Right or Wrong, Blow your Horn


Day 23. Dec. 5: Cusco, Peru.

Once again, it has been days since a blog post. We are now in Peru and have two days off. Why? Because most of the participants are going to Machu Picchu. We will not go. Lots of reasons, but now we are glad this didn’t work for us because we both have some effects of altitude sickness. Ed more than me. Fatigue, shortness of breath mainly, but it’s not a good feeling. It is difficult even to walk far in this lovely town, the center of Inca culture. I did walk to the main square, Plaza de Armas, and photographed la Catedral and other churches that sourround it. img_2589

Our hotel Monasterio, has it’s own history. It was built in 1595 as a monastery and has retained its distinction and charm.img_2574

 

 

Back a bit in rally time. We crossed the border on Dec. 1. A four hour process that took valuable time in what should have been a relatively short driving day. Nothing compared to our crossing from China to Kazakhstan, in 2011, that was 10 hours.

Peru is not like either Argentina or Chile. Here are my first impressions.

  1. The food is better.
  2. The drivers are worse. Rude and aggressive. There are no lanes in most towns, few posted street signs and the only way to get through an intersection is to push on in. Not our style of driving which sets off a lot of horn honking. Traffic jams are the norm. fullsizerender-25
  3. Peru is more exotic than either Argentina or Chile. It is like stepping back in time.
  4. Traditional dress is the norm for older women complete with Peruvian hats. The contrast between the young with cell phones and jeans and the old is startling. fullsizerender-29
  5. All these countries have a great deal of poverty. I don’t know if Peru is really worse, it seems so, but that may be the route we are driving. The people who live in the desert of Chile are certainly poor and hardy. Houses are adobe brick or tar paper.
  6. Peru has some of the most spectacular scenery with lush farmland and mountains too.
  7. Peru has high altitudes, not just border crossings. Cusco is at 10,000 feet.

I must go back to our favorite stop so far. It was in Atacama, Chile, in the Atacama desert. Our hotel img_2478was beautiful, surrounded by the desert and volcanos. It reminded us of the wonderful safari lodges in Africa, minus the elephants, zebras and giraffes. We did see lots of llamas and alpacas though.

 

 

A little about the rally. The discussion at dinner is mostly about car problems from an axel breaking, overheating in the high altitudes, suspension failure, tire replacements, broken shackle bolts, headlights and cracks in windshields. Many, including us, have experienced vapor lock in the high heat and altitude. So far we have mostly been sympathetic listeners. Hope it stays this way.

img_2522One fascinating stop was an abandoned Saltpetre village in Humberstone, Chile. Very eerie, and reminded us of the abandoned mining towns in the US west.

 

 

Before we leave here Wednesday, we will take in an opera show and dinner at our hotel. Then we head to Nazca, Peru and will take a flight over the Nazca lines which were created by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 AD for reasons still debated. Then just one more day and we will finish in Lima.

 


							
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Over the Top


Nov. 29. Day 17. It’s been days since I’ve posted. Thanksgiving has come and gone while we crossed  borders We have crossed the border to Chile, back to Argentina and back again to Chile. img_2349Our days have been long and many of them hot. By the time we get into our hotel, there has been no time for anything except a shower, dinner and bed. However we have a day off and I hope to give you a flavor of our last days.

On day 16, we had a long hard drive, over 550 km  from Salta, Argentina, crossing the fullsizerender-21Andes and the border at Paso Jama. This is the most northerly border between Argentina and Chile and reaches a height of 15,000 feet. The road still rises after that to 15,764 feet (according to my Garmin). Yes, this is a part of  our ascent. We had concerns about ourselves and Stewball. We crossed here with a few other cars, but the rally route crossed at a lower altitude on a road that is partly gravel, our route was a longer and higher, but with better road conditions. Fuel was a problem, but fortunately we did locate a fuel station along the way.  (Some of the rally cars did not make it and had to be towed to a station at the end of the day.)img_2460-2

Bottom line, Stewball did experience some vapor lock but never let us down. We did take some puffs of oxygen we had brought along and experienced a few symptoms of altitude sickness, namely, headaches and muscle weakness when we were out of the car at the border and had to exert ourselves walking into the border control. By the time we got to our hotel we had entered the desert, passed the famous salt flats and fullsizerender-19descended to 9,700 feet. We were ready to collapse and give Stewball a much needed rest. This is the highest point on the rally and while we will be at 10,00 feet in Cusco, we are confident we will make that without difficulty.

img_2468Our hotel, Tierra Atacama is the best so far on the rally. We are in the Atacama Desert with volcanos in the distance. The views are spectacular as they were on most of the drive here. Nights get quite cold and days are hot. img_2471This morning I had the opportunity to walk into the dusty town of San Pedro de Atacama with Marian, a rally friends from Australia to buy a few things. This is a popular tourist destination for serious hikers, photographers and adventure img_2475tourists. Tonight the hotel will put on a Chilean barbecue with lamb and live music. I’m looking forward to that. A great end to a wonderful break.

Tomorrow we are  on the road again traveling along the coastline of Chile almost to the border of Peru.

 

 

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Crossing to Chile


Days 8-10, Nov. 20-22

The internet  here will not support photos so I’ll add them later.

On our rest day in Bariloche during which most everyone worked on their cars in the morning. The parking lot looked like a picnic grounds until you realized all the colorful bags were car parts. Fellow participant, Brant Parson, a air-cooled Vdub guy, agreed to change Stewball’s oil and adjust his valves. Jobs that would have taken Ed all day. We can’t thank Brant enough!

Our next day including crossing the border to Chile. Trump hasn’t been here so there is no wall, just beautiful mountains in the background. The Chilean border guards had been on strike the border closed much of each day so we were glad to hear all would be well for our crossing. It went smoothly, if not slowly because Chile is VERY invested in making sure nothing comes in that might corrupt their fruit and vegetable crops. That being said, after passing through immigrations and customs, every car had to unload everything in it and put it though a scanner. This was a very time-consuming process and perhaps since we were nearly at the end of the line, or perhaps because we are old, we only were required to take out one suitcase at the discretion of the guard. (BTW, everyone was warm and friendly on both sides of the border.) The suitcase contained our spare parts so was passed through quickly.

We have figured out how to avoid the rough, fast gravel regularities and had planned to do so on day 9 into Concepcion. Then we had a second reason to do so. Friends, John and Marian had a serious car problem with their MG. The Universal joint was problematic. We offered to follow behind them along the Pan-American highway straight in so John could get to work on his car and have it on the road the next day. Turns out our GPS took us a different way than theirs did, so much of the time we really weren’t behind them!

Now, some things I have learned about Chile after two days of driving.

  1. The Chilean pesos is equal to $674.00. Very hard to work out the exchange rate.
  2. Chileans are less demonstrative than Argentinians. They do smile at our car but no whistles or shouts.
  3. Chile has great red wine. (Probably white as well, but no experience here.)
  4. Route 5 is the Pan-American highway and equal to any US interstate but with frequent tolls of 3,000 pesos.
  5. Farming is modern but we did see carts drawn with oxen and a farmer with two mules pulling a wooden plow.

We have now traveled from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific and in two countries. After this day off at the sea, we cross the Andes back to Argentina. We will climb to nearly 10,000 feet. Sort of a test for cars and participants before we do the really high one at 15,000. More on that after it is done.

Janet, Ed and Stewball.

 

 

 

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Llamas, dancing and, a Steam Engine


Days 5-7. Nov. 17-19. Puerto Madryn to Bariloche

So many things are now happening it is hard to summarize them all. But here are some high points.

On Day 5 we had a Welsh tea in the town of Gaiman. I had no idea there was a Welsh area of Argentina where Welsh is the first language and Spanish is the second. Tea was good but the highlight was the children dancing in traditional dress. fullsizerender-15The second feature of the day was the sighting of a llama at the side of the road. Unfortunately stopping our car scared him and I didn’t get a photo. Still thrilling. Our hotel was definitely not the highlight, but most likely the best available in Esquel.

img_2268-1Day 6 to Bariloche put us in very different terrain. We are away from the flat coast, heading west into the mountains. Beautiful snow-covered mountains which I think will be the norm for the next days. We saw gauchos on horseback with their sheep dogs. But the real highlight for Ed was the lunch stop in San Martin. We had lunch on the train platform and they had powered up the steam fullsizerender-14locomotive for us. Ed’s nearly first love is steam locomotives and he was able to sit in the engineer’s seat and pull the whistle. He really wanted to drive down the track, but there were school children onboard and they wouldn’t let him. He was in heaven.

We followed the gravel rally road in the afternoon into Bariloche to the upscale resort of Llao Llao. A picturesque place for our day off. The weather is now quite cold in the mornings but still warm in the afternoon.

Day 7, a day off. People ask what we do on our days off. Well, it depends, but the parking lot looked a lot like a group picnic fullsizerender-6until you realized the stuff scattered on the ground was tool boxes and repair parts. Some were doing preventive maintenance, others major repairs. (We are still missing Ann and Ronald and their Camero. They had to replace an engine in Bahia Blanca. We hope they catch up before we have to cross the border). With a big thank you to Brant Parsons car 41 who changed our oil and adjusted the valves, img_2281Stewball is ready to head to Chile .

 

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Entering Patagonia


Days 3 and 4: Nov. 15, 16. From Bahia Blanca to Puerto Madryn 769 km.

Day 3 was a very long day.  There are more to come but this one was long enough. Nothing to photograph along the road so far. There has been little to see of any note. Lots of farm and pasture land,  with a yawning ,monotonous straight road through it all. Very reminiscent of the Outback in Australia, minus the road trains. However, there were trucks that brought back scenes of China.img_2199

 

 

The road (highway 3) is so flat that the signs to denote hills are really only bumps in the road. I think the highway department passed out these signs to each province and they had to put them up some place. We have never had to shift to a lower gear but then we know we have a climb to 15,000 ft. coming crossing from Chili to Peru. I wonder what the signage will be like there? Do you even see a rise here? img_2197

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I have been hunting exotic animals but so far this is as close as we have come to a llama. I am still hopeful.

One thing of note is the number of vehicles, cars, buses and truck that run on natural gas. Every station we have used, has lanes for natural gas as well as gasoline and diesel. In fact, there are stations that only have natural gas. I don’t know any gas stations in the US that offer natural gas. Maybe it is just my area of the country.

Day 4 is a day off. We are at a lovely spot on the ocean, Puerto Madryn. I don’t know img_2207when high season is here, but it’s not now. It is sunny, but cold and windy. Even the whale spotting tour was cancelled because of the wind. Too bad, I was hoping to see whales.

img_2220Before you wonder what we do on a day off, this is what the parking lot looked like all morning and much of the afternoon. Stewball doesn’t need any work, but Ed did adjust the latch that holds the hood down and I gave him a cleaning inside and out just so we could be part of the action.

Once again, we had lots of Argentinians taking photos and I was asked by a very young visitor (in Spanish) if he could have a photo with  Stewball and me. How could I say no to him.img_2223

Back on the road again tomorrow heading mostly west where the first language is Welsh and the second, Spanish. I don’t know the history of why this region is Welsh, perhaps after tomorrow I will.

Janet, Ed and Stewball

 

 

 

 

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Baptism by Fire


inca-rally

Days 1 and 2: Buenos Aires to Mar Del Plata and on to Bahia Blanca

First I have to tell you how many things I have learned about Argentina in two days of rallying.

  1. The Beetle is an Icon here. Motorists honk, take photos out their car windows, and wave. Pedestrians give us thumbs up, whistle, and wave, children stare.img_2163 (or are they responding to all the rally cars this way? I prefer to think they love our  Stewball.)
  2. Apparently the best Argentine beef is exported.
  3. The weather in November is hot, dry, and very windy.
  4. Argentinians are courteous, polite drivers except in cities where creative driving is required to manage the unusual round-abouts. No, you do not go clockwise around them, but roads go off at unusual angles.
  5. The roads are clean of liter but are polluted by billboards just like the US.
  6. Our limited polling clearly points out that Argentinians are not Trump fans and maybe the reason they are so friendly is they feel a little embarrassed for us. (OK, that’s my editorializing.)

Now, back to Baptism by Fire. In past rallies, the first day is usually a bit easy to let everyone get over jet lag, back into the swing of things, and let newbies to learn the ropes. Not this one. We did start day 1 at 9:00 which is an abnormally late start time. Day 2 started at 7:30 and we covered 518 km! However, on day 1 we had two time- trials (also called regularities by the Brits) and one race track speed test. I drove the race track but did not set any speed records. It was raining and the track was wet and the rear engine tends to slide out. That’s the only reason.

Now for those who don’t know what a time trial (regularity) means, it is this. You are given an average speed to maintain on some section of a gravel or dirt road. With turns and such along the way that must be navigated and taken into account adjusting speed. The speed is relatively high for the road conditions. This rally the speed will be 70 kph. Those who love the race element of a rally love this, so go for it. We don’t. Hard on the car and the driver/navigator. So, I think from now on, we will skip the timed sections and feel more confident that we and Stewball will finish, which is our win.

img_2180The highlight of day 1 was lunch. It was held outside at a country home in Estancia Las Viboras. Lamb slow cooked/smoked/barbecued on a spit. Delicious and we were ready since lunch was at 3:00! Our entertainment was the fullsizerender-11outstanding feature. Argentina’s iconic gauchos  (cowboys) with their horses. Quite a show.img_2177

Now day 2. We left the rally and drove on our own to Bahia Blanca. I won’t post why we did this, you’ll just have to create your own story. The challenge today was keeping Stewball on the road. Anyone following most likely thought he was driving drunk. We had near hurricane winds, I’m sure. I hope it is calmer tomorrow.

One more thing I must add. I have learned the correct response to the question: How was your day?” The answer is: “I learned a lot today.”

That means :

  1. I missed a turn (or two) but was never really lost,(just late for lunch or a check in.)
  2. I had a minor car repair, but was able to fix it without waiting for the Sweep vehicle and calling on the mechanics.
  3. I miscalculated my average speed on the time trial and….received all kinds of penalties, but it doesn’t matter since we are just on day 1 (or 2).
  4. My navigator and I are still talking and sharing a room.
  5. Wine is great. “So how was your day?”

More to come.

Janet, Ed and Stewball

P.S. We did see a Tango show before leaving Buenos Aires. Wonderful!

 

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Heads Up! South America Next


Nov. 2, 2016:

car-25

Stewball on his the way to Savannah and shipping to Argentina with his driver and navigator

 

Just a week away from our flight to Buenos Aires and the beginning of the Rally of the Incas which goes through Argentina, Chili,  and Peru. Stewball was shipped from Savannah, GA back in September. We haven’t heard, but I’m sure he is about to arrive safely.

tango  Even before the rally starts, we will join friends for a birthday party (and maybe some additional surprise?) at a dinner/tango club. I love the tango. Never learned it, but if the opportunity arises, I’m game. I’m sure we’d look this good.

A bit more on the rally route. We have never been in any of these countries, so it will all be new. After seven days in Argentina, we cross into Chili at the remote border post at Paso Tromen but then on day 12, cross back to Argentina and back to Chili on day 16.  lamas

Now here’s the real challenge, on day 21, we cross from Chilli to Peru at 14,00 feet and then climb to 15,00 feet before our descent. We and Stewball have never been at that altitude. So the question is, who will have the most trouble? We have packed O2 for us and octane booster for Stewball. Ed and I will also take Acetazolamide beginning a couple of days before our accent.Yes, Machu Picchu is on our route, a visit on a day off in Cusco.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site

I will continue to blog as often as I can as we add another driving adventure.

Janet

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