Nov. 29. Day 17. It’s been days since I’ve posted. Thanksgiving has come and gone while we crossed borders We have crossed the border to Chile, back to Argentina and back again to Chile. Our days have been long and many of them hot. By the time we get into our hotel, there has been no time for anything except a shower, dinner and bed. However we have a day off and I hope to give you a flavor of our last days.
On day 16, we had a long hard drive, over 550 km from Salta, Argentina, crossing the Andes and the border at Paso Jama. This is the most northerly border between Argentina and Chile and reaches a height of 15,000 feet. The road still rises after that to 15,764 feet (according to my Garmin). Yes, this is a part of our ascent. We had concerns about ourselves and Stewball. We crossed here with a few other cars, but the rally route crossed at a lower altitude on a road that is partly gravel, our route was a longer and higher, but with better road conditions. Fuel was a problem, but fortunately we did locate a fuel station along the way. (Some of the rally cars did not make it and had to be towed to a station at the end of the day.)
Bottom line, Stewball did experience some vapor lock but never let us down. We did take some puffs of oxygen we had brought along and experienced a few symptoms of altitude sickness, namely, headaches and muscle weakness when we were out of the car at the border and had to exert ourselves walking into the border control. By the time we got to our hotel we had entered the desert, passed the famous salt flats and descended to 9,700 feet. We were ready to collapse and give Stewball a much needed rest. This is the highest point on the rally and while we will be at 10,00 feet in Cusco, we are confident we will make that without difficulty.
Our hotel, Tierra Atacama is the best so far on the rally. We are in the Atacama Desert with volcanos in the distance. The views are spectacular as they were on most of the drive here. Nights get quite cold and days are hot. This morning I had the opportunity to walk into the dusty town of San Pedro de Atacama with Marian, a rally friends from Australia to buy a few things. This is a popular tourist destination for serious hikers, photographers and adventure tourists. Tonight the hotel will put on a Chilean barbecue with lamb and live music. I’m looking forward to that. A great end to a wonderful break.
Tomorrow we are on the road again traveling along the coastline of Chile almost to the border of Peru.