Heading north from the Tierra del Fuego, Nick is on his way to Bolivia, before going full circle and returning to Buenos Aires and the comforts of home.
Riding his TKC 70 shod Yamaha Super Tenere, he has covered several thousand kilometres for his ‘Destination Adventure’ project over the dusty, well worn roads and tracks of Patagonia.
Check out the latest blog from Nick below:
“Part of the charm of travelling is not visiting a 40m waterfall or even the Hanging Glacier of Queulat. Neither is it touring through “landscapes painted,” as the Chileans say about their southern landscape, “by the Gods.” Strangely for me it’s the small things that can be enjoyed, such as buying food at a supermarket, truly understanding what it’s like to live here and trying hard not to be, which of course I am, a tourist passing through.
I think wherever you go somehow becomes a part of you and I am happy with this view of my travelling life. It’s like how you feel after a great meal with friends. A few days later, you cannot remember exactly what happened and what you said, but you feel good about the evening.
Coyhaique is the capital of the Aysén region and is about mid-way along Chile’s famous Carretera Austral. Construction of the highway was commenced in 1976 under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet in order to connect a number of remote communities. Earlier, in the 1950’s and 1970’s, there had been unsuccessful attempts to build access roads in the region. It was simply too hard to craft a road through sheer rock faces that plummets hundreds of metres down to glacier-fed deep lakes. And during the 20th century, the building of this route became the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever developed in Chile.
Carretera Austral has a strategic meaning due to the difficult access by land to a significant portion of Chile’s southern territory. As an overview, this area is characterised by thick forests, fjords, glaciers, canals and steep mountains and access by sea and air is equally a complex task due to extreme winter weather conditions. For decades, most of the land transportation had to cross the border to Argentina in order to reach Chile’s lands in the deep south, Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia. These difficulties were deepened during the 1970’s due to the Beagle Conflict crisis. In order to strengthen the Chilean presence in these isolated territories and ensure the land connection to the rest of the country, the government planned the construction of this road, which was executed by the Chilean Army’s Engineering Command. More than 10,000 soldiers worked in its construction. Many of them lost their lives during this effort.
And so, it is still not complete. Initially the highway opened to traffic in 1988, and by 1996 was completed to Puerto Yungay. The last 100 kilometers (62 mi) to Villa O’Higgins were opened in 2000. Yet, only a part of this entire route is presently paved, for the most part it remains an earth track and gravel piste.
I leave the bike beside the man selling garlic and sunglasses. Inside, the supermarket is charmless and has the slowest of queues, each of us shuffling slowly with our goods along each aisle and then past the fish stall to the meat counter. I wrap up my meat and my potatoes. The queue feels as if it’s going to take a lifetime to complete and it feels like half an afternoon is wasted trying to find lemons. Whilst fitting in is a good thing, there is something about the ordinary which pails after a while. After a long time searching and paying for tomatoes – I have what I need and as the sun is setting, there is still 100kms left to ride.
To lose time now may mean not reaching Bolivia which was a small promise I made to myself. Certainly the Atacama Desert has to be on any riders wish list, but just then I was stuck in a moment of Farmacias and stores selling cheap clothes. Women were pushing buggies in and out of lengthening shadows from steep sided mountains that form a back drop to the end of this busy main street. To my right a small wooden shack opens to sell his empanadas, dogs trot obediently behind boys on bicycles and in the coolness of the late afternoon sun everyone seems busy yet calm and for me it’s time to move on.
Separated by the long length of high mountains from the rest of the continent, and the world, Chileans have been successful in maintaining an indigenous appearance, undiluted by the genes from foreigners. The girls are not slim but have about them full bodies, circular faces and perfectly even half moon eyebrows above a kind way of looking. I set off with my bike and my tent to find a safe place to eat and sleep for the night.”
Find out more about the TKC 70 on/off-road tyre here.