Vintage Cape Horn 2013
An epic 6,000 kilometre adventure drive from Buenos Aires to Cape Horn through Argentina and Chile. 2013
Vintage Cape Horn – November 2013
Flagged away from the vibrant city of Buenos Aires – where they really do dance Tango in the streets, the rally heads West across the beautiful green Pampas, via Rosario and into the famous vineyards of Mendoza. Then it is over the Andes, via some breathtaking mountain passes, and into Chile, with a chance to explore the cosmopolitan city of Santiago.
Heading south towards the Chilean Lake district and the lovely resort town of Pucón, bringing us beneath the snow capped active volcano of Villarrica. This gives us a chance to drive through some beautiful national parks en-route to the Argentinian holiday town of San Carlos de Bariloche, surrounded by beautiful lakes and forests.
Snaking across the spine of the Andes, we then follow the famous El Camino de los Siete Lagos (Road of the Seven Lakes), through stunning scenery, heading ever South. Now the rally enters Patagonia proper, with huge skies, wide open spaces, epic sunsets and some wonderful graded roads. A stop to visit the world famous Moreno Glacier is an absolute must as we enter the Los Glaciers National Park, the myriad shades of blue within this huge Glacier are astounding. Next is the breathtaking Torres del Paine National Park, these gravel roads travel through the heart of this rugged place, full of towering peaks and glacial lakes. After crossing the Magellan Straits we continue to the end of the epic Ruta 40 and arrive in frontier port of Ushuaia, otherwise known as the “Fin del Mundo”. Next place South from here? Cape Horn… Antarctica…?
This promises to be an epic 6000 kilometre adventure for 50 Vintage and Classic cars. Using a tulip route book there will be no need for GPS navigation or plotting the course on maps, the route is suitable for novices and experienced crews and we will help you every step of the way with your vehicle and personal preparations. The entry is open to Vintage or Classic cars that are able to maintain a constant average speed of 80kph/50mph to ensure that they can keep up with the rally timetable.
We will run Medal sections on gravel roads for competitive crews with a Tarmac route for those more interested in touring. The choice is yours each day which route you drive. Knowing the capabilities of early cars, there will be no night driving and the daily distances will be reasonable, our two longest sections are 600kms but we have a rest day straight after – so plenty of time to recover and enjoy the group dining which ensures this will be a highly social event.
Vintage Cape Horn – Route Survey – Part One
During November 2012 Kim Bannister and Duncan Milligan are exploring South America to find the best roads and make the route notes for next year’s Vintage Cape Horn. Whenever possible they are sending back reports that provide a flavour of what lies ahead for those who join us next November.
The Art Museum at Tigre
The weather in Buenos Aires is bright, hot and sunny – and will be the same when we arrive next November with the cars for the start of Vintage Cape Horn 2013.
Our chosen five-star hotel is only minutes from the port, so we can collect our cars and return to the comfort of the covered parking area for any last minute preparation before the safety checks, scrutineering and other pre-start formalities.
We have also checked out the wonderful start venue at the Art Museum at Tigre in the north of the city. They are very keen to welcome the cars and display them for all to see. Argentina is a car mad country so we can expect some keen spectators to cheer us on our way.
Buenos Aires to Rosario
After the start from Tigre we have a gentle run along the highway to the city of Rosario for our overnight halt. This will get the event away from the Buenos Aires area, home to almost a quarter of Argentina’s population and therefore a very busy place, and on our way west towards the Andes and some of the most stunning scenery you could hope to experience through the windscreen of a vintage car. It’s an easy day, so will also help both the car and crew settle in to the event.
At Rosario we have found a newly renovated race circuit and we are currently in discussions with the owners to see if we can arrange a few hours use for a little fun and competition.
Rosario to Cordoba
Keep in the Middle
Our hotel in Rosario is close to the highway so it’s an easy get away to either the circuit or the road to Cordoba and the drive west towards the Andes.
From Rosario, another easy-going day as we will use Route 9, the Pan-American Highway, before turning off just south of Cordoba towards Alta Gracia and, if negotiations are successful, another race circuit just south of Cordoba city, at the end the day.
Our hotel for the night is just outside the city centre so there will be time to explore before dinner.
Cordoba to Mendoza
Leaving Cordoba, the route is soon into the hills for the first time, these are not the Andes but a good introduction to what lies in store later in the event.
We have found two lovely, twisty, smooth tarmac sections before a coffee stop at the Parador Condor, which at a height of 2,150 metres will give crews a great chance to see the majestic birds that the restaurant is named after, soaring in the crystal clear skies overhead. After coffee the road drops down through some truly wonderful scenery to the town of Mina Clavero, birthplace of Argentinean rally legend Jorge Recalde.
We also took the chance to explore a lot of gravel roads in the area but these were far too rough to use on this type of event so have made sure we stay on tarmac today.
After leaving Mina Clavero the road flattens out and the rest of the day will be spent on smooth, fast and almost traffic free roads, all the truck traffic heads south to join a motorway towards the Chilean border, to our overnight halt in Mendoza. Mendoza seems so much more relaxed than Cordoba.
Our hotel is in the city centre so exploring is easy. Mendoza also offers the event its first rest day and a number of activities will be available including a visit to one of the world famous vineyards in the area
Mendoza to Santiago
Leaving Mendoza there is only one choice of road to cross the border into Chile. Route 7 is a lovely smooth tarmac road which climbs its way steadily to over 3000 metres before reaching the border post at Los Libertadores. Our route to the border also passes Mount Aconcagua, the highest on the continent, on your right. We are lucky today, the weather is hot and sunny with clear blue skies so the mountains look wonderful.
Spectacular Roads and Glorious Scenery
At the border crossing point the usual formalities were dealt with quite quickly, just remember to bring a pen with you to fill in the various forms required. The Argentina Out and Chile In windows are next to each other. The Chilean customs people were very thorough and searched all our baggage; they are particularly concerned with the import of food stuffs and plants.
Once across the border the road descends through an amazing series of hairpin bends with great views dropping very quickly from the 3225 metres at the border point to below 2000 metres into the town of Los Andes where we join the highway south to Santiago.
On our way south we have found a lovely section of 19kms in the hills, a new tunnel on the highway goes under the pass that we crossed. The road is currently gravel for about 9kms but we spoke to a road work crew who assured us the road will be fully paved by the time we arrive next year. Any crew who chooses to avoid the section can just continue on the highway.
Our hotel for the next two nights will be the Hyatt Grand and it lived up to expectations, great food, good wine and excellent service.
On the rally crews will have another rest day to enjoy the city and various other trips on offer but our route survey work continues so we push on south.
Santiago to Chillan
We left Santiago and headed south on Route 5. Leaving Santiago proved to be very easy, if a little slow at times. Once on Route 5 we tried various options in the back roads either side if the highway to break the journey up and have found a lovely lunch location in Santa Cruz. The hotel is owned by a car enthusiast who also has his own vineyard and museum which we are trying to arrange a visit.
After lunch a lovely run through the quiet Chilean back roads takes us back to Route 5 to continue south before we once again turned off to explore some of the gravel roads in the area.
Two optional sections were found, the first on a beautiful track through a forest area the second a little stonier but still good and taking us back to the highway.
A further short section on Route 5 took us to San Carlos where we again headed east to find a way through the countryside avoiding the long trip down and through the city of Chillan on our way to the hotel in the ski resort of Termes de Chillan.
After inspecting a number of possible routes we found what we considered to be the best, although there were a few rough patches, but the distance and time over the journey through Chillan was worth it. Any crew who wants to stay completely on tarmac wherever possible will be given the route through the city.
Our hotel for the night will be the Gran Hotel at Termes de Chillan and our inspection found a lovely swimming pool, spa, and hot baths area together with a well stocked bar and traditional restaurant, all this with fantastic views of the mountains, a really lovely location.
Chillan to Pucon
We left Termes de Chillan and began to explore the minor roads to the west of the resort as I wanted to find a way through the countryside without driving the 82 kms back to the city of Chillan and then heading south on Route 5, the only other real option.
We tried a number of roads again before finding a short cut which uses some bumpy gravel but taken at a low speed will not be a problem and will save a lot of time on the day.
Heading south on the N59 we found a gravel loop to use as an optional Medal Section, those crews wanting to avoid this can simply continue along the tarmac main road, before having to re-join Route 5 as this is the only road which would take us south to where we needed to be.
At the town of Victoria we headed east to explore the area and found what must be one of the most wonderful roads I have ever driven.
On the Volcano Trail
The road through the Parque Nacional Conguitto takes you around Volcano Llaima, which last erupted in 2008, through a lava field and a forest of the tallest Monkey Puzzle trees I have ever seen. The views are amazing but the road is only for those who want an adventure. It is unsurfaced with constant changes between stony, sandy and occasionally muddy surfaces with twists and turns and ups and downs. Once out of the forest area and into the southern lava field the road opens out and the surface changes again into a beautifully graded gravel track with sweeping bends before joining tarmac.
Today we are looking for an optional route for those who do not want to take their cars through the park but also do not want to take the only all tarmac option on Route 5.
After an early breakfast we headed east through the town of Vilcun and into Cherquenco to try and find a track shown on two versions of the maps I had but not on the other. The two versions were correct and we found ourselves on a newly graded gravel road to the west of Volcano Llaima which joined our original route near the town of Cunco giving us the third option to consider.
From Cunco we then used a bit of guesswork to find the correct road out of town to the south to find a way through towards Villarrica and our hotel for the night. The roads were clearly signposted and recently graded, which made them a little stony and corrugated uphill but generally good and it was a lovely drive passing Lake Colico, with views of Volcano Villarrica in the distance.
The tarmac roads returned before we reached the town of Villarrica and then on towards the hotel the event will be using for the overnight stay. The Villarrica Park Lake Hotel is a five-star luxury hotel on the banks of Lake Villarrica with stunning views from the rooms, bars and restaurant.
Tomorrow we head back into Argentina.
Pucon to Bariloche
Spending a little more time in each area and exploring the back roads really worked today as we found a superb 16kms gravel loop to start the day before joining the main road and the run to the border. The road is tarmac for most of the way then becomes gravel which is bumpy in places before reaching the Chilean border post.
The border officials were friendly and very efficient; just make sure you have a pen and your car documents to fill out all the forms. We were the only vehicle leaving so progress was very swift.
Having left the Chilean border post we drove a little further along the gravel track to the Argentine side and again the officials were both friendly and efficient. Our only hold up was that we were second in the queue to four attractive young ladies crossing into Chile. At the Argentine post both people and vehicles arriving and leaving are dealt with in the same hall, and clearly the young border guard was far more concerned with making them happy than worrying about us. Once we were dealt with however progress was very quick and we drove into Argentina.
The road surface changed as we crossed the border with the gravel becoming a little smoother and then becoming tarmac after a few kilometres.
Again some exploring further along the route provided us with a wonderful 9 kms section through the mountains, all uphill bends and fabulous views.
As we headed south we had a choice to make, do we take the gravel Route 63, a shorter but much rougher route, or the 234 which promised a much better run to the finish but was slightly longer. As the event is for pre-war cars we opted for the longer, prettier and smoother route and this was definitely the correct choice. The road sweeps and swoops through some wonderful scenery and finally emerges in the lake district meaning for the last 70kms to Bariloche you always have a lake view on the right, simply stunning.
The road is currently being improved and there was a stretch of nearly 30kms which is being worked on and will almost certainly be tarmac by the time the event arrives in the area. Even if it has not been finished the surface is good, with occasional bumps, but will be a lovely drive in an old car.
We finally arrived at our hotel for the next two nights, just as it will be on the event, the world famous Llao Llao Hotel, a member of the Leading Hotels of the World group.
This hotel is set on the side of a lake and crews will have to make the choice of either a room in the traditional part of the hotel, smaller rooms, luxuriously furnished but with no air conditioning and closer to the main public areas of the hotel or in the new wing which has bigger rooms all with a lake view and air conditioning but there is a long walk to the main areas.
Tomorrow we don’t have a rest day, as the rally will, but we will use the extra day to explore every road in the Bariloche area to make sure we are using the best available.
Bariloche to Esquel
I have read that some people judge the quality of the hotel by their Muesli but not being a Muesli muncher I have always felt the breakfast omelette is a good measure and the omelettes cooked for you at the Llao Llao Hotel are wonderful. In fact the whole breakfast buffet is a great way to start your day.
The Road to Esquel
Leaving the hotel we used the circuit of twisty tarmac roads that surround the Llao Llao area and then headed back towards Bariloche. The town is a tourist centre and gets very busy at this time of year so we headed south east avoiding the town although this did mean using 3kms of gravel just before joining Route 40.
On the event we can have two very different routes. One for those more interested in touring will use the all tarmac Route 40. This road sweeps and swoops through some lovely scenery before the landscape flattens out as you near the overnight stop in Esquel.
For those looking for a little more adventure the other route option might appeal. We started with a 25kms gravel loop near El Foyel followed by a fantastic 47kms drive using the all gravel Route 6 through the hills to El Maiter.
We then drove a lovely new road to re-join Route 40 for the short run south to Parque Nacional Los Alerces, stopping at a checkpoint where they wanted to disinfect any fishing equipment we had on board, you have been warned. This also gave us a chance to try and check the road conditions before we moved on.
The drive through the park was wonderful, a few bumpy patches but generally good gravel and there were signs of the road being worked on and improved as we neared Esquel. Although there is an all tarmac alternative I think the scenery makes this drive worthwhile.
As we left the park we joined a new tarmac road which twisted and turned as it dropped into the Esquel and our hotel for the night.
Esquel is close to the half-way point in our route survey. We’ll post more soon.
Vintage Cape Horn – Route Survey – Part Two
Esquel to Coyhaique
When the route was first planned a decision had to be made about where to go from Esquel. The choices were to continue down Route 40 in Argentina crossing one of the flattest and most uninteresting parts of the country,or to go back into Chile and the mountains and explore new territory – an easy call to make, we decided to go to Chile.
From Esquel we headed south west, joining an excellent gravel road and crossing the border at Paso Futaleufu. We were the only car crossing so formalities were quick and the officials both friendly and efficient. From the border we joined tarmac for 10 kms to the village of Futaleufu then found the 231 road out of the village and started a wonderful scenic drive on good gravel roads.
On the Carretera Austral
Road numbers 231 and 235 led us to the famed Carretera Austral, the road started in the 1970’s to join the more remote towns of the western part of Chile together.
We followed the lovely sweeping road for a few kilometres and stumbled across a café which showed a sign saying “English Spoken Here”, this was too good to be true. As it turned out the person who spoke English only works during the summer holidays but Duncan was able to ask the lady if she could make us some lunch and a fabulous vegetable soup with home made bread was produced. I have her phone number and she promises to do the same when the rally goes that way next year.
As we were running late we decided to stop near the town of Puyuhuapi at some log cabins. The manager spoke excellent English, as well as German and his natural Spanish, and has given me his phone number so we can check on the road conditions before we drive through next year. The next morning we completed the long drive to Coyhaique through the wonderful scenery of the Parque Nacional Quelat and, although there is over 250kms of gravel roads on the drive, it is so much better than the scenery on the other side of the border in Argentina, so I think it is worth the effort. There is no tarmac alternative today- but there will be plenty of time to make the journey on the event. Optional medal sections will be part of the day but you can choose to do these or simply carry on driving through.
Coyhaique is the largest town in the region, it still only has 40,000 inhabitants, and has a nice centre with a few restaurants and bars to visit before dinner.
Our hotel is new and the best in town so it will be a pleasant place to stay after a long day.
Coyhaique to Los Antiguos
As we left Coyhaique we were once again faced with a choice of possible routes- all of them including an amount of gravel roads.
After much thought we decided to head south using the tarmac road for the first 114 kms to a small border post at Puerto Ibanez. The scenery as we drove through the Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo was wonderful and our last taste of the mountains for a little while as we headed back into Argentina
The Perito Moreno Glacier
The border at Puerto Ibanez was so small that we almost drove past it. We stopped and went into the office to be welcomed by a single Chilean official who very quickly dealt with the paperwork and waved us on our way. Once again we had chosen a nice quiet border crossing which will help us on the rally.
The Argentinean border post is 20 kms further on and we had to cross an often quite rough gravel road to reach it, again as there is no alternative all tarmac route we will all have to go this way and plenty of time will be allowed.
From the border we had to cover 95 kms on a reasonable gravel road to the tarmac at Perito Moreno.
There are very few hotel rooms available in this area so we are arranging a quality tented camp for the night in the town of Los Antiguos very close to the Chilean border.
We chose the town because the camp site is on the shores of Lake Buenos Aires with the chance to stroll on the beach as the sun goes down before dinner. Our host for the camp, Billy Zebalos, is an expert on trekking expeditions so we expect everyone will enjoy their night under canvas. Billy is bringing a large supply of beer, local wine and spirits, and promises a real Argentinean BBQ, there are two buildings on the site, one to act as the restaurant the other as the bar so it promises to be a lively evening under the stars.
Los Antiguos to El Calafate
This is going to be the longest day of the rally, with no other route possible than using Route 40 for much of the way. This road has been improved recently and much of it is good, fast tarmac so the kilometres are covered quickly.
The road becomes gravel after 300 kms and we had a choice of roads to take. We used a shorter route with a good gravel surface through some hills which will allow an optional Medal Section to be run before we re-join Route 40 and the tarmac road to El Calafate.
Torres del Paine
After a long day it was great to arrive at the hotel we will use for two nights on the rally the 5* Los Alamos, no wonder the hotel was the winner of a Trip Advisor award as the service, food and facilities are wonderful.
The rally gets a rest day in El Calafate so crews can enjoy one of the many trips available, a round of golf at the hotel’s course, a gentle wander around the town or, the best of all, a visit to the incredible natural wonder that is the Perito Moreno Glacier.
The glacier is 70 kms from the town and takes about 90 minutes to drive there, the last 30 kms in the national park being very twisty and slow but with stunning views.
There are not many views more breathtaking than the first sight of this amazing glacier- one of the few in the world that is still advancing. The number of different shades of blue was incredible and we were lucky enough to be there as a sheet of ice broke away, the noise and spectacle was just awe inspiring.
We have made some route notes for any crew who wants to drive their own cars to the glacier or you can even take a boat trip right up to the ice face, this can be organised for you in advance.
El Calafate to Torres del Paine
Rather than head east across the flat steppes of Argentina we decided to head west and back into Chile once more to visit the world renowned Torres del Paine National Park.
From El Calafate it is an easy run across good fast tarmac roads for the first 100 kms before we turned right onto a lovely gravel road which cuts across country for 71 kms and will make a great optional medal section.
There is an all tarmac alternative which is 80 kms longer but the road is smooth and fast so times will be about the same.
From the point that the choice of routes meet we continued on the tarmac for another40 kms before turning off on a gravel road to the border post of Argentina.
We were one of only three vehicles, all crossing from Argentina into Chile, and the border guards were as efficient and friendly as any we have met on the whole journey. We were through in about five minutes and drove the final few kilometres to the Chilean border at Cerro Castillo.
We met up again with the other vehicles crossing from Argentina and we all carried our various suitcases and other bags into the customs hall to be x-rayed. The Chilean customs are very strict on what can be taken in to the country so expect to have your luggage searched at each entry point, we found that the searches were always carried out in a friendly and helpful manner so do not expect any problems on the event.
The World Famous Explora Hotel
Having taken care of the necessary formalities we entered Chile and joined a lovely tarmac road and headed into towards the park entrance.
The road turned to gravel after a few kilometres, but it is the best gravel we have had on the whole route survey so progress was fast. Another medal section will be run on these roads before we enter the park.
The drive for the next 26 kms to the hotel was just great fun. Smooth gravel, sweeping bends, hills, views, lakes, animals, just about everything you would want on an adventure drive.
We finally arrived at our hotel for the next two nights, just as we will on the rally, the world famous Explora Hotel. Set on a hill overlooking the Salto Chico falls the hotel is an amazing building with luxurious rooms, stunning views, excellent food and wine and helpful and friendly staff. This place really is amazing and a destination in itself.
Your rest day will be filled by the team on site who can offer numerous treks, boat trips, horse rides or suggestions for lovely drives within the park boundaries. Of course you can also relax in the spa-including outdoor, lakeside hot tubs, if you prefer before a cocktail in the bar before another magnificent dinner.
Torres del Paine to Punta Arenas
We very reluctantly checked out of the Explora Hotel and left Torres del Paine on a very typical Patagonian spring morning with snow in the wind as we headed south.
We left the park and immediately found a lovely gravel road for a timed Medal Section leading to the main tarmac road and our journey towards Punta Arenas.
As many crews will be needing fuel by now we decided to take a short detour off the main road into the town of Puerto Natales and there we found three fuel stations and some shops and cafes to stock up on essentials for the day ahead.
One discovery we did make was the Café Patagon which will make a great coffee stop and passage control just over half way through the day.
The café is visited by many travellers and there are a number of signs with the distances to far flung places outside and many group stickers all over the windows and walls inside. The coffee was good and hot and the sandwiches freshly made to order.
After the stop it was a short trip of about 100 kms to our overnight halt in Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in Chile.
Tomorrow we are going to look at two possible ferry crossings into Tierra del Fuego for the last two days of our epic trip and we can then decide which would make the most interesting journey for the crews.
Both Duncan and I have felt entirely justified in our decision to spend more time in Western Patagonia, the simple, quick and easy border crossings between Argentina and Chile have made criss-crossing the mountains and national parks a joy, and allowed us to experience some truly breath-taking scenery, whilst at the same time avoiding much of the dull, flat landscape further East.
Punta Arenas to Rio Grande
We headed north from the hotel and after 5kms found the ferry terminal for the crossing to Porvenir on Tierra del Fuego. This crossing of the Magellan Straits will take just over 2 hours and will take the cars to the westernmost point of Tierra del Fuego.
As we had not booked ourselves onto the ferry we decided to drive the more regularly taken route to use the shorter ferry crossing at Punta Delgarda, this way we would have notes for both routes and could then decide later which was the best alternative.
The Magellan Straits Ferry
The run to the ferry was an easy, flat 170kms drive on a smooth tarmac road. At the crossing point we waited for the ferry to arrive and watched with admiration as the captain negotiated his way across the fairly rough water to dock at exactly the right point to let the cars and trucks off.
The traffic crossing into Tierra del Fuego was much lighter than that returning to the mainland and we were very quickly loaded and on our way.
You pay on board for the crossing but cannot reserve places so we need to look at how this would affect the timing of the event.
One added bonus of the journey was the school of dolphins that swam alongside for almost the entire crossing.
Getting off the ferry was as easy as getting on with no formalities and we headed south towards the town of Cerro Sombrero where we planned to spend the night so we could have time to explore the roads towards Porvenir and the alternative ferry journey.
The road west from Porvenir was good gravel and runs alongside the sea making it a far nicer drive than the road from the north, it also gave me a chance to look at an optional medal section which can be easily avoided, no tarmac road to choose though so we will all have to use the gravel.
We drove to the point where our two route options met and then headed back to our hostel for the evening and dinner in the company restaurant, Cerro Sombrero is a town built for and used by a gas exploration company, with a very basic “meat or fish” choice but they did not really recommend the fish.
After a quick breakfast we returned south to where we had left our route the previous day and continued on the gravel roads to the border crossing at San Sebastian.
This crossing point is the only one open between the Argentinean and Chilean parts of the island so is a well used border and very efficient.
After entering Argentina for the final time on this trip we headed south to our overnight halt in a new hotel in the town of Rio Grande on the Atlantic coast.
Rio Grande to Ushuaia
Even on the final day of the trip we decided to try and find a medal section for those who want a little competition.
Journey’s end at Tierra del Fuego
There is a very nice race circuit at Rio Grande and this is going to be looked at by our agent in the area to see if we can use it but we also found a superb gravel road section through the countryside with an easy all tarmac alternative route so will definitely add this to the schedule.
The rest of the route to Ushuaia is along a good tarmac road which becomes more interesting as you get closer to the town as the road enters the mountains for the final time.
The finish location is currently being looked at and the necessary permissions are being requested but we hope to have a great photo opportunity for all crews at the end of this epic journey.
Our final hotel is set on the Beagle Channel and is close to both the airport and the ferry terminal for any crews who plan to stay on and enjoy a trip to Antarctica.
Just a few final notes about our route survey;
Although the route for the rally is just over 6000 kilometres Duncan and I have driven over 9000 kilometres since leaving Buenos Aires as we have tried many different roads to try and ensure we have the best possible route for the event.
We have had only one puncture and that was in the car park in Cordoba. We have only used normal van tyres for the entire trip, run at the manufacturers recommended pressures, but this is also a testament to Duncan’s driving who has been careful not to slide the car around on the gravel roads.
Tomorrow I fly back to Buenos Aires then on to the UK to start again on future events. Duncan is taking his time to drive the hire car back to Buenos Aires but will be home in time for Christmas… phew!
|12th November 2013||Car Collection||Argentina|
|13th November 2013||Briefing & Scrutineering||Argentina|
|14th November 2013||Buenos Aires||Argentina|
|01||15th November 2013||Rosario||Argentina||320|
|02||16th November 2013||Cordoba||Argentina||470|
|03||17th November 2013||Mendoza||Argentina||630|
|04||18th November 2013||Mendoza (Rest Day)||Argentina|
|05||19th November 2013||Santiago||Chile||370|
|06||20th November 2013||Santiago (Rest Day)||Chile|
|07||21st November 2013||Termas de Chillán||Chile||550|
|08||22nd November 2013||Pucón||Chile||530|
|09||23rd November 2013||Bariloche||Argentina||420|
|10||24th November 2013||Bariloche (Rest Day)||Argentina|
|11||25th November 2013||Esquel||Argentina||390|
|12||26th November 2013||Coihaque||Chile||500|
|13||27th November 2013||Los Antiguos||Argentina||275|
|14||28th November 2013||El Calafate (Transit Day)||Argentina||680|
|15||29th November 2013||El Calafate (Rest Day)||Argentina|
|16||30th November 2013||Torres Del Paine||Chile||290|
|17||1st December 2013||Torres Del Paine (Rest Day)||Chile|
|18||2nd December 2013||Punta Arenas||Chile||360|
|19||3rd December 2013||Rio Grande||Argentina||235|
|20||4th December 2013||Ushuaia – Finish and Prize Giving Dinner||Argentina||280|
|Vintageant (pre ’41) up to 3000cc|
|1||Arthur Manners(GB) / Anna Manners(GB)||1927 – Oldsmobile 30E||2998|
|5||Nicholas Phillips(GB) / Barbara Phillips(GB)||1932 – Alvis Speed 20||2500|
|6||Nigel Gambier(GB) / Hugo Upton(GB)||1934 – Lagonda T7||3000|
|7||Gerard Besson(F) / Marie-Odile Besson(F)||1939 – Citroen Traction Avant||1991|
|16||Penny Rawlings(GB) / Geoffrey Rawlings(GB)||1934 – Talbot AV 105||2969|
|Vintageant (pre ’41) over 3000cc|
|2||Jean Steinhauser(LU) / Anne Steinhauser-Collard(B)||1937 – Bentley Derby 4¼||4250|
|3||Charlie Bishop(GB) / Nellie Bishop(GB)||1925 – Vauxhall 30/98||4250|
|4||Charles Stuart-Menteth(GB) / Missy Stuart-Menteth(GB)||1924 – Vauxhall 30/98||4250|
|8||Robert Abrey(GB) / Jane Abrey(GB)||1925 – Bentley 3-4½||4497|
|9||Rupert Marks(GB) / Blake Dorrington(GB)||1928 – Ford Model A||3300|
|10||John Raker(GB) / Melinda Raker(GB)||1929 – Ford Model A||3285|
|11||David Cooley(USA) / Ross Lilleker(GB)||1929 – Ford Model A||3285|
|12||Leslie Roy(USA) / Rand Elliott(USA)||1935 – Ford Model B Phaeton||3200|
|14||Olaf Pothoven(NL) / Monica Pothoven-Fels(NL)||1935 – Bentley Derby||3500|
|15||Jan Woien(N) / Jan Hansen(N)||1935 – Alvis Speed 25||3498|
|17||Andrew Bailey(IRL) / Philippa Spiller(IRL)||1928 – Bentley 3-4½||4500|
|18||Martin Hunt(GB) / Olivia Hunt(GB)||1927 – Bentley Le Mans||4500|
|19||Francis Galashan(GB) / Michael Brooks(GB)||1938 – Alvis 4.3 Tourer||4387|
|20||Catherine d’Andrimont Janssens(B) / Ms D’Andrimont(B)||1937 – Chevrolet Coupe||3600|
|22||Daniel Day(USA) / Michael Day(USA)||1938 – Chevrolet Coupe||4000|
|23||Clinton Smith(GB) / Trevor Finn(GB)||1938 – Chevrolet Coupe||3860|
|24||David Williams(GB) / Sadie Williams(GB)||1938 – Chevrolet Fangio Coupe||4000|
|25||Bill Dolsen(USA) / Joe Farina(USA)||1939 – Chevrolet Master Deluxe||4000|
|26||Alain Grisay(B) / Edouard Grisay(B)||1940 – Chevrolet Coupe||3600|
|27||Bill Shields(USA) / Alex Schoenauer(USA)||1938 – Chevrolet Coupe||3600|
|28||Udo Bichler(ZA) / Antony Edwards(GB)||1939 – Buick Coupe||4000|
|29||Bruce Selbie(NZ) / Alexander Robertson(NZ)||1938 – Chrysler P6||3300|
|40||Pamela Lyford(USA) / Chuck Lyford(USA)||1938 – Chevrolet Fangio Coupe||4000|
|Classic cars (pre ’75)|
|21||Paul Merryweather(GB) / Sandra Merryweather(GB)||1974 – Mercedes 450 SL||4500|
|30||Christian Dumolin(B) / Regine Dumolin-Petillion(B)||1966 – Ford Mustang GT 289 Cabrio||4660|
|31||Michael Maedel(A) / Roy Haddad(GB)||1953 – Jaguar XK120 OTS||3800|
|32||David Harrison(GB) / Julia Harrison(GB)||1959 – Porsche 356A||1600|
|33||Luc Janssens(B) / Alfredo Uboldi(RA)||1947 – Ford Pick-Up||3500|
|34||Alastair Caldwell(GB) / Laurel Smith(USA)||1968 – Mercedes 280 SL||2778|
|35||Jan Van Gemert(NL) / Marion Van Gemert(NL)||1965 – Ford Mustang||4735|
Day 00 – Car collection Day
Under the warm Argentinian sun with deep blue skies of a typical springtime day, a bus load of enthusiastic rally crews made their way from the Hotel Emperador to the customs collection depot near the bustling docksides of the River Plate. We passed manicured parks, to be greeted by striking jacaranda trees waving their purple flowers in the early-morning breeze.
Several crews had taken advantage of getting here a few days early to explore the city, sample the excellent variety of steak and Tango restaurants, and sample Argentina’s way of doing things. So far everyone has been impressed.
Buenos Aires, BA to those in the know, is a huge metropolis of 17 million people. It’s a city of contrasts, famed for its culture, cuisine and social life. It mixes old world European order with a certain South American panache since being settled initially by the Spanish adventurer Pedro de Mendoza in 1536. He only stayed for four years before being driven out and dying at sea on the way home but he’d sown the seed. Further expeditions came and went and the town steadily grew in size and influence.
Shipping experts Cars UK had done much of the tedious temporary import documentation prior to our arrival, so from signing in at the security desk to driving out of the customs compound with their cars cost most crews less than 30 minutes. Hugo Upton and Nigel Gambier needed a roll of tape and some scissors to attach a GPS unit more securely to their well travelled Lagonda. Veterans of two Peking to Paris they were looking forward to the challenge of the drive and finding time to do a spot of fishing. Nobody had serious issues and all the cars started up easily. After the briskly completed formalities were out of the way the newly reunited cars and drivers headed for the exit gate with an Alvis followed by a Chevy followed by a Bentley and all the others emerging onto the streets of Buenos Aires.
Driving onto the busy city streets from the depot to the hotel the full force of the city immediately hits you. The crowded freeways, the stainless steel and glass high rise buildings, and the avenues lined with Argentina’s distinctive purple jacaranda trees.
Our day ended with a packed Driver’s Briefing, collecting our Navigator’s bags with route book and map book, we then all dined together in our first group meal, with silver service and plenty of local wine from a squad of waiters.
Day 0 – Under Starters Orders
We drove to the amazing Museum of Art at Tigre 35 kilometres north on the outskirts of the Buenos Aires this morning,. The sun shone down hard on us all – it was soon reported to be 34°C. After morning vehicle safety checks from the team of Scrutineers, the crews enjoyed a lunchtime reception on the terrace and then took to a riverboat cruise down the River Plate back to our hotel.
As we are in Fangio-country it’s no surprise that on the entry list we have the biggest ever team of Chevrolet Fangio Coupes that any rally has ever received, the Chevies lined up together and looked resplendent in the bright sunlight.
We have 12 different countries represented on the entry list, bringing 35 cars to our first South American event.
Two cars reported troubles today – the Jaguar XK120, car 31, Michael Maedel and Roy Haddad, which last night had steering issues as the original steering had been replaced by a rack and pinion set up that had loose mountings. This morning the car had further troubles when the clutch failed – it has a non-standard BMW gearbox so it was off to a vintage car specialist to get a new clutch. The car looks low having been built for track events, and so appears vulnerable for dirt roads and clearly needs a lot more work if it’s to fully complete our route. If the car had been left in standard trim, it would be better suited to this course, according to our sweep-mechanics who have over 100 past events behind them.
The second car in difficulties was car 28, the Buick of Udo Bichler from South Africa, and Tony Edwards, which had the radiator suddenly come loose, which hit the fan. The fan broke up, and the radiator is so badly dameged it needs to be replaced. A worry, but less work here than for the Jaguar crew. John Raker’s 1929 Ford Model A, veteran of the 2010 Peking to Paris, suffered a fuel blockage but was swiftly sorted by Rob Kitchen and Tony Jones, in the shadow of the 1912 art-deco museum.
Our return to the Emperador Hotel was by boat down the River Plate. On the way, we sped through the delta-lands past colonial mansions, riverside clubs and all manner of watersports enthusiasts. Rusting hulks, gently decaying into the muddy waters of the world’s widest river mouth, were a highlight of our cruise.
We are leaving tomorrow to rejoin our cars which were locked securely overnight at the Tigre Museum, and begin the first day of our 6,000 kilometre route and our first overnight stop of Rosario.
Our day ended with hot news from London that Philip Young was a winner at the Octane Magazine’s Historic Motorsport Awards Night at the Renaissance Hotel in London. As Philip is with us here in Argentina, journalist Tony Dron took to the stage to collect his trophy – The Personal Achievement Award “for having invented Historic Rallying”. Jane Strange, Nikky Bannister, and others who help make the Rally Office a success filled the E.R.A. table at the glittering black-tie and ball-gown night of celebrations . Philip says the trophy is as much to do with their personal dedication as any single individual. The saying “behind every successful man is an even more successful woman” might be true but in this case but there are several women whose endeavours have made the past year so remarkably enjoyable for so many.
The Octane awards night is the Sport’s premier annual awards ceremony and is attended by legendary figures such as Sir Stirling Moss, and compered by Le Mans winner Derek Bell, with over 200 of those who lead, invigorate, govern or participate in the world of Historic Motor Sport.
Tony Dron was among those who took part in the early struggles to establish road rallying for classic cars, joining the likes of Paddy Hopkirk (who won the 1990 Pirelli Classic Marathon), Roger Clark, Moss, Makinen, Sprinzel and others from the “golden era” who all helped to set down a bench-mark and establish a new scene, which today goes from strength to strength. There are now more rallies than there are circuit-races with considerably more entrants and cars.
Day 1 – Tigre to Rosario – We’re off and running.
A spectacular electrical storm with heavy rain overnight brought the temperature down a few of degrees in Buenos Aires but did nothing to dampen the spirit of the rally. Today it all begins, the planning, the building and the packing all comes to this.
The start of the adventure, with a strong wind blowing and thick dark clouds overhead – but thankfully no more rain – the crews boarded the buses to take them back to the Tigre Art Museum to collect their cars and start the clocks ticking.
Once at the museum however, the first job for most of the open car crews was to drain their sodden tonneau covers and mop out the foot wells. So much for the romance of open air motoring.
Barbara Philips from car 5 busied herself making espresso coffee on a camping stove while others debated the clothing choice for the day, rolled up their oil mats and checked all manner of things from fluids to wheel nuts. Melinda Raker (in a Ford) bumped into Andy Bentley, an Argentinian taxi driver (with a Hyundai) and an old friend of their son Henry. We also learned from her that the three Ford Model A’s on the event are called Noddy (car 09), Betty (car 10) and Evita (car 11).
The 1924 Vauxhall 30/98 of Charles and Missy Stuart Menteth started with the first turn of the key and soon the entire car park was filled with the burbles, throbs and rumbles of the Rally. It sounded like it was going to be a good day whatever the weather held in store. Indeed it was very blustery and grey as we waited for the off but with five minutes to go the sun came out once and for all and the mercury started climbing to the levels we’ve been used too over the last few days.
At 12.01 Arthur and Anna Manners in their 1927 Oldsmobile were flagged away through the gates of the Museo down an avenue of well pollarded plane trees and onto the busy Argentinian freeway system, well surfaced and with truck traffic thinning with every passing km. It was still very windy though and some of the open car crews were lucky to escape with their wigs and toupees intact. Monica Pothoven from the 1935 Bentley Derby in fact lost her hat at one point but her husband Olaf gallantly returned to retrieve it. Under this sort of sun it’s essential to have something on top.
Heading roughly North West we were treated to a vast and fantastic lush landscape of rolling green grasslands with evidence of cereal cultivation, fruit trees and some livestock. These open prairies made some of us think we were back in Siberia, the American West or even Norfolk as adverts for pest resistant crops and farm machinery kept us entertained whilst the well flagged roadside fruit sellers tempted us with their wares!
At the Passage control in Baradero, windswept groups of rally drivers arrived for coffee and snacks after 132km on the open road. The mood was upbeat however and in the long roadworks immediately after the Rally gave the trabajadores something to look at. It’s not everyday 35 amazing cars come this way.
Finally after 234km we left the province of Buenos Aires and entered Santa Fe Province. Now we feel we’re on our way into a wilder South America and as if to prove our point a gaucho with a herd of horses trotted along side the carriageway.
The test for today was a session at the municipal race track which gave the drivers a chance to stretch themselves, have a little fun and play at being their very own South American racing driver. We sat back in the sun and watched as suspension compressed, wheels squealed and grins widened.
We also witnessed one more minor headwear incident here when Gerard Besson of car 07 lost his hat through the open drivers window but had time enough in hand to stop, run back down the track retrieve the wayward headwear before continuing to the finish.
With only 18km to go to the hotel from the test most of the crews felt that they were home and dry for the day, not so Alastair Caldwell however whose 1968 Mercedes 280SL had developed a head gasket problem. Alastair thinks that poor quality fuel was to blame but whatever the reason it looks like he’ll be back tomorrow as the sweep crew worked late into the night to fix the problem.
Also, we’re still waiting for two of our number, Udo Bichler and Antony Edwards are playing catch up in their Buick as are Michael Maedel and Roy Haddad in their Jaguar. The word is that they’ve made the necessary repairs and are on their way to join us.
The mood around the bar and in the dining room tonight was one of satisfaction, a feeling that the day had been a good one. Alastair Caldwell has taken the lead in the Classics category despite his problems whilst David Williams is sitting in first place Vintageant.
Day 2 – Rosario to Cordoba – n the tracks of Che on the carefree highway
Well refreshed after a good nights sleep and business like breakfast we pulled out of the excellent and very modern Pullman hotel complex this morning under bright blue skies, and for the meteorologists back at home, there was no wind this morning.
We had stayed in Rosario for somewhat less time than its most famous son, Ernesto Che Guevara who lived here briefly as a baby in 1928; but our connection with him continued throughout the day. As a sickly child with severe asthma his doctors recommended to his parents that they move to a drier climate such as that found in Alta Gracia, which was on today’s Rally route. Rosario’s second most famous son is the footballer Lionel Messi who was also born and bred here and it was also the birthplace of the Argentinian flag as well as being an important port on the Rio Parana
Ahead of us lay 460km via Alta Gracia, a town founded by the Jesuits in the 17th Century, to Cordoba. A long way indeed but with Endurance Rallying that’s the name of the game. The Ford Model A of Ross Lilleker and David Cooley, car 11, AKA Evita got an early start and we found them gallantly trucking on up the highway in good order an hour ahead of the rest of the a rally on another excellent two lane highway. We’re gradually getting a sense of just how big this country is but it’s springtime, it’s warm and sunny and it doesn’t get much better than this.
Wind pumps (not as busy as they would have been yesterday), grain stores, toll booths and police checkpoints marked our progress. Despite giving the impression of being a pancake flat drive we gradually left the low lying pampas behind us and gained height slowly all day, from less than 100m at the start to around than 600m by the time we finished and it was one of those days where there were no turnings for 340km or more. By the time we reached the Passage Control some crews had forgotten what the steering wheel was for and a with little else to see over the endless horizon our eye was drawn to a brand spanking new Claas combine harvester depot, German and Argentinian flags standing side by side. A potent symbol of two countries united in mechanised agriculture.
After 368km it was a relief to get to the PC in Rosegundo, a chance to fill the tank, stretch the legs and enjoy a coffee. The 80km to the hotel following this included a few turns and roundabouts and was time enough for the drivers to reacquaint themselves with their steering wheels. Today was also a test of range, fuel was “well spaced” and there was more than one crew who arrived at the PC sucking on vapour.
We glimpsed the Sierra des San Luis mountains in which Cordoba sits through the heat haze and we were given a hint of the landscape of the tail end of the Andes which is going to become our constant companion for the next few days.
We arrived at the excellent Alta Gracia circuit as a round of the Argentinian touring Car Championship was taking place. We had been given the option to drive the circuit once the track cars had finished so we amused ourselves on the field next door by watching a few chukkas of pato. A game closely related to polo which involves horsepower of a totally different nature, we found it fascinating and came over all Jilly Cooper. The hospitable crowd even offered us food and drink at half time as their mounts relaxed in whatever shade they could find. Ever the keen participant, polo regular Hugo Upton blagged his way onto a pony and onto the subs bench. Sadly he wasn’t needed.
From the service department we can report that Alastair Caldwell did indeed start this morning, after replacing the head gasket on his Mercedes in Rosario last night. He made good progress to Cordoba so let’s hope that his troubles of yesterday are behind him.
Some more good news to report is that Michael Maedel and Roy Haddad rejoined us today. The Jaguar is fixed and after their inauspicious start the crew are looking forward to the rest of the Rally. Udo Bichler and Antony Edwards in the 1939 Buick Coupe are also back with us. Their radiator leak is fixed but may need further attention along the route.
Really disappointing news though came from Francis Galashan and Michael Brooks. Their 1938 Alvis has a problem with the cam chain tensioner and can only limp along. They’ve taken the decision to leave the rally here, sort out shipping the car home and catch us up in a hire car as soon as possible. We wish them good luck. With no competition today then there’s no change to the Caldwell / Williams leaderboard.
Tomorrow we start our Andean adventure proper as we take the high road to Mendoza. Air filters are being cleaned, luggage reassessed and carburettors adjusted ……
Day 3 – Cordoba to Mendoza
The extra altitude of Cordoba made the morning departure the freshest one so far. Car 11, the Ford Model A named Evita by her crew David Cooley and Ross Lilleker was off again hauling herself out of the car park at 6.00am to start her own lonely trek into the hills. The rest of the rally left at a slightly more civilised 8.00am. Sadly as we reported last night we left without the Alvis of Francis Galashan and Michael Brooks. The round the world round the clock operation that is Cars Europe had spirited it away overnight and it was well on its homeward journey.
Before we leave the hotel though special mention must go to the chocolatier and the pastry chef of the Cordoba Sheraton who put on a bravura performance last night with a fantastic selection of desserts. Any weight lost through careful refining and re packing of luggage was regained at the sweet trolley. Leslie Roy however did have an excellent excuse as it was his birthday.
Lying in store for us today however was a 630km Route through the Sierra to Mendoza where we will also spend our rest day. But first had to negotiate the bumpy road out of Cordoba on a sleepy Sunday morning where the loudest thing was birdsong. Within 25 km we’d cleared the town and the main roads and were onto twisting blacktop, billiard board smooth with great lines of sight through the bends. Two time controls within 8km on a hill leading to the observatory kept the crews on their toes as they crested the 1000m summit. From then on it was down …… Sinuous and narrow but the pressure was off for the moment.
10km down the road however it was back on again as a medal section began. The road plunging up and down helter and skelter for another 8km through a red rock boulder field. Not quite a Martian landscape, there were too many trees but at 1200m altitude and still climbing we were getting there as we skirted the Quebrada del Condorit. National Park.
Sightings of condors were reported along the road but what caught my eye was a magnificent display of garden gnomes for sale at a roadside cafe. Clinton Smith and Trevor Finn the 1938 Chevrolet Coupe had stopped next to them and looked to be showing some interest as Bruce Selbie in his Chrysler P6 wheezed his way past them on the hard shoulder.
A quick coffee and pastel at the Parilla Condor at 2134m restored our equilibrium but a few more km along the road the same could not be said of Bruce Selbie who was spotted being attended to by the ace sweep mechanics Andy Inskip and Tony Jones. A lack of power caused by running too lean was the symptom, the probable cause – an electric fuel pump being used in tandem with the manual one. Ten minutes of tinkering improved things and tomorrow Bruce can get to the bottom of the situation properly.
It’s been a seriously hot day today and on a spectacular downhill run we drove through many small towns and settlements with honey, olive oil and bread on offer by the roadside. But, it’s very dry this side of the mountain and the landscape quickly changed to scrubby outback with a wide sandy strip at the side of the road. The last 60km into the lunch halt in Lujan was arrow straight and bone dry and we passed Charles and Missy Menteth hunkered down against the sun in their open cockpit. At the fuel station next to the Passage Control cafe we spotted Udo Bichler topping up his coolant – again, luckily he’s got a boot full of the stuff.
A satisfying bocadillo with ham and cheese took care of lunch and then it was onto Mendoza, through the high desert of the Quebracho de la Legua nature reserve before spotting Arthur and Anna manners at the side of the road in the process of removing the bonnet cover. Their fuel was boiling in the carbs according to Rob Kitchen so the extra airflow might be just the solution. We then found the Ford Model A duo of Noddy and Betty (cars 9 and 10) cooling off at a fuel station, with their bonnets open. A little further along the road this overheating / bonnet removal craze seemed to have really taken hold as we heard that Catherine D’Andrimont was seen in the process of doing the very same to her 1937 Chevrolet.
Tonight though the leader board stands the same. David and Sadie Williams, Chevrolet Fangio Coupe head up the Vintageants whilst Alastair Caldwell and Laurel Smith, Mercedes 280SL, lead the Classics. (see the Results page for the complete listing)
Mendoza is where almost half of all of Argentina’s wine comes from so it should be a good rest day. In fact we glimpsed our first vineyards with 75km to go along with some olive groves and soon after we were just able to trace the outline of the high Andes through the haze. Never mind the wine though. An ice cold beer is top of tonight’s wish list.
Day 4 – Mendoza Rest Day
There’s nothing like an air conditioned five star hotel to repair to after a day in the desert and the Park Hyatt in Mendoza is proving to be just the ticket for the crews following the heat of yesterday.
Last night’s dinner didn’t disappoint and both the beer and wine flowed freely as tales of temperature related travails were traded.
In bathrooms with more mirrors than the Hall at Versailles we’ve seen sides of ourselves we didn’t know we had as sand blasted, windswept and sunburned bodies were scrubbed clean and moisturised. If this all out solar assault continues some of the open car crews will be using saddle soap rather than Nivea by the end of the Rally.
Rest days are traditionally a day for sorting and fixing down in the basement car park but today there was no drama to note. Robert Abrey struggled manfully with a loose headlamp, Danny Day received help from the sweeps with a faulty brake lamp switch, Bruce Selbie looked into his performance issue of yesterday and Olaf Pothoven set to with the grease gun and the oil can.
Our hotel is very centrally situated right on the Plaza Independencia and within a few hundred metres we have access to many of the wide and leafy avenues, pedestrianised boulevards with cafes and street performers (thankfully no pan pipes) which characterise Mendoza.
For many of the crews though tours of the vineyards, a little shopping or swimming punctuated a thoroughly lazy day.
Tomorrow we’re leaving Argentina for our first foray into Chile. We can see the foothills of the Andes from the hotel and we’re all very excited about that.
Day 5 – Mendoza to Santiago – Peak Performance
It’s sometimes difficult to find a reason to leave a good hotel but today we all had good excuse to be up and out and onto the road again. Today we were crossing the Andes, leaving Argentina before dropping into Chile.
We had been promised some beautiful scenery, an epic drive and a swift border crossing. In the event we got it all. After 10km we saw our first snowy peak, we knew that somewhere up there was Aconcagua, the biggest peak in the Andes, and while we wouldn’t get to see that particular gigantic ‘lump’ today, there were plenty of others to hold our awestruck attention such as the Col Blanco sitting a mere 5490m and which could be seen from most of the road to the border.
Once out of the Mendoza conurbation we took a westerly (right) turn up the RN7 valley road alongside the ‘boiling’ brown and bubbling Rio Mendoza. Looking more like a like a river of hot chocolate than water it led us towards Uspallata and the first Passage Control. This area was once served by the now disused Transandine Railway which passed through on its way from Mendoza to Los Andes in Chile. The line opened in 1910 and closed in 1984 and as we wound our way upwards we followed much of its rusted and twisted route. There are moves to rebuild the line and given the amount of trucks we saw today that can’t be a bad thing.
Through countless tunnels cut into the red rock, up and up we drove, trucks and buses, roadworks and checkpoints inevitably slowed things down but the scenery was exquisite and eventually we crossed the border at the Paso Sistema Cristo Redentor. Surrounded by an endless deep blue sky, countless jagged peaks and snow domed mountains we breathed in lungfulls of dry, crisp and rarified air.
The frontier / tunnel is at a height of 3200 metres above sea level and at such an altitude the parking area was more of a holding stack but our agents at the border – the air traffic control if you will – were well in charge and after some inevitable and predictable form filling and checks to see that we weren’t carrying fruit or plants we all passed through very smoothly to begin the plunge down the other side.
If it was the engine that was boiling on the way up now it was the turn of the brakes to feel the heat. Sadly though our downwards trajectory wasn’t quite as simple as we would have hoped, major engineering and road works meant that we were jammed up in contraflow traffic with lorries and buses almost all of the way down to the second Passage Control of the day in Rio Blanco where Nescafe coffee and sweet biscuits were taken on board.
Santiago was in sight, spirits were high and the Rally rolled on.
Shortly after this however, at 252km, disaster struck for David and Sadie Williams the leaders of the Vintageant category. We found them sat in a lopsided fashion by the side of the road missing one rear wheel, bearing shattered, half shaft separated. True to the sprit of Endurance rallying though they weren’t alone for long as Alain Grisay, Charles Stuart Menteth and David Cooley pulled alongside to lend a hand.
A truck was summoned, the car was loaded and tonight we hear that they’re in a workshop with the right size bearing and fully expect to be back on the road tomorrow.
To keep the Rally on its toes today and to apply just a little pressure there was a 9km medal section just off the main drag into Santiago with time controls set at either end. It was a simple up and down affair. Long looping bends, hairpins and a steep gradient one way were followed by long looping bends hairpins and a steep gradient… This seemingly simple formula caused sweat to form on brows, forearms to tense and knuckles to whiten. Hauling those cars up hill and down dale like this apparently takes quite some effort and was just the sort of sting in the tail that gives the crews something to talk about in the bar over the cheesy nibbles and Chilean Pisco Sours (Chilean pisco, pica lime, no bitters or egg white).
There was a bit of a change in the leaderboard after the Williams’ misfortune. Chuck and Pam Lyford move into top spot of the Vintageants a mere one second ahead of Olaf and Monica Pothoven, while in the Classics category Alastair Caldwell and Laurel Smith maintain their slender lead of eight seconds from Paul and Sandra Merryweather.
Finally we must not finish without mentioning that it’s Martin Hunt’s birthday today. Feliz cumpleanos!
Day 6 – Santiago rest day
We’re a lucky bunch of rallyists. We’ve got another rest day. This time in the buzzing, busy and beautiful city of Santiago, the Chilean Capital. The sun’s shining, the pool is cool and the shops are open.
Some things don’t change though and first stop of the day was the garage where the sweeps and some of the crews were assessing what needed doing to what.
Udo Bichler was having a manifold gasket looked at – and topping up the coolant. Naturally.
We found Danny Day under his car sorting out some slight play in a wheel bearing and checking on a weeping sump. It’s a new engine though so he’s not overly bothered by this and he’s convinced that a few turns with a well aimed spanner will have cured it.
David Williams however had more serious problems. After the wheel loss incident of yesterday the car was trucked last night to a garage and today work began in earnest to repair it. There was plenty of help on hand as well. Andy Actman gave up a days guitar practice and Alastair Caldwell, a noted multi tasker, spent the day both waiting for a new head gasket and helping to fix the Fangio along with Paul Merryweather who also has a lot of experience with this model.
A car such as this always draws a crowd and even when up on axle stands and two wheels a party of excited schoolboys took the chance to snap away as the aforementioned drivers fathomed a way to get an old bearing out and a new one back in. After much rumination and head scratching a welder was summoned to fix a collar to the recalcitrant bearing with which it could be pulled out. After that it was relatively plain sailing to put the car back together and get it back on the road.
The highlight of our day though was a visit to the ‘Collection Jedimar’. A privately run museum in the middle of Santiago containing the best and largest collection of classic, vintage, pioneer and modern cars in the Southern Hemisphere.
Where else, other than on an Endurance Rally Association starting grid would you see such an eclectic mix of cars? Some of the best, the oldest and the most famous examples from Porsche, Packard, Lagonda, MG, Renault, BMW, Fiat and Ford sat side by side underneath a pair of diving airplanes. There was also a collection motorcycles, commercial vehicles and powerboats.
Founded by Jesus Diez Martinez (JeDiMar), the collection represents, according to the literature, the realisation of his vision. The founder of Turbus – a coach company – he began the collection in 1967 his first acquisition being a 1927 Ford Model T. In the same year he established, along with some friends the CAAC whose party we will be attending this evening.
In 1980 he organised the first vintage rally of Rancagua which ended with a huge exhibition of cars in the town square. Sadly he died in 2007 but the current curator, Luis Jimenez, was happy to show us around and even turned off the infra red security beams so we could get a closer look although he drew the line at letting us sit in them!
So, with plenty of energy after a full day of rest thoughts turned to the evenings entertainment. The Yakima crew, comprising Danny Day (who actually fell asleep under his car today), Bill Shields, Bill Dolsen, Leslie Roy et al …… had laid on an impromptu drinks party up on the 19th floor in their Presidential Suite. Justin Bieber, a young Canadian chanteur, had occupied the very same room only a fortnight earlier. He’d strutted his stuff in front of thousands of young Chilean Beliebers and how we all wished we’d been there as well.
The views over the city, as the sun began to set made this bitter pill a little easier to swallow – not to mention the cold beer and Cuba Libre and once we’d downed a few we thanked them for their hospitality and made our way across town to the Marriot Hotel where the aforementioned Club de Automóviles Antiguos de Chile had laid on a small reception for us. They’ve been helping source parts for us over the course of the day and it was great to meet them in person.
News from the sick bay – John Raker, from the Ford Model A has had a recurrence of an old injury and tonight we see him looking very chipper but with his arm in a sling. Medical ethics prevent us from saying any more.
Day 7 – Santiago to Termas de Chillan
Today we left Santiago, the capital and largest city in Chile. Santiago is home to one third of the population of the country which by my reckoning makes for some 6m people and this morning they all seemed to be going our way.
We were heading almost due South to Termas de Chillan which is 82km east of the larger town of Chillan but is a lot higher at 1650m. It’s a ski resort, a spa town and it sits on a Volcano.
Chillan by the way was the birthplace of Bernardo O’Higgins the founder of modern Chile. He was born on August 20, 1778. He died on October 24, 1842 in Lima (Peru).
For most of the morning we drove the Ruta 5 which is Chile’s longest road and is part of the Panamerican Highway, a network of roads measuring about 48,000 kilometres and stretches almost continually from Alaska down to Cape Horn. Linking the Arctic with the Antarctic as it does it passes through many climates but as we drove our little section of the route there was a definite Mediterranean feel to the landscape, the agriculture and the climate with miles of vineyards and acres of fruit trees stretching as far as the eye could see.
The oenophiles certainly had plenty to look at and think about today and you could almost hear them smacking their lips as we passed through Curicó which has both red and white wine varieties but is most widely known for its Chardonnay.
Gradually the snow capped volcanic peaks grew larger and with them came the promise of an excursion onto smaller gravel roads with three time controls and a medal section within 15km. Drivers and navigators had to be alert to ensure they didn’t either incur a penalty or get lost between the villages of Digua and Remulcao and this section of the day was played out against the most stunning of backdrops.
Gravel roads unfortunately do take their toll on the cars and Arthur and Anna Manners needed the engine mounting bolts and a loose sump guard seeing to on their Oldsmobile while Ross Lilleker and David Cooley in one of the Ford Model A’s suffered a puncture.
The climb to the finish was a long one and a tough one mixing gravel, tarmac and a lot of road under repair with sharp hairpins and narrow wooden bridges. Avalanche warnings and earth movers dotted the landscape as we bumped up towards the hotel car park where we saw just what sort of problems the day had thrown up.
Luc Janssens and Alfredo Uboldi’s Ford pickup was sitting at a strange angle with broken suspension. The red Chevrolet of Bill Dolsen and Joe Farina was up on axle stands having major front suspension surgery. The blue Chevrolet of Danny and Michael Day was waiting for someone to polish out the scratches. Others however were more lucky. Gerard Besson set to valeting his Citroen with a bucket and cloth while Michael Maedel was seen vacuum cleaning his Jaguar.
Day 8 – Termas de Chillan to Puchon – Hot Rock
This morning was the coldest start so far for the Rally as we pulled out of Termas de Chillan but as things unfolded this was to be the best day so far with many of the crews finishing by declaring that this was the best days driving they’d ever had.
Helter skelter down the rutted track from the hotel we flew with none of the wheel spinning and clutch burning drama of last night. A little dab on the brakes, some careful steering inputs and a well chosen line had us back on the blacktop in no time.
No busy city for us today, we are out in the countryside now and our travelling companions were buses carrying schoolchildren to their lessons & farm labourers to the fields. No sun for us either. We’ve become used to a blistering dry heat, blue skies and no clouds. Today things were getting a little more Patagonian with an altogether cooler ambiance and a covering of white cloud which meant that collars were pulled a little higher than usual and the scarves which has hitherto been used for sun protection were soon pressed into service as dust masks.
There was a time control in Los Angeles after 200km or so although we weren’t quite headed for the Hollywood hills. As always though this gave us a chance for a regroup, a fill up and a mid morning muffin with a coffee.
Once refuelled and revitalised we found ourselves back on our old friend the Ruta 5 of the Panamerican highway through rolling tree covered hills on our way to the Parc Nacional Conguillo.
We sped past the huge Puente Malleco railway bridge which was opened in 1890. It’s 347.5m long and 4m wide and is made entirely of steel. Unfortunately the area leading to it is a noted accident black spot according to the signposts. Could this be because the bridge is bright yellow and screams for your attention rather than the dull grey road you’re supposed to be looking at? Legend has it that it was designed Gustave Eiffel of the Tower fame. It wasn’t, although he did submit a proposal it was rejected by the Chilean authorities in favour of one by Aurelia Astarria.
Like most of the landscapes we’ve driven through in S America so far you’re given plenty of warning before you reach it. And the same was true of the first volcano of the day. Volcan Llaima is one of Chile’s two most active volcanoes, the other one being Volcan Villarica (more on this later). Llaima sits in its own lava field, a shattered blasted landscape of broken trees, sharp rocks and fine pumice sand which left us scrabbling for grip as soon as we entered the Park which has two distinct sections. One part sees a track wind through a dry jungle with rutted and rocky sections, tight turns and steep climbs. The second section, the the lava field has a much better track with graded gravel and plenty of places to pass and an amazing view. Today the risk of volcanic activity was said to be low but we were soon kicking up our very own ash clouds as we slithered and slipped beneath the sleeping giant. Those in the open cockpits must have been choking at times but this was real frontier driving with views that were worth every lungful. A lizard scuttled away as Chuck and Pam Lyford crunched their Chevrolet across the lava.
It wasn’t all hard work though, John and Melinda Raker stopped with friends to celebrate his birthday in fine style with a cheese and wine picnic on the slopes of the volcano. Can you think of a better setting?
Once thorough the lava field we started our descent towards the Lago Colico. In total contrast to the morning we now found ourselves driving through gentle rolling pasture on beautifully graded gravel, wooden bridges over crystal clear streams beside which Hugo Upton, Nigel Gambier, Arthur and Anna Manners, Charles and Nellie Bishop stopped for a spot of fishing. At least one fish was caught. Now all we need are five loaves and another few fish and that’s dinner sorted.
We heard that David and Sadie Williams wrong slotted shortly after a time control. No problem you’d think, a simple three point turn usually rectifies such a matter so quite why it took a team of oxen and a lorry to pull him out of a roadside culvert is anyone’s guess. The two beasts in question unfortunately didn’t have the right footwear for car dragging despite the handler engaging 8×8 drive so a lorry was called for. David wasn’t so much left with egg on his face rather dung on his windscreen.
The second volcano of the day was almost in the garden of our hotel. Volcan Villarica is probably one of best looking volcanoes in the world, a near perfect cone it rises straight up from Lago Villarica by the town of Pucon. A beautiful way to finish a perfect day.
News from the pits – Ross Lilleker and David Cooley arrived tonight on a truck. They’re going to replace the half shaft in their Ford Model A and fully expect to back on the road tomorrow. Michael Maedell and Roy Haddad broke down somewhere along the road today and unfortunately their beautiful Jaguar is now on its way home.
Day 9 – Pucon to Bariloche
Not for the first time we awoke to find that we’d spoken too soon.
Despite battling into the early hours Ross Lilleker and David Cooley couldn’t fix their Ford Model A. They had all the necessary bits and pieces and plenty of expertise on tap but thanks to the problems they had already experienced the axle casing had deformed which meant that the new components wouldn’t fit. We last saw them on a truck at the border waiting to cross. A sad sight but they’re a determined pair and are convinced that they can play catch up.
For those with four wheels still on their wagon though the day started well. A few km of the finest Chilean tarmac led us to a lengthy gravel section through a typically green and pleasant land. Passing sheep in fields and wooden farms houses we breathed in the gentle aroma of woodsmoke. Unfortunately gravel brings it’s own problems – or challenges as we prefer to call them. And today it was a case of another day another dust bowl as we watched a procession of cars make their way through the first passage controls.
There was a further 16km of steep uphill gravel to the Chilean border. Twisting and turning certainly but wide and well surfaced and once again thick with dust. By the time we reached the border it’s safe to say that no one looked like their passport photo any more. Days of burning sun, drying winds and now a good coating of dust will give the beauticians at the Llao Llao spa plenty to think about.
When we got to it, the border was a cold and windy place it’s 1200m high so we didn’t really want to hang around for too long and thankfully we didn’t have to. Both Chile out and Argentina in were handled reasonably well, it’s a small border though and the strain of almost 100 rally personnel to clear immigration along with their 40 cars to export and import led to some pretty long queues for the locals who were also trying to cross.
Once you’ve cleared immigration then the driver of the car goes to customs to sort out the car carnet. Our friends at the RAC sorted this vital document in advance for all of the rally cars without it we’d be looking at a much longer process at each border. Navigators can use this time without the driver to good effect, Barbara Philips for example busied herself with the espresso maker, Marie Odile Besson sat as low as she could out of the wind and Luc Janssens helped Christian Dumolin charge his battery.
Once back into Argentina we descended through a landscape full, of dead dry trees, misty peaks, looming clouds and we felt the odd spot of rain as we drove down the road. This is an altogether more windy,wetter and wilder Argentina than that which we left behind the last week. In a word the weather looked ominous and as the kilometres rolled by it had well and truly closed in.
Once out of San Martin de Los Andes where many crews took the opportunity to have some lunch in one of many excellent cafés it was up and up and up on a set of flowing gravel bends. Thankfully it was still raining and this time the dust was kept well under control unlike like the rear wheels of some of the cars. Out of this section we rejoined the main road running alongside the first of many lakes such as the Lago Hermosa which was all but hidden in the mist. The many roadside miradors mocked us as we turned from one cloud covered mountain to another and we could only imagine what fantastic landscapes were hidden from us. Pity the poor photographers amongst us, pent up in their cars, trapped like goldfish in a bowl …of milk.
Pity also the open car crews. Today was more like a yacht race at times than a car rally as Mother Nature assailed them with yet another one of her elements. Ladies and gentlemen of the open car cadre, we who have a roof salute you.
There was no let up through the Parque Nacional Nahuel Huapi. Low clouds, torrential rain and some of the most rutted gravel this side of Mongolia had to be tackled along with deep splashing muddy puddles. Thankfully this surface eventually gave way to silky smooth tarmac and the sort of 360° wide open views which leave you with a sore neck.
The roads around here are lined with all manner of trees and plants but the most striking is the bright yellow flowered shrub which we believe is called Calafate, the Magellan barberry. It certainly cheered up a pretty grey day.
By the time we got to Bariloche the rain had stopped but there was a full gale blowing with there were waves crashing against the beach at the lake and the boats in the marina pitching and tossing against their anchor chains.
Tonight we are at the Llao Llao. One of the best hotels in the world apparently and tomorrow is a rest day. Happy days indeed.
Finally, in response to overwhelming demand, and obvious necessity, we bring you Fred’s Facts, an occasional series on motoring matters and all things rally related. 1 – Fuel facts. Petrol cars work best with petrol. Herr Diesel and Mr Bentley never met as far as we know and, Mr Bailey, they never should.
Day 10 – Bariloche Rest Day
The Llao Llao rest day, something we’ve all been looking forward to for a long time. A fabulous hotel in an exquisite setting. The guidebook describes picture postcard views in every direction and we couldn’t agree more.
We’ve been on the road for almost two weeks now and today marks a sort of midway point for us. We’ve left behind the hotter and more densely populated half of the Rally to enter a colder and more desolate place. Short sleeved shirts and shorts are now right at the bottom of the kit bag as duvet jackets and thermal underwear make their way to the top.
Bariloche, the town which the Llao Llao calls home is a bustling lakeside ‘honeypot’ with cafes and gift shops galore and from it you could take a cruise on the lake, the Lago Nahuel Huapi or swim from one of the beaches or hire a mountain bike or ride a horse or go fishing. Or you could sit around the beautiful wood panelled bar and sink into an overstuffed armchair sipping a cool beer and forget the rattles and bumps of the Rally.
Bariloche is a year round resort but as we were only here for twenty four hours the Rally organisers arranged for us to have four seasons in one day. Wind, light snow flurries, rain, sunshine and showers gave us the complete picture.
In the carpark we saw the usual running repairs and maintenance. Martin Hunt was replacing all the tubes and rubbing down the inside of the rims of his Bentley as a precautionary measure after suffering three punctures. Luc Janssens and Alfredo Uboldi were servicing the Chevrolet Coupe. There are some long tough days ahead and like many others they wisely took the chance for some preventive maintenance. A welder was on hand but Danny Day decided to take his Chevrolet into town to a workshop for some suspension modification and repair.
Last night after an excellent dinner of tenderloin beef we enjoyed a virtuoso musical performance. Andy Actman and Sadie Williams performing as Sadie and the Headgaskets, kicked up a rumpus in the bar with a real guitar and a fake one – made from a head gasket. Listeners were hard pressed to decide which one they preferred as they sang along to Alice, the Actman Anthem, and a number of other crowd pleasing tub thumpers. The late Lou Reed once said that “One chord is fine. Two chords is pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.” and on this basis we can say it was a fine performance.
Today though brought an end to the Rally for Geoff and Penny Rawlings. Their Talbot has issues with the steering and they don’t feel its fair to push it any further.
Day 11 – Bariloche to Esquel
Frost on the windscreen today but a welcome return to the clear blue skies we’d missed over the last few days. With a horizon dotted with white mountain peaks do you need more of a reason to get out of bed in the morning? If the answer is yes then a quick look today’s schedule and map should help you to push the duvet back.
Thoroughly rugged up then we left the Llao Llao and took left turn at the gate, which luckily for us meant the more scenic route. Skirting the lake on a road bordered with trees and yellow blossom we craned to sneak a peak at the lakeside haciendas screened from prying eyes with tall gates and dense vegetation. These looked to be sort of houses which don’t need bathroom curtains.
Today though we were going to be busy. We had a test on a track upon which we could unleash the inner Fangio that lurks in us all. We also had several time controls which meant little time for lingering even though we only had a total distance of 383km to cover.
But first we had to get there and this in itself was a treat as the road rose and fell, swooped and looped against the epic background we’re becoming used to with rivers and rocks. From each corner another piece of the patchwork was revealed.
After 95km a sign announced that we had entered a foot and mouth free zone and a certain Chevy service crew breathed a sigh of relief.
Finally we arrived at the circuit. Karting Lewis, a compact little affair with nothing in the way of a straight line but plenty of curves… tight ones, tighter ones and really tight ones. It was great fun to watch the cars slipping and sliding whilst the driver fought to balance the competing demands of maintaining some forward motion and managing the centrifugal force.
Once done with the track day and back onto the road / gravel we encountered the first water crossing of the Rally just before a Time Control which led to an 8km gravel section. All the things you’d learned on the track now needed to be unlearned on this looser less ‘predictable’ surface.
At the end of another long gravel ‘tranche’ almost 14km we found a gathering. Three cars and two sweep wagons. Charles and Nellie Bishop in the Vauxhall, Arthur and Anna Manners with their Oldsmobile and Charles and Nicola Menteth in another Vauxhall.
The Menteth Vauxhall had in fact been worked upon late into the night and we feared that the valve springs which had been replaced had not rectified the problem. Luckily they only needed refuelling and they effected this from an onboard bag. It was the Manners Oldsmobile which was the problem. It had broken its engine mounting bolts and the Bishops had stopped to offer moral support and bemoan the fact that this might cost them a few hours fishing.
Rob Kitchen temporarily lashed the engine to the rest of the car with a ratchet strap and soon had them on their way down into El Maiten where some of the other crews took advantage of an excellent cafe and coffee shop and enjoyed papas fritas and empanadas for lunch.
Then it was decision time. A choice was on offer, the Route Book allowed us either to continue on the tarmac to Esquel without a penalty or take the more interesting but slightly longer gravel route through the Los Alerces National Park. The sign said ‘camino sinuoso’ and 11 of the crews couldn’t resist it. They turned right towards more of the many lakes which can be found here, and looked forward to enjoying the drive once their tackle had been inspected and disinfected at the Police checkpoint. Fisheries protection is taken very seriously in this part of the world.
Whichever way you approached however our night halt in Esquel was a welcome sight. With a name taken from the Mapuche language to mean with ‘bog’ or ‘place of thistles’ it sits at the southern end of La Trochita, the narrow gauge Patagonian Steam Express train runs between Esquel and El Maiten with a top speed of only 30kph.
It’s the pits…. All of that gravel and the distances we’ve already driven are taking their toll. As expected Arthur Manners Oldsmobile was under the spanners tonight in the hotel carpark for a more permanent solution to the engine mounting issue. Olaf Pohtoven had punctured his fuel tank today but his Bentley is already back on the road. Paul Merryweather’s Classics leading Mercedes was receiving attention for a small hole in the sump and Chuck Lyford has had to have work done on the suspension of his Vintageant class leading Chevrolet.
Tomorrow’s another day.
Day 12 – Esquel to Los Antiguos – The Best Laid Plans
Not so much break for the border today and more of a case the border is broken. Chile is on strike, the border and customs officials at least. We got the news over dinner last night and woke this morning to the realisation that it was true. A large South American spanner had been well and truly thrown into our works.
Necessity though they say is the mother of invention and overnight the Organisation had been busy, hotels had to be changed. Routes redrawn and instructions reprinted. Kim Bannister and Anthony Preston worked into the night to put together an alternative rally schedule.
We did salvage something from today though. There’s a race circuit at Esquel only 4km from the hotel so at first light we made our way there for a couple of Time Trials. This circuit wasn’t as tight as the track we were on yesterday so there was more of a chance to open the taps and give it a go ….. before closing the taps, stamping on the brakes and heaving the steering wheel around.
As is the way with Endurance Rallying your rivals are also your friends and travelling companions and as the cars made their way round the track the rest of the Rally gathered in the rickety old grandstand to cheer them on and offer friendly and well chosen words of advice.
The big open top Mustang of Christian and Regine Dumolin scorched around with squeals of what we presume was delight from his tyres. And the the big closed top Mustang of Jan van Gemeert followed in similar fashion. The Coupe des Dames category of Catherine Janssens d’Andrimont with her daughter alongside also put in a respectable time despite having trouble selecting gears. At the end of the session it was Chuck and Pamela Lyford who took the chequered flag in the Vintageants.
There was trouble at the end though for car 15 which we found in the pit lane sitting in a pool of water. ‘It’s and old car and it’s incontinent’ was the verdict of the crew as the sweeps mixed up some resin to plug the leaking radiator. This remedy soon had them back on the road and they made good time to the night halt.
Once this little escapade was over and done with we hit the highway, for the non stop trip to Los Antiguos. For the rest of today the had Rally turned into a road trip and secretly some of the crews were looking forward to it. With their flying jackets well zipped up against the chill a convoy of Vintageants hurtled South. Not too much dust, very little gravel no problem. This was a chance to kick back, take in the views and relax a little without the time card nagging.
Some of us gathered for an impromptu mid morning stop at the service station in the small town of Gobernador Costa where we reckon they sold more empanadas today than they would usually do in a whole week. Tanks filled and crews refreshed we pulled back onto the highway through a cheering crowd of school children who’s teachers had brought them across to meet us.
Much of the day was spent on a high plain at around 800m. There was water but by and large it was a dry and parched landscape. David and Julia Harrison have made such good progress in the Porsche 356 so far marvelled at the vastness of it all. When you stopped by the roadside and turned off the engine there was nothing but the wind. The road ran along a flat valley with a few cattle but many more sheep and we saw three mounted gauchos rounding them up with calls, whistles a few dogs and a rattling plastic bottle. The rebaño moved along steadily but it looked like it was going to be a long day in the saddle.
A small fishing party formed on and around a bridge over the Rio Mayo, Nigel Gambier and Hugo Upton parked their Lagonda and led the charge landing a tiddler or two with an unusual Zimbabwean fly but we had to move on before the real action started.
We still had 200km to crunch with some of it on gravel and as the afternoon warmed up we noticed the road disappearing into a heat haze in front of us. Mirage or mountain? The horizons turned to liquid as they shimmered, shifted and changed shape all around us.
Our destination for the night, the town of Los Antiguos, sitting on the shore of the Lago Buenos Aires is noted for its soft fruit growing and for being windy. So far we’ve not tried any of the former but can attest to the latter.
The Rally was split tonight across many hotels and guest houses. There wasn’t one hotel big enough to take us all at such short notice but tomorrow night we regroup at the lakeside Hotel Mora.
We’d already gone to press last night when the news arrived that it was Charles Menteth’s birthday so a belated happy birthday to him. Today hasn’t been the day he would have wished for however. The engine trouble that has dogged his Vauxhall for the last two days reoccurred today and although he did make it to Los Antiguos it was on the end of a tow rope. Fortunately tomorrow is a rest day and he’s determined to get to the bottom of the problem.
Day 13 – Los Antiguos
After the reroute caused by the Chilean border officials strike we found ourselves with time in our hands today in the cherry growing capital of Argentina. We’re told that the area has a micro climate suitable for this sort of farming and god knows there’s plenty of water. Locals tell us that the Lago Buenos Aires is the second largest lake in South America.
Danny Day is involved with soft fruits professionally so he felt right at home and spent time touring the town.
Our gallant sweep crews actually only get half a day off on a rest day so Rob Kitchen, Tony Jones and Andy Inskip found themselves back under the usual suspects this morning.
Paul Merryweather had commissioned a local repair shop to make him a steel sump guard for the Mercedes which left the sweeps the fairly simple task of attaching it to the car.
Charles Menteth’s problem with his 1924 Vauxhall 30/98 was a little more serious though and explains why he looked a little glum over breakfast. As reported yesterday he came in on the end of Andy Inskip’s tow rope late last night with an ‘engine problem’, but by lunch time he was in a much brighter mood. It wasn’t a faulty head gasket or an ignition problem which he’d feared rather it was a relatively simple but unusual fuel feeding problem flooding the engine with too much petrol. Messrs Jones and Inskip looked as relieved as he did.
Some of the Rally missed the rest day in Los Antiguos completey, they pulled out early to get some miles under their belt and spend two consecutive days in El Calafate. The rest of us will be joining them tomorrow and then we’ll all be back on the same schedule.
Day 14 – Los Antiguos to El Calafate
Today was a transit day. There was no timing and there were no checkpoints. We had a lot of kilometres – 683 of them – to cover to our night halt at El Calafate and crews began pulling out at around 6.00am. Gerard and Odile Besson driving their lovely Citroen were among the first away followed by Udo Bichler and Tony Edwards.
Today was a transit day. There was no timing and there were no checkpoints. We had a lot of kilometres – 683 of them – to cover to our night halt at El Calafate and crews began pulling out at around 6.00am. Gerard and Odile Besson driving their lovely Citroen were among the first away followed by Udo Bichler and Tony Edwards.
Once we’d crossed the Rio Chico bridge we turned onto gravel and within minutes any Peking to Paris veterans would have felt as if they were right back in Mongolia. As well as incredible rock formations there were the clouds to marvel at. At times they looked as if they were painted onto the sky and despite the howling wind at ground level they never seemed to move.
Those worried about the fuel gauge would have breathed a sigh of relief at 400km. A bowser appeared in the windscreen. It had been booked to hand out 50 litres of free fuel to the crews and a very welcome lunch bag. Danny Day received both with thanks then pulled alongside Chuck and Pam Lyford a little further down the track who were enjoying a picnic lunch.
Gradually as the day drew to a close we saw what we’d been waiting for. The magnificent peaks of the Los Glaciers National Park. A little blurred and smudged at first in the haze they snapped more into focus with every passing kilometre. El Calafate which was founded in 1927 is a staging post for visitors to the Park and tomorrow many of us will be joining the queue.
Day 15 – El Calafate rest day
There’s a saying that once you’ve eaten the El Calafate berry you will return to Patagonia but we think there’s a lot more hereabouts to ensure your return than a simple soft fruit.
Today the big draw is the Glacier Perito Moreno. Some 80km away from the town of El Calafate it’s a big old thing and one of the fews glaciers in the world that isn’t receding. It’s 30km long, 5km wide and, as it debauches into the Lago Argentino, stands 60m high. It’s huge and at times advances, if that’s the right term for a glacier melting and falling into a lake, at anything up to 2m per day. As it groans and creaks small chunks of ice and meltwater fall continually into the water but every so often something really spectacular happens and a tsunami of slushy water rushes against the shore.
The dramatic, jagged and crevasse strewn texture of the surface is the result of warming meltwater undermining the ice and the incredible deforming pressure of the huge mass sliding downhill at an uneven rate.
A bus tour was arranged to take us to the Park but as you’d expect many of the crews opted to drive themselves. The chance to see our collection of Vintage Bentleys, Vauxhalls, Fords and Chevrolets added to the visitor experience for the ‘regular’ day trippers.
After walking along the viewing platforms and getting a birds eye view of the place some of the crews took a boat tour around the icefall for a fish eye perspective and we could see them sailing along tumblers full of gin, tonic and a slice of lemon in their hands waiting for the next fall of ice to complete the set.
There are three distinct parts of a glacier. The accumulation zone, the area where the snow falls and is compacted into ice. The equilibrium line or the middle part of the glacier with which we can measure the speed and growth (or recession) of the glacier. The ablation zone where the glacier loses ice through melting, calving (the action of chunks breaking away) or evaporation.
The shades of blue within the ice intrigue many people and they’re caused by the fact that the ice is compacted. Old and dense – highly compacted ice – absorbs every colour in the spectrum except blue.
The cafes and restaurants of El Calafate provided an ideal spot for lunch and the lawns of the hotel were an excellent place for a quick lie down afterwards or if you prefer – maintenance.
Tomorrow we cross back into Chile to visit the fabulous Torres del Paine National Park and we’re braced for some queueing at the border due to the ongoing industrial action. Watch this space.
Day 16 – El Calafate to Torres del Paine
Well we made it. The Chilean border was open and we got through in pretty good time before setting off for another highlight of our trip… The Torres del Paine National Park.
As we pulled out of El Calafate one hour earlier than scheduled we didn’t know what sort of day would lie ahead and rumours of the chaos waiting for us at the border played on our minds as we tucked into the breakfast buffet.
Within 10km of the hotel though we had a test to undertake, it is a rally after all. This one was on a long looping dirt circuit with chicanes and ‘stop astride’ sections to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. Betty Ford, John and Melinda Raker’s Model A gave it her all with a huge surge down the back straight and through an open right handed bend…. we could see the crew through the windscreen hanging on for all they were worth.
Like some of their fellow competitors Robert and Jane Abrey had been worried about the fuel situation before the track. The official advice was to fill up in town as it could be difficult to find petrol out on the road, but this meant arriving at the test with a full tank which would add weight and cost them time. Most played it safe though and with the one fuel station en route doing a roaring trade we all arrived in Torres del Paine with something in reserve.
Following this it was a mix of tarmac and gravel all the way to the first set of time controls where we saw Alastair Caldwell arriving bang on his due time despite a rear wheel puncture. Ever mindful of the clock he drove the last three kilometres or so on the wheel rim which, as we write, is under the hammer in a local forge being refashioned into something a little more round. Wheels are cheap as chips, he says but time is precious and true to this maxim the Time Card was stamped well before the wheelbrace was unpacked.
The border – well that was pretty much a non event. Alex, our local agent extraordinaire had pre filled the forms we needed and handed them to us as we arrived at the Chilean entry point. We signed them and handed them across. The usual checks for smuggled fruit were the only things which got in our way. Woe betide anyone caught with an undeclared banana.
Our hotel for the next two nights, the Explora is fabulous, tucked away in the landscape right on the shore of Salto Chico with incredible uninterrupted views of the Paine massif and sitting down to a silver service dinner of mushroom soup, conger eel and fine wine the rally was in good heart.
There are only 97 km of roads within the park so tomorrow, our last rest day, will see most of us walking, riding, swimming and boating our way through what is arguably South Americas most spectacular scenery. The name Torres del Paine – the Blue towers – is an amalgamation of Spanish and the indigenous word for the colour blue. It refers to the three immense granite towers that rise to almost 3000m above the surrounding flatlands.
Day 17 – Torres del Paine rest day
The last rest day, the last chance to do something out of the ordinary in this quite extraordinary place. Torres del Paine is a Unesco world biosphere reserve and the tourist industry here is well set up for delivering an experience you won’t forget for a long time.
There had been some late night carousing last night – we’re told – but surprisingly many of us were up bright and early and the boat trip which left at 6.30am for a half day tour of the lakes saw some passengers arrive on the jetty wearing their own lifejackets.
As is their lot the sweeps had a half day of fixing and fettling before they could clock off and claim their rest day and like many others Tony Jones swapped his overalls and the driving seat for a set of jodhpurs and a saddle.
It wasn’t all play though, work down in the garage continued as usual. Chuck Lyford spent seven hours sweating under his Fangio ‘getting it right for the last bit’ whilst others sweated for seven or more hours in the spa.
Some of us took what was probably the most strenuous of options however, the 17km trek to the base of the towers. Thanks to Barbara Philips-Tensing pushing the pace both there and back this group claimed the record for the fastest round trip of the season. It still gave us plenty of time to enjoy lunch at the top though and to gaze across to the three Torres on what we’re told was the best day for many months. The sky was blue and there was no wind as we unwrapped the excellent packed lunch issued by the hotel. Our guide had carried hot soup for us along with various salad items, tea and coffee and chocolate. A truly memorable fine dining experience.
Our stay at the Explora has been a remarkable one, both it’s location and its ambiance have led countless crews to state that this was the best hotel of the Rally if not one of the best they have ever stayed in.
Tomorrow we head out of the Park to Punta Arenas to begin the last leg of the journey through Tierra de Fuego.
Day 18 – Torres del Paine to Punta Arenas – What a difference a day makes
Well rested, well fed and well up for the challenge of the day there was only one cloud on the horizon this morning as we pulled out of the Explora hotel for our trip down to Punta Arenas.
nfortunately that cloud was the width of Chile, very dark grey in colour, centred right on top us and it contained a mixture of rain, sleet, snow and hail. Added to this was the wind which was as ferocious as any we’ve seen so far which meant that the windchill factor was quite considerable, especially if you were sitting in an open car.
Stopping by the side of the road to watch the cars on their way out of the Torres del Paine National Park it was difficult to even stand, the sleet was blinding, the hail stinging and the rain soaking. Never mind four seasons in one day this was more like an Antarctic winter compressed into half an hour.
Just outside the park boundary we saw a rare sight indeed. Hugo Upton and Nigel Gambier broken down by the side of the road. Given its rarity we weren’t at all surprised to see a bus load of tourists gathered around photographing the stricken Lagonda as the crew were busy changing the fuel pump. They’d suddenly lost power and were trying all of the usual things to get things going before the sweeps arrived. When the red Toyota Hilux support truck did arrive the fault was found to be a loose battery master switch that was fairly simple to remedy meaning that they were back on the road in good time.
The tourists? Well they boarded the bus and went off in search of relatively more mundane subjects such as puma, guanaco and condor.
We had fuel shipped up to the hotel yesterday for those in desperate need – max 20L per car – but the first fuel station for quite some time was found in Puerto Natales and though it was a sleety and windy forecourt it was much welcomed by the Rally just before the lunch halt in the Cafe Patagon which was doing a brisk trade in soup and hot chocolate. Almost everyone stopped to take the opportunity of a warming drink and the open car crews to compare frostbite with the sound of Christmas music seeping from hi-fi on the counter.
Our last stop today was the race track at Cabo Negro, a chance to clear away the dust and shake off the gravel of the last couple of days. Track day ace Martin Hunt with the hood of the Bentley in its ‘up’ position gave a us a lesson in apex to apex cornering whilst Clinton Smith and Trevor Finn and David and Sadie Williams in Chevy’s took the road less travelled riding high onto the kerb before dropping one wheel off onto the dirt through a series of turns. It’s an old rally trick to save on the rolling resistance from the inside wheel. For a few seconds of every lap we had Monte Carlo and LeMans rolled into one.
Bill Shields unfortunately didn’t get to try out that particular trick though, his steering broke midway through his session and he and Alex Schoenauer spent the rest of the session getting it back together so they could drive the car to town and have it welded.
All of the drivers were pushing hard to gain a few seconds and to shake up the leaderboard and who knows what goes on outside of parc ferme, but a stewards enquiry must surely be called for tonight as Olaf Pothoven had clearly modified his car when he was seen to employ an air brake on his last lap.
onight we’re in Punta Arenas which was first settled in 1848. It rapidly became an important trading post and a busy port as a junction between the old and the new worlds. Ships about to round the horn had to stop here to resupply and refuel before pressing on. The city was officially renamed Magallanes in 1927, but in 1938 reverted to its original name. Originally a penal colony, a gold rush and sheep farming brought in many settlers in the late 1800’s and thereby assured the towns survival.
The Panama Canal, the short cut between the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean, reduced the importance of Punta Arenas somewhat but it’s still a well used stopover for cruise liners and scientific ships.
With nothing to report from the pits other than routine maintenance we left Arthur Manners in the garage wondering where he could buy a pair of Long Johns.
Day 19 – Punta Arenas to Rio Grande
The Ruta del Fin del Mundo – Ruta 9 in plain speak was yesterday’s travelling companion but today’s route complete with sea voyage felt like much more of a final act. Our final day in Chile and our last border crossing.
So it was an early start after a restless and windy night for many of us, (dockside hotels can be restless and windy places). We had a boat to catch at 7.00am sharp. Breakfast was at 5.30am following which we headed straight to the ferry port some 8km away under the most spectacular full rainbow.
We were about to cross the straits of Magellan. A stretch of water linking the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic. Ours was to be a two and a half hour voyage across a small but turbulent part of the inky black wastes of the southern ocean. An albatross wheeled overhead, a pod of dolphins provided us with an escort and although lookouts were posted at all four corners the whales which we knew were lurking somewhere below never actually surfaced.
Our vessel was the roll on roll off ferry Crux Australis with Captain Eduardo Leal at the helm. A mariner with 25 years under his lifebelt. We were in safe hands for the passage to Porvenir, a tiny windswept outpost of Chilean Tierra del Fuego.
We were the lucky ones, our boat sailed on time but all subsequent sailings were all cancelled due to the weather and despite the ‘slight’ movement of the boat upon the swell many of the crews used the times wisely catching up on sleep, playing cards or trying to keep down their breakfast.
Philippa Spilller probably didn’t think she was so lucky to sail. She managed the latter but only just and looked very sick indeed and it took fully two more hours on land before her equilibrium returned.
Even on the short drive to the port however there were minor dramas played out. The Menteth Vauxhall was towed onto the ship because persons unnamed had left the fuel pump on whilst they were having breakfast and had flattened the battery. Nicholas Philips had changed the fuel filter last night but didn’t change the seal meaning the Alvis didn’t sound at all well as it chugged aboard but Rob Kitchen and Andy Inskip quickly had it sorted despite the pitching and rolling of the boat.
Upon disembarkation we enjoyed a stunning coastal road under clearing blue skies with just a hint of warmth in the sun. We swept up and down past signs warning us not to eat the shellfish, a number of tiny fishing settlements and vast empty estancias.
We crossed out last Rally border today, out of Chile and into Argentina and, as usual the pre planning and pre filling of the necessary forms by Alex the agent whisked us through in pretty quick order.
Once in Rio Grande there was a track session to finish the day off and give the podium hopefuls another chance to claw something back.
Tomorrow, the last day will come all too quickly for some but tonight there was some serious party time to be enjoyed. The hotel even laid on a disco for us with glitter balls, purple neon lights, a dance floor and complimentary white jumpsuits for those who hadn’t packed their own ……..
Day 20 – Rio Grande to Ushuaia
Ushuaia… Where the fox hat? …ask Melinda. ‘It’s the end of the world as we know it…. and I feel fine’. REM – 1987
We all feel fine in fact because tonight we’re sitting down to a glittering dinner drinking fine wine in a fine hotel on the shores of the Beagle Channel in Ushuaia, the most southerly city in the world.
We are in Argentina but out of the picture window we can see Chile as we tuck into sweetbreads, veal and chocolate tart. These two countries, their food, wine, landscape and hospitality have done us proud over the last month and I’m sure that more than one of our number would have raised a toast to the other side.
It’s been quite a day though and this morning we started as we finished last night, on the track. The ever playful track day boys were trying to save a tenth here and gain a tenth there but it was Nigel Gambier and Hugo Upton who took the flag. Not the chequered flag – obviously – rather the Argentinian flag on a lap of the circuit. Ever the diligent diplomats they ‘scorched’ around flying the Bandera Oficial de Ceremonia from the Lagonda which had been transformed into a four wheeled, open topped goodwill embassy.
As fantastic as this was though the most abiding memory of the day though will most likely be the weather. Full blizzard conditions accompanied us most of the way with near freezing temperatures. Tierra de Fuego was not living up to its fiery name.
The passage along the muddy gravel tracks of the middle section was slow for some, there was a fair bit of slipping and sliding, Nellie Bishop in the Vauxhall without a roof had mastered the art of screen washing and wiping whilst on the move whereas Jan Woien and Jan Hansen in the Alvis with a roof could do their window cleaning only while at a complete standstill. Visibility and traction were both in short supply.
Further along the road and down the recently cleared Monte Olivia we saw both Robert and Jane Abrey peering out of their respective sides of the Bentley all the while trying desperately trying to hang onto the tail lights of Betty, the Rakers’ Ford Model A who had a working trip meter and working windscreen wipers.
Snowploughs had been out and the road was passable but narrow tyres and drum brakes made for cautious progress.
Our destination was Ushuaia, the capital of Tierra del Fuego, on the southern coast of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego and sits below the Martial Mountains to the north of it and to the south is bordered by the Beagle Channel.
The town also has a motto which we quite like “Ushuaia, fin del mundo, principio de todo” or “Ushuaia, end of the world, beginning of everything”
So, to the prize giving and speeches where the silverware was handed out for best performance in this category or that category.
Chuck and Pam Lyford and Paul and Sandra Merryweather took the overall honours but many more crews will see their mantelpiece a little more crowded next week as the trophies were handed out to recognise the many heroic efforts and some great competition.
The evening was rounded off nicely with the unofficial awards ceremony presented for any number of random acts of madness over the course of the Rally. The committee chaired by Melinda Raker and counting, amongst others Barbara Philips and Nellie Bishop had deliberated long and hard. Their judgements, careful and considered, for the likes of ‘best in rally bodywork modification’ the ‘silliest hat’ and ‘cleanest interior’ were very well received and reminded us all that there’s a lighter side to the serious business of Endurance Rallying.
It’s a sad fact that tomorrow morning many of us leave for home (weather permitting) but as well as a bag load of dirty laundry and some souvenirs we’ll all be taking away great memories and lots of goodwill.
Until next time.
The final overall classification of the 2013 Vintage Cape Horn rally
December 04, 2013
|Vintageant Category cars|
|40||Pamela Lyford / Chuck Lyford
Chevrolet Fangio Coupe
|23||Clinton Smith / Trevor Finn
|14||Olaf Pothoven / Monica Pothoven-Fels
|18||Martin Hunt / Olivia Hunt
Bentley Le Mans
|15||Jan Woien / Jan Hansen
Alvis Speed 25
|17||Andrew Bailey / Philippa Spiller
|20||Catherine D’Andrimont Janssens / Stephanie D’Andrimont
|2||Jean Steinhauser / Anne Steinhauser-Collard
Bentley Derby 4¼
|12||Leslie Roy / Rand Elliott
Ford Model B Phaeton
|25||Bill Dolsen / Joe Farina
Chevrolet Master Deluxe
|26||Alain Grisay / Edouard Grisay
|5||Nicholas Phillips / Barbara Phillips
Alvis Speed 20
|22||Daniel Day / Michael Day
|3||Charlie Bishop / Nellie Bishop
|8||Robert Abrey / Jane Abrey
|1||Arthur Manners / Anna Manners
|27||Bill Shields / Alex Schoenauer
|4||Charles Stuart-Menteth / Nicola Stuart-Menteth
|10||John Raker / Melinda Raker
Ford Model A
|7||Gerard Besson / Marie-Odile Besson
Citroen Traction Avant
|9||Rupert Marks / Blake Dorrington
Ford Model A
|6||Nigel Gambier / Hugo Upton
|29||Bruce Selbie / Alexander Robertson
|24||David Williams / Sadie Williams
Chevrolet Fangio Coupe
|28||Udo Bichler / Antony Edwards
|11||David Cooley / Ross Lilleker
Ford Model A / (rental car)
|16||Penny Rawlings / Geoffrey Rawlings
Talbot AV105 / (rental car)
|19||Francis Galashan / Michael Brooks
Alvis 4.3 / (rental car)
|Classic Category cars|
|21||Paul Merryweather / Sandra Merryweather
Mercedes 450 SL
|34||Alastair Caldwell / Laurel Smith
Mercedes 280 SL
|30||Christian Dumolin / Regine Dumolin-Petillion
Ford Mustang GT 289
|32||David Harrison / Julia Harrison
|35||Jan Van Gemert / Marion Van Gemert
|33||Luc Janssens / Alfredo Uboldi
|31||Michael Maedel / Roy Haddad
Jaguar XK120 / (rental car)