Trip Snapshot: Argentina, Chile, Bolivia

Bikes at 4000m

The Route
Arrival Flight to South America: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Start on Bikes: Mar del Plata, Argentina (arrived by train)

First Section (south)

  • 1000km south along east coast of Argentina
  • Train over to Andes and Chilean border

Second Section (south)

  • 1000km south along Chile’s Carretera Austral
  • 760km south through Argentina and Chile to the Straights of Magellan
  • 580km south through Tierra del Fuego to Ushuaia (“World’s End”)

Third Section (north)

  • Bus/Ferry through Chilean Fjords back north to not retrace cycled roads
  • 775km on Chile’s Island of Chiloe and northern section of Carretera Austral
  • Bus to Santiago
  • 1875km of Andes crossings and northern desert of Argentina

Fourth Section (north)

  • 290km loop through Bolivia’s South Yungas (jungle)
  • 330km loop through Bolivia’s North Yungas (jungle) 
  • Finish on Bikes: Copacabana, Bolivia

Return Flight to USA: Lima, Peru

The Distance
7540 kilometers

The Breakdown
198 days total on the road

  • 108 cycling 
  • 66 resting, hiking, taking shelter, or riding a 103km side trip for fun
  • 14 traveling off the bikes when Katie’s mom visited
  • 10 planning logistics and traveling to Lima for our flight home

A Few Superlatives
Longest day: 131.3km from Cochrane to Caleta Tortel (on Chile’s Carretera Austral)
Shortest day: 12 km after starting at 6:30pm on Christmas Eve (on Chile’s Carretera Austral)
Highest Altitude Climbed: 16,060ft (Argentina’s Abra del Acay)

About the Bikes
Surly Trolls with Surly Nice Racks and Jandd Panniers
40 kilograms per bike w/o water or food
7 flat tires (5 in Argentina’s spiny desert, 2 in Bolivia – one mystery and one thumb tack)
4 disintegrated tires (the rubber outer layer failed on our Specialized Armadillo Crossroads)
3 broken frames (2 at weld where chainstay meets backdrop, 1 at weld of rack mount) 

Sleeping Adventures*
55 nights stealth/wild camping
54 nights paid campgrounds (Chile and Argentina)
17 nights in hostels (only in Bolivia except the 4 in Lima waiting for our flight)
12 nights welcomed into homes of locals
11 nights at police stations/municipalities/park guards’ quarters
9 nights each in:

  • Hotels (only in Bolivia and 1 gifted by American Airlines for canceling our return flight)
  • Cabanas when Katie’s mom visited

8 nights in “Alojamiento” (in Bolivia, basic room for truckers and thru-travelers)
5 overnights on buses/trains
3 nights at both of the following:

  • “Casas de Ciclistas” (private homes open to all cyclists passing through town)
  • In town plazas

2 nights at each of the following:

  • Using the cycling community of
  • In a seasonal fishing shack
  • At friend’s home in Santiago (we met him cycling on Chile’s Carretera Austral months earlier)

1 night camping at each of the following:

  • An alpine climbers’ Refugio
  • In the ruins of a mountain goat herder’s abandoned homestead
  • A gas station
  • A soccer field
  • An abandoned salt mining operation
  • Inside a self-built rock wall to block the mountain gusts

25-week budget*
$4565.6 spent; averaging $13 per person, per day

Breakdown on Expenses:

  • Highest – food 
  • 2nd highest – camping/lodging
  • Most gluttonous – 3 day four night ferry through the Chilean fjords to return north while bypassing a route we’d already ridden south
  • Most unusual: rubber dish gloves for cycling in the rain
  • Most consistent: oatmeal 

*We did not track the budget for the two weeks Katie’s mom visited, in effort to better depict the true costs of a bike-only trip.

*Budget includes all food, in-country travel, excursions, lodging; does not include flight to/from South America

Typical Day of Food*
250 grams oatmeal, 1/2 cup raisins, 1/3 cup dried milk
2 sleeves of cookies
3 hardboiled eggs (until Bolivian jungle when they began spoiling too quickly)
10 bread rolls
2 avocados
2 apples
200 grams trail mix (homemade, includes raisins, peanuts, prunes)
4 empanadas (if ending day in a town, usually bought on street from a woman with basket)
200 grams pasta, stir-fried veggies (onion, carrots, potato, garlic, zucchini) and tomato sauce
6 squares chocolate
*We only had one pot for cooking and shared all quantities listed.
*All based on availability. The above vegetables were the only ones we could find.
*From April 7 to June 8 we ate instant soup with noodles and vegetables every night. That’s 63 days straight.

Side Trips

  • 75km to Pampa Linda to hike to a mountain climbers refuge on Mt Tronodor (Argentina)
  • 104km to see a glacial moraine off the road toward Bahia Exploradores (Chile)
  • 64km to El Calafate to see Glaciar Perito Moreno (Argentina)
  • 30km on Ruta Y-85 to visit Parque Karukina (Chile)

Biggest Challenges

  • Cycling on days after overnight bus/train travel
  • Road quality in the northern Argentina desert (learned to find our Zen space)
  • Ending trip right at limit of all of our gears’ functionality (didn’t make sense to change it out with only a few weeks left, but meant we rode chains and chainrings to failure)
  • Learning to slow down

Best Lessons Learned

  • We can put vegetarianism on pause, so we can graciously accept a culture that’s trying to welcome and embrace us. Also, so we don’t dip into malnutrition when provisions become scarce.
  • We prefer traveling as light as possible; it’s more fun.
  • We learned and had the richest experiences when we stopped to interact with people we didn’t know. Easily forgotten when we’re in the routines of our home country.