Today we had a decision to make – the Test for the day had been canceled – something about the road not being in condition for a safe trial so we could proceed along the original route where the Test was to take place, on gravel of course, or backtrack along yesterday’s route on highway and rejoin today’s route after the gravel roads. Call us stupid but we decided to go the original route over gravel and take it slowly so as to not destroy the car. There was a promise of some fantastic views as well as the sporting aspect of things that influenced our decision.
We had a 400 kilometer drive to reach Santiago and to complicate matters, we also had a border crossing from Argentina back into Chile. These are always time consuming and tricky even on a good day – you never know what you might encounter.
Like all cities, getting out of town was a slow and difficult process of fighting commuters and what seemed like endless traffic lights. Patience is more than a virtue in situations like this, it is a requirement.
Once clear of city traffic, we were back in, what else, the mountains. They just go on forever – each different but so repetitive.
Like all the back roads here, this one quickly took us up through the mountains.
These looked like the Black Hills and that little berm of gravel serves as the guard rail over a one thousand foot drop – interesting.
No, that is not a snake in the grass, it is the road with its many switchbacks coming up the mountain. We took this picture at 7,300 feet so it is a long way down – not a good thing for someone nervous about heights.
Just what we needed – a bus load of tourists out to view the sights – not easy to pass on a single lane road.
But as promised, the views were indeed spectacular!
It’s amazing when you look down and realize you just came up that twisting, steep road.
Yes, that is the road continuing ever upward but see the change in the terrain – back to desert.
The Llamas seem right at home grazing up here at 9,600 feet.
Snow-capped at the end of summer – picture taken at 9,500 feet – how high was the peak?
More tourist busses but we were finally on our way back down.
Of course, more mountains, but the bus ahead is like so many here, built by Mercedes and double decked – they look very comfortable.
Lloyd called this the “Butterscotch Sundae” mountain – the colors were incredible.
One more amazing peak – we thought it might be Aconcagua but we were wrong.
As we neared the border, we just caught a glimpse of Aconcagua which is the tallest peak in the Andes (and South America) at 22,841 feet. It was here that we reached our highest altitude for the day at 10,385 feet.
Eventually, the border – we even had our own line for processing. Things went along quite well but it still took almost two hours to process both countries.
Great – processing complete and only about 200 kilometers to reach Santiago – no sweat, all downhill and good roads.
Not so fast, the little note in the Roadbook read “Expect traffic congestion descending from Border control due to roadworks” – no kidding. Some of the trucks must have been there all day and on the downgrade, they could not exceed 12 – 15 kilometers/hour. It took forever to transit the 12 kilometer descent.
Finally underway at highway speeds, we spotted this building out in the middle of nowhere. A little checking identified it as a Casino – guess everyone likes to gamble from time to time. As you can see, we are back in desert country – we passed an empty field and in response to the question of “what do they raise there”, Lloyd suggested “DIRT”. Good one!!!
At last, the outskirts of Santiago – a real up scale and modern city. The approach to downtown is all underground, perhaps 10 kilometers long – makes Boston’s Big Dig look small by comparison.
A final word from “Pit Lane” – Steve Hyde had blown a head gasket in his Mercedes (# 25) Sunday on his way into Mendoza and it looked like he might be heading home. Unfortunately, the Mercedes dealer could not work on a car of that age, however, this was a creative and caring man – he sent two of his mechanics home sick with Steve’s 280 SL, had parts flown in and they worked all night repairing the car. The best news is he is back and running, here in Santiago.
Correction to one of my comments from yesterday – I had indicated we had 8 consecutive travel days ahead until our next rest day – unfortunately, the rest day was canceled and we now have 11 consecutive travel days (less 1 for today) until we reach Ushuaia.
Tomorrow is another long day, 600 plus kilometers, two Tests and who knows what else …