Four mates on four motorbikes riding through the Andes for four months — what sounds like the makings of a riveting travel documentary became the trip of a lifetime for a group of daring young Peninsula men.
Documenting the journey on their @boizon650s Instagram account, 22-year-olds James Lloyd Moignard, Max Pragt, Nicholas Rose and Ezra Ronchi-Banay began their South American odyssey in Santiago last May — only to hit their first snag after less than 50km with a breakdown in Rancagua, south of the Chilean capital. After struggling to find a safe campsite in a dodgy outer suburb, they set up their tent only to discover it was missing a flyscreen.
During the next four months the friends faced many challenges, but these became among the most memorable moments of their trip. They managed to avoid spending a night camped out in minus 25C weather when they stumbled across a chemical plant and were offered shelter after pleading their case in limited Spanish. When Max’s motorbike broke down he had to endure a 24-hour, 1500km ride in the back of a truck to the nearest Kawasaki mechanic. Oh, and then they found a DIY raft and all jumped on without a thought. Seconds later they realised they were moving too quickly with the flowing rapids and were approaching exposed rocks and ledges – abandon ship!
“They were tough challenges at the time, but we developed a resilience to them and we mostly had a positive attitude to keep us going,” said Max.
James said, “We always managed to laugh about our misfortunes, poor judgements and experiences. All thrill, no compromise.”
There were also many chance encounters that brought them good fortune. Assisting a fellow rider with limited tools and basic mechanical knowledge saw a new friend made and an invitation to dinner, which included sharing his valuable knowledge of the Andes. It was an example of a passing stranger and a ‘what could’ve been’. Farther on, a police roadblock in the Atacama Desert forced them to call a halt to their journey until the next day — and that morning they were greeted with the rare sight of snow covering the desert. They marvelled at the blanket of white — and then proceeded to carve out the words “BOIZ ON 650’S” in the snow for an ultra-cool holiday snap.
Another real highlight was their week in the Chilean town of San Pedro de Atacama with Andrés, a veteran of the gruelling Dakar Rally. “We lucked out when we met Andrés,” James said. “He welcomed us with open arms, and while being old enough to be our dad, he was totally cool and showed us San Pedro’s vibrant nightlife but also the hidden gems that lay within the world’s most arid non-polar desert, including waterholes, Moon Valley, the snow-tipped volcanoes bordering Bolivia and all the fun between.”
“He took us on enduro trails through canyons, over sand dunes, through the desert and salt lakes, and up into the Andes,” Max said. “He taught us how to actually ride bikes off-road and through dirt and sand, pushed us to the limits of our ability — and very often too far — and got us completely hooked on going off-road.”
Would they do it again? “Yes, in a heartbeat,” said Nick. “It was the most liberating experience of my life. You don’t often get to travel in the most beautiful parts of the world with your best mates. Seeing what’s in between the attractions is what travelling by motorcycle is all about.”