General border crossing information – where/opening hours etc to be found at for Argentina and for Chile

San Pedro de Atacama to Olacapato – Paso Sico

We did this route in early January, after the rains had begun.  While not impossible, this meant that our camping and riding was unpredictably disrupted.  A group did the route 2-3 weeks earlier and barely saw a cloud in the sky!  We followed Neil and Harriet Pikes fantastic directions in reverse, and merely offer some comments in confirmation of their info.  Refer to their directions for water and services.  We took 5 days to Olacapato.

  • 6-8km uphill from Socaire the road passes the outflow from the upcoming Lagunas as an fast-flowing irrigation channel and water source if you’ve not picked up any in Socaire.  Next water is at the El Laco mining camp.
  • 20km from Socaire – turnoff to Lagunas (is possible to take this road then rejoin the main route just short of the Salar Aguas Calientes
  • 33km from Salar to El Laco mining camp –  prominent rock band @ c.20km (possible camping).
  • Prominent rock group and more potential camping  at low-point between SAG post and Abra Sico
  • From Aduanas Argentinas there is a Y-junction.  The numbering is a bit confusing, but the Ruta 51 is the R. turn and goes directly to Cauchari.  The L. goes to within 1km of Catúa is the one we took.

We managed to get not only water, but floor space and internet at the Olacapato Police station.  There is an hospedaje in Olacapato (if you have money!).

San Antonio de los Cobres to Belén

The astute will notice that this and the route above don’t totally overlap.  We hitched from Olacapato to Salta to get Sarah a new bottom bracket, then bused back as far as San Antonio.  What follows are clarifications or observations based on the route already well described by Harriet and Neil Pike at AndesbyBike

  • Cauchari to Salar de Pocitos:  40km with a R. turn to Salar del Rincon @ 16km (could enable you to head straight to Pocitos from Paso Sico (assuming you take the R. turn at the Y at the Aduanas Argentinas mentioned above).  There’s also sheltered camping (without water) in disused Railway buildings at Laguna Seca (21km from Cauchari).
  • The Colorada roadworkers camp mentioned by Neil and Harriet was occupied overnight when we passed.
  • The Police control point at the north end of Salar de Hombre Muerto was also occupied when we passed (with water).

We were advised to circumnavigate the Salar (anticlockwise) as the police said that the road directly across was flooded.  So follows a detailed description of our route from there to Antofagasta de la Sierra…

  • 11km – track that began at the police point (head along Salar shore rather than following main road) is joined from L. by a track from the Salar shortly after FMC building on R.
  • 9km – Leave Salar and begin climb by hairpins (R. at Y).  Cementario at junction and road directly across Salar joins behind L.
  • 1.5km to rejoin
  • 1.4km to R. @ Y (L goes downhill back to Salar)
  • 13.2km to Y – L. to hairpins – R. to sandy gully bottom route (more direct).
  • 2.5km to rejoin (we did 700m along gully bottom to 1st intersection then followed hairpins)
  • 3.8km to stream with nearby disused buildings (good water) (high point at 1.5km)
  • 18.4km to Difunta Correa shrine (water if needed), with high point after 5.7km
  • 25.3km to junction – road behind R. goes to Nacimientos and Antofalla. (lots of camping sites for 1st 19km.
  • c.20km to Antofagasta.

Belén to Tinofagasta

Refer to AndesbyBike for full info.  Turn-off main Ruta 40 at 5.1km post Londrés has a sign now.  (R. RP No.3 Escuela 409, L. Cerro Negro 66).

Tinogasta to Famatina

A lot simpler than our map (ITMB Southern South America) suggested.

  • from the Plaza in Tinogasta head south, then L. onto main road which then curves to the South.
  • 25km Pavement ends with a R. turn to Costa de Reyes
  • 15km ripio with a property at 5.6km (Hualico – ?water)
  • 2km Y – L. to Santa Cruz and La Cuadra
  • 10km to Plaza of La Cuadra/Lomada/Santa Cruz
  • Rest obvious….  Follow the signs, and all paved.

Famatina to Uspallata

Main roads, so just a list of places – mainly Ruta 40, then 150, 149 and RP52.

Famatina – Chilecito – Nonogasta – Villa Union – Guandacol – Huaco – San Jose de Jáchel  – Rodeo – Las Flores – Iglesia – Tocota – Villa Nueva – Calingasta – Barreal – Uspallata.

Some more details on the Iglesia-Calingasta stretch can be found here.

Uspallata to Mendoza

Distances from the junction of the RP149 (from Barreal) about 3km away from the main Ruta 7 junction in Uspallata.

  • 28km to high point (3100m) – paved for 14km then ok quality ripio.
  • 4.8km to 2nd high point, soon after R. @ Y (signed)
  • 22km to Hotel Termas Villavicencio – start pavement and likely water
  • 42km to L. @ Y – road then crosses railway and bears R. onto Avenida Gral San Martín with another 8ish km into the city. (c. 1000m)

There are no services or water on the route apart from at the Hotel Termas Villavicencio.

Pareditas to El Sosneado

Somewhat confusingly, the old RN40 which had been renamed RP101 (and is such on most maps) is now the RN40 again (according to all the road signs).  This seems to have happened in the last year or so (Feb. 2012).  At all other junctions go straight or follow RN40 signs.  There was no other water other than mentioned when we did this route.

  • 0km – Junction RN40 and 142 near south end of Pareditas. Go R. following RN40 signs (St. is now the RP101) then L. after 1km.  Frequent houses until 15km with river proximity too.
  • 37km – St. @ 4-way.  (R. goes to Laguna Diamante)
  • 2.5km – Arroyo Papagallo (water)
  • 28km – Arroyo Hondo (water)
  • 9km – Arroyo LaFaja (water)
  • 9km – Arroyo (water)
  • 15km  – Rio Diamante with La Jaula (village) 600m before (water)
  • 7km – St. @ 4-way (L. goes to Las Salinas)
  • 28km – Dwelling and 2nd 900m later – poor surface until after Mina.
  • 4.5km – Mina Cerro Alquitrán (abandoned – no water)
  • 8.6km – St. (major road from behind R.)
  • 13km – Pavement @ El Sosneado service station. 300m earlier is a R. turn to Lago Sosneado.

Malargüe to Barrancas

M to Bardas Blancas on RN40.  66km with highpoint at 40km.  Roadworks most of way.

BB to Barrancas (RN40).

  • 58km – River bridge.  No water access.  Start ripio.  Difunta Correa shrine nearby
  • 28km – River bridge.  Water access. (El Zapatel)
  • 21km – Start pavement and R. turn to La Manzana
  • 14km  – Ranquil Norte (water)
  • 22km – Rio Barrancas (Fuel, water and snacks)
  • 5km – Barrancas

Barrancas to Chos Malal via El Lago Tromén

  • 0km – Lower junction to Barrancas on RN40
  • 2km – R. onto dirt off RN40
  • 3.9km – L.@ Y.  signed Parque Provincial Tromen
  • 6.5km – R.@ Y
  • 1.3km – tracks rejoin
  • 8.5km – L.@ Y
  • 3.7km – St. (R goes to mining/drilling site)
  • 5.6km – cross stream
  • 17.5km St. (L to north end of Lake)
    • high point at 10km and a croft at 15km
    • 2.4km – St. (R. to Refugio Cerro Wayle)
    • 24.6km – St. (R. to Tricao Malal)
    • 10.3km – R. onto RN40 (further c.10km to Chos Malal)

Chos Malal to RN242 (near Las Lajas)

  • 0km – Junction RN40 and Chos Malal
  • – R.@ junction off RN40 onto RP6 to Paso Pichachen.  Start ripio
  • 6.2km – R. @ Y (L. to Tres Chorros)
  • 8.0km – St. @ Y (L. to Ranheucú).
  • 4.2km  – Arroyo Ranhuecú (water – to filter), with more possible 2.8km later and in other deeper gullies.
  • 37km – L. towards El Huecú just before El Cholar (fuel, camping, ?shop)
  • 30km – R. towards Loncopue (L. into El Huecú – shops, banks fuel – at gomeria).  Highpoint prior to this at 19-23km
  • 29km – St. (R. goes to Copahue)
  • 30km – Loncopue (full services).  Pavement begins 7km earlier.  Last shops before RN242
  • 58km – RN242.  Rivers for water, but no shops at Huaren Cheneque or Codhué.

RN242 to Junín de los Andes

Please note, that if you’re not going to take the side-trip into Las Lajas there are no food shops between Loncopue and Aluminé.

  • 0km – junction off RN242 onto RP23 1km downhill of Aduanas Argentinas.  50km from Las Lajas, and 41km from the RP21-RN242 junction (if coming from Chos Malal/Loncopue).
  • 35km  – St. @ junction with RP13 from Zapala and Primeros Pinos, with a highpoint at 10km.  Plenty of water access.
  • 5.7km L. towards Aluminé
  • 48km – Aluminé (full services).  Plaza is uphill from main road.  Pavement begins at 28km.
  • 16km – L. across bridge then R. onto dirt.  Rahué (hosteria only)
  • 72km to Rio Malleo bridge with high points at 57km & 60km (climb from c. 45km).  Dispensa (small shop) at Pilolil and no services at Malleo.  Water access frequent until climb begins.
  • 20km to Junín.

Junín de los Andes to Villa Santa Lucia (Chile/Carretera Austral)

Well recognised routes, so place names only.

Junín de los Andes – San Martín de los Andes – Villa Angostura (currently about 30km of ripio towards the VA end, but being paved) – San Carlos de Bariloche – El Bolsón – El Hoyo – Cholila (now paved from R40 to Cholila, ripio begins shortly afterwards) – Parque Nacional Los Alerces (Arg$50 entry fee – lots of ‘free camping sites’ plus others more equipped) – Trevalín (large supermarket on road out of town to the south) – Futaleufu (pass into Chile – aduanas etc for both side close to border, town 10km further into Chile.  Bank – can change Arg. Pesos, not sure about ATM as we already had Chilenos, a couple of ok food shops) – Villa Santa Lucia (1 food shop, no ATM, no fuel, free camping around football field)

Carretera Austral (Villa Santa Lucia to Villa O’Higgins)

Lots elsewhere, and well mapped.  Info here as it was as we passed (Feb/March 2012).

  • Villa Santa Lucia – shop, no fuel, camping around edge of football field.  ?other options
  • La Junta – larger, multiple accom. options, petrol station, multiple shops, panaderias, ferreteria (sells Bencina Blanca – white gas/shellite/coleman fuel)
  • Puyuhuapi – multiple accom. options, 2-3 food shops
  • ripio until junction with Puerto Cisnes road.
  • Villa Amegual – Accom. options, 2-3 food shops
  • Villa Mañuhuales – food shops, Casa de Ciclista (Jorgé – address G.Marchant 160 – ask in town for Jorgè/Casa de Ciclista)
  • Coihaique – full services, including bike shop/mechanic.

Paved until Villa Cerro Castillo (food and general stores, plus accommodation), and thereafter good quality ripio with some short-lived washboarded sections.Bahia Murta (4km off-route – food, accommodation advertised, not visited), Puerto Bertrand (accom. and food, not visited), Cochrane (full services, including fuel and Bencina Blanca sold in ferreteria on Plaza de Armas, plus a nice café – last ATM until El Chaltén), Villa O’Higgins (food, accom. wifi in plaza).

Ferries forming part of the Carretera Austral are free.  As we came onto the CA at Villa Santa Lucia from Futaleufú, we only needed the Puerto Yungay to Rio Bravo one.  This runs 3 times daily in high season (to end March), and twice daily at other times.

Villa O’Higgins to El Chaltén

To continue from the southern end of the CA there are 2 broad options – via a ripio road and bicycle/foot only river crossing to Paso Rio Mayer;, and the more frequently used boat-bike-boat route to Candelaria Mancilla, Lago del Desierto  and on to El Chaltén.  For this the main services is a tour-oriented boat the HieloSur that runs on from Candelaria Mancilla to the O’Higgins Glacier and provides some connections across Lago del Desierto.   This is expensive (Ch$ 40,000) and only runs once weekly with sufficient passengers after mid-march (Saturdays).  It is also possible to hunt around in Villa O’Higgins for various people who will run a smaller, cheaper boat as long as there are enough takers.  Check with the Tourist Info. in the main plaza for leads and the proprietor of Hostal El Mosco.  These boats are much more weather dependent.  We were asked for Ch$40,000, but managed to bargain the captain down to Ch$35,000.

The route from Candelaria Mancilla to the Argentinian Border Control at the north end of Lago del Desierto is infamous, but depending on your mtb experience and kit can be quite fun.  From CM there is 15km of loose-ish dual track road (1st 5km fairly steep) to border (we rode nearly all and took 2 hours).  Then it turns to walking track.  This is an often enjoyable moderately technical mtb track.  There are a few stream crossings aided by adhoc log bridges and a couple of more boggy sections.  We rode about 70% of it and took 2 hours.

Lago del Desierto has a ferry (tour boat) that runs 3 times daily Wed to Sun (evening only on Tues).  The last boat goes 31st March.  Cost is Arg$110 per person, and $20 per bike (others negotiated this down).  There is a walking track along the eastern shore as an alternative – quality unknown to us.

The remaining 37km to El Chaltén is good quality ripio with increasing views of Cerro Fitzroy.  When we went through there was an unofficial Casa de Ciclistas, with camping on a town block owned by Jesús Torres – ask for “la Casa de Jesús” and bring wine etc.

El Chaltén to El Calafate

Straightforward – easy 90km heading east (in March), the more difficult (wind) heading south, before potentially impossible head-winds heading back west to El Calafate.

Lots of info on cycling approaches to the Perito Morreno glacier by bike on the googlegroup “PanAm riders”.

See the blog post for hints about a direct route between El Calafate and Torres del Paine (unlikely to work for most people, but you never know).

El Calafate to Puerto Natales

Also straightforward.  Back out from El Calafate, then onto the ripio R40 to Tapi Aike.  South for 40km on tarmac until the R. turn across to Chile and Cerro Castillo before heading round through the Torres del Paine NP on ripio.

Shelter from the wind to camp can be found at a number of places:

  • El Cerrito (nth end of ripio R40) – Roadways buildings (Vialidad)
  • Rio Pelque Policia (20km south of El Cerrito on the R40) – fenced garden
  • Tapi Aike (sth end of ripio R40) – Policia/Roadways building.  Has an extremely expensive and limited petrol station shop opposite (chocolate and fizzy drinks)
  • Cerro Castillo (1st town after Argentina/Chile border into TdP NP) – fenced playground down in main town and Bomberos.  Only food shop is last on the R. heading nth into TdP – has good range of staples, but little fresh stuff.  Be aware that the Chileans will take any fresh vegetables from you at the border crossing just before CC.

In the park, the park entrance point is 55km after Cerro Castillo, a couple of km after Laguna Amarga and a refugio.

Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas

Ruta 9.  Paved.  More opportunities for shelter than obvious from the map.  We were offered and accepted indoor camping from the Carabineros at Morro Chico (100km from PN) and the servo at Gobernador Phillipe.  We also noted some very fine looking Asada (BBQ) shelters at the junction towards the pengüineria 20km or so north of PA that would do nicely for camping.

We stayed at Hospedaje/Hostel Independencia in Punta Arenas (corner of Independencia and España) which is a slightly chaotic hiker/biker oriented hostel that offers camping.  If you take a room, there’s also an all you can eat breakfast.  Eduardo was very helpful in pointing out places for getting bike boxes, getting to the airport and in our case, offering to buy Sarah’s Mendoza bike for his hire fleet.


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