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The red line is the route we cycled. We flew into Anchorage airport, in Alaska, on 25th July 2003 and from there travelled by bus to Fairbanks via Denali National Park to commence our cycle journey. The plane tickets we had purchased required us to make our return flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina within a year (ie. before 24th July 2004).
General Route Considerations
Since setting out on the journey we have heard of and met a number of others who are cycling the length of some or all of North, Central and South America. All have different routes, however, so far the general trend is to remain on or close to the Pacific Coast. This trend is particularly so for the sections from Vancouver to San Diego and the Andean route from Columbia/Ecuador to Chile. Indeed we believe it was the route of the first cyclist to succeed with a journey by bicycle from Alaska to Argentina in 1972, one of whom we had the pleasure of meeting at Adventure Cycles offices in Missoula.
We chose a somewhat different route taking us through the Rocky Mountains crossing from Canada into Montana then on through Idaho and further south into Nevada before heading more west into California from where we picked up the coastal route down into Baja California. The decision to head through the Rocky Mountains was based on a number of considerations not least because of the beauty of this range of mountains. But in addition Beth's cousin, who she has not visited for over 10 years lives in Calgary which is more accessible via this route. Other considerations included our desire to escape the seemingly continual rains of the Canadian coast and the fires which at the time were raging in the Okanogan Valley. The route through the Rockies to some extent dictated our passage into the States but we were keen to explore Idaho which in our opinion was the most beautiful state we cycled through.
Many Americans recommended we head west from Montana to the coast avoiding the deserts of Nevada, however, it seemed that with the ever more frequent negative comments our curiosity grew. Whilst it is a barren part of the States it has a beauty we had not seen elsewhere and the notion that we would be stretched to our limits with provisions and water turned out not to be entirely true with provisions available at one place or other virtually every day. Indeed, the abandoned settlements and areas within east California proved more demanding in this respect. Clearly in the deserts of Nevada, particularly during hotter months, there is a need to carry an extra weight of water but this by no means need influence the decision to cycle here.
From the USA we had originally thought that we would continue on an almost directly south route into Mexico via the Nogales border crossing. However, along our way we met many people whose raves about the Baja peninsula convinced us to incorporate it into our route.
On the Mexico mainland we again left the Pacific coast to climb up into the cooler Central Highlands and the cities of Guadalajara and Mexico, a route decision based both on the desire to see both the ancient and modern cities of the highlands but also to escape the heat of the coastal plains. Whilst we crossed from Mexico to Guatemala via the Pacific coast we again headed for the cooler climate of the Guatemalan highlands and on to the Atlantic side from where we passed south into Honduras and Nicaragua. In Costa Rica we decided to follow a more coastal route continuing on to Panama City.
From Panama, having failed to find a boat to take us to Colombia, we took a flight to Cartagena on the northern coast of Columbia. From Cartagena we headed east towards Caracas before heading in a more southerly direction through the central areas of Venezuela, crossing the Orinoco River and passing through the Gran Sabana into the Amazonian region of Brazil. From here our route continues south to the Pantanal, Iguazu Falls and on to our final destination of Argentina and the City of Buenos Aires.
Our aim to travel the less cycled route through the tropical rain forests of the Amazon region and on through the Pantanal, the high plains of Brazil and Argentina came from an interest in this vast expanse of rivers and plateaus and the culture surrounding life in these areas which neither of us had previously visited. Whilst the Andean route through South America offers great variety of scenery, culture and cool mountain climate it is a route well trodden by backpackers and cyclists alike as well as an area within which Beth had travelled previously. Travel through Brazil has presented many challenges, particularly in the section between Santarem and Cuiaba. Cycling through an area where travel overland is the secondary form of transport to that by waterways means that difficulties have to be expected.
Our route south from Cuiaba took us through Campo Grande from where we were able to explore the Panatanal wetlands. The road between Cuiaba and Campo Grande was one of the most unpleasant we travelled due to the volume of lorries and narrow roads. As we reached the more southern parts of Brazil the number of possible routes increased and we were able to find alternative quieter routes.
Once we crossed into Argentina the roads initially appeared very good but this soon changed and we found ourselves again sharing narrow roads with a stream of lorries. This eventually led us to a decision to divert our route into Uruguay which turned out to provide road conditions exceeding our hopes. We headed south through Uruguay following the River Parana close to the border with Argentina until we met the banks of the Rio de La Plata at Colonia from where we were able to catch a ferry back to the Argentinean side of the River and cycle on into the centre of Buenos Aires to complete our journey.
More detail on our route can be seen on the individual country maps.
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