Vintage Cape Horn 2013
An epic 6,000 kilometre adventure drive from Buenos Aires to Cape Horn through Argentina and Chile.
Day 8 - Termas de Chillan to Puchon
This morning was the coldest start so far for the Rally as we pulled out of Termas de Chillan but as things unfolded this was to be the best day so far with many of the crews finishing by declaring that this was the best days driving they'd ever had.
Helter skelter down the rutted track from the hotel we flew with none of the wheel spinning and clutch burning drama of last night. A little dab on the brakes, some careful steering inputs and a well chosen line had us back on the blacktop in no time.
No busy city for us today, we are out in the countryside now and our travelling companions were buses carrying schoolchildren to their lessons & farm labourers to the fields. No sun for us either. We've become used to a blistering dry heat, blue skies and no clouds. Today things were getting a little more Patagonian with an altogether cooler ambiance and a covering of white cloud which meant that collars were pulled a little higher than usual and the scarves which has hitherto been used for sun protection were soon pressed into service as dust masks.
There was a time control in Los Angeles after 200km or so although we weren't quite headed for the Hollywood hills. As always though this gave us a chance for a regroup, a fill up and a mid morning muffin with a coffee.
Once refuelled and revitalised we found ourselves back on our old friend the Ruta 5 of the Panamerican highway through rolling tree covered hills on our way to the Parc Nacional Conguillo.
We sped past the huge Puente Malleco railway bridge which was opened in 1890. It's 347.5m long and 4m wide and is made entirely of steel. Unfortunately the area leading to it is a noted accident black spot according to the signposts. Could this be because the bridge is bright yellow and screams for your attention rather than the dull grey road you're supposed to be looking at? Legend has it that it was designed Gustave Eiffel of the Tower fame. It wasn't, although he did submit a proposal it was rejected by the Chilean authorities in favour of one by Aurelia Astarria.
Like most of the landscapes we've driven through in S America so far you're given plenty of warning before you reach it. And the same was true of the first volcano of the day. Volcan Llaima is one of Chile's two most active volcanoes, the other one being Volcan Villarica (more on this later). Llaima sits in its own lava field, a shattered blasted landscape of broken trees, sharp rocks and fine pumice sand which left us scrabbling for grip as soon as we entered the Park which has two distinct sections. One part sees a track wind through a dry jungle with rutted and rocky sections, tight turns and steep climbs. The second section, the the lava field has a much better track with graded gravel and plenty of places to pass and an amazing view. Today the risk of volcanic activity was said to be low but we were soon kicking up our very own ash clouds as we slithered and slipped beneath the sleeping giant. Those in the open cockpits must have been choking at times but this was real frontier driving with views that were worth every lungful. A lizard scuttled away as Chuck and Pam Lyford crunched their Chevrolet across the lava.
It wasn't all hard work though, John and Melinda Raker stopped with friends to celebrate his birthday in fine style with a cheese and wine picnic on the slopes of the volcano. Can you think of a better setting?
Once thorough the lava field we started our descent towards the Lago Colico. In total contrast to the morning we now found ourselves driving through gentle rolling pasture on beautifully graded gravel, wooden bridges over crystal clear streams beside which Hugo Upton, Nigel Gambier, Arthur and Anna Manners, Charles and Nellie Bishop stopped for a spot of fishing. At least one fish was caught. Now all we need are five loaves and another few fish and that's dinner sorted.
We heard that David and Sadie Williams wrong slotted shortly after a time control. No problem you'd think, a simple three point turn usually rectifies such a matter so quite why it took a team of oxen and a lorry to pull him out of a roadside culvert is anyone's guess. The two beasts in question unfortunately didn't have the right footwear for car dragging despite the handler engaging 8x8 drive so a lorry was called for. David wasn't so much left with egg on his face rather dung on his windscreen.
The second volcano of the day was almost in the garden of our hotel. Volcan Villarica is probably one of best looking volcanoes in the world, a near perfect cone it rises straight up from Lago Villarica by the town of Pucon. A beautiful way to finish a perfect day.
News from the pits - Ross Lilleker and David Cooley arrived tonight on a truck. They're going to replace the half shaft in their Ford Model A and fully expect to back on the road tomorrow. Michael Maedell and Roy Haddad broke down somewhere along the road today and unfortunately their beautiful Jaguar is now on its way home.