27
DAYS

Rally of the Incas 2016

November 13 - December 9, 2016

DAY
19

DECEMBER 1, 2016

Iquique to Arica

Run What You Brung

Philip Macwhirter was looking a bit tired over breakfast this morning, he'd worked late into the night repairing a broken spring along with Paul Carter and a whole 'League of Nations' worth of other competitors who also lent a hand getting the little Morgan back together.

He tells us that when he and Laurette started flagging he was dragged out by ankles, told to go and get some dinner and then South Africans took over. They’re back on the road today and will be looking to repay a few of those favours at the earliest opportunity no doubt.

We had a straightforward sort of schedule for today, two track tests began and ended the day with nothing but smooth Atacama desert tarmac in between. The first track test was at the Autodromo Iquique. A basic municipal facility a mere 20 km from the hotel which also had a distinctly local feel to it. Nicholas Pryor and Lesley Stockwell saw fit to give Viktor the Volvo his head and they tell us that he thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so that he was back for more during the afternoon session some 300 km away.

Following the fun and games on the raceway, we had a Time Control in Humberstone, a deserted saltpetre mining town which is now a museum. This fascinating piece of recent history has a perfectly preserved church, an opera house, a school and some old railway engines on display. Until the early 20th century, almost all of the world’s saltpetre came from the Atacama Desert. Known as 'white gold' saltpetre was needed for fertiliser and explosives. Humberstone was one of many of such mining towns in the Atacama.

When the First World War broke out, the British blockaded exports of saltpetre to Germany which led to the invention of a synthetic substitute that could be used to make fertiliser and this was one of the main reasons behind the collapse of the once thriving industry. They might not mine saltpetre anymore but today the gift shop did a roaring trade in ice lollies and sun hats.

There's no coastal road along the sea shore here so, once we’d left Humberstone, we ran up Ruta 5 alongside the Pampa del Tamarugal some 40 km inland towards the lunch Time Control in Cuya, 'Muchas Tabernos'. This was pretty much arrow straight and pancake flat until we crossed the Pampa de Tana where we caught up with long distance specialists, Ed and Janet Howle chewing up the miles in Stewball their venerable VW.

The scale of the dusty brown hills through which we were travelling is staggering, there's little water anywhere save for a few quebradas, hundreds of metres below us where scrubby bushes just about hang on to life. This is the only vegetation in this wide open country and it was also blowing a gale along the way to lunch giving Lars Rolner cause to say that it felt like he was doing 200 kph instead of the statutory 100 kph.

As well as the speed limit signs, sharp eyed crews might also have noticed that along this part of the route we drove past a British cemetery in Tiliviche where no other than James T. Humberstone is buried.

After lunch it was up and over the Pampa de Camarones to the second track for the day, the Autodromo Sergio Santander situated meters from the roaring ocean. Like the venue we all enjoyed so much this morning, this was another unpretentious little ribbon of tar which, once again featured many changes of direction and a variable surface.

One corner in particular proved so popular that some crews did 360° tours of it. In what can only be described as balletic performances, Mark Winkleman, Dennis Varni and Mario Illien delighted the spectators with pirouettes, slides and lunges. Quite what their navigators made of this though is unknown.

The night halt was only a short drive away and many crews took the opportunity afforded by the proximity of the ocean to go for a quick dip before starting work on the car.

Tomorrow we set our sights on Peru. The border is only 20 km away but it’s an early start.

Syd Stelvio

 

 

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