How long does it take to bike through South America anyway?
Will we freeze to death in the mountains?
And how much does a trip like this cost anyway?
For these answers and more, read on...
Things were especially difficult for us because Cole's been working full-time in the Cities while I was working in the Czech Republic. After weeks of individual planning, Cole and I were finally able to meet for a day in the Augsburg College library to sort through all of our information.
So, if you're looking to plan a trip similar to ours, here's how we would recommend doing it:
1. Stay organized
Use an online tool like Google Drive or Evernote to save every bit of information that you find. We created an spreadsheet and saved everything from packing lists, favorite websites, recommended foods, personal finances, contact information, suggested routes, information about specific countries, and many other things.
2. How long will you travel? (or, how much will it cost?)
The length of your stay will most likely depend on two things: do you have a committment to return home to (work, family, school, something else?) and for how long can you financially afford to be gone? For us, finances were the main concern, but first we had to figure out just how much a trip like this costs?
Will you be eating out every night, or sticking with bread and cheese for lunch everyday?
Will you be staying in hotels, or will you be trying to stay everywhere for free? Remember that prices vary greatly as a room in rural Bolivia may cost you $5 a night, while a hostel in Santiago may cost you $20.
Estimates that we've found online have been all over the place; some say that you should expect to spend $5-10 per day and some say $35+. While we will occasionally splurge on a night out, a salsa lesson or two, and maybe even a nice, comfy hotel bed, most of the time we won't be spending a lot of money; our early estimates are that we'll spend about $15 per day.
Here's our estimated cost chart:
3. Where do you want to travel to?
Initially, our goal was to land the canoe in New Orleans, hop on some bikes and cruise to Mexico, go through Central/South America, and stop at the end of the road (literally) in Ushuaia, the southernmost town in the world. Unfortunately, as we mentioned above, we could only afford to travel for about 10 months and this just wouldn't be physically possible on our bikes.
Therefore, we decided to set a realistic destination goal and try to bike to Buenos Aires.
With your goal in mind, you can now begin to work backwards on your route. Thanks to google maps and information provided by Jeff Kruys on the Crazy Guy on a Bike Forums, we were able to use his general biking route and his very detailed mileage count (which is originally in kilometers... we converted it to miles for you below).
Using these figures, we were able to estimate our mileage per country (pretty liberally, I may add) and to work our way up north from Buenos Aires. First, we decided to see how many days it would take to travel from Bogota to Buenos Aires.
4. So what's the weather like anyway?
Now that we know where we're going (Liberia to Buenos Aires), and for how long (8 months of biking), we need to find out what the weather will be like and when would be the best time to travel.
It get's pretty cold in Southern Chile and Argentina during June and July (remember, winter and summer months are opposite when comparing the Northern and Southern hemispheres). Therefore, we decided to chart the monthly average temperature highs and lows for various cities that one may end up biking through. The yellow highlights represent the general time of the year that we hope to be traveling through those cities. Click on the image to enlarge.
We hope that this helps you plan your trip, and as always, if you have any questions, be sure to post them in the forum.
Also, be sure to check out "Planning (pt. 2)."