The Argentinian Patagonia from Bajo Caracoles to Ushuaia – 11 days – 613 metres above sea level

Version française disponible ici. 

After crossing the Patagonia National Park and left the border of the Chilean “carabineros”, it was on a track crossing the mountains that we arrived at the Argentinian border of “Paso Rodolfo Roballos”. We were waiting with a Belgian couple travelling the world with their “Fiat Ducato 4×4 Expedition” ; while two English bikers with DR finished their admissions. Here, no computer, all the paperwork was done by hand. 

Once our paperwork were finalised, we were back on track. 70 kilometers of screes and uneven surface. Further away, the Argentinian cowboys were bringing their flock of bulls in the middle of this landscape, which was as great as the “Rohan’s plains” (reference to the Lord of the Rings). After 3 hours on this challenging dirt road, we finally arrived on the Ruta 40 and the small town of Bajo-Carcoles. Around 15 people lived in the few houses of this very windy village. 

We have been welcomed by Juan-Carlos to spend the night in his small hospice. He was the only doctor giving the first aids, within 200 kilometres. 

The next day, we did our first journey on the Argentinian roads. We went back on the asphalt, left a few weeks and hundreds of kilometres ago. Through wind and straight lines, we reached Gobernador Gregores.

To go to El Chalten, we continued our journey on the Ruta 40. A few kilometres after leaving “Gobernador”, we used a last track for 70 kilometres. On this one, and for the first time from the beginning of the trip, we were the fastest! On a track covered of rocks and clay, with an average speed of 70km/h, we overtook cars and motorbikes. But as soon as we were back on the asphalt, four-wheel and two-wheel vehicles reminded us quickly that it was only an exception. 

50 kilometres before our arrival in El Chalten, it has been unexpected but we needed to add our last tank of petrol. With the wind coming from the front, the Urals had a higher consumption of petrol compared to usually. Finally, Julien and Marie’s sidecar didn’t have a drop of petrol left just few hundreds of metres before the entry of the village. With Emilie, we went to the only petrol station of the area and came back with a full petrol tank. The YPF station was surprising. The pump was inside a container to be protected from the wind. Indeed, the area is very windy which means some adjustments are required. 

In El Chalten, during the high-season and without any booking, it was hard to find a good address at a good price in this touristic city. But after researches and patience, we finally pitched up the tents in the garden of a hostel owned by a kind grandpa. The night, as you can imagine, was windy enough to twist our tents. But they didn’t break, unlike the tents of some neighbours who finished their night in the shared room of the hostel. 

The touristic resort is famous for practicing outdoor sports on the surrounded mountains. Around the peak of Fitz Roy, it’s the perfect spot for the ones loving climbing, hiking or “fast-hiking”. On our way, we met a few groups practicing this new concept of walking at a fast cadence. For us, our walking speed was more classic during the twenty kilometres to reach te “Laguna Torre” and its glacier of the same name. 

Once arrived at the first viewpoint, the wind was back and hiking towards the second viewpoint became dangerous. We opted for the safest option and went back to the resort. 

After this hike, we took our sidecars in the aim to reach the city of El Calafate. But there was no petrol left at the YPF station. We didn’t have any other choice than spending another night in El Chalten. The forecasts announced a thunderstorm with strong gusts for this second night. We renounced to pitch up the tents and opted for a new kind of accommodation: the caravan. The petrol station received their delivery, first thing in the morning. We filled up our tanks and went back towards South. 

 We took the opportunity of our arrival in the big city of El Calafate to do some maintenance on the sidecars. After going back and forth in the long streets of the city, we finally found a welder to fix the cracked mudguards of both sidecars (consequences of the Chilean Carratera Austral). This mechanical step done, we went towards the glacier of Perito Moreno, early in the morning. We hoped to arrive there before the buses of the tour operators.

The last 30 kilometres offer an amazing track for bikers. Nice curves with a smooth asphalt alongside the Argentinian lake offering the first viewpoints of the glacier. We had our breakfast in front of this white gold, with the blocks of ice falling in the water of the lake. We walked during two hours on the rolling path offering amazing viewpoints on the glacier. The game was to be the first one to see a block of ice falling off.  

We left this treasure of the nature to go back on the monotonous Ruta 40. This afternoon, we rode over 200 kilometres to reach the isolated little village of La Esperenza. We slept for the first time on the grass of a YPF petrol station. We met an Argentinian retired couple with their little dog. They were traveling in the country with their old fully equipped van. We had a chat with them about the country, the good addresses and the importance of the Falklands War according to the Argentinian people. We enjoyed a delicious “Choripan” (local burger) prepared on a “parilla” (local barbecue prononced here “paricha”) by a grandpa in a corner, wearing a beret and a traditional checked shirt. 

We continued on the straight lines. The flock of guanacos were interrupting the monotonous scenery. On the roadside, we saw many flocks of sheep. Indeed, sheep cooked on embers is a cooking speciality of the Argentinian Patagonia. The only road to reach Ushuaïa requests to pass by Chile. Until today, this border crossing was the longest one, due to the high number of visitors.

Becoming closer to Ushuaïa, we crossed the Magellan strait by ferry which symbolised our entry to the Tierra del Fuego. In the village of Cerro Sombrero, we did some shopping in a little “tienda” (shop) for the evening. The grandpa, owner of the shop, was watching a football match of the Chilean cup on his old CRT TV in black and white. We spent the night in a refuge built by the municipality to offer a roof, protected from the wind and cold, for the travellers. The comfort could be considered basic but there were a bunk bed, a table and even a wood burner. Once we swept the floor and cut the wood in small logs, we felt like home. 

The next day, we crossed again the border to go back to Argentina. The custom officer was laughing at our hairstyles which, we must admit, were not the best ones after three days without a shower. We were back in the mountains for the last 100 kilometres before Ushuaïa. 

The city at the opposite of the world opened its doors. At the beginning of the trip, we didn’t really think about it. After chatting with a traveler and other ones, it became a true goal. Now that we reached it, we met Jean-Luc and Nelly, two biker-friends met a few times on the Ruta 40, at the Dublin pub to share a “Beagle”, the beer of “El Fin del Mundo”. This stage was also the opportunity to recharge our batteries, get a stamp with nice penguins on our passports and do some mechanics. 

After changing the oil, we started to go back towards Buenos Aires. For the first time of the trip, this time we were going towards North…