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CordR 01-16-2013 05:41 PM

South America: Colombia to Ushuaia - A 'realistic' timeline
I realize I'm about to ask a possibly vague question with a million possible answers, but I'm hoping to get at least a bit of a consensus so I can plan accordingly.

So.......which bike should I buy and what oil should I put in it?


I'm trying to get an idea of what kind of time I'd need to reserve if I wanted to go from Colombia to Ushuaia. I don't want to race through all the countries as some sort of conquest, but I also don't realistically have the time at this point in my life to take 4-12 months away and just ride and explore aimlessly. But I hope to someday!

If I had a general goal of just continuing to head south, with no major rush but not being able to indulge every potential side trip that comes up, can anyone advise as to what would be a reasonable estimate?

If I had unlimited time, I'd ride south from Vancouver, BC, through Mexico, CA, and then figure out the Gap when I get to Panama. But realistically, I'd end up flying the bike and I to Colombia and starting from there.

If that's too vague, let's start with a timeline of 4-5 weeks. That's a fairly realistic number for me without making huge life sacrifices and a reasonable amount of planning.

I realize it probably could be done, I'm just wondering if that's too rushed and I'd always feel like I'm racing. Tacking on an extra week for bike troubles, unexpected issues etc wouldn't be that big of a deal.

Thanks in advance,


ta-rider 01-17-2013 02:07 AM

Hi Cord,


Originally Posted by CordR (Post 20503650)
I realize it probably could be done, I'm just wondering if that's too rushed and I'd always feel like I'm racing.

We are talking about 10.000 km so with just 4-5 weeks you will be rasing. There would be no time to walk up Machu Picchu, take a boat to visit the Uros Indians on there floating islands or enjoy some days at the beautifull oasis Huacachima.
Also to hike up a Vulcano in Chile takes time but without visiting those places there is no point of going there.


Enjoy it, Tobi

crashmaster 01-17-2013 07:29 AM


Originally Posted by CordR (Post 20503650)
I don't want to race through all the countries as some sort of conquest

Then dont do it. Pick one or two countries and have fun instead of watching the world vibrate through your visor for 4 weeks. It would be real easy to spend a month in one country and have a fantastic experience.

In Colombia, Mike from Casa Blanca and Motolombia rents nice bikes, with or without him as a guide. Peru has plenty of moto-tour operators and you can probably just rent a bike there as well. Bolivia I'm not sure about, but Fernando at KTM Santa Cruz might be set up to do that as well.

Heck, you can even go buy a cheap chinese bike, ride it for a month, then sell it before going home. Lots of options for a memorable trip without blasting 10,000 miles and not be able to see or do anything.

CordR 01-17-2013 04:21 PM

Thanks for the input.

The irony is I just had a conversation with a friend who is going to Europe (non moto vacation) and I was giving the same type of advice....better to see a few things well than a lot of things barely.

Does anyone have an idea of what a minimum would be to 'comfortably' cover the distance?

3 months?

Again, I realize this is all extremely subjective.

The idea of renting bikes while down there has indeed occurred to me and I may go that route. I'll give it some more thought.

Thanks again for the input.


DRRambler 01-17-2013 05:42 PM

I haven't done it yet, but I'll be taking 3.5 months for the Colombia/Ushuaia portion when I do. I'd rather have 6 months but you have to work with what you have.
Couple years ago I rode 10,000km in 3 weeks. Pavement only, in North America. It was fun but the pace was silly and I smelled very few roses (plenty of pig farms). I can't imagine 4-5 weeks in S.A. covering 10,000k would be very enjoyable.

Leminkainen 01-17-2013 06:05 PM

I think it comes down to what you think you want to see and what you want to allow your self to see...

There are lots of great reports out there to help get some ideas. Also you can check out lonely planet, the hubb, and other places to give you ideas of things to see...

There are lots of ideas/places/sights that are going to be more personal. Things that you might care about other might find boring...

Places to start thinking about but not everything: hiking, history, arcitector, riding, scuba diving, backpacking, learning the language, conservation, volunteering, etc

There are lots and lots of things that you can get and do. I hope that helps a little


crashmaster 01-17-2013 07:50 PM

I took 2 years and still thought it was a bit short. I've read reports where folks do it in 3 months and had fun, but thought 4 would be a bit better to not always feel so pressed for time. Remember, you will have to deal with maintenance days, parts finding days, I met a hot girl days, chill out days, man this place is so cool days, etc. You need to have some padding in your trip planning. Shit will happen that will cost you time, count on it. The shorter amount of time you have, the more pre-trip planning you have to do. I had the luxury of doing my planning on a daily basis, whatever I felt like doing on any given day was my plan. I had the luxury of time.

Of course if your goal is to just say you rode to Ushuaia, then 30 days might work for you. That's not my thing, however for some folks it is and that's fine too. Trips are personal things, we are all different in what we want to get out of it.

One bit of advice I would give is that if you are pressed for time, start in Colombia. North Americans can ride Mexico and CA any time with minimal expense and hassle compared to jumping the gap. If you're going to just blast through Mexico and CA to get to the southlands, you might as well fly to Colombia. Heck I spent almost 2 months in Guatemala alone, and still didnt see everything. In SA I stayed a long time in most every country and was still sad to leave, feeling like I really didnt get to know it properly. SA is a huge continent with many, many incredible sights to see and things to experience. Its' well worth as much time as you can give it.

Another thing that might be good to do with 4 weeks is to simply take off from Canada and go ride until you have to turn around. If you like to see and experience things, I doubt you would ever get south of Mexico, but it would still be a fantastic trip. That way, you dont need a plan. You only have to decide when its time go fast, time to go slow, and time to turn around and head home. And you can blast home very quickly if need be. There is a certain satisfaction of leaving home on your bike, travel to far away places, and return, on the bike. Its a pretty satisfying feeling when you pull into your driveway at home.

Also, for me, the most impressive countries were Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, but they are all interesting in their own right, even the Guianas. No matter what decision you make for a country to visit in 30 days time, you will enjoy yourself.

CordR 01-17-2013 08:17 PM

Thanks for the feedback, all.

They're all valid points.

I guess I'm getting caught with the two sides of my Gemini brain. By nature, I'm more of a 'smell the roses' rider and what I want in SA is to get more in touch with the culture and the sites as opposed to traveling a distance for the sake of it. I'd like to see it all, but it's probably going to have to be broken up into several trips rather than one long one.

I already had the plan of flying to Colombia and I've seen reports of people falling in love with it and staying longer than expected. And then the next one and the next one and the next one...

I guess I was just trying to pack it all in with some sort of unconscious 'gotta get it all or I don't know when I'll be able to go back' type of thing, which is not the smartest route to take.

If I decide at some point that I can get a minimum of 4-6 months and possible stretch it longer, then I'll consider doing the whole thing. Otherwise, I'll just focus on a certain country or two.

Thanks for reminding me about common sense!


crashmaster 01-17-2013 08:25 PM


Originally Posted by CordR (Post 20513635) Colombia and I've seen reports of people falling in love with it and staying longer than expected. And then the next one and the next one and the next one...

That pretty much describes my Latin America moto travels. :lol3 Colombia was like freaking Hotel California. I could never seem to get my ass in gear to get out of there, going either South, or North.

Leminkainen 01-18-2013 10:14 PM


Originally Posted by crashmaster (Post 20513696)
That pretty much describes my Latin America moto travels. :lol3 Colombia was like freaking Hotel California. I could never seem to get my ass in gear to get out of there, going either South, or North.

I believe that you had some influence other than the bike though:raabia


crashmaster 01-20-2013 10:56 AM


Originally Posted by Leminkainen (Post 20522922)
I believe that you had some influence other than the bike though:raabia


Valid point. :lol3

bananaman 01-20-2013 11:53 PM

5 weeks is plenty.

Bogota-Quito: 3 days.
Quito-Lima: 3 days.
Lima-Cuzco: 2 days.
Macchu Picchu: 1 day (I wasn't impressed)
Cuzco-San Pedro de Atacama: 2 days.
San Pedro de Atacama-Jujuy: 1 day.
Jujuy-Ushuaia: 7 days.
Ushuaia: 2 days.
Ushuaia-Buenos Aires: 3 days.
Shipping Buenos Aires-Home: 3 days.
Total riding/busy days: 27

Any more than that is just fucking around. I mean having adventures and stuff. So you could tag Bolivia or the high salt lakes by Jama for a couple of days, or ride Ruta 40 for a couple of days, or hit Mendoza for a couple of days.

I don't consider this to be an extreme ride. Far, yes, but not hard if you like good long days of riding, which is exactly what I like. It's fairly easy to stay on good pavement except for where there's some construction and then when you get to Tierra del Fuego there might be some fun ripio for a hundred miles. Once you get past Colombia and Ecuador the roads get fairly straight and you can go as fast as you dare.

crashmaster 01-21-2013 12:01 PM


Originally Posted by bananaman (Post 20538845)
5 weeks is plenty.

Any more than that is just fucking around.


CordR 01-23-2013 04:13 PM

Thanks, bananman.

The truth is I don't know what my 'adventure' pace is like because I haven't done a trip longer than a week yet. My guess is I want to see the culture and the people as much as the geography, so I won't be in a rush.

Perhaps I should have started the thread with 'what's a realistic amount of South America to see in 4-5 weeks on a leisurely timeline'?

Balancing the 'I want to see it all' with 'I can only take so much time away at this point' is a tough one, probably leading me to cramming more in than I realistically want to.



bananaman 01-23-2013 09:49 PM


Originally Posted by crashmaster (Post 20542069)

So a friend of mine is about to turn 50. She's planning a "trip of a lifetime." She's not sure if she wants to do Greece, Istanbul, or "The Southern Cone."

She has 18 days.

I told her that if she wants to do Greece, then DO GREECE. 18 days is barely enough to do Athens, Olympia, Korinthos, Hydra, and a few other islands. She expects to be able to do Istanbul, Greece, Southern Italy, and then Tuscany. By plane, bus, and train.

She couldn't define "The Southern Cone," but she seems to think it includes Santiago, Buenos Aires, and Uruguay. I told her to to to BA and just fucking stay there. Or maybe also see Mendoza, but whatever romantic idea she has about a "southern cone" seemed... like if somebody who doesn't know about travel and has never been to South America was looking at one of those flat maps and then making totally ass-hole assumptions.

We forgot to mention to the OP that the weather can make a huge difference. Like when I went through Ecuador and Peru, I didn't have a choice between the Panamericana and the Mountains, on account of epic rains that washed out the roads. As in, THE ROADS WEREN'T THERE. So I had to stick to the Pan Americana, which worked out fine because I ended up making great time. Like in the desert, where there's nothing to see but ghost towns and sand.

If the OP's time-off coincides with South America's winter, then going to Ushuaia by motorcycle is a fool's errand. It can be done, but it's going to be really, really fucking cold.

If the OP wants to tool around a really cool country, then Colombia is probably the place to go. For me- IMHO- Colombia is cool, but it's mainly more and more and more of the same. (Disclaimer: I was raised in Panama. For me, Colombia is cool, but not so cool that I wanted to spend weeks and weeks there.) Otherwise, Argentina is pretty cool. If I was going to spend 5 weeks in one country, I'd probably choose Argentina.

And if I wanted to RIDE, as in, actually RIDE, then I'd fly into Bogota and ride all the way to Ushuaia on about a liter of dual sport. (I don't know if I'd do it on a BMW GS, a big KTM, or a V-Strom. I love my BMW, but the V-Strom is faster, and the big KTM is waaaay more fun.)

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