The Wilds of Patagonia (Video)
Tristan Ridley is more than half way into a 100,000-kilometer bikepacking trip around the world. In his latest video, he brings us to Patagonia for a weeklong solo ride from San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina, and more. Watch the video here, along with a Q&A and photos from his journey…
We last heard from Tristan Ridley back in April, after he rode the 650km Jordan Bike Trail. At the time, Tristan had covered 43,000 kilometers of his 100,000-kilometer bikepacking trip around the world, riding through 100 countries to raise money for Build Africa, an English charity organization that works to fight poverty through education in rural Kenya and Uganda. Tristan recently put together another great video, this time from Patagonia, in which he explores the region as an adventure destination and the importance of wilderness. Watch the video below, followed by a short interview with Tristan and a handful of images from his time in Patagonia.
Fill us in on where you’ve been since you rode the Jordan Bike Trail…
From Jordan I crossed into Egypt, and then spent the following nine months cycling the length of Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town. I then flew into Brazil to start my ride through the Americas, first spending two months making my way south from Rio de Janeiro to Buenos Aires, then flying down to Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego at the southernmost point of South America.
I’ve spent the last four months since Ushuaia pedalling slowly north through Patagonia, in both Chile and Argentina. I’ve slowed down a lot in Patagonia, mainly because there is so much to explore here. One season is nowhere near enough time to really get to grips with this part of the world. I’ve ridden some truly spectacular roads and trails, and also done a fair bit of hiking on the side. Because there’s so much potential out here I’ve also spent some time scouting new bikepacking routes. Patagonia is an adventurer’s dream.
What resources have you been using to link together these amazing routes?
Patagonia attracts a lot of bikepackers, so there are some great online resources to tap. There are a number of blog articles from past travellers that include routes, and of course BIKEPACKING.com also has a number of fantastic routes in the area. When scouting new routes I’ve relied heavily on satellite imagery. For example the ‘Nana O’Higgins’ route shown briefly in this film went through an area that was completely unmapped; by spending a lot of time squinting at the satellite image I was able to make out a faint trail that I then used to connect established dirt roads.
I’ve also leaned on local knowledge. The first half of the route covered in the video, for example (the Huella Andina bikepacking route), was sent to me by Lucas, a local in Bariloche who runs a bikepacking shop and has spent years curating and mapping the route. One of the things I really love about the bikepacking community is how keen everyone is to share information.
Have you lost or gained any gear during your travels?
I’ve changed my setup several times over the years in search of the best possible round-the-world bikepacking rig. My setup now is quite different to the one I used in Jordan. I’ve actually switched almost all of my bikepacking bags, and some pieces of kit (such as my tent) simply wore out from extended use; Africa was very tough on gear. Probably the biggest change I made was to switch from a seatpack to a lightweight rear rack with a 30L hiking backpack strapped on. This suits me perfectly as it lets me easily transfer most of the weight to my shoulders for strenuous hike-a-bikes (something I do a fair amount of these days), and gives me a backpack for side hikes.
By streamlining the rest of my gear and switching to a high-volume rolltop front bag (the Jumbo Jammer from Road Runner Bags) my setup now actually weighs slightly less than it did in Jordan, but with substantially more volume and versatility. I can now comfortably carry food for 2-3 weeks, which is great for the more remote routes, while simultaneously also carrying more than 13 litres of water. The needs of long-term intercontinental bikepacking are very different to those of shorter trips of only a few weeks as you have to be ready for a greater variety of conditions, so I really appreciate the extra capacity.
How far are you into your 100,000-kilometer trip?
After more than three years of cycling, I’ve covered 54,000 kilometres, through 61 countries. So, in theory I’m just over halfway through. That said, in terms of mileage I’m now going much slower than I used to. I covered 25,000 kilometres during my first year of cycling, but little more than 10,000 over the third year.
The 100,000km goal is important to me, but far less important than the journey itself. I have much more fun going slowly, exploring new routes, and avoiding pavement most of the time. The most exciting routes are often slow going, but I’d much rather spend three days riding/pushing through a beautiful wilderness to cover 100km, than ride it in one day on the highway. In terms of time, I very much doubt I’m anywhere near halfway to 100,000 kilometres!
Where are you heading next?
Vaguely speaking, my current destination is Alaska, at the far end of the Americas. Originally I’d planned to simply cycle north from Tierra del Fuego, keeping it linear, but even before COVID-19 became a factor I’d more or less decided that I was going to come back down to Patagonia in November/December to spend a second summer here. After so long cycling around the world I want to spend my time in the places that I love the most, and to skip quickly through everywhere else. Patagonia is an adventure playground; there are still so many routes I want to ride, not to mention the ones I want to come back to.
Now, of course, COVID-19 has thrown everything into disarray. Having decided to stay in South America rather than escape to Europe, I’ve been quarantined in Argentina for more than a month. For now it’s a waiting game, no one knows what will happen, so there’s nothing to do but wait and see. I don’t expect international borders in South America to reopen for many months, perhaps even the rest of the year, but I’m hoping that before too long domestic travel does at least become possible so I can get a bit further north to escape the Patagonian winter. There are many routes I want to ride in northern Argentina, so we’ll see what happens!
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