This winter I had the opportunity to ride in Nepal, specifically to the upper Mustang Valley. This is a highly regulated area that requires a $500 USd permit per person and a certified Nepali guide just to access the area and the small town of Lo-Manthang. Our goal was to attend the Tiji Festival, a 3-day festival of Tibetan rituals and celebration.
First impressions of Kathmandu Nepal upon arrival were quite a culture shock. The driving and riding street chaos is nothing short of epic. It’s as you would have seen from an Indiana Jones movie. No rules, or if there were rules no one abided by them. People pulled out in front of you, drove on the wrong side of the road and just generally took any gap that existed. It was fun and tiring all at the same time. In terms of riding a motorcycle, it’s not for the faint of heart or new riders. The overall infrastructure is what you would expect from a third world country still trying to figure its way into development. It was exciting and vastly different than any western country.
Once we left the city we got into the more rural roads of Nepal. Mainly two-lane roads and many of them dirt roads. It was hot in the lowlands, very humid but somehow the roads were still extremely dusty, and still with lots of traffic. A stark contrast to riding in Patagonia, a place where you can ride for a long time with little to no other vehicles around.
Once we started up the Mustang Valley Road, we went from hot lowlands up into the foothills as they are called in Nepal, still reaching 10,000 feet or more. The traffic died down and the road deteriorated. The riding became more interesting but still quite slow. We were on the vulnerable Royal Infield Himalayan. The bikes we had could have been better in terms of pre-trip maintenance, but they were getting the job done non the less.
Once we left Kagbeni we officially were heading into the Upper Mustang Valley, riding towards Lo Manthang. The road leaving the small town of Kagbeni was one lane and had a small river crossing with a little wooden bridge to cross for motorcycles. It was unassuming considering the vast area we were about to traverse and the high elevation we were riding into. A short while after leaving we came to the permit station, which was no more and a couple buildings and some police checking who entered and who left the area. After that the road was great, very few vehicles and the road was in good condition, wider and with a bit more flow for riding a motorcycle. We rode up to 12,500 feet to Lo Manthang where we would camp for 3 nights. Up high it is a vast desert with little vegetation. Hot during the day and freezing at night. Dry and arid with huge rolling hills all around.
While in Lo Manthang we did go see the Tiji festival and visit the Sky Caves near the border with Tibet. The Sky Caves are a huge array of man-made caves dug into cliff sides and found to be at least 2000 to 3000 years old.
Once our visit to Lo Manthang was over it was time to ride back down out of the Upper Mustang on the same road we came in on. Somehow it took half the time to cover the same distance back down. We ended up riding into the foothills of the lowlands where it was much more green, hot, and humid. From there it was a short ride back into Pokhara and we all started our long journeys home.
I went into this ride with no expectations. Nepal is a place so far removed from the rest of the world the things you see and the differences you experience have to be taken with that in consideration. It’s remote, its crowded, its hot on one side and freezing on the other side. If you want to experience something different and unique in terms of culture, it’s worthwhile. If you want great motorcycle riding then maybe lower your expectations, it was fun no doubt but slow and clunky at times. However, I do think the motorcycle is the best tool for the job in terms of traveling around Nepal and so do thousands of other locals as there are 10 motorcycles to every car!
Overall, a great winter time ride for me and a big cultural experience to add to the book of world travel.
Risk is an inevitable part of adventure riding. We ride to find those remote and off the beaten path routes that lead to exciting places. The more interesting the route from a riding standpoint the better. Some routes are cool because they are tough, some are cool because they are remote. They all have challenges and the more remote and difficult the higher the risk. This is something every rider should be thinking about. Especially those who are riding solo. Here are my thoughts for a pre ride risk assessment.
Accepting Risk – How much risk am I willing to accept? At what point do I say I won’t go on, I will turn back, or I need help. How can we as riders set those trigger points and then have the self-awareness in a high stress situation to stick to them? What external forces will change our plan? Weather, temps, wind, rain, fuel range? Do we set timelines in relation to progress? Getting caught out in the elements is not any fun. So, we should start to think about time as an asset to how we accept risk.
Mitigating Risk – This part is hard. We must look at ourselves more than we look at the ride. What I mean to say is we are the weak link and the only thing we can change. We can’t change anything else. The weather is the weather, the route is either bad or worse. The temps will be what they are.
How do we mitigate risk to make sure a ride is successful?
Setting trigger points during a ride is a good way to measure our progress. If we have not made it past this point in time then we turn around and try for the next day, or we choose to adjust the ride, less stops, maybe a bypass if it’s there? A lot of this depends on our range, if fuel allows we can make changes if not you are then committed.
We must start thinking about how to manage the time we have with the ride we want to do. Giving ourselves the highest possibility of success. How do we do that? Is it something we do internally on the fly? I know I have before, but the more I ride and the more experiences I have I realize a plan is good to have and in remote areas a must.
Plan for all outcomes – Here is where you can start to develop your trigger points. This is the business plan of the ride. With basic info we can set up a measure of success and make the best plan to reach our goals. Basic info could be A map, a forecast, and some road condition information.
With this we can say yes or no from the start. If yes, we can build our trigger points for progress and make sure we don’t put ourselves in a situation of getting caught out and spending a long night alone in the cold or in the worst case getting hurt and needing help.
I know a lot of riders like to say they don’t have a plan and go with no time schedule. That may be okay for the more conventional routes, where you’re not going out into the ultra-remote areas. For areas where help could mean waiting for hours and hours, you should have a plan and some basic info about the area.
Always remember to have fun and keep a positive attitude. Not all rides go to plan, but you can be prepared.
As a business owner I take a lot of pride in what we have created and what we do here in southern Chile. Owning and operating a motorcycle business is a dream for many, myself included. Getting here wasn’t easy and Paula and I work very hard to maintain what we have founded.
Patagonia like many places in the world has its own persona and invokes thoughts of adventure travel almost instantly. Those of us who live here full time and endure the long winters to take advantage of the precious summer months tend to stick together. We know what’s ahead and we basically spend all winter preparing for summer. That may sound crazy but that is how great Patagonia summer is. The number of activities, national parks and travel opportunities in this region is astounding. The outfitters and guides here all know each other. We work together to create unique itineraries for our clients. Whether it’s a motorcycle tour, rafting, hiking, birdwatching, or flyfishing there is something here for everyone.
It took us years of riding to find other people and businesses who melded with us and our style. Ones who had a similar energy as we do. Its not always easy as not every guide, lodge and outfitter can be googled here in the far south of the world. But as you build one relationship it leads to new ones, and we have been able to work with many great providers who add value to our tours.
One of those close relationships we have is with a unique fly-fishing lodge in Coyhaique Chile, the capital city of the remote Aysen Region of Chile. This mid-sized city is also the base for some of the greatest fly fishing in the world some would argue. The sheer amount of water available to fish would back up that argument just based on the numbers. The lodge is named Vista Patagonia, a lodge dedicated solely to fly fishing, run by a dedicated, some may say obsessed fly fisherman named Diego Guerrero and his wife Macarena or just Maca as we all call her.
Although this lodge is dedicated to fly fishing, we are one of the lucky few who get to use the lodge on the shoulder season before his fishing guest arrive. It is always a rider favorite among the many lodges we use in our travels. Lodging is likely the number one thing to make or break a tour, we want the best we can get each night after a long day of riding.
These types of relationships are key to Moto Patagonia’s success, and its why my favorite hat is a Vista Patagonia Hat. Fostering these relationships are what help us create unique and exciting tours.
If you’re interested in riding a moto and fly fishing send me an email and let’s talk. I have some ideas in mind for the right angler/rider!
Cheers to all.
This trip back to the USA we decided to reach out to the organizers of the Overland Expo and ask if they needed, wanted, and could use someone to lead some classes and discussions about Motorcycles, Patagonia, and South America in general. I offered up our expertise and current information to give away to eager travelers looking to head south and expand their own horizons with new cultures, challenges, and experiences.
I lead two classes, one about motorcycle packing for long trips, the other, tips and travel advice about Patagonia. I also participated in a third, a panel of very well-traveled Overland Vagabonds in a great discussion about South America as a whole.
The Patagonia talk was well received with plenty of travelers gathering as much info and advice as possible before heading into the unknow. As I have written before, Patagonia has a lot of things that are simply not inside the Google machine. So, it was nice to give folks a little more info about routes, places to see and things to look out for. Some lessons don’t need to be learned the hard way. Getting a little knowledge to help avoid things like running out of gas or taking a more challenging route than you wanted is always good. I truly hope all that attended that class reach out to us if they end up by the shop and need anything, even if just to stop by and say hi to tell us all bout their adventure thus far.
The motorcycle packing class was quite good, I think. The riders there were very interactive, and we had a lot of back and forth about what works, and what small details can help keep your gear safe and help keep the bike as light as possible. As I stated in the class, I have seen riders show up for long rides with a t-shirt and toothbrush and others pack for literally every contingency. Its good to discuss ways to keep the balance between comfort and weight. You don’t want to be uncomfortable, but you don’t want to be picking up a 700 machine all day if you plan to take a more challenging route. Which led us to talk about picking the best route given the bike, your ability and external factors like weather, time and if you’re alone or riding with friends. I really liked this class and teaching it helped me to reassess what and how I pack for my own long rides.
The panel discussion about South America was very interesting. I was there with 5 others who are all full-time travelers, and they were able to add genuine details about how South America treated them from a perspective I wasn’t, since I live their full time. Spoiler, they all had positive experiences and overall good vibes. I was able to add small details about culture and customs for Latin America in general. It was also good to discus and listen to others talk about how they managed the ups and downs of the different countries and affects long-term travel has in foreign lands like South America. I feel that these classes at Overland Expo really help people gain confidence and real-world information to get out and travel.
Overall, it was a first class even and one of the better venues I have been for Overland Expo. We were excited to be a part of it and look forward to more of those opportunities in the future.
Ctrl – Alt – Delete
That’s what it feels like has happened over the last 2 years. A full reset. This summer was the first one back after patiently waiting for the international border to open so our riders could come visit Patagonia and ride with us. It was a time full of uncertainty and worry. During this down time, we focused on staying relevant in the small space we occupy in tourism. Trying to make sure we used the tools at hand to let our riders know we are still here, and we are dedicated to improvement of our services.
We managed to acquire all new bikes just before the pandemic hit and then just before this season started and we noticed we would be able to work we purchased 2 more bikes to add to the fleet. New KTM 790 Adventures to be exact. Did we face new challenges to make this summer happen? Yes, for sure, the biggest one was having to complete ALL the entrance paperwork Chile required to get in. We did this for every rider that came down this summer. Doubling our workload but making it possible to work. It was worth the effort in the long run as a second season “off” was not possible for us.
Despite all the extra work, all the uncertainty and all the tough calls we had to make we had an excellent time riding and guiding. We guided several Carretera Austral Tours, as well as outfitted several rental groups throughout the summer. We visited Chiloe Island and did a LOT of local riding here with clients and friends alike.
We are now fully focused on next summer and trying to expand our services in a positive way that will add even more value to our clients. We have noticed an uptick in new contacts, and we are dedicated to helping get people riding here in Patagonia. The over all view from our standpoint is positive and ready.
If you are thinking about riding in Patagonia these next years will be good ones, as it will help the local economy recover. I know there will be happy faces at each local lodge, restaurant, and guide service.
Let us know how we can help make your ride dreams come true.
What do I mean when I say “cultural connection?” Well, in the guide world, it can have two meanings …
I think Moto Patagonia is an excellent choice because of our distinctive background and our ability to assimilate to many cultures. As co-founder and co-owner with my wife, I personally lead all of our tours. And since we get a lot of riders from English speaking countries, it’s nice for them to have a guide who can not only understand them but also relate to different colloquialisms they may use. These informal communications are just as important if not more so than the basic language connection. When we get new riders, I am just as curious about where they come from as they are about life in Patagonia. I try to soak up as much information as possible, and that makes for good conversation. Over our longer tours we have many conversations and that helps create memories which have a lasting effect. Only a guide with close cultural proximity can do this. As a bonus, I also speak Spanish.
Now on to part two, can the guide connect you to the local culture? And what connections do they have to make that happen? This one thing can add tremendous value to your tour. Our clients often look at the technical aspects of the tour when it comes to value: what bike can I ride, how many days, what’s included? These are important topics, no doubt, but consider also what can the company provide in term of experience? What do the reviews say about the guides and how they were able to connect people to what a location has to offer? These are just as essential as the practical parts of the tour. Beyond the bike and the hotels, what stories will you bring home? When you go to a new location, you should want to experience the local style, feeling, and spirit of the place. If the guide can help make that happen, then you are riding with the right company, one that will create lasting memories that will add to your knowledge and appreciation of the world.
I try hard to do all the above, have close cultural proximity to my clients and help them connect to the spirit and culture of Patagonia. It’s tough sometimes because there is so much here, and each small area has its own character. But over the years, Moto Patagonia has established contacts and become friends with other local companies who help us with our off-bike adventures, and that creates those lasting memories we all long to bring home after an epic adventure!
We all want to get the most out of every ride. When traveling by motorcycle we need to be both in good shape and confident that we can manage the ride without worry or trouble. It’s always a balance. Personally, I find that riding with people better than me helps to push my limits but in a semi-controlled way. Being with friends who can help you gain the extra confidence to learn a new riding technique or skill is important. Taking a full-on training class with a professional is the best idea over all to truly get the most out of your desire to be a better and safer rider. Some people just have a way to explain a concept that can help you “get it”.
I get asked often about how hard or technical the riding is here in Patagonia. While the riding is not technical in terms of off-road riding like single track or maybe some of those crazy videos you see of mud riding in Colombia it is demanding it terms of technique. The roads are unimproved, remote and can at times be rocky or muddy. They require riding skill to be able to cover miles each day despite the conditions. Being able to ride dirt roads with ease is important and the short sections of tough road conditions need to be handled with confidence.
In general, the riders that come to Chile specifically to ride are coming here with anticipation and therefore have time to train and we always recommend riders put in the time and come prepared both physically and mentally. Training will help both. Keeping your skills up to par is a great way to get the most out of your time riding here in Patagonia. Riding with your buddies and taking new routes keeps your reactions sharp and you focused on your riding. Both key to riding in remote and new areas. Taking new roads that we do not know helps keep our skills sharp. It’s an easy and free way to train.
I want all our riders to come here to have fun and create a lasting positive experience riding in Patagonia. Creating a team within our groups keeps everyone happy and on the same page. So, get out there and put your skills to the test and improve your riding as much as you can!
The week of July 5th – 11th was the official KTM World Adventure Week. This was an incredibly fun and well-run global event to inspire riders to get out and do what they all love, ride! Over the 7 days we rode 7 challenges that had to be completed along with an over all 1000km to ride to be entered to win a brand new KTM 1290 Super Adventure S. KTM also offered daily prizes each day. The whole thing was tracked using a motorcycle riding app called Riser. This clever app was able to track all the challenges and award 250 points per challenge that was accomplished over the 7 days of riding. It also kept track of your over all mileage and once you had all your challenges and miles done the app showed you in all green the list of tasks. Total points available point was 2750.
I was able to accomplish all the challenges and the 1000km making me eligible to win the new KTM. Here are the challenges day by day each worth 250 points. To be entered for the final raffle you needed 2000 points over all making it necessary to finish 4 of the challenges and ride the 1000km overall.
Overall, it was a great week of riding. I think this should become a yearly event although who knows if KTM will be willing to give away a new bike every year. However, the event was very KTM, in that it was all about riding and the competition was fun and relaxed. They offered generous daily prizes with everyone working towards the goal of getting into the final raffle.
Let us hope this becomes a yearly event.
Fall in Chile.
Every season we get the same question from around the world.
“What is the best time of year to ride in Patagonia?”
It is a fair question as the season is short if you are looking for the absolute best chance of great weather. The answer in that case is December through March. Our summertime is short and sweet but worth the travel time and logistics to ride these remote and beautiful roads here in Patagonia.
But if you do not mind some cooler temps and chance of rain then late fall and early spring can be rewarding. I write this having just finished a ride through some remote areas in the Araucaria Region of Chile. From the Araucaria to the south until here in the Los Lagos Region the riding is great, lots of back roads and small towns to ride though and visit. I personally do not mind riding year around catching the good days and taking advantage of the slower pace during the “off season”. Being coped up all winter just does not sit well with me, if it is not snowing, I’m riding.
The advantages are also duly noted, the roads are not dusty, the colors in the mountains area just as special as the flowers during the summer months. The over all vibe is still positive and fun. Of course, during the summer everyone has that great high energy summertime travel vibe, but the fall, winter and early spring also have their own vibe that make off-season riding and adventures seem just as special. I realize bad weather riding is not always everyone’s jam and trust me it is not my pick but on short trips I do not mind if the overall experience is rewarding. Certain areas have charm and are special enough that even without perfect weather it can still make a great trip and create a lasting experience. Southern Chile has that and then some, making the shoulder season worth it!
We have some great riding opportunities to offer all riders at every skill level. From experienced riders to novice riders looking for their first international trip. Year around riding can be had here in southern Chile if you are willing. Let us know what type of riding you are interested in and we can help!
Stay safe and Keep the rubber side down.
Daniel Palazzolo, Co-Founder and Lead Guide at Moto Patagonia.