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South America Four Wheel Drive Trip - II.

[see part 1].

We thought we would take this leg of the trip easy but nothing is easy when you travel the back-roads, but it is interesting and full of surprises.

Back in Peru

We arrived in Arequipa and found the car all ready to go with new hand tooled leather door coverings to spruce up the Land Rover plus a heater. Everything was working great thanks to Ceferino and his entire family.

Peru

Our first goal was to see the Colca Canyon which is twice as deep as our Grand Canyon but a lot shorter. Our guide Lisse who took the extra seat for two days of hard driving knew every rock and plant in the entire area. The gravel roads over mountain passes hovering around 14,000 feet can really get to your head. Gladys did not want to take the local medicine (coco leaves) so she got altitude sickness. I chewed the leaves as instructed felt great plus a small buzz.

August is really cold this far south. A few days after we departed we had the good luck to miss three feet of snow in the canyon. We only had a few inches to deal with but the locals with regular pickups were pushing and pulling most of the time. Everyone said it is due to el Nino.


A Land Rover with Llamas but there was also a Land Rover Llama

Colca Canyon

Chivay is the main town above the canyon rim with regular tours visiting the town. Most of the tourists spend the night here for it has hot water and heating in the hotels. We continued on along the edge of the canyon for about 30 miles to Cabanaconde where the suspension foot bridge crosses the canyon. This farming village with muddy streets and some electricity is the drop off for anyone attempting to assault the level 6 rapids of the Calca river. About 5 percent of those who try, do not make it out alive.

The new hotel we stayed at had hot water but no heat. The other hotel Valle del Fuego had the greatest pancakes for breakfast but no heat, hot water or blankets. Almost all the women in the entire town wore traditional clothing finding people to speak Spanish rather then the Indian language was a little difficult.

We had a quick visit to the local high school teacher's home to give him instructions on building solar stoves, given to us by Sam and Tara of Paonia, Colorado. His wife was in an awful mess because the day before the heavy rain washed two feet of water into her house.

We took the long way back to Arequipa to keep to the lower altitude and release Gladys from the grasp of altitude sickness. I was happy to get back to the paved road after going for about 200 miles without seeing a gas station. The Land Rover was into its second reserve tank for it gets about 12 miles a gallon up in the mountains. A taxi driver we picked up had two flats and needed repairs. He was about 80 miles from the tire shop and was waiting for a lift for 6 hours. We were the first car that passed him that day; was he happy that we picked him up. The mountain gravel roads in this area see one or two cars a day in good weather.

The next morning we left from Arequipa to Chile, about a 7 hour drive. We started to hear rumbling from the rear of the car about three hours out in the middle of the desert and had to limp to the next town at about 10 miles per hour. We found a great garage in Moquegua a small farming center. The mechanic broke down the rear end and found the short axle completely gone. [Starts like this?] You all know we keep an extensive supply of parts, but two long axles do not make a short one and we had to send to Lima for the part. No shipping on the weekend so we had three days to see the sight.

They really have a great old fashion open-air market selling everything from alfalfa to jeans. It was a delight seeing the daily goings on and enjoying the people of the town. One night the major entertainment was the girls volleyball team beating Arequipa by three points. The mechanic charged us about $18.00 in labor to tear down and rebuilted the rear end, plus the parts we purchased. If you ever need low cost repairs, it is the place to go.

Chile

Chile at last but one little problem - they stamped my passport saying that I could not leave the country without the Land Rover. Later we figured out a way to get around this little quirk but it really caused some gray hair until we found the solution. This is a nation on the move with all the action of a modern state set down in South America. The police or military never stopped us the entire time in Chile. We normally are pulled over every hundred miles in the rest of South America.

The town of Arica where we pick up our auto insurance contract has little bistros serving great meals and wine on the sidewalks just as in Paris.

Running on, we entered the Atacama Desert the driest desert in the world. This was the sight of our first real sand storm after more than 1200 miles of desert driving. You cannot see more then a few feet in front and the wind was howling up to 45 knots. It slowed down the Land Rover to about 20 mph. I was thinking of stopping for my concern that sand would be pulled into the engine. Again, the small tank of the Land Rover gave us additional concern for we were into our first reserve tank when a gas station can into view right in the middle of the desert. You can never have too much gas.

Iquique the vacation resort and Antofagasta the mineral center were just places to spend the night as we moved south. The flooding in La Serena washed out the bridge south but we just made it across in time; again el Nino.

After crossing the border it took four hard driving days through deserts to reach Santiago de Chile. You could almost say a switch was turned on from the change to grass lands and wine country. Flowers, another export, were growing all along the road until we entered Santiago. Santiago is a major city with a ski resort, with the best skiing in all of South America just 50 miles for the center of town. Here is where we met Alejandria Aranguiz, our auto insurance agent. We even won a prize for being the first to purchase insurance from her firm over the Internet. You could put Santiago in any country in Europe and not know it was part of Latin America for all of its sophistication. Each night we visited a different night club for dinner floorshow and dancing.

We again had a little problem the car would not start except with a crank or a push. Upon arrival at the official Land Rover dealer in Santiago across from the polo fields, the problem was resolved. While there we checked a few things and found the compression was down in the #two cylinder. The high mountain passes burned a valve. To get out of the country I had to legally turn the car over to Arturo de Lara the service manager at the Land Rover dealer, and have my passport signed by the customs to leave Chile. Arturo said that when we return our little truck will be right for the next 50,000 miles, as long as we keep to the low lands.

Our next trip will take us to the bottom of the earth, about 1500 more miles. You all know about the extra seat for this should be one of the best legs of our trip for its natural beauty.

© Roy & Gladys Halvorsen, 1997

See also part 1, part 3 and other 4WD Destinations


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