Ask the expert

Jon Bowermaster

Fresh from the publication of his book Birthplace of the Winds: Storming Alaska's Islands of Fire and Ice, Jon Bowermaster is gearing up for a Cuban odyssey and, later this spring, a 60-day kayaking expedition in Vietnam. Jon's explorations include dogsled travels in the Arctic and Antarctica and first-ever raft descents in Chile and China. A resident of Paris and New York State, he is the author of six books and has chronicled numerous adventures (his own and others') for many popular magazines, including National Geographic, National Geographic Adventure, and National Geographic Traveler.

Let me know when Jon posts answers!

Expedition Adviser

Dogsledding the Antarctic? Paddling the Aleutians? Rafting an untested Chinese river? You name it, author-explorer Jon Bowermaster's been there, done that. And now he'll help you plan your own adventure. But type fast—any day now he's leaving for a two-month trip to kayak Vietnam.


Jon, I understand you've spent a lot of time in Chile. You must go there for a reason. What is it? How does the country compare to Argentina? I was kicking around the idea of a north to south bike tour. But would you recommend a different mode of travel? Bus? Burro? (Something simple, where one could engage the culture and land…). Care to squeal about a favorite place there? Thanks amigo.

—Liam, Washington, D.C.

Dear Liam,

I first went to Chile in 1990, just as the Pinochet years were ending, and since then I've been back almost every year. I've gone mostly for the adventure—to raft the big rivers, climb in the Andes, hike the deserts.

It's a great country—imagine the geography from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Juneau, Alaska. That's exactly what you'll find in the 3,000-mile [4,827-kilometer] long Chile.

There is a single road that leads from the Peruvian border all the way to Tierra del Fuego. I'd suggest it in a car, though, rather than bike or bus. Drivers in Chile are notoriously bad—the roadsides littered with memorial animas testifying to crashes—and I'm afraid they might not look out for bicyclists.

That said, you might consider biking the 1,000-mile [1,600-kilometer] Camino Austral, the mostly-dirt road leading south out of Puerto Montt. The road links dozens of communities that, until its completion in the 1980s, were totally isolated, cut-off from the rest of the country and Argentina.

As for favorite places, that's simple: San Pedro de Atacama, a great little desert town in the north, close to a variety of natural wonders from geysers to salt lakes, and Futaleufu, home-base for rafters and kayakers taking on one of the world's great whitewater rivers…the Futaleufu.

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