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!