Vintage Cape Horn 2013

An epic 6,000 kilometre adventure drive from Buenos Aires to Cape Horn through Argentina and Chile.

Day 14 - Los Antiguos to El Calafate

Today was a transit day. There was no timing and there were no checkpoints. We had a lot of kilometres - 683 of them - to cover to our night halt at El Calafate and crews began pulling out at around 6.00am. Gerard and Odile Besson driving their lovely Citroen were among the first away followed by Udo Bichler and Tony Edwards.

The landscape through which we drove was stark. The word desolate doesn't do it justice. It's a flat, wild, windy and rugged place. There's hardly any bird life, there are very few trees and there are very few settlements. Fuel was going to be problem for some but the Organisers had that in hand, and there was the added problem of a ferocious and gusting wind. At times it was just about too windy to stand up. Gust after gust lifted the cars off their springs and sent the steering wheel jerking in the hands. A day in an open car here would have been ‘exhilarating’ to say the least

We were on Ruta 40 for most of the day, a legendary Argentinian road which begins way up North at the Bolivian border and ends way down South at Rio Gallegos.  The road and its route have evolved steadily since its inception in 1935 and today we were lucky to see its good side, mostly high quality tarmac with some of the older gravel sections thrown in for good measure.

At one point we came across what we thought was rubble on the road but the crunchy black pebbles that we drove over were in fact hundreds of black grasshoppers and in places the road was stained with their bodily fluids.

There was fuel, food and coffee available in Bajo Caracoles after 186km and all seemed set for a simple if lengthy day of motoring but shortly afterwards came across the figure of Charles Menteth bent over the engine of his Vauxhall. With the help of Rob Kitchen though he was soon on his way.

Once we’d crossed the Rio Chico bridge we turned onto gravel and within minutes any Peking to Paris veterans would have felt as if they were right back in Mongolia. As well as incredible rock formations there were the clouds to marvel at. At times they looked as if they were painted onto the sky and despite the howling wind at ground level they never seemed to move.

Those worried about the fuel gauge would have breathed a sigh of relief at 400km. A bowser appeared in the windscreen. It had been booked to hand out 50 litres of free fuel to the crews and a very welcome lunch bag. Danny Day received both with thanks then pulled alongside Chuck and Pam Lyford a little further down the track who were enjoying a picnic lunch.

Gradually as the day drew to a close we saw what we’d been waiting for. The magnificent peaks of the Los Glaciers National Park. A little blurred and smudged at first in the haze they snapped more into focus with every passing kilometre. El Calafate which was founded in 1927 is a staging post for visitors to the Park and tomorrow many of us will be joining the queue.

Fred Fangio


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