South America ?? Antarctic

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South America ?? Antarctic

South America ?? Antarctic
42 degrees of latitude

On two enduros through the Andes ?? from the Chilean Atacama Desert down to the Argentine Tierra del Fuego ??, then by ship to Antarctica. Whoever travels so far south, crosses all climatic zones ?? and crosses 42 degrees of latitude.

Joachim Deleker


It is quiet. Absolutely quiet. And it is cold. Bitter cold. Minus 15 degrees. Not exactly tempting to crawl out of the warm sleeping bag. But in the end, Birgit and I didn’t drive up the arduous slope to Laguna Lejia to sleep in the sunrise. So get out. I’m out of breath. Not because it’s really thin up here at 4,350 meters. Not even because of the cold. The landscape is the cause of our shortness of breath. No waves cloud the mirror-like lagoon. Only a few flamingos, the survival artists par excellence at these heights, stalk in the brackish water. On the other bank, the Atacama Desert rolls in gentle brown waves up to a series of volcanoes. The Lascar reminds with its yellowish smoke that it could break out again at any time if it only wanted to. His neighbors, the perfect cones from Aguas Calientes and Pili, have long since given up smoking. Instead, these 6000s adorn themselves with a thin snow hood. An archaic, breathtakingly beautiful landscape. For hours we marvel at this strange world in northern Chile, enjoy hot coffee and the warm sun. Then we saddle up the enduros and drive back down to the salar of the Atacama, where we sweat at noon in a 30 degree heat. A 45 degree difference in barely six hours is extreme; but normality in the Atacama. The road curves back up onto the Altiplano and swaps its asphalt for dusty gravel. It accompanies us over the Sico Pass far into Argentina. We don’t see a single car. Only the steady roar of our single cylinders can be heard. We reach San Antonio de los Cobres. A depressing place where only workers from the surrounding mines live. Cold wind whirls dust through the streets, here and there we see thickly hooded people in poor and worn clothes. At least there is a gas station at the intersection with Ruta 40. The »Cuarenta«, as it is affectionately known. The longest road in Argentina stretches from the Bolivian border along the Andes to the Strait of Magellan. 4700 kilometers. Our home for the next two months. Shortly after San Antonio, the Cuarenta swings up to one of the highest passes in America, the Abra el Acay. No question about it, we want to go up there. Which is much easier than expected. Only the motorcycles require significantly more gas, because at such heights they lack the air and thus the power. The sign at the top of the pass announces 4895 meters. Our GPS shows 4950. That motivates. To stand on 5000 once. Step by step we boot uphill from the highest point of the road as if in slow motion, panting like decrepit steam engines. Finally – 5000 meters! Euphoria arises. We feel unearthly good. If only it wasn’t so cold. Quickly take a few pictures and then head south down the valley. The mountains are losing height, lagging far to the west. Suddenly the slope disappears into a river about 50 meters wide. A traffic jam has already formed in front of the ford. Four cars – remarkable for the Ruta 40. I take off my boots and pants and look for a trail in knee-deep water. We just have to go through here. A look at my Honda. She seems to sense what is in store for her and looks hard at the mountains. But that doesn’t help her. Start the engine and roll slowly to the water. The queasy feeling in the stomach gets stronger. The goalkeeper’s fear of the penalty kick. In the corridor. And gas. Off to the broth. My God, how the current slows down. More gas. The Honda digs its way, meter by meter to the opposite bank. Now Birgit, who spurs her Suzuki and rushes through the river with a mighty bow wave. Engine off, empty boots. The drivers on the other bank applaud enthusiastically. In Fiambala, we fill up to the brim for the 460-kilometer Paso de San Francisco, which leads back over to Chile. Up to the top of the pass, at 4747 meters, the Argentines expanded and tarred the road four years ago. Boring. But as soon as our tires touch Chilean soil, they stir up a lot of dust again. A few kilometers further we set up our tent at Laguna Verde. What a lake! Almost unreal, it shines in garish turquoise. The hills on the opposite bank look harmless, these are mountains over 6000 meters high. While we were still putting the tent in, a black wall of cloud has crept up. A thunderstorm. Birgit escapes, drives to the nearby police station, where she finds shelter. I flee into the crooked corrugated iron hut on the bank. The thunderstorm is very fast here, lightning flashes every second. Deafening thunder rolls through the mountains. Involuntarily I draw my head, vacillate between fascination and fear. Hailstones that are centimeter thick hit the tin roof. 30 minutes later the spook is over. The wind runs out of breath, the clouds dissolve, and the evening sun pours warm light over the freshly snow-covered mountains. The Panamericana, which we encounter two days later, is less grandiose. Because of dream road. A dead straight tar ribbon through a barren desert. Refueling breaks and coffee stops. Pure boredom. In La Serena we leave the »Panam« and climb back into the Andes. The Paso del Agua Negra, 4770 meters high, takes us to the other side of the mountains. There we take the well-known Ruta 40 under the wheels. Course south. What else? There is little variety over the next 1200 kilometers. Behind Chos Malal, a faceless place in the steppe, we have had enough of the Cuarenta for the time being and switch again west over the Andes into the Chilean lake area. Actually a landscape like in Schleswig-Holstein with lush meadows, black and white cows and names like Cafe Schwarzwald, Modinger Salami or Puente Hopperdietzel. Memories of the many German immigrants in this area. The snow-capped picture-perfect volcanoes make the difference. Like the Villarrica, whose crater emits sulphurous fumes, or the Lanin, one of the most beautiful mountains of all, but south of the lake area everything looks different. Puerto Montt is the last major city for the next 2000 kilometers, at the same time the gateway to the wild south and the beginning of the legendary Carretera Austral, the “road to the south.” For days we bump our enduros through the coastal jungle. Now and then a small village. Simple colorful wooden houses. You live from fishing, and at a price of two euros per kilo, one or the other salmon fillet wanders into our camping pan. We continue to follow this single-lane slope that looks for its way through the wilderness in countless curves. Only the constant rain is annoying. However – without four meters of precipitation per year, this lush forest could not grow. Just 100 kilometers further east, across the Andes, everything is different. Instead of a rainforest, dry steppe, instead of a calm wind, perpetual storm and instead of five turns per minute as here on the Carretera, only five per day on the Cuarenta. So we are warned about the extremes of Patagonia. But also curious. For the Andes crossing we choose the Paso Roballos. It’s only 733 meters high, but it causes us much more problems than the 4000-meter passes in the north. This is again due to the rain, which turns the slope into a slide. More and more often, the studded tires are digging through deep mud. We are struggling to maintain our composure. Until the entrance to an estancia beckons us. Maybe we can pitch the tent on the farm grounds. Birgit knocks on the front door. We are immediately invited in and given hot tea. The Argentine hospitality leaves us speechless. Horacio and Estella take us for granted: overnight the rain cleared and the slope dried up. Yellow hills as far as the eye can see. In the west the icy mountain peaks of the Andes, in the east the steppe. Clear sky, 18 degrees. Perfect. And a strong tail wind that pushes us all the way to Ruta 40, on which we turn south. We promptly get to know the other side of the wind. Full broadside. It is not uncommon for us to need the entire slope to compensate for the wind attacks. Patagonian normality. We come to terms with the windy companion as best we can, marvel at the unique charms of the barren land. An unimaginable expanse, a handful of cars a day and clouds modeled by the storm that soar into the sky like works of art. Days later we stand in front of the mighty Perito Moreno Glacier. For hours we stare at the 60-meter-high edge, waiting for one of the fragile-looking ice towers to fall into the lake. Pure excitement. A little later, our trip takes an unexpected turn. In Calafate we meet the Norwegian Mikal, who comes from Ushuaia with his XT. He enthusiastically talks about his cruise to the Antarctic. We listen with interest, as the destination Antarctica is one of our dreams, which previously seemed unrealizable. Until Mikal mentions his last minute ticket and gives us the address of the travel agency in Ushuaia. Right now I’m electrified. We storm an internet cafe and write to the travel agency. The answer comes 20 minutes later. There are still two tickets left for $ 1900 each. Birgit and I stare spellbound at the screen. Is that really true? We book immediately. There is only one catch: the ship is leaving Ushuaia in four days. 1000 kilometers in four days? It has to work: Usuaia on Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost city in the world. Our ship, the Lyubov Orlova, is already waiting in the harbor. We park the motorbikes at a guesthouse, then we go on board. We are as excited as seldom before. Helicopters circling in my stomach as the Orlova casts off and its ship’s horn sounds three times. The Drake Passage, the stormiest sea on earth between Cape Horn and the Antarctic, is unusually tame. There is no trace of the usual giant waves, so the Orlova is in the Antarctic wonderland after just 50 hours. The wide Gerlache street through which we drive is as smooth as glass. The rugged mountains of Livingston Island rise up to the north, but disappear after a few hundred meters in the high fog. Icebergs slide by. Suddenly I spot five humpback whales, which take turns diving out of the gray water. The spray clouds rise meters high from the breathing holes into the icy air. A magical moment: early the next morning the Orlova turns into a narrow fjord and the ice carpet becomes thicker and thicker. Huge icebergs bob up and down in a bay. One has the contours of a penguin and is easily 30 meters high. Next to it a blue shimmering ice arch, hardly less large. Landscapes like this are often described as “indescribable”. Which may be because all superlatives try in vain here: the anchor rattles into the water off Cuverville Island and inflatables bring us ashore. Gentoo penguins raise their young here. We watch the hustle and bustle in the colony with fascination. A couple of elephant seals sleep in a hollow. In addition to yawning, puffing and farting, one of her favorite things to do. With 22 hours of daylight, on the other hand, we inevitably miss out on sleep. But I can also sleep at home while there is one highlight after the other: I am back on deck at four in the morning when the Orlova sets course for one of the most spectacular waterways on earth, the Lemaire Canal. The sea is completely smooth. Banks of fog blur the horizon. The canal is getting narrower, seals and penguins doze on ice floes, monumental mountains rise to the right and left. None of them have ever been climbed. Many don’t even have names. And the detailed nautical chart on the bridge of the Orlova shows many areas as “not yet surveyed”. So they still exist, the white spots on the map. The Lemaire ends as grandly as it begins, framed by almost vertical mountain walls. The landscape opens up to the south. The anchor drops off Peterman Island. The GPS shows 65 ° 10 ‘, the southernmost point of our trip. Peterman Island is big enough to finally escape the sound of the ship’s engine. We climb a rocky hill. For the first time it is completely calm. Antarctica – the continent of silence. Only now and then the skuas scream or a calving glacier rumble muffled. A few snowflakes dance through the air. Midsummer, zero degrees. Adelie penguins are breeding at the bottom of the sea, and huge mountains tower behind them. Funny that right now I can think of our motorcycles. The lush green jungle along the Carretera Austral or the icy morning at Laguna Lejia seem light years away to me. The Antarctic is different, strange and fascinating. There seems to be no place for the well-known images from our world.


A motorcycle tour along the Andes is a journey of extremes and contrasts. Who else? for example by last-minute ticket ?? to Antarctica has a tour of superlatives.

Getting there: Tickets to Buenos Aires are available from 700 euros, to Santiago de Chile from around 800 euros. Air or sea freight can be used to transport your own motorcycle. The following applies to air freight: Organizing yourself saves money. The tariffs are based on volume or real weight, whichever is higher. Our Honda Dominator and Suzuki DR 650 SE flew on a shared pallet with the front wheels removed (volume equals real weight 450 kilograms). Current prices for precisely this freight start at around 1800 euros (one way). Anyone who speaks some Spanish can do the customs clearance in Santiago or Buenos Aires themselves. Santiago is much easier and cheaper than Buenos Aires. The return flight from Santiago is cheaper if you organize it yourself (around 1100 euros from Lufthansa or Swisscargo). Information and prices: MBS-Air-Cargo in Cologne, phone 02203/9338 4143 (Stephan Schuster); Quick Cargo Service in Frankfurt, phone 06105/911328 (Carsten Rauer); Hellmann Air-Cargo in Munich, phone 089/97594765 (Tobias Siegl); Bikeworld-Travel in Detmold, phone 05231/580262 (Thomas Bergmeier) and InTime in Hamburg, phone 040/4050 751013 (Olaf Kleinknecht). Information on sea transport with forwarding companies specializing in sea freight: MBS-Sea-Cargo, phone 02203 / 933 842; Woick Travel Center 0711/7096 710, Travel Agency Hamburg Sud 040/75664050. The latter currently charge around 900 euros for our two motorcycles from Hamburg to Valparaiso in Chile. Documents: The passport is sufficient, a visa is not necessary. No Carnet de Passages is required for motorcycles (exception: the airport in Buenos Aires). An international driver’s license is compulsory, the national vehicle registration is sufficient for the motorcycle. Take copies of all documents with you. Vaccinations are not mandatory. Travel time: The seasons in the southern hemisphere are contrary to ours. In the southern summer (December to March) it is dry and hot. Daily maximums over 30 degrees on the coast and in the north. In the mountains above about 4000 meters by ten degrees during the day, at night down to minus 15. The high passes are only open from November to April and longer snow barriers are possible at any time. Patagonia can only be visited between November and March. Spend the night: There are hotels and hosterias in all locations, sometimes from ten euros per person. Campsites are – except on the coast – rather rare, prices from three euros. Free camping is not a problem and a unique experience, especially on the uninhabited Altiplano and in Patagonia. Motorcycles: For a tour of the Andes, a sturdy enduro is more recommended than a heavy tourer. At the extreme altitudes of the Altiplano, it’s not just people who struggle with the thin air. The loss of performance of the motorcycles can still be gotten over, but some bikes require smaller main jets to run at all. Coarse tires such as Conti TKC 80, Michelin T63, Mitas E07 and Pirelli MT21 make it easier to move forward in gravel or sand and have a decent service life (over 10,000 kilometers). Attention: If you want to drive over the high Andes passes, you have to reckon with higher fuel consumption and longer unpowered stages. Literature: The Bible for South American drivers is the English “South American Handbook” from Footprint Verlag. Is updated every year and costs around 40 euros. A useful road atlas is sold for around four euros at the Chilean Copec petrol stations. The Argentine automobile club ACA issues detailed maps for the whole country. Get it at every ACA petrol station or at the ACA headquarters in Buenos Aires. The R + V map of South America, 1: 4 million Antarctic cruises: Between December and February, small (50 to 150 passengers), ice-capable ships sail from Ushuaia to the Antarctic Peninsula as an overview map. Regular tickets cost between 3,000 and 15,000 euros. In Ushuaia you can sometimes get last-minute tickets for less than 2000 euros. Information from Rumbosur, San Martin 342, Ushuaia, Argentina, or by e-mail: Information about Antarctica and almost all cruise operators at Travel distance: 10,000 kilometers Time: three months

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