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 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.

Day 49 - Buenos Aires, Argentina to Punta del Este, Uruguay

We left the hotel at 6.30. The Alvear Palace has been wonderful and we really did not want to go. We arrived at the docks at 7am and were still waiting in line for our boarding cards at 8.20 and the boat was due to leave at 8.30. Another organisational blip by HERO? Five cars were left behind for the next ferry because there was not enough room.

We left late but it was a smooth easy crossing of the River Plate by hydrofoil to Colonia del Sacramento. There was a great reception party of dancing girls, musicians and large crowds to welcome us to Uruguay.

Crowds of school children waved at us as we drove through the crowded streets.

We stopped and got out of the car to watch the rally cars driving past. We saw Wilhelm and Barbara's damaged Landcruiser parked nearby. How they managed to drive all the way from Ushuaia I will never know!

It started to pour with rain. We arrived in Montevideo at lunchtime in the rain and we could see thunderstorms ahead.

We stopped for lunch in a converted market near the port. It was very good food which they cooked on the grill in front of us. The others had excellent meat and also chicken and chorizo. I had tomato salad and chips.

 The rain came down in torrents as we headed for Punta del Este. We arrived at the Conrad Resort and Casino at about 5pm.

 The Marklands arrived later. It is a huge hotel with quite a tacky casino on the premises. We ate in the hotel and played on the "dollar" machine afterwards. (No luck!) There was a beautiful sunset with wonderful colours.

Total distance 207 miles

Day 48 - Buenos Aires - Rest Day

Last day in Buenos Aires.

I walked with Tim and Colin to find the Ateneo, a bookshop in an old theatre. It was wonderful inside with books all through the centre and upper seating area and a cafe on the stage. It was very hot and the air-conditioning was not very efficient, so we took a taxi to Galerias Pacifico, a large shopping mall, to cool off. I bought a leather cosmetic bag in a very good leather shop and some film for my camera. Tim went to C&A for some clothes! We met the Robinsons and we all walked to the Sheraton to find out about the boat tomorrow. There is a nice outdoor pool at their hotel, which was very tempting as it was so humid.

We had lunch with Colin at La Biela, a famous old cafe. We sat outside and had a sandwich and a beer and it was cool there. Tim and Colin bought La Biela tankards. I went to the Basilica of Nuestra Senora de Pilar in Recoleta and took some photos.

We then got ready for the black tie reception at the British Embassy. We met the British Ambassador and also the owner of the Ateneo bookshop! It was good fun with wine, champagne and canapes. There was a prizegiving followed by tango dancers, a singer and some musicians. Later, we had a drink in the hotel bar with Paul and Charlie. Ready for Uruguay tomorrow!

Day 47 - Buenos Aires - Rest Day

Tim went out early with Paul to look at the Buick. We booked a sightseeing tour at 11am with a private guide. The people of Buenos Aires are called Portenos. Our guide, Evelyn Kollmann, arrived. She is an Argentinian of Austrian extraction and speaks perfect English.She is also a teacher and translator.

We spent the next 3 hours driving around Buenos Aires with Evelyn and a driver, Ilmar. We went first to the cemetery at Recoleta and saw wonderful mausoleums, including Evita's.

 We heard amazing stories about her. She died in 1952 and her body was finally buried in 1977.

The city is very attractive and we saw parks, squares, statues, Jacaranda trees and "drunken sticks", or palo borracho, which are odd-looking trees with thorns and orange flowers.

Then we saw the Casa Rosada and the balcony where Evita stood and addressed the people.

Evelyn told us many stories of bribery and corruption. Argentina is in dire financial trouble and we saw long queues at the banks. We drove on to La Boca, famous for its football team where Maradona played. Their opponents and sworn enemies are the River Plate team. La Boca has brightly-coloured houses with amusing looking statues on the balconies and in the streets.


In the evening we had a lovely barbecue at the Fox's house in San Isidro. We heard that Ricardo from the Portuguese film company has become a father ( a boy).

Day 46 - Buenos Aires - Rest Day

Tim had a massage at the hotel in the morning and I went for a walk.In a nearby square were large old trees called ombu with massive root systems spreading above ground. I met Yvonne and David at the shops, then Tim found me and we walked to the port for a late lunch. We went into the Sheraton, the official HERO hotel, and saw the Robinsons arriving from Mar del Plata. It was raining heavily. Paul's car is not looking good, but he is still hopeful. We had a drink with Paul in the Alvear Palace bar and were joined by the Moffatts, the Noors and the beekeepers (the Borns). Later, Paul, Yvonne, David, Tim and I went downstairs to La Bourgogne (the excellent hotel restaurant). I had beautifully presented avocado and langoustine.

The Alvear Palace Hotel in the centre of Buenos Aires.

An interesting thing happened in the hotel. Outside the door of the room next to us is an armed guard who apparently is protecting guests.  We came out of our room as the guards were escorting a man and a woman to the lift. When the lift door opened one of the guards stood in front of the opening doors while the two guests were kept to the side to ensure that no one exiting the lift could attack them! We wondered who the guests were that warranted such protection.

Day 45 - Bahia Blanca to Buenos Aires

We left Bahia Blanca after breakfast and were making good progress until the Marklands' car started to go wrong. Here we are parked by the side of the road  trying to sort the Buick's engine.

We sat around for ages in the heat (31 degrees C), then set off, then stopped again. We ended up towing them which was quite stressful. They had to go through the Peaje (tolls) separately as it was impossible tied together. We then had no problems with the 2 tolls on the Autopista to Buenos Aires, but, at the last toll, which was in the city, they said we could not tow on the motorway and they called the police.

Finally, we had to drive separately in the city and we were afraid the Buick might break down in the busy traffic. The hotel was hard to find, especially with so many one-way streets, but we all made it in the end. The Alvear Palace Hotel is excellent. We had a junior suite which was extremely comfortable. The Noors were also staying there.

We had dinner at Las Lilas with the Noors, the Marklands, Colin and Ricardo and Sylvia Fox, who live in the city and are great fun.

Total distance 402 miles.

Day 44 - Puerto Madryn to Bahia Blanca

To Bahia Blanca.

We left at about 8am, together with the Marklands and Lennox (from Canada) on his own. It was quite a long journey - a straight road and unchanging countryside. We all stopped for lunch next to a petrol station. I had a good omelette but no wine as it was my turn to drive the rest of the way into Bahia Blanca. We saw cattle on the pampas and suddenly the scenery changed to agricultural land.

We checked into the Hotel Argos which was 4-star.

Our room was small but well-appointed. We went for drinks at the Marklands' hotel, the Austral, where the Doreys and Lennox were also staying. Lennox had a new navigator, Miriam from Venezuela. We had a good dinner at a local restaurant, then walked back to our hotel. We are ready for Buenos Aires tomorrow!

Distance driven - 254 miles

Day 43 - Puerto Madryn - Valdes Peninsular

Rest day.

Puerto Madryn is a very pleasant town. We went out early to look for whales in the same place as yesterday (El Doradillo Beach) and saw some straight away. Then we parked down at the beach and were very close to 2 or 3 of them and had a very good view. A tail came out of the water and made slapping sounds.

 I was concentrating on taking photos of them, which was not easy, when I looked down at my feet and a penguin was standing there watching me. He was only a foot away from me, then he swam away in the sea. We drove to a beautiful headland, but couldn't see any more whales, so we decided to drive on to Puerto Piramides, also on the Valdes Peninsula, 98 kms from Puerto Madryn.

It was a sweet little seaside place where Paul and Charlie had already gone on a boat trip and seen lots of whales close-up, so we bought tickets for the next boat.

Colin and the group waiting on the beach for our boat and the boat being hauled out of the sea by a tractor.

There were about 40 other people on the Hydrosport boat, some of them elderly Argentinians, and we all got on the boat while it was on the sand, then were dragged down into the water by a tractor.

The boat was run by Julio, an American who used to live in Hawaii. We were out of the bay before we saw the first whales which came very close to our  boat. There were one or two other boats there too, then one whale came even closer until it went right under our boat and came out the other side! It rolled over and then we could see an eye and one of its fins. We took several pictures of its tail.

They were medium-sized whales, about 30/40 feet long. Then we saw 2 together and one breeched and came right out of the water in front of another smaller boat.

It did it again, then another one, quite close to us, breeched right out of the water. It is quite unusual to see this and it is not known why they do it.

After about an hour, we headed back, having seen many whales including a mother with her semi-albino baby, about 2 or 3 months old. We also saw a few seals and sea lions on the way back. A great trip! We had lunch in Puerto Piramides, but there were lots of flies and dogs.

Back in Puerto Madryn, we walked along the front for a drink at a beach bar and met Wilhelm and Barbara. They have had the car roof jacked up and put in plastic windows. We had dinner with Colin, but it was indifferent with slow service. We leave tomorrow at 8am.

Distance driven 121 miles.