant there was nothing to interrupt the wild Patagonian winds. Many experienced riders frequently label the winds of this region the toughest riding conditions of their South American trip. So I dived head first into the deep end and learnt quickly how to ride a fully loaded 650cc motorbike in the notoriously wicked winds of Patagonia. Battling the wind required intense concentration, it would constantly push you all over the road and usually involved leaning the bike over hard into the wind, just to go straight. Passing trucks would completely flip the winds effect and forcefully suck the bike in towards their big thundering wheels. Guard rails and mounds of dirt would create turbulent wind patterns that would make the handlebars shudder and sometimes gusts would push you nerve rattling-ly close the edge of the road. All the concentration involved over the long distances left me shattered at the end of each day as I slipped under my tarp pitched in the middle of the Argentinian desert. Fortunately the last day of riding brought some mountains into the picture which were beautiful and a great distraction from the tiring winds. After three days of intense riding some final curves took me to the boys in their beautiful lakeside town of Bariloche.
This trip up was unexpectedly taxing and tough, at times it truly sucked and was just plain scary. But at other times, like that one short period where the winds calmed from a gale to a breeze, and the road curved through some canyons and hills, it was the most liberating and exhilarating experience. An incredible way to see the southern part of Argentina. In retrospect this ride was beautiful, unique and a great learning experience full of personal growth even in its short duration, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have said that at the time. Now that the extreme winds are hopefully behind us the rest of the trip should be a breeze.
Now while I was battling the winds on desert highways, the boys were having a battle of their own with the winds on the trails. Over to you fellas.
G’day g’day, right you are Lachie. Pat and Scott taking over. We’d arrived in Bariloche, henceforth known as Barra, after 23 hours on the bus ride from hell, where ‘meals included’ consisted of tea and a cookie. However, as with any good story there has to be a happy ending, and our fairy godmother from Cabo Froward, Anna, had provided just that.
So when we arrived at the bus station in Bariloche late at night, Anna had sent though the details to a contact with whom we could stay. Unfortunately, the bike that we’d hurried up to Barra for fell through and so we were stuck twiddling our thumbs, eating copious amounts of crepes and sampling the culture that Bariloche is so famous for (chocolate and beer).
As per usual, a few days later and we were getting itchy feet, so it was time to strap on the hiking boots and hit the trails again. As we walked out of the idyllic town of Bariloche we had no idea of what was in store for us. With eight days of food, we were planning to link a few trails up in Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi and make our way to Volcan Tronador, a 3,500m volcano on the border of Argentina and Chile. We trotted out of town with blue skies and forecasts of a week of sunshine. What we got was 100+km/h winds on exposed ridges and not a wink of sleep as the flapping of our tent sounded like a bush-doof was going off inside. This was accompanied by snow coving the path on mountain passes and scree slides turning into mud slips with the rain. Three days later, with a mates tent broken, saturated gear and no signs of the weather improving in the coming days, we high tailed it back to Bariloche to reset and plan a second attempt.
While the walk was gruelling, we were lucky enough to return to an even better sleeping arrangement than when we left. Adrián, the ripper bloke we were staying with in Barra, had hooked us up with his mate who was going on holidays and need her dog looked after. So like any good Samaritans, we lent her a hand and started our stint of Bariloche dogsitting. And before any of you ask, yes, Roman did attempt numerous escapes and succeeded multiple times. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for professional enquires.
While Lachie had just completed probably the toughest three days of his trip so far, we again had become restless sitting around waiting for him. So over the course of eating crepes, we broke the news that he’d have the rest of the day to relax before heading out on an 8 day walk the next morning. I mean, he’d just been sitting on a Bike for three days so he probably needed some exercise right?
Turns out that this hike would be one of the most incredible things we’ve done. We’ll fill you in about it shortly. Until then, pray for our safety.
Lacho, Scotto and Pato