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Three Unique Motorcycle Destinations in South America You Need to Visit
The route between Cartagena, Colombia to Ushuaia, Argentina is well travelled by over-landers and backpackers of all types. Sharing stories from the road over a couple of beers or a local meal with others is one of the fondest memories from our year-long motorcycle trip from Canada to the tip of South America. It is especially rewarding if those fellow travellers happen to be overland motorcycle travellers as well.
Tackling the huge distances of South America is quite an achievement, whether by backpacking, driving a 4x4 or riding a motorbike. Each discipline has something to offer, however I think everyone here can agree that, with the possible exception of riding a bicycle, riding a motorbike across the continent takes the cake. There is just no way around it - riding a motorbike overland though harsh conditions is the toughest, and yes, the coolest way to travel, bar none.
That being said, there are a number of motorcycle-specific destinations in South America that should not be missed. These places cater specifically to the overland motorcycle traveller and can provide a roof over your head or space for your tent (sometimes for free), excellent parking, a place to work on your bike, some arrange international bike shipping, and all of them provide that certain camaraderie that can only be had with fellow long distance riders.
Avenida Quebrada Verde 192
Playa Ancha, Valpariso, Chile
Valparaiso is a travel destination unto itself, the seaside port has had a history as colourful as it's vividly painted houses and has been attracting both Chilean and international tourists for ages. It is where the poet Pablo Naruda chose to locate one of his famously eccentric homes (his home is well worth checking out if you are there) and, so is the Villa Kunterbunt motorcycle hostel, named after Pippy Longstockings's famous abode.
Enzo and Martina Tesser opened the Villa Kunterbunt hostel in 1995 and have been focusing on the overland traveller ever since - especially those who travel by motorbike. Their extremely tall, victorian-style house has plenty of rooms and can accommodate multiple riders with plenty excellent off street parking for everyone. When we were there there were a total of 9 motorbikes parked in the enclosed garden - 5 from Germany, 2 from Austria and our 2 bikes from Canada.
In addition to providing the usual hostel amenities, including kitchen and dining facilities, private rooms for sleeping, wifi and the aforementioned secure parking. Martina also is able to arrange motorcycle shipping both to and from Chile for international bike travellers for a reasonable fee. She's been helping riders get their bikes to Chile for years and has compiled a large list of satisfied customers.
The hostel is located in a great neighbourhood and is within walking distance to a number of grocery stores, butcher shops and vegetable and fruit markets. Within walking distance were able to pick up everything we needed for a fantastic asado (BBQ in Chile) in the garden, complete with pisco sours and a great bottle of Chilean wine. One of Valparaiso's historical funiculars is also located with in a few minutes of Villa Kunterbunt which puts the main centre of Valparaiso within striking distance as well.
Carlos Tejedor 1379
Florida Vicente Lopez
Dakar Motos is more than just THE garage in Buenos Aires for overland motorbike traveller, it is also a great place for motorcycle travellers to meet up, hang out, and share a few beers. Javier and Sandra have been running the garage in one form or another for about 15 years and have become the go-to team for anything travel bike related in BA - from repairs and modifications to shipping, storage and accommodation.
Although our bikes did not need any repairs when we are in Buenos Aires, we still went to Dakar Motos, since they also run a very basic hostel (i.e. a rough and tumble bunk house inside the garage with a kitchen and a place to camp in the large backyard, if you prefer your own sheets) and we knew it would be full of other bike travellers on their way to or from someplace interesting. We weren't disappointed as we were able to met up with bike travellers from Australia, England, Japan and the USA. Many late nights were spent sharing stories about life on two wheels.
Aside from being a beautiful city, with great food and plenty to see and do, Buenos Aires is also a logical place to either begin or end a South America Motorcycle adventure. Dakar Motos can also arrange to ship or receive your motorcycle and Sandra has become an expert in the field. For a reasonable fee she will make all the arrangements for you including your paperwork.
We used her services to ship our two BMW F650GSs to Los Angeles and felt that it was money well spent. She took care of everything and really it couldn't have been easier. We showed up at the appointed time, took the windscreen, mirrors and front wheels off the bikes to make them as small as possible since the shipping rate is based on both size and weight (you can't alter the weight of your bike very much but you can reduce the overall size quite a bit). The bikes were then strapped down to a pallet, cleared by customs, wrapped in cling-film and whisked away to an awaiting cargo plane.
The only difficulty we had was in actually trying to pay for the shipping. Like many companies in Argentina, the shipping company we used only accepted payment in cash. With their currency struggles, ATMs in Argentina are restricted to very low daily withdrawal limits, so we had visit many bank machines over the course of several days (at a cost of several bank fees) in order to obtain enough money. As a result, we ended up walking the streets of Buenos Aires with a large amount of cash, which made us a little nervous in the big city.
A fair warning - the cost of staying at Dakar motor does not include the fee for keeping your motorbike there - there is an extra, nominal charge for those few days before it is shipped off. It is a pleasant, 15-minute walk to catch the the train into the city. The train is very inexpensive and the ride is approximately 20 minutes.
LA POSTA DEL VIAJERO EN MOTO
Calle Mendoza 685 - Azul - CP 7300 - Prov. de Buenos Aires -
(S36Âº47. 442 W59Âº52. 259)
La Posta del Viajero en Moto, or 'La Posta' as it is known, is part local motorcycle club, part motorcycle traveller sanctuary and part museum. It has become almost kind of a legend amongst overland riders. At any given time there could be moto travellers from any number of countries, or a bunch of local riders gathering for a weekend parilla (BBQ in Argentina) or a Sunday morning mate. Jorge Cuatrochio (better known as "Pollo") and his wife, Monica have been hosting motorcycle travellers since 1992 in the club house at La Posta.
Pollo and his friends were crazy about motorbikes, however during the late 70's and early 80's the military dictatorship prohibited the import of many foreign motorcycles, which made motorbikes expensive and hard to come by. They eventually got their hands of some Argentinian-made 125cc bikes and formed a club in the town of Azul, just south of Buenos Aires. After meeting three American motorcycle travellers who were crossing the Americas on their Harleys, Pollo realized there were not a lot places on the Ushuaia - Buenos Aires route where moto travellers could stop and relax along the way. That is when they started this "home away from home" for motorbike travellers. To this day La Posta continues to host motorbike travellers, and as it was in the beginning, the fee is by donation only.
The club house provides very basic accommodation, it is is very spacious, with a large dinning and kitchen area, plenty of space to work on bikes and great secure parking. It also has a small bunk house and a large bathroom with a very cool wood-fired shower. There is no wifi, but internet cafes, along with other shops are located near by. We pitched our tent in the massive garden, complete with 7 huge pet rabbits and a large Beatles mural painted by Pollo.
What makes it especially interesting is the atmosphere of La Posta - the interior walls are covered with graffiti, paintings and stickers from the thousands of motorbike travellers who have stayed there over the years. You can find the names of legendary (and not so legendary) over-landers from all over the world covering every square inch of the walls and ceiling. Worn out and broken motorcycle parts tell their own stories and hang in the few remaining spots on the wall that have not yet been painted. Clearly a lot of fun and many beers have been had here. This is truly a place for those who love to travel by motorcycle.
Pollo's generosity and the incredible atmosphere of La Posta have left their indelible mark on the over-land community. In 2001, the Argentine currency devaluation and economic crisis threatened to close the doors of La Posta forever. Upon hearing the news, a group of German motor-bikers who had previously stayed at La Posta stepped in and raised enough money to put La Posta back in the black and keep it going.
Four years later, in an effort to repay Pollo for his generosity a group of former La Posta guests from Japan raised enough money to invite Pollo on a fully-paid motorcycle adventure in Japan. He was was able to travel the entire country by motorcycle and stayed at the homes of travellers he had hosted at La Posta. Pollo is a long time Honda fanatic - he has worked his way up from his first 400cc Honda to his current Varadero, with many in between, including a Trans Alp - so a visit to the Honda factory was the icing on his cake.
Not to be out done, (again) a group of Germans hosted Pollo on a similar, all- expenses paid motorcycle trip to Europe in 2006. Once more, he was provided a motorbike on which to tour Germany and France, and he was hosted by the many friends he had made at La Posta. A personal, after-hours tour of the BMW factory in Berlin was arranged and became one of the highlights of his trip.
Do not miss La Posta! It is a great place to stay with a warm and welcoming atmosphere. You can work on your bike, meet up with other riders, get local information about riding in South America and enjoy some very warm Argentinian hospitality. You may be invited to an asado and you will be part of motorcycle history.
On the road in South America we found shelter and great company in all types of places, from excellent campgrounds, to modern hostels, to dirty little holes in the wall. What makes these three places so unique and memorable is the fact that they cater specifically to motorcycle travellers, and in our book that makes them worth a visit.