Dickens put it so well – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” – but what would you expect, it was an endurance rally! This was probably best exemplified by the roads – some long, straight and in excellent condition and others hardly worth of being referred to as a road. Then there was the human aspect. Some of us were lucky enough to complete the entire 9000+ miles in our own cars while others struggled on in shared rented pickups. Then there were the mechanics, without them, even more cars would have been unable to continue. The organizers did their best to ensure everyone made it to the end and that accommodations were the very best available, however, they learned these types of events can have many unforeseen challenges. In the end, we were all part of one great community of travelers trying to reach a distant destination.
The people, both competitors and organizers were the high point of the trip. Many were acquaintances having been on Peking to Paris 2010 who became friends on The Great South American Challenge. There were 104 car entered in P to P and many of the competitors were gone each day long before we were up and came in hours after we had gone to bed. By contrast, only 29 cars were at the start for our South American adventure which gave people a chance to actually meet and become friends.
The cars were subjected to some extreme tests. In addition to the timed tests, the roads or lack thereof in some places unfortunately led to the demise of 8 of the starters. Two of the cars began the event in the touring class but before we reached our destination in Ushuaia, that group had grown to about 10. In spite of the herculean efforts of the mechanics who spent more than one all-nighter trying to keep everyone running this was a pretty high rate of attrition to say the least. On a more personal level, our trusty ’49 Cadillac motored on with only one small (it didn’t seem small at the time as we were in the middle of a test) problem – dirt or debris somewhere in the fuel system clogging the carburetor. Blowing out the fuel lines at the end of the day solved out problem for the remainder of the journey.
Of course the Andes are absolutely spectacular and we drove at altitudes as high as 15,950 feet without oxygen. Fortunately, neither of us were effected beyond our normal wacky state (what were we doing there anyway). The car was another matter but Lloyd’s advance planning by bringing another carburetor set up for higher altitudes kept us going without difficulties. We didn’t even drop any of the parts while changing carbs which we did twice as conditions dictated. Words cannot begin to describe the beauty of these mountains which is why we posted so many pictures along the way.
The accommodations were excellent and the food good if you are into buffets (there is no other way to feed this number of people day after day). Clearly, considerable effort had gone into finding and selecting the hotels. Who would have ever thought such spectacular lodging would be available in what were clearly very poor countries.
Lloyd did a great job with the all-out driving “tests” but we never conquered the “regularity/jogularity” stuff – maybe next time… We did win our class but I’m sure Lloyd’s sights were set on higher achievements. The method of scoring did little to promote competition – perhaps more competitors would evoke a different method – something to look forward to in the future.
Overall this was a fantastic trip! Not one steeped in the history of Peking to Paris but perhaps the first event in a history our children and grandchildren will learn and enjoy. The friendships we made along the way was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow which, no doubt, was located at “The End of the World” in Ushuaia – may these friendships long endure!
Long after the dust of passing trucks has settled and the images of brilliant mountains and flat deserts have faded, I will remember my fellow travelers on the great South American Challenge, both participants and staff. Granted, the roads were fantastic, except for a few from hell, and the vistas were breathtaking, but I shall treasure more the friendships of all of us striving to reach Ushuaia. I hope, and expect that we will meet again. I am particularly mindful of the travails of those teams that suffered through multiple breakdowns, tire punctures, and niggling failures. Their persistence is as remarkable as the skill and willingness of the mechanics that ministered to our creaky steeds and made them ready for the next leg. Fortunately, the Cadillac made Chuck’s and my ride far easier. Perhaps this was because everything that had come loose or fallen off during the Peking to Paris adventure had been epoxied back in place for ever, and thank goodness for the addition of disc brakes, without which I would have needed to be a far more timid driver.
To all you intrepid rallyists, and armchair rallyists, I say: travel far and travel safely.
First a little background on Ushuaia courtesy of Wikipedia.
Ushuaia is the capital of Provincia de Tierra del Fuego, Antártida e Islas del Atlántico Sur Province, Argentina. It is commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world (a title long disputed by smaller Puerto Williams). Ushuaia is located in a wide bay on the southern coast of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, bounded on the north by the Martial mountain range and on the south by the Beagle Channel. It is the only municipality in the Department of Ushuaia, which has an area of 9,390 km2 (3,625 sq mi).
Our hotel, Los Cauquenes, is very nice and located right on Beagle Channel. This was our view out the window first thing this morning. The sun’s angle is always quite low because of our southerly latitude of almost 55 degrees.
Too bad – didn’t bring my clubs. This was a very nice course which we could see right from the road.
We decided to visit the Tierra del Fuego National Park
which was created in 1960 and borders Chile. No we did not go to Chile, enough border crossings for a while (except to go home, of course).
These mountains are over in Chile. We were very lucky with the weather – despite the fact it was cloudy, we were told this was the best day in quite a while. They get so little sunshine here the children are all given large doses of vitamin D.
My Spanish does not contain a translation for the sign so I’ll call for help from the audience – my guess would be Bay of Ensenada.
But no sign is needed to express the beauty of these mountains.
Then we have the most southerly Post Office in the world – postcards and a stamp for your passport – perfect.
I think this sign basically says we were half way between nowhere …
Must have had a mail boat here, they have a dock.
We were very lucky – Bill and Biddy Bolsover had decided not to drive, hired a car which came with a driver / guide. We followed and as a consequence, we understood what we were looking at. Thanks Bill and Biddy …
Their driver / our guide at the Visitors Center – a fascinating place with all sorts of displays depicting local history.
A very lifelike canoe with native Indians paddling – as our British friends would say –”Brilliant”.
This mountain lays half in Argentina and half in Chile – I wonder how one crosses the border when climbing.
There are several bodies of water in the Park – this one is all fresh water fed by melting snow from the mountains.
I guess I forgot to mention, this part of the world has plenty of wind – enough to make waves at the water’s edge and whitecaps out on the lake.
There is no shortage of spectacular scenery here in the Park.
Something different everywhere you look.
This little walking trail promised something to do with beavers.
This little diagram detailed how beavers live and work. It also indicated that local beavers grow to 1.5 meters in length and weigh up to 50 pounds – that is a big beaver!
Apparently 25 pairs of beavers were brought here by the British to be raised for their fur. They multiplied at an incredible rate and the bad news is their fur is worthless because of their environment. They are, however, fully capable of building dams and making a major nuisance of themselves.
But the damage they have done is quite extensive. These trees were all drowned because of the beaver dams.
Ah, the “End of the World” which is disputed but defined here by the end of Route 3. That definition works just fine for me and I can now put a checkmark in that box.
This father and son team of James (left) and Max (right) Stephenson came in first overall in the Rally – CONGRATULATIONS guys! They were driving a 1923 Vauxhall, always smiling and really great companions.
For those not intimately familiar with Route 3 in South America, perhaps this sign will help you locate it.
Sad to say that we leave tomorrow but it will be great to get home. It has been a fabulous trip which took us to previously unheard of places which we shared with old friends from Peking to Paris and new friends trying out this craziness for the first time.
I’m about out of pictures and words for the moment but I’m sure Lloyd and I will write an epilog as we did for “P to P”. Many of you have left comments on our site which we never had a chance to respond to – South America only has 24 hours in their day also. We would like to thank all of you for your interest and support. If you would like to contact us in the future, please email us at:
Travel home tomorrow so that’s about it for now …
Our last day on the road …
On one hand, it seems like we have been at this forever and on the other it feels like we just departed Rio. Whichever the case might be, it has been a fabulous time and we have certainly seen a lot of South America.
A very short day, only 211 kilometers, no Tests, no borders to cross – what will we do with ourselves?
As always, Martin Egli is ready to go and you might conclude from Jack’s hat it is a bit brisk this morning.
Apparently fishing is a key element of the Rio Grande experience.
The morning shot of the countryside and one will certainly do for now, however, a quick look at the map reveals this will change before we reach Ushuaia.
The Atlantic Ocean – I didn’t see anyone on the beach today – it is cold and rough here.
And our first trees – they all looked like they suffered from some type of blight.
And now mountains in the distance – hard to believe we would be looking forward to seeing mountains 10 days ago.
The landscape becomes much more interesting …
Snow on the mountainside and a lake …
Then we came upon Lago (Lake) Fagnano – what a spectacular place …
Surrounded by mountains and by my estimate about 120 kilometers long, this is a really big body of water.
And the surrounding mountains (I’m just filling in pictures of what we saw there) …
Windy, yes indeed and those are whitecaps on the lake.
Back up into these spectacular mountains – amazing how quickly the landscape has changed …
And then an overlook – nothing words can add …
Toby and his truck have kept many of us going – what a great guy – and he has everything needed to fix a generic car …
Our faithful Caddy, ready and waiting, anxious to get to the finish and take a well-deserved rest.
Just a few more mountains …
And a little bit of fall color …
This is not the easiest place to live unless you love winter.
And finally, the place many refer to as the “End of the World”
But clearly, many live here, much shipping is done from the port and many cruises leave each week.
Ah, the rendezvous, we all met to go to the finish together.
But there were still more sites to see …
Including the final procession to the hotel, these were very tired people and machines …
The final turn to the finish !!!
Another wonderful hotel to spend, this time in a while, two nights …
What a location, on the Beagle Channel (look it up) with this view back to Chile – just a spectacular end to an amazing trip.
Thanks for your loyalty and I hope you have enjoyed our trip half as much as we have – but wait, there will be more. We still have another day here in Ushuaia and then I’m sure we will provide an epilog sometime in the near future.
Next to our last day of travel – short by comparison to others – only 378 kilometers. That having been said, we also have two borders to cross (Argentina into Chile and then Chile back into Argentina), a ferry across the Strait of Magellan and, our favorite, a Jogularity Test. The good news was the Test was canceled because of bad road conditions – since when did that matter?
We had one small matter to clear up before leaving Hotel Patagonia. Last evening, the manager of the hotel, Mr. Alec Quinn, had been kind enough to exchange some money for us just in case we had problems. He explained he could only give us the official exchange rate (5.05) as opposed to the open market rate which had gone over 8 to 1. Apparently, their IRS makes it very difficult for a hotel to perform this function and Alec had to phone the owner to get permission to accommodate the request. Alec returned, handed me Argentinean Pesos which I simple put in my pocket and thanked him for his efforts. Never thought to count or even look at the money until this morning when I discovered he had been kind enough to give us twice the amount due us. When we met in the morning to return the extra money, Alec joked that he had actually given us a great exchange rate – better than the open market. What a very nice man.
The land here is flat so one landscape picture will do for the entire morning.
Now on to the first border crossing, Argentina into Chile. This was particularly easy as both exit and entry checking was done at the same facility and we were in and out quickly.
This good looking guy was on break but ready to go back to work when called.
These are sniffer dogs and are trained to locate drugs or other contraband in vehicles crossing the border. After a thorough search of the car, I asked the officer if I could pat the dog. Typical Lab, we were best friends in a few seconds, ears scratched, pats and a tummy rub.
Oil is a big industry this far south in Argentina and these are walking beam pumps running the wells.
No idea what they were doing in this facility but they are not short on industry here.
Waiting for the ferry to cross the Strait of Magellan – yes it was very windy and the water quite rough.
This little fellow must have been the official greeter – he looked right at home.
They have their own lighthouse here on the Eastern (Atlantic Ocean) end of the Strait.
This marker had something to do with the Spanish Armada at this location back in 1898 – a quiz for all those fluent in Spanish.
While we waited, another local “pet” appeared – he was very good at begging. Like Lloyd said, “Why eat grass when cars hand out all sorts of delicious treats”.
The first of two ferries inbound to discharge passengers and vehicles. If it looks a little rough, it was.
Loading was simple – pull the boat right up to shore, drop the gate and drive right on.
The seas were a little disturbed – the picture doesn’t begin to fully describe what was happening …
Looking west out the Strait of Magellan – big water.
The bridge on this 250 foot ship with a 50 foot beam built in 2011 – quite a seaworthy craft.
I knew Lloyd had been trying to get rid of me ever since I screwed us up in the Jogularity “stuff” and thought he saw his chance – not so fast Lloyd, I have a good hold on the rail. Better luck next time.
The arrival point on the Tierra del Fuego side …
Perhaps a quick primmer on Tierra del Fuego would be helpful, Tierra del Fuego, Spanish for “Fireland” or “Land of Fire” is an archipelago off the southernmost tip of the South American mainland, across the Strait of Magellan. The archipelago consists of a main island Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego divided between Chile and Argentina with an area of 48,100 km2 (18,572 sq mi), and a group of many islands including Cape Horn and Diego Ramírez Islands. While initially discovered by Ferdinand Magellan’s expedition in 1520, it was not settled by people of European descent until the second half of the 19th century at the height of the sheep farming and gold rush booms. Today, petroleum extraction dominates economic activity in the north of Tierra del Fuego, while tourism, manufacturing and Antarctic logistics are important in the south.
This is not a great map to explain why one must go back and forth between Argentina and Chile but you can consult one that would be easier to read. Apparently, one of the Popes determine the borders which were in dispute at the time but it must have been after serving several communications as the lines make little sense.
Once again, a single photograph describes the entire landscape – we never saw a single tree and the wind certainly blows!
On to the next border – Chile back into Argentina. Yes, that is one of our companions up front where they usually are, Andreas Pohl and Robert Peil from Germany who drive a 1962 Mercedes 220 SE. The sign on the fender reads “I am Wilhelm” and comes complete with a blue flashing light and a siren – these guys are characters!
A nice welcoming …
That is the Atlantic Ocean back there on the horizon and the white lines are indeed waves breaking.
Our resting place for the evening – yes it is quite grand even though the town is far less so. This must be where the oil executives stay when visiting the area.
That’s it for today, last travel day tomorrow so we might just to have a little celebration tonight.
A little bit of a break this morning, only 384 kilometers to drive and only one speed Test so we got to sleep in until 6:30 – ah, the good life. We are now in the flat lands of Patagonia where this line of hills are prevalent. The hills quickly gave way to plains that seemed to go on forever.
Test time and the competitors gather – now a very small group. This is the hard core competitors …
Gravel road ahead, this is what today’s road looked like. Actually, the surface was pretty good without too many potholes.
One more shot of us overtaking the Lagonda which only occurred due to Martin and Jack having to stop to repair a throttle linkage which had come apart. Lloyd did his usual superb job of getting us to the finish with plenty of time to spare.
Bill’s Bentley once again tried to shed its exhaust system – it’s the amazing, that car just wants to make more noise.
Jack with a big hammer under the car putting the finishing touches on the repair – great to have you around Jack.
And the proof of the repair is Bill and Biddy back
on the road …
The roadbook indicated a café some 80 kilometers up the road and everyone put that on their “to do” list. For the locals, it must have been like the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” but a good time was had by all …
Back to the open spaces – we agreed this was a lot like Mongolia but with good roads. There is not much occupying this part of the country except for occasional flocks of sheep and miscellaneous small animals.
The invasion of Rio Gallegos by this very tired band of travelers in old cars …
The Hotel Patagonia (our lodging for the night) might look a little long in the tooth from the outside, but what a beautiful establishment. Great meeting areas, good bars and very comfortable, clean rooms – whoever decorated this place knew what they were doing and a great meal. Another entry onto my “A” list for South America …
Tomorrow a mere 378 kilometers, two borders, one ferry and one Regularity Test – sounds like a full day, we can only hope …