When we think about taking a vacation, any vacation, we usually take a few minutes to see if the vacation is really right for us. When you’re thinking about taking an Adventure vacation, it is even more important to understand what you’ll be doing on a day-by-day basis, so that you can establish how much money to bring, what type of clothing you need, and whether the risks associated with a trip like the one that you’re contemplating are acceptable to you ore not.
Adventure trips done on a motorcycle have a special set of risks associated with them, and these risks will vary significantly, depending on the tour you choose, the time of year, the tour operator, your skill level, and the destination country or countries. As I readied myself for the trip to Patagonia, I was speaking to several friends who were new to motorcycle riding, and while excited about the trip, they had a level of concern, or trepidation about whether they would be safe, and could keep up with the rest of us. I spoke to Shaun O’Boyle, the Business Development manager from Compass expeditions, and I posed a few questions to him about their concerns.
For those folks that are new to cycling, how should assess the risk of your Patagonia Expedition tour?
“Let me talk specifically about the trip that Compass Expeditions run across Patagoina. I would say that there is no real reason for anyone to be intimidated by this trip. It takes place on roads (some dirt but mostly asphalt) so there is no intensive off-road type riding at all.
There is a bit of traffic and South American driving tends to be different to the kind that most of us in Western countries are accustomed to. Its certainly something that needs to be paid attention to although on the Patagonia Explorer the traffic tends to decrease the further away we get from the main centers. We don’t ride in any major cities such as Santiago or Buenos Aires though as the tours start with a flight to much quieter cities and we begin from there.
Which surface will likely cause the riders the biggest challenge?
I would say that the main surface consideration that we find riders need to develop more skills in is gravel. The Patagonia Explorer tour has perhaps up to 15% gravel these days, mostly on Ruta 40 and around the National Parks and it is important to practice riding in gravel prior to the trip. Some patches can be deeper but most of it is simple gravel roads with a few potholes to contend with.
In addition, another factor that tends to be hard to get used to is just the wind that belts along in the more open plains of the South. The winds can gust quite strongly so being prepared for that is something that you develop with time on the tour riding. You learn to watch out for the gusts as they roll across the tussock and reeds and make sure that you are ready for them. You and your friends should not be intimidated by this tour, although it makes sense for all of you to spend some time riding the local gravel roads in your area. Of course, you want to make sure that you are as skilled as possible in prep for the trip.
What pace should the riders expect to travel at?
The spectacular scenery down there is incredibly rewarding and as we take the tour at a relaxed pace, it really means that just about any rider will have the necessary skills to feel confident on this trip and to be able to enjoy the surroundings. As you might imagine, confidence plays a big part in any tour, but as I mentioned, it will pay dividends if you prepare yourself for the gravel.
What about the risk of riding through a foreign country, and the vaccinations needed in order to stay safe?
“In terms of the vaccinations you are advised to check the information on health and travel websites such as www.cdc.gov and to speak to your doctor to find out what vaccinations you have already had in the past and to assess what new vaccinations you are going to need prior to travel. Chile and Argentina are both within the temperate zones of the world so things like tropical deceases are not really too much of a concern. Chances are that most people from the United States and most Western Countries have already been immunized against most of the health concerns that face any country such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, measles-mumps-rubella and chicken pox. If you’ve done any global travel at all, the likelihood that you’ve already had additional vaccinations which cover the type of concerns in Chile and Argentina is high, but, to be sure, you’ll just need to check up on are the ones that you need when traveling to any country in the world compared to your own medical history of previous vaccinations;
You should think about Typhoid, Hep A and Hep B as being the main diseases that may stand out and which you may not have been vaccinated against in the past. Also, as with any trip where you may suffer a fall or an abrasion, make sure your Tetanus booster is up to date. Once again, you should double check though with a doctor as I am obviously not qualified to give medical advice. I can say with confidence that unless you plan on handling bats in some Patagonian Cave or approach stray dogs on a regular basis you shouldn’t need a rabies shot although it is important to be aware of the risks. Malaria and Yellow Fever only exists in the far north of Argentina in the area around Iguazu Falls and you won’t be going there unless you tack on a side trip at the start or end of your trip (depending which start date you do).”