Rally of the Incas 2016
November 13 - December 9, 2016
NOVEMBER 27, 2016
Tucuman to Salta
What a Difference a Day Makes!
How wrong can you be? You wake up in a nice hotel, enjoy a good breakfast check out the route book and look forward to an easy day on the road. On paper, today looked to be short and probably uneventful. A regularity in the morning, a spot of lunch, a track test in the afternoon and then quickly into the hotel for a few drinks before dinner. What could go wrong?
Yesterday we’d spent the day hot, dusty and on pretty good tarmac. Granted it was long but everyone made it. This morning, we had no reason to think that today was going to be any different. Although it was raining heavily this might have given us a clue as to what would happen next. Mario and Catherine Illien, about to start their first day, could also have been forgiven for thinking that they were about to ease into things gradually but in a day torn straight from the annals of the 1972 John Blashford Snell Darian Gap expedition, they were spotted slithering, sliding and splashing with the best of them.
The first regularity came and went in a drizzly 15°c with some crews mistaking this rally for the Flying Scotsman. Turn after turn through dense woodland, the section progressed without incident until the timing point just before the village of Villa Nogues.
The Sierra Acongjui was making its presence felt here with thick cloud hanging low as we topped out at 1460 m and on the way down in Lomo Bola we spotted Nigel Dowding and Mary Antcliff’s Aston Martin stopped by the side of a wet road with the crew making some adjustments to it. So far, so unremarkable.
The next stop was the Time Control in El Jardin, and this is where things began to get interesting. Crews were met on the dusty high street of this one-horse town by crowds of cheering rally fans. The entire population had turned out to greet us, a banner had been strung over the road and the police had set aside parking for us along the main road to the exclusion of all other traffic. There was even a coffee shop, open especially on a Sunday morning, doing a brisk trade from a thirsty rally.
As per the route book the next section was 117 km long and the description of it from both the recce team and the 24 hour car was that it was not a sealed road and it was spectacular. We were naturally all keen to see it and quickly realised that this was not the full story on either count. Today, many of us found our own epic, driving through a full blown rainforest along the most basic of tracks cut into cliff faces, along and through the Rio Sin Nombre - the River with no name - and over several similarly nameless 2000 m passes. Along this road, the RP6, we passed through settlements which were about as off grid as it is possible to be, Inca el Sauce and Carahuasi for example via hundreds of river crossings and steep slippery climbs.
Flocks of parakeets wheeled and screamed overhead, an owl sat on a fence post with a bemused strigiforme expression, herds of pigs rootled and rafters of turkeys strutted their stuff. Occasionally we’d even see human life, a man strumming a guitar for example on a wooden decked porch while Paul and Marielle Kirkham slid past him at a full 45° angle to the way that they were travelling.
At every river crossing, at the foot of every hill, queues of rally cars were found waiting for their turn to tackle the obstacle while the crew cheered on those already in the thick of the action. Robert Wilkinson and Len Treeter exchanged a few cross words however when, in one such queue Len set out his deck chairs, picnic table etc and opened a bottle of wine only to discover that Robert had singularly failed to supply any bar snacks.
There were some displays of heroism and some of bravado whilst Richard Everingham simply made a big splash - while also forgetting to close the sunroof. Needless to say the big Bentley coughed, spluttered and stopped as soon as it hit dry land. Luckily for him though, Jungle Jim Allen was quickly on the scene with Hilux and tow rope at the ready. Serge and Jacqueline Berthier's Jensen Interceptor, perhaps an unlikely rally car but one that turns heads wherever it goes also proved that it could mix it up in the mud as well as the street. A determined Serge needed no help at all to get the low slung masterpiece from West Bromwich up one of the more tricky parts of the piste while Jacqueline walked alongside and shouted encouragement.
Many crews had trouble getting going, but for Philip and Laurette Macwhirter it was stopping that proved the big problem for them. They were forced to sit and wait for Andy 'the fourth emergency service' Inskip when their Morgan Plus 8 suffered brake failure, thankfully on an uphill section.
Dirk de Groen and Alexandra de Lespinasse along with Ronald Vetters and Ann Puts went above and beyond the call of duty today by towing several crews out of the mire with cheerful efficiency.
Once out of the woods, the crews still had a track test to complete and, on the way to Salta, in the Valle de Lerma and just over the Rio Rosario, we caught up with Travis Cole refuelling his Datsun from a can. He and Richard Martin were rushing to make the Time Control and they just squeaked in with minutes to spare.
Dinner in the Design Suites Salta, was another boisterous affair with all of the talk around the tables being of mud and proving once again that the best weekend is a dirty weekend.