The run up to the border today was truly breath taking. Much of the time I was driving through flat single coloured desert but from time to time without any warning Bridget would turn a corner around the crest of a mound and there was a valley with drops of between 1500 and 3000 feet. Eventually I realised, the reason that such a huge change could appear without warning is that whilst driving across the desert the landscape appears flat, so that massive valleys are not evident until you are right on the rim.
The roads drop right to the bottom of the valley only to climb up the other side. Long stretches of the road has no crash barriers even though the drop is almost vertical. If you lose control of your vehicle, for any reason, there is nothing between you and the long drop.
We ran out of petrol today and Bridget’s jerry can came in useful once again. We stopped on the floor of one of the valleys to fill up the tank. I levered myself from the cockpit of the car and unlashed the fuel can. I then came under ferocious attack from a swarm of midges. I retreated to the inside of the car and covered myself liberally with Bushmen’s best insect repellent then returned to the refuelling. The midges still attacked me but at least the Bushman’s kept the stray dogs away.
Our experience at the Chile/Peru frontier was not unreasonable. The formalities took around two hours and two very pleasant Peruvian customs officials proved very helpful. I also discovered that car insurance is not a requirement for transit tourists.
Bridget has performed well again particularly in the way she has attacked the mountain climbs, but she has an exhaust problem and may need a replacement.
Continued today in much the same manner as yesterday but came across around 100 miles where the road condition deteriorated considerable. Bridget went through a phase of low oil pressure and high temperature that I eventually put down to the altitude. It corrected itself and other than that she is running well. I have been very impressed with the way she pulls up the mountains; however the real test for that is still to come when we run from Nazca to Cusco over the Andes. We will be at heights in excess of 19,000 feet.
I have found the cause of Bridget’s exhaust noise and to an occasional knocking I’ve heard. Whilst in Australia in an attempt to cure the exhaust pipe of constantly coming loose a bracket was spot welded to the pipe and the gearbox housing. After taking several hefty bangs at various times it has broken loose of the pipe leaving a hole where the weld had been, and the pipe knocks on the bracket from time to time. I will try to get a replacement but it will probably not be before arriving in the USA.
A note of warning to anyone thinking of joining the crazy brigade and driving in Peru, take extra care on the tight bends in the mountains in particular watching out for the lorries. They have a propensity to cut the corners as their speed is often too high. Today I saw two that were off the road and one, a cab and trailer, had actually turned over.
It is now Thursday 11th June and it has been a tiring drive from Camana to Nazca. It’s not far, only about 250 miles but the road condition in places is poor, and the route is the type that can be great fun when driving a MG or similar car. It snakes around mountainsides with sheer drops into the ocean, but it is hard work because of the lorries that I continually have to avoid. They are constantly threatening to crush you against the cliff wall. On top of this the cliffs are very unstable and the road is strewn with fallen rocks. I started the day with the top down but the danger of being hit by falling rocks is so great along this particular route that I eventually put the top up to give me some protection.
That said the scenery is again astonishing. I shall now check Bridget over thoroughly in readiness for tomorrows drive across the Andes.
There comes a time when logic demands that we assess our strengths and weaknesses, both in ourselves and if appropriate within a team. I have today done this and my conclusion was ‘enough is enough’. I have therefore executed what the British call a strategic withdrawal. We are famous for it, whenever we are getting a pasting that is what we do.
This morning we started out on the road to Cusco and everything started well. The road was in excellent condition and I estimated that we would arrive around 4:00pm this afternoon. Then we ran into a series of road works as we climbed the first 3,000 feet. The road surface immediately reminded me of our days in India! The road works were spread over a distance of around 2 miles but after we had passed all of them the road did not get better, if anything it got worse.
I thought it might be temporary and so we soldiered on at around 20mph but after 22 miles things were just not improving. With 400 miles to go, plus of course the return journey on Tuesday, I was forced to conclude that Bridget, although willing, would just not make it.
I turned her around and headed back to Nazca and the hotel. I thought that at least I could garage Bridget there and rent a 4×4 that would be able to cope with the route. However the nearest car rental company turned out to be in Lima 300 miles north. Therefore I shall do what nobody would ever expect of me and catch a bus. It leaves at 8:00pm and takes 15 hours. Oh joy!!
So that the complete day was not totally wasted I thought that I would take a light plane flight to view the line drawings that Nazca is famous for. Everyone that didn’t know that should pay a forfeit to UNICEF of £5 (or equivalent) and those that did know about the drawings are smartasses and should pay £10.
A series of photos of the drawings will be on the picture gallery. To show what a philistine I am I found the drawings OK, but was more interested in the type of string that they use to hold various parts of the plane on. I thought I could perhaps borrow some for Bridget’s exhaust system. Anyway it was exciting