Back in 2016 our friends Hana Black and Mark Watson set out from Deadhorse, Alaska by bicycle. Their destination was Ushuaia, Argentina, at the bottom tip of South America. Their theme: to follow the American Cordillera, criss-crossing the near contiguous mountain ranges which form the Continental Divide of the Americas, including the, Rocky Mountains, Mexico's Sierra Madre and the entirety of the Andes.
Although they had planned two years for the ride, the journey ballooned to over four years. Hana and Mark ticked off most of Latin America's bikepacking routes on their way south, and along the way researched and published some of their own, including the popular Trans Mexico and Camino del Puma. They approached their route planning by looking for the remotest or quietest roads that would allow them to link some of the better-known tourism locations and cities. Well off the Gringo Trail, they discovered villages that weren't on the map and met people who had never seen foreigners before.
In March 2020, after three years and nine months on the road, Hana and Mark arrived in Coyhaique, only a few months from completing their goal, when the Covid pandemic gripped Chile. They returned to their home in New Zealand for nearly three years, but during that time never lost sight of returning to South America. Late last year, the couple returned, to resume their journey from Mendoza, Argentina, spending a further five months on the road.
On April 28th of this year, they completed their goal of cycling the length of the Americas: rolling into Ushuaia on a cold fall day after traversing sixteen countries and over 31,000 miles (50,000 km) of bikepacking.
Mark says, "We never imagined our dream of touring the Americas would become such a large part of our lives, but after a year on the road we came to realize that the ride provided a huge amount of satisfaction and discovery: it ticked every box for us, with physical and mental challenges, connection with the environment, social contact, learning and opportunities for creativity. The constantly changing cultures and landscapes maintained our interest right to the end."
Since Cusco, Peru they've been partnered with Big Agnes. They've found the Copper Spur HV UL2 bikepacking edition tent to be ideal for the wide variety of conditions they've encountered, as well as packing down efficiently for cycle travel. Other favorite gear has been the versatile Lost Ranger sleep system, Rapide SL mats and our ultralight Bearsley and Zetto down jackets.
On concluding their epic and unique ride of the Americas, Mark commented "There's a huge amount of satisfaction in arriving in Ushuaia finally, but what's been most important is filling every step of the journey with as much wonder and challenge as possible and trying to make each day memorable. Having never been south of Mexico before, we have seen and experienced so many things we could never have imagined – from the mountains to the deserts and jungles, ancient cultures, customs and the simply incredible riding we have encountered. But now that we have got this project finished there will be room in our minds to think about the next one! So stay tuned."
Learn more about their journey at www.highlux.co.nz where you'll find blog posts, route maps, and more.