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.

Day 26 - La Serena to Santiago

To Santiago!

We left La Serena and drove into the next town, Coquimbo. We spotted a large cross on a hill and drove up to have a closer look. It was modern, made of concrete, and called the Cross of the 3rd Millennium - impressive but rather ugly.

We passed through green valleys where there were many radar traps. We also experienced quite a lot of fog before we came into Santiago. We were all staying at the Hotel Carrera in the centre of the city and some other Inca Trail people were also there - the Marklands, Paul and Charlie, the Moffatts in the Bentley and Gae and Simon Gaul, the newly-weds for whom the Inca Trail was meant to be their honeymoon! In fact, they have been doing their own thing since the beginning of the Rally and this was the first time we have seen them for weeks.

We had a club sandwich in the bar with Colin, then went on a guided tour of the city with a driver, Luis. It was very enjoyable. We saw many public buildings, Bellavista, the University and went to the hill of Santa Lucia where we walked around and took photos.

Then, we went to San Christobal, a park where there is a statue of the Virgin Mary high on a hill. It was a gift from France.

There were stunning views over the city which is very green, but with quite a few skyscrapers. We could see the Andes with snow on the top.

At the hotel, we had tea on the roof by the swimming pool, where again we could see the snow-topped mountains. We also had our dinner there. It is a most idyllic spot and even the Queen has visited this hotel. I would like to stay here.

Distance driven today 296 miles and total since Rio, 6,728 miles.

Day 25 - Copiapo to La Serena

To La Serena. The drive took about 4 hours, almost non-stop.

We passed Hank and Tinneke who were also en route for La Serena. I did want to stop to look for penguins, but we were all keen to arrive early at the hotel. There were spring flowers along the route and Tim picked some.

We found the Hotel Carrera, Avenida del Mar and had an extremely good lunch with Colin - risotto and 2 bottles of Chilean Chardonnay!

We went for a walk on the beach, then sat on the balcony in the sun. Tim went for a swim in the pool.

Later we went by taxi to explore the town centre, which is very attractive. We walked around the Plaza de Armas which was very lively and then we went to look at our second choice of hotel (older than ours) and met the Dutch couple again. They were staying there and we had a drink with them. Back at our hotel, we had a light meal with the Robinsons. A very enjoyable stay.

Distance driven today 212 miles.

Day 24 - Calama to Copiapo

An early start at about 6am to go off on our side-trip, heading first to Copiapo. We tried to meet the Robinsons at Prat, but missed them.

We drove on through the wonderful scenery of the Atacama Desert with changing colours and textures. We took pictures but I don't think photos can do it justice.

We stopped to take photos as well as picking up some Atacama Desert sand. I realised that there was absolutely nothing green, It was weird to see no vegetation at all - no grass, weeds or any plants.

We headed on and on one flat area of sand we saw a group of four llamas! They were in the middle of nowhere!! What on earth was there for them to feed on?

We arrived in Copiapo at lunchtime. It is a nice small town and we stayed at the Hotel Diego de Almeida on Plaza Prat.

The rooms were good and there was a small parking area. We walked around the town, looking at the cathedral and shops and then the Robinsons arrived. We met for a drink in the hotel bar and also met a pleasant Dutch couple, Hank and Tinneke, who live in Geneva and know some of the Inca Trail participants, including Jan. We all had dinner together, but the service was very slow.

Distance driven today 490 miles.

Day 23 - Arica to Calama

We must try to contact the Hammonds in Lima to see how they are after rolling their car.

We set off from Arica at about 8am, but the 2 hour time difference made an early start difficult. There was a lot more desert, now the Atacama, and a long straight road (The Panamericana).

The road went through spectacular scenery with enormous long straight valleys running east west from the Andes down to the sea. To cross the valleys we had to drive miles down the side of each valley to the crossing, often a dry river, and then head back up the far side of the valley to reach the plateau again. You could see rally cars miles away on the far side of the valley. It was impressive motoring.

Wendy drove part of the way and we eventually passed the Chuquicamata Mine after a long climb to nearly 10,000 feet. The road was dead straight for miles, rising continually. Alongside the road, in the desert, were power lines with the pylons stretched upwards for as far as you could see. It must be the longest dead straight uphill road we have ever driven along anywhere in the world.

The spectacular Atacama Desert road.

At one point we came up behind Chris Denham being overtaken by the film crew in their Landcruiser Amazon

Our overnight stop was in the town of Calama and we stayed at the Park Hotel, which was the HERO HQ and much better than expected.

The rooms, food and pool were all very good. We tried to ring the Hammonds but they have left Lima. Then we drove into town which was fairly seedy and went to the bank and pharmacy. At dinner in our hotel we met Christopher Wray's stepbrother who lives in Santiago and he gave us his number in case we needed any local assistance. We are preparing to go on a 3-day trip to Santiago with just Colin and the Robinsons as we are disappointed HERO are not taking us to the Chilean capital.

I spoke with David Moffatt about joining us but he wants to continue with the rally across the Andes and back into Argentina before returning to Chile near Santiago.

Distance driven today 380 miles.

Day 22 - Arequipa, Peru to Arica, Chile

Leaving at 9am for Arica, Chile, which apparently is the driest place on earth.

The bill was finally paid after Joanna came to the hotel, but apparently, some people had tried to leave too early and the manager was reported to be clinging on to the side of someone's car as they drove away.

Following Greg Stanley in his Landcruiser Amazon on the road south from Arequipa.

We were going along quite well and there was a marked improvement in the scenery, including pink sand, when we came across an accident on a twisting road. David and Patsy Mitchell from New Zealand had collided with a huge lorry.

Their car, a Holden, was a write-off. We stopped to help and found out that Patsy had been taken to a Health Centre in Cocachacra nearby. David was covered in blood which must have been Patsy's as he appeared to be unhurt. We stayed at the scene then drove off to try and find Patsy. She was in a small local clinic, unable to communicate with the staff and her ankle and foot were at the most unnatural angle to her leg. She also had a broken collarbone. We were able to tell the nurses she had no feeling in her foot. David was driven to see her and the Irish crew brought their luggage down to the clinic. A dreadful situation. She has to go to Arequipa for surgery. We accompanied David to the police station,but the police were out of their depth, especially when questioning David. When we returned to the clinic, there were many people there, including, thankfully, Greg Williams, who took charge of the situation and apparently prevented the blood supply to her foot from being cut off. They are going to Lima with Greg for further treatment. We finally left after about 2 hours.

Heading south along the Pan American Highway passing one of the many 'horse shoe' shaped sand dunes.

We were all very glad when we finally reached the Childean border just a few miles north of our destination, Arica.

The contrast between the poverty stricken shacks of the Peruvian border post and the spotlessly clean modern buildings on the Chilean side could not have been greater. We were leaving the third world and returning to the first!

We stayed at the Hotel El Paso which is fine, but some people were complaining about the standard.

We ate at the Yacht Club with Colin, Jill and Christopher Wray and some others.

Total distance driven today is 285 miles.

Day 21 - Arequipa - Rest Day

Karin's birthday.

A rest day. Time to sort out the car and bags.

Several people have had things stolen, including one couple who lost everything including their passports. We must try to contact the Hammonds. We decided not to go out at 3am to the Colca Canyon to look for condors. Tim took the car to the Toyota garage to be checked over, then we had lunch with Colin on the hotel terrace - very sunny and warm. We have been away for 4 weeks now! I went for a walk and to the Post Office while Tim was back at the garage.

Great photo at the Toyota garage in Arequipa of happy owners after having their cars serviced for free!! All the owner wanted was a photo of us to put in the local paper to promote his garage.

I tried to look at the Cathedral and Monastery of Santa Catalina but they were closed. I went shopping and bought a bag instead. The hotel told us they have not been paid! We had dinner in the hotel and kept checking in the lobby to see whether Joanna Brown had paid (again), then discovered it was supposed to be up to the lawyer. Some of the participants wanted to pay again, but Joanna said not to. We hope we can leave as planned in the morning.

Day 20 - Ica to Arequipa

Tabitha's second birthday.

We were off at 6am to go to Arequipa. We stopped at the Nasca Lines, but didn't take the flight for an overall view. We went up 2 miradors (a tower and a hill) and saw enough to get the idea. We bought a decorated rock.

It was a very long drive to Arequipa and quite boring - mile after mile of sand, shale etc with overcast skies. It was very depressing. We saw Camana, the town near the epicentre of the June 2001 earthquake, and the remains of a shanty-town after the tsunami. There was barely a tree or any greenery to be seen on the entire trip. 

We had one surreal moment when we came across a road worker sweeping sand off the road. He was on his own and there were miles and miles of road with windblown sand. It was like painting the Forth Bridge, a never ending job!

At around 3pm we reached Arequipa and we passed a group of school children marching in formation. It made an interesting photo.

When we got to the Control, once again, we were the first to arrive! We had a very good late lunch on the terrace of our hotel, the Portal - faded but OK, while the band played in the Plaza de Armas.

The cathedral next to our hotel which was badly damaged in the recent earthquake as was much of Arequipa.

The Plaza de Armas where I had my shoes polished.

Our hotel with its lovely open corridor on the first floor.

We were horrified to learn that Ed and Carolyn Hammond had rolled their car on rough road and have gone back to Lima. We tried to contact them, but couldn't. In the evening, a cheque for Earthquake Relief was presented by Jenny Dorey to the Mayor, on behalf of all on the Rally. We later ate next door to the hotel with Colin and the Robinsons.

Having driven 453 miles today, we have now passed the 5,000 mile mark. The total distance driven since Rio is 5,075 miles.

Day 19 - Lima to Ica

Back to Ica!

We drove out of Lima through pretty dire squalid suburbs. Even though the centre of the city has some pretty buildings the memory I will take away of Lima is one of squalor and poverty.


An easy drive to Pisco which was dismal, then on to lunch in the Paracas Hotel. The food was very good and we ate with Colin, the Robinsons, Tessa and Fiona who had just arrived. Greg didn't turn up. We were tempted to stay there instead of Las Dunas.

We then drove around Paracas Nature Reserve (lots of sand) and saw dolphins and the Cathedral Rock Formation.

We then drove on to Ica to return to the hotel we stayed in on the way to Lima. Our room was better this time - upstairs and with a balcony.

Tim and I drove into Ica to go to the ATM and get diesel. Colin stayed behind. When we were in the petrol station, Tim filled up with diesel and I went into the shop to see if they had a copy of the newspaper featuring our handing over of the cheque in Lima. They didn't and I came straight back to the car after about 2 or 3 minutes. During that time, 2 bags were stolen from behind our driver's seat, but we didn't realise until we had driven away. It was all our first aid and our bag of maps and travel guides. Thank goodness it wasn't Colin's camera or medication. We were very cross about it, as we are usually very vigilant. We met Guillermo at the hotel. He is a local and connected with La Sendita and Anita Goulden. He suggested we put out an appeal with a reward on local radio, but it was no use. He gave Colin and us a bottle of Pisco, which he manufactures. We had a late dinner - very good. It was Ed Hammond's birthday and we gave him a rock from Paracas.

Our driving distance was 233 miles

Day 18 - Lima

Today we are to present the cheque to the Anita Goulden Trust. We have been sponsored and also are contributing and we were thrilled to write out a giant cheque for presentation purposes for £50,000. Anita Goulden is a wonderful English woman who came to Peru and was shocked at the plight of many of the children. She remained here and has devoted her life to helping a large number of them to overcome physical and other disabilities. She has a home and school in Piura in the north of the country. Anita was not able to travel because of health problems, but the Matron of the home, Pali, and 3 of the children - Hugo (21), Dilma (18) and Esther (11) - together with Roger Brown from the charity, came to accept the cheque.


The car with the fifty thousand pound cheque on the windscreen!

The British Ambassador, Roger Hart, arrived and we had a cheque-presenting ceremony with a TV crew filming.

They gave us a thank you card with the names of all the children at La Sendita, the home. We gave everyone Inca caps and shirts and took photos.

Colin taking some video of Pali and the children.

 We all had lunch together then said an emotional goodbye. We later took a taxi with a very pleasant driver to go on a sightseeing tour of Lima. We saw the Plaza Mayor, the Cathedral, the Government Buildings and St. Francis' Monastery with its catacombs and bones from thousands of local dead people.

We returned by taxi to the hotel. Our chalet at the resort.

Back at the hotel, dinner was in the Salon las Americas with more singers and dancers.

Day 17 - Ica to Lima

I now have a new overnight bag with an Inca design, so should find life a bit simpler. Off to Lima today. We left at 11.00 after a leisurely breakfast, although we had been woken at 5am by the dawn chorus and what sounded like a group of coyotes. It took 4 hours to get Lima and we saw nothing but sand.

On the main highway into Lima we passed Lennox McNeeley stopped by the side of the road with a Peruvian motorbike policeman pulled up alongside. We learnt later that he had been stopped for speeding and the fine was five gallons of petrol! Apparently the Peruvian police have no money for fuel and that is the reason why we have seen many police Toyota Landcruisers parked by the side of the road. They don't have enough money to buy fuel to enable them to patrol!!

We drove alongside the Pacific Ocean into Lima and the outskirts were pretty dreary. The El Pueblo hotel, where we are staying, is an oasis. It is a large "holiday village" with different coloured houses, pretty gardens and pools. We had a cabin opposite a swimming pool, not overlooked at all. We met up with the others who came to Lima on the other route ("over the top"). I think some had thought it worthwhile, but many had damaged their cars and were not very happy. We had a meeting with HERO to find out the latest about the travel company, who have gone into receivership!

We met up with Peter and Carolyn for drink at the bar of the hotel.

In the evening there was a party with food in the plaza and we were entertained by musicians and dancers in fabulous costumes. Some were on stilts. We ended the evening with coffee and cake in the cafe.

Today's drive was 197 miles

Day 16 - Abencay to Ica

We had a beautiful 10 hour drive of nearly 640 kms. The scenery varied constantly as we went through mountains, river beds, high and low desert. We saw vicuna on the high plain. They look like deer and are a protected species with wonderfully soft long fur/hair on their chests. Also on the journey, a flock of bright green parrots flew over us.

Much of the road for the first part of the journey through the Andes was being upgraded and in many places roadworks delayed us. On one occasion we had to stop while blasting was taking place. It was in this section of the road that we came across Ted and Judy Howles in their red 1967 Reliant Scimitar, Car No. 33, broken down by the side of the road. We stopped to find out what was wrong and were told by Ted that his brake master cylinder had failed. He seemed to think he could manage without his brakes, so we carried on, leaving him behind.

The road through the Andes was one of the great roads of the world. fantastic varying scenery with precipitous drops as the road wound its way through the mountains towards the Pacific. I wondered how Ted would get on, especially as evening was approaching.

We hit the Panamerican Highway at Nasca, quite a drab looking place, but not as bad as Puquio, a place we passed through earlier in the day and one of the worst towns I have ever seen. We passed the Nasca Lines and the Mirador where you can climb up and see some of them, and arrived in Ica. The road to our hotel, Las Dunas, was closed so we had to go a long way round to get there, which we finally did at about 4pm. We were tired and hungry by this time, something we are beginning to get used to. There were quite a few others already there, including a course car. One car had serious mechanical problems on the way and arrived at 10.30.

Total distance travelled today was 384 miles

Day 15 - Cusco to Abencay

We left at 11am, driving in convoy with Carolynn and Peter. The road was good but with lots of hairpins. We initially followed the route to Machu Picchu, then branched off, arriving in Abancay in the valley at about lunchtime.

The Hotel de Turistas is quite attractive but the rooms are very basic, especially after the Libertador. The town had little to offer, but we had lunch in the hotel garden with the others, after which Tim and I went for a walk. We put up our mosquito net in preparation for the night. Spoke to Samantha, Matthew and Karin on the satellite phone. As nowhere else appeals, we are having dinner in the hotel followed by an early night in preparation for a 6am start tomorrow. However, there is a party in the hotel with music (it went on till 3am). We had a very short night getting up at 5 o'clock.

A short day's drive of only 129 miles.We have now driven a total of 3,808 miles.

Day 14 - Cusco

We spent the morning arranging our next few days with the Tourism and Leisure group. We walked to the Plaza de Armas and looked at the Cathedral and Compania from the outside only. They charged $10 per person to go in, which we thought was a bit much. We walked along a row of shops and bought woolly hats for Tabitha and Mia and a few other bits and pieces. We then met Anna and Jonathan and had lunch together.

Back at the hotel, we were still planning the route and hotels. I bought a t-shirt for Joel and sent some postcards. The helicopter arrived back from Machu Picchu with a sick girl, Ellen, on board. Some of us agreed to look after her until her parents arrived back by train, although we didn't know what was wrong with her. We went to a meeting in the hotel which was a shambles. The Peruvian agent has not paid our money to the hotels, so there is doubt over the rest of the Peruvian section. At the end of the meeting, the police came in and arrested the travel agent! Ellen's parents came back and she seemed a little better. We finally had a late dinner in the hotel and went up to do our packing.

Our hotel, the Libertador.

Colin in Peruvian hat.