A 25,000 kms drive around South America - Oct/Nov 2001

Starting and finishing on Copacapana Beach, Rio de Janeiro. Driving 25,000 kms through six countries: Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, Chile and Uruguay. One hundred cars: fifty classics and fifty 4x4's.

Rio de Janeiro

Preparing to go home!

We packed after breakfast then rushed off to RioSul Shopping Centre in an attempt to buy Christmas presents. It was not very successful, so we came back to the hotel and bought a t-shirt and purses in the shop there. We finished in our room and left a tip for Franzisco, our very nice room cleaner. We left our bags downstairs then went next door to the usual place for drinks and snacks with the Moffatts, Lennox, the Borns and some others. We exchanged addresses, etc, and there were lots of goodbyes. The Robinsons finally turned up - they had been up to Corcovado.

Final farewells.

We took a very fast taxi to the airport. We were on the same flight as Angus Stamper and his wife, Emma, the Barnes, Chris and Linda and the Doreys. Sadly, Geoff Dorey's mother had just died.

The flight left at 6.30pm (8.30pm London time) and took us south from Rio via Sao Paulo where we were one and a half hours on the tarmac. More passengers joined the flight and we then had a full plane to London. We finally arrived at Heathrow on Tuesday morning at 9.45am. We had dreadful food on the flight. Daniel met us at the airport and we were finally home at 12 noon. It was lovely to see all the family. Although we didn't want to leave Rio, it's great to be home!

Rio de Janeiro

A beautiful clear sunny day. We had breakfast outside and there was a parade going on in the street with many Father Christmases. There are lots of Christmas decorations which look very odd in the summer heat.

We went by taxi to Corcovado and there was a big queue for the train to go up to the top.

Entrance to train station and one of the funicular wheel trains..

They have opened a Visitors' Centre since we were last there, 2 months ago. We were up by the statue just before midday. It was very hot but clear. Tim took photos and the sun was in a much better position than later in the day, when we were there before. We had mandarin juice and a sandwich and bought a t-shirt for Ed.

My co-driver and navigator extraordinaire, enjoying herself relaxing at the the top of Corcavado.

Back at the hotel, we changed and walked to the Copacabana Palace to see the Moffatts. Unfortunately, they weren't there, so we decided to see them tomorrow. We then walked back to the Sofitel.

We had a swim in the Sofitel pool, which was very pleasant, then we sat in the sun and had tea. We said goodbye to lots of people, promising to keep in touch. We met Steve and Nicky and had a drink outside the upstairs bar. We all went to dinner at the Satyricon restaurant in Ipanema. It was excellent and we had wonderful fish, including lobster, with a risotto and a very good Chilean Chardonnay. We went back to the hotel and met Greg, Chris, Lennox and others.

Rio de Janeiro

We said goodbye to the Mitchells, the Pelly-Frys and Colin after breakfast.

We took a taxi to the Santa Teresa tram-stop, but were dropped off at the Metropolitan Cathedral dedicated in 1976 to Saint Sebastian, the patron saint of Rio. It is an astonishingly ugly cone- shaped building, designed by Edgar de Oliveira da Fonseca. It has 4 huge stained-glass windows and is very tall and impressive, but rather sinister.

There was a special service taking place with some sect or order with many in the congregation wearing red sashes and others bearing flags. As they all filed out of the cathedral, a man with a beautiful voice sang a hymn or religious song and a lot of people joined in. It was powerful and very moving.

We walked to the Bonde or tram station and waited quite a while for the tram to Santa Teresa. There was a lot of shunting back and forth to make room for the trams coming in the opposite direction. It was a bumpy ride with locals hanging on the side of the tram, which is free. We got off at what was supposed to be the centre, but there was very little in the way of shops or restaurants. We walked quite a way and became very hot, so went into a bar for a drink - Bar do Mineiro - and ordered lunch. We were feeling over-heated by now, but the lunch was very good - salad, chips and fried fish. Ronnie Biggs used to live in Santa Teresa, but we didn't discover which house. We took a taxi back down and tried to visit the Candelaria, a church, but it was closed.

We went instead to Praca 15 de Novembro, named after the date of the Proclamation of the Republic in 1889.

The square, which has many old buildings, including the Imperial Palace.

The area was rather seedy and as we went back to the hotel, it was raining heavily. We walked around the Antiques Fair next door, then went to the Copacabana Palace to say goodbye to the Marklands. We gave Paul a Rio numberplate and had a drink with them and the Moffatts.

We went on to Nicky and Steve's in the evening to see the lighting of an 82 metre high Christmas tree in the lake. We met some of their Brazilian friends, including their Portuguese teacher. We walked over to look at the tree and listen to a concert. Then we went to the Wheelers' friend Graham's flat, also overlooking the lake and the tree. The tree is  a huge illuminated structure towering above the lake. There were very impressive fireworks.

We left to go to the Samba School rehearsal, but were not sure where it was. The concierge couldn't help us, so we didn't go in the end. I was very disappointed, although I don't think Tim was. Instead, we went to the Garota de Ipanema restaurant where they wrote the song about the girl.

We had a late dinner there which was very good, although it was really crowded. We met the Robinsons and went back to the hotel.

Day 56 - Rio de Janeiro

Tim and Colin took the car to the port early in the morning. I sat for one and a half hours having breakfast and chatting with Patsy and David Mitchell. Later, in the restaurant next door, we had the Alternative Awards Ceremony with the Marklands. Tim, Colin and I were given the "For being there" award!

We went by coach to Sugar Loaf Mountain for dinner and the real Awards Ceremony. We went right to the top and admired the stupendous views, then went down to the halfway stage for champagne courtesy of Buick.

The view over Rio from Sugar Loaf Mountain

Some photos of our friends at the prizegiving.

And finally the prizes!

We left early and were back at the hotel by 10 past midnight. We rang Edward, then heard that our flight schedules have changed. Colin is leaving tomorrow and we have one extra day!

Distance driven 15 miles and total driven for the Inca Trail is 13,490 miles (21,580 kms)

Day 55 - Rio de Janeiro - The Finish

The last official day of the rally - Day 55.

We sorted out the packing and the car. Tim and Colin took the Land Cruiser to the Fort and we all met in the bar next door for lunch. Kitty and her son, the family of the film crew's cameraman Tom, arrived to wait for him.

Everyone was lined up at the Finish to cross the line in order, with JB waving his chequered flag as we each crossed the line.

Paul and Charlie Markland finishing. How on earth did they manage to nurse the Buick all the way back to Rio?

Chris Denham in his 1953 Alvis crossing the finish line.

More finishers:

Being towed across the line!!

Rolf and Inez Pritz finishing.

The president of Brazil, F.E. Cardoso, was also due to arrive at the Sofitel for a meeting. We waited ages for his helicopter to land at the Fort, then it finally came during the Inca Trail Arrivals Ceremony!

 There was strict security with 2 helicopters landing in the end - very impressive. Some competitors were held back from finishing until the president had been taken to the hotel. It was very hot and sticky. Most people have now arrived, including the Mitchells who have come back specially from New Zealand for the End of Rally party - a great surprise! Patsy is still in plaster, but progressing well.They are both extremely grateful to Greg Williams. Also, Mark Human has returned after being with Paul Marsh. We went to the bar next door for drinks and snacks and Nicky came to join us, along with Colin, the Robinsons and the Mitchells. Steve is in Buenos Aires. We will see Nicky and Steve on Sunday morning. We went up to bed and had fruit salad and ice cream from room service

Day 54 - Guaruja - Rio de Janeiro

We set off at 9am to drive along the coast to Paraty. For us, it is the last day of driving! The others will arrive in Rio tomorrow. It was a long and quite wet drive. We arrived at Paraty at lunchtime. It is quite a basic primitive area, but the centre of the town has attractive colonial-style buildings.

We parked near the Refugio restaurant, where the Rally are having lunch tomorrow. We met the advance car again and the local Brazilian guide. We had a very good lunch there under a great brass double-revolving fan, which was most welcome as it was very hot and humid outside. It started to thunder after lunch as we walked around the town. There were some nice shops, but we had very little time. We went to buy diesel, but our credit cards wouldn't work. At last Colin's went through and we were able to leave at 4.15.

It was raining and stormy. We had a quite tiring and emotional final 4 hours drive to Rio. We followed the Roadbook via the coast road, including cobbles, to Barra, Leblon, Ipanema and, finally, Copacabana and the Sofitel!!

We felt slightly shell-shocked as we checked in. I can't believe we've made it. We met Colin in the Horse's Neck bar in the hotel and had 2 Caipirinhas each. We then went down to the restaurant next to the hotel. John Brown has arrived from England and Tim went to speak to him.

John has had bypass surgery and we are amazed he has been able to travel all this way. We had supper outside with Colin. It was raining but there were canvas awnings overhead. We were tired and went to bed at 2am.

Total distance driven 342 miles.

Day 53 - Florianopolis to Guaruja

We are missing one night of the Rally to arrive in Rio tomorrow. It is a long drive to Guaruja - 760 kms. It was a good road to Curitiba, dual carriageway most of the way. We met Paul and Charles en route.

The Buick is really falling apart now, but they are still going. They were going to stay near or in Sao Paulo, but actually turned up in our hotel - the Casa Grande in Guaruja. There were also 2 or 3 HERO crew and Jan and Julienne there. It was very humid, still overcast, but hot. It is a good 5-star hotel, being partly re-furbished.

I had a very welcome swim in a pleasant pool, then a beer and a light meal in the bar next door. We had drinks with Colin, Paul and Charlie, then Tim and I had coffee and dessert in the restaurant. We talked at length with Mike Preston about HERO and the Rally. He is in the advance car with his son, Anthony. This is our last hotel before Rio de Janeiro!

Total distance 474 miles.

Day 52 - Florianopolis - Rest Day

The resort is quite good. We are going to spend the day relaxing, walking and so on. Paul Marsh is said to be recovering and will go home to England in a week's time. After breakfast, we walked along the beach. There was still no sun, but it was very warm and humid. We climbed over the rocks and up the hill near Colin's building and saw petroglyphs.

There are supposed to be huge spiders, but we didn't see any, thank goodness! A large mammal with a long tail ran out from the undergrowth, which I later found out was probably an anteater. We had a beer by the beach, then walked back down to a fish restaurant and had a cocktail - a Lago do Santinho - which was blue, and fish. We drove into Ingleses, the nearest town, for diesel and stamps. It was a peaceful, relaxing day. We had a drink by the pool with the Dyke- Prices, then helped ourselves to the buffet and took it outside to eat. The Noors arrived,  but I don't know where they had been before today. Charlie, Jingers and some others played silly games with beer cans and sun umbrellas.

We have an 8am start to get to Guaruja, near Sao Paulo, leaving out one hotel stop, Paranagua, in order to get to Rio as soon as possible.

Day 51 - Porto Allegre to Florianopolis

We hope Paul Marsh will recover after today's surgery. The Range Rover of Howard Bennett and Ann Seymour has broken down (again!) and they hope to see us in Rio.

We had a long wet drive along the coast to Florianopolis. Many of the lorries were throwing up a lot of spray and we could not see much of the surrounding scenery. It became much more tropical and lush with many banana trees. Florianopolis is on the island of Santa Catarina and is reached by a bridge. It is a busy holiday area, although it is not high season at the moment. Our resort, Costao do Santinho, is away from the built-up area and is quite pleasant.

It would be nicer still in the sun! We are in a good- sized flat, because they originally put Colin in with us, and then moved him to a brand-new building. He has a wonderful room overlooking the sea and is in the same block as Clay Regazzoni. There was a so-called "cocktail party" put on by HERO and the hotel, but there was only beer. We went out in a bus with about 10 others to a beachside fish restaurant and came back quite late.

Total distance 324 miles.

Day 50 - Punta del Este, Uruguay to Porto Allegre, Brazil

We drove to the border with Paul and Charles and went through a different crossing from most of the other participants. Fortunately for us, 2 of the Portuguese from the Rally, father and son, Jose and Ricardo, were there early and smoothed our path. It took only about 20 minutes to cross into Brazil.

It was a long,empty, fairly boring road to Rio Grande. We split from Paul as we were tired of going so slowly. We all took it in turns to drive, finally arriving in Porto Allegre at about 5pm, but we had to put our clocks on an hour.

Driving into Porto Allegre.

Porto Allegre is a fairly seedy place, so we decided to stay in the hotel to eat. It is a large, modern hotel called the Plaza Sao Rafael.

We were very shocked to hear that Paul Marsh had been badly injured when he and Mark Human rolled their car. Paul is in hospital with head injuries. We ate downstairs with Colin and the Robinsons. It was slow service but quite good food. There were lots of other Inca people there. Paul Marsh is in Montevideo for surgery on his neck/spine. He is conscious and Mark Human is with him. The atmosphere in the restaurant was very subdued.

Total distance 473 miles.