The Roballos Pass is an Andean gateway between Argentina and Chile. We recall the tiny border crossing, where customs officers don't have much work, as one of the most beautiful places in Patagonia. At the begging, however, the road conditions gave us a pretty hard time, and out of sudden, a heavy snow fell from thick clouds. So we cursed this pass and regretted that we hadn't chosen a crossing in Chile Chico, located more to the North. Fortunately, the amazing landscape at the border and Patagonia National Park in Chile made up for us all the hardships and we quickly forgave the conditions on the road.
The pass connects the town of Cochrane in Chile with Baja Caracoles on the Argentine side, from where road No. 41 takes you 90 km to the custom officers' shed. Unfortunately, it is a 90 km ride on a washboard road and here and there on muddy stones. Your bike shakes terribly and you can't go fast, so making 100 km takes about 4 hours. In addition, we experienced a strong wind, which interfered with keeping the right track along the stony trail. We gave up about 30 km before the border and pitched a tent, hoping for better conditions in the morning. There was no sign that it would rain the next day when we get up. Moreover, the rain suddenly turned into a snow and it kept snowing for 8 hours. The weather is changeable there and difficult to predict. After lying and waiting one day in a tent, it got beautifully sunny again. The fresh snow painted the mountain peaks in white and the landscape looked like in the most fabulous postcards from Patagonia.
The closer the Argentine customs clearance, the more beautiful the views. It seems like very few people drive this way. We passed maybe two cars and two fellow bikers from the USA. In a small building on the border we were done with all paper work in several minutes and drove through an open gate towards Chile.
Chilean customs clearance, 10 km away from Argentina, also didn't take too long, and the customs didn't even want to check our baggage. Before, when entering Chile, we were always searched and asked if we had fruits, vegetables or other fresh food. It seemed that it was easier to smuggle weapon than these groceries, but on the Roballos Pass everyone was laid back.
Once you enter Chile, Patagonia Park welcomes you with breathtaking panorama. It was established as national park in 2018 thanks to cooperation of Chilean President Michelle Bachelet with deceased American philanthropist Doug Tompkins. This billionaire, known as the owner of The North Face, gave the Chilean government over a million hectares of space that he had bought decades ago. Together with his wife Kristine McDivitt Tompkins, the owner of the outdoor company Patagonia, they devoted themselves to saving the Patagonian fauna and flora. It is thanks to their efforts that we can admire the natural beauty of Chilean nature today. They purchased the lands, invested in the environment preservation and fought against international corporations that wanted to extract whatever was precious there.
Admission to Patagonia National Park is free. Campsites are priced from $ 8 per person.
On the park's website you can find more information and download maps.
The road through Patagonia National Park is more comfortable than the one on the Argentine side of the Roballos Pass, although at the beginning we also had to deal with washboard at a low speed. Later it's possible to speed up, but probably not many riders feel such need, wanting to enjoy the beautiful panorama as long as possible.
Further towards Cochrane, the route connects with road number 7, which is the famous, epic Carretera Austral.
Info about the Roballos Pass
|Start / end||Baja Caracoles / Cochrane|
|Surface||Sand with a deep washboard, sections with loose stones, puddles|
|Accessibility||Open all year round, sometimes closed due to big snowfall|
|Hazards||A strong, side wind may occur|
|Attractions on the way||Patagonia National Park, plenty of guanaco|
|Maximum altitude||677 m a.s.l.|