Peachy, Beachy, Patagonian Business

Leah recently admitted to me that when we were arranging to meet up she thought I might be a touch deluded with my plans. A large hunk of my favorite riders had ridden a fun looking little beach route to the southern Patagonian city of Punta Arenas and I wanted a piece of that pie. Prittle-prattle on the cycle touring grapevine suggested that you’d have to be mad to ride into Patagonia past March so beach riding could have looked a touch ambitious. However, the cycle touring community is chock-a-block with people talking bollocks so Leah needn’t have worried. The ‘Old’ lady massive (Leah and Celine) and I just rode the Seno Otway beach in late April and it was glorious: the air still, the temperatures warmer than a British beach in summertime and the route beautifully devoid of traffic.

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Leah “You never have to talk me into going to the beach” Manning on the sands of Seno Otway

Over the course of my slow migration south I’ve passed through a number of information rich areas, parts of the Americas where like-minded riders have explored and documented routes. The generosity of other riders in sharing their findings is central to us functioning as a community and can save curious cyclists that follow inordinate amounts of time and sometimes stress. Riders who share can have a profound impact on the cycle touring landscape, just look at the work of Neil and Harriet Pike whose Andes by Bike website single-handedly opened up large areas of Peru to tourists who would never have thought to research the area themselves. I know many a rider whose approach to cycle touring was revolutionised by the experience of following the Pike’s routes through Peru. Spreading route information is essential if we’re to progress as a community and one of my principal motivations in keeping this website going.

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Note to self: beach riding is a big hit with the ladies

Recently I’ve been in the Skyler Des Roches information domain, a Canadian who laid down some fun tracks on a bike-packing tour of Patagonia last year. Skyler is a like-minded rider with Google Earth skills and a keen eye for a fun route, this ride from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas is one of his discoveries. Riding Surly’s 29+ ECR, Skyler was planning his routes last year around the capabilities of 29 x 3” fatter tires, something I’m grateful for as with my set-up I’d never have previously considered routing down a sandy beach. Now I’ve enjoyed a fun stretch of beach riding my eyes have opened and I’m more aware of the possibilities, another riders different approach has allowed me to grow as a cycle tourist.

Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas Route

Route from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas via Seno Otway… click here to view the fully interactive map, elevation profile and download the GPX track

Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas Route elevation profile

Having endured some aggressive weather in Puerto Natales Celine, Leah and I were grateful when a window of wind-free sunshine opened. With sun, sand and still air we couldn’t fail. Here is the story of our four day dordle down to Punta Arenas…

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Our stay in Puerto Natales was spiced by the abduction of the hostal dog Patan by a drunk who was later discovered trying to sell him for the price of a drink. It was a stressful time for all involved but we eventually recovered enough composure to continue our journey

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It is hard not to feel a little smug when your return to the saddle coincides with the start of some good weather. Relieved to be in the sun again we spin out of Puerto Natales…

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… and onto Ruta Fin del Mundo, a rather dramatic name for a dull stretch of road

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As snowy mountains shrink away behind us…

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… we forge east into a world of flat pampa

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This stretch of road is famed for its strong winds and subsequent shelters. Many cyclists are reduced to sleeping in these jovial little wind escapes. Thankfully we were riding without wind and didn’t need them, a relief as more than a few of them had been used as toilets

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Our relaxed attitude to time means the sun is dropping before…

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… we reach Morro Chico and the first evenings camp spot

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The next day we’re treated to a very slight following wind which blows us away from Morro Chico…

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… over an instantly forgettable stretch of pavement to the tiny village of Villa Tehuelche

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After lunch in Villa Tehuelche we turn off the pavement…

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… and wind through autumn spiced fields of animals…

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… down to the shores of Seno Skyring…

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… and on to Rio Verde

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After a night camped among the municipality buildings of Rio Verde…

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… we leave the tiny port behind…

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… and head back out into the windswept pampa

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Thankfully our turning away from traffic soon arrives. We’re able to untie the gate…

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… and ride down to the shores of Seno Otway

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For the first few kilometers a two-track…

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… takes us along the coast…

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… past a number of rustic little fishing shacks

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Before long the locked gate we were anticipating appears…

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… and we migrate down to the beach…

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… to continue riding

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Maybe it’s the balmy 17 degree weather, or perhaps the intense joy of riding on the beach…

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… I cannot be sure, but something turns my lady team a little loopy

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Once everyone has calmed down a little…

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… we get down to the serious business…

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… of enjoying the packed sands…

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… and weird creatures…

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… of serene Seno Otway

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I used to think Leah’s YOLO sweater was kind of stupid but once you get to know her it starts to resonate. Determined to milk every situation of as much fun as possible Leah can’t resist making angels in the sand

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Between frequent and lengthy bouts of messing about we ride…

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… until the sun is dropping…

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… and the decision is made to investigate the dunes for camping

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The other side of the dunes turns out to provide the perfect shelter for camp

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Making ourselves at home we’re treated to a colourful sunset…

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… and then a few hours later, an equally inspiring sunrise

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The decision to stretch out this three day route into four means we’ve plenty of time to relax…

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… before getting back on the bikes…

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… and riding…

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… to the end of the beach

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From the beach we join a gravel road…

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… that takes us around a mine…

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… and over a series of locked gates

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A few more turns and some advice from a friendly farmer…

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… delivers us through a wind shaped forest…

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… meandering gracefully…

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… through vast fields of cattle…

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… and up to a huge hole in the road

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With a bit of pushing and shoving we’ve soon bridged the abyss…

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.. and are back on our way…

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… riding up to glorious views back towards Seno Otway

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As we start to descend our progress is severely hampered by a flurry of gates…

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… that stall our introduction to the dubious delights of Punta Arenas

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A perfect rainbow attempts to ease our transition from traffic free tracks to hectic city mayhem. An understated reminder that without nature, we are all nothing.

 Route Tips

4 days, 280 km (174 miles), 1,800 m (5,900 ft.) of climbing

This cute little route was pieced together by Skyler last year (2014). Short, accessible, easy and extremely rewarding this ride is certain to become a classic. All the information you’ll ever need to ride it can be found in his blog post here (comprehensive route notes are in the comments section).

For further inspiration check out Anna, Kurt and Cass’s posts about the same route.

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4 responses to “Peachy, Beachy, Patagonian Business

  1. Awesome to see more deviants jumping those gates and riding that sweet piece of beach! There are many more gates to jump on Tierra del Fuego…

    P.S. The beach south of Rio Grande is not skinny-tire friendly like this one.

  2. Its crazy how I can feel your intensity grow with each blog as the end of this bike tour nears. It’s beautiful!!

  3. Pingback: The End? Not even close. | cyclesouthchica·

  4. Speaking of gate-jumping and beach riding: most of the property owners along Seno Otway are pretty cool about bicyclists, except for one that I know of, and those are the folks who own the property that now has to be crossed to get to the penguin rookery. If you are discovered you can expect to be asked to pay for small fee for the (tres)passing since that is part of their little business. Livestock theft is a big issue here and not all visitors are welcomed. On the other hand, once you get to the beach so long as you stay within (I think) 10 metres of the high tide line you usually have a legal right to travel there (same as along lakes and rivers in Chile).

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