Sunday, 21 March 2010

Volcanoes, Condors & Why Barry Is Not A Rally Car

What the road from Chile Chico to Chaiten lacks in asphalt it more than makes up for in scenery. It's twisting gravel surface both meanders and thrusts its way through by far the most breathtaking landscapes we've seen so far. When its steep it's steep and when it turns it provides little purchase and vertiginous drops. Barry, Barry White or The Baroness Eugene White if you're not into brevity, was made for this. Three blokes, two fuel tanks, and more kit than is strictly necessary is not a problem for our faithful friend. It's quite clear that we are the weak link in this chain but more on that later.

Meanwhile, join us as we leave windblown Chile Chico, refreshed by our morning shower (courtesy of a mountain waterfall) and bouyed by our latest successful border crossing as we skirt round the shores of Lake Argentina. The choppy waters lapped the severe shores as we covered the rocky ground and wound our way past its parched but hardy vegetation. The road climbed away from the lake and into the folds of snow-toppped mountains before bringing us back down to the azure waters of a glacial lake and a place to sleep. The following day we continued along the Carrera Austral around its tight hairpins and up its steep climbs; The Baroness always a match for the conditions. A tyre blow out, caused by a mixture of conditions and tyre age and wear (driver error has been ruled out because I'm writing this blog post), slightly delayed our progress and precipitated the purchase of 2 brand new tyres in Coyhaique; a charming centre of civilisation and off-road vehicles in Chilean Patagonia. We then headed on into almost subtropical forests where snowcapped peaks stood incongruously in the distance.

Barry Doesn't Rhyme With Rally
This is where we come to the part about weak links. Now, a 20 year old Toyota Landcruiser is not a rally car. It has a large and powerful 4 litre diesel engine which sings with a deep throaty purr, a large, robust chassis suspended on equally sturdy suspension and an 80s style paint job. She currently weighs about 3.5 tons. The alabaster beast is the vehicular equivalent of Barry White and whilst no doubt Barry White was never a big cross country runner I'm sure he had staying power of one sort or another. And so it is with the Baroness. Off-road she's a cut above the rest. In 4WD in low gears she'll eat up most things you find out there in the way the real Mr White probably literally did. But could you imagine the late great Mr White take a corner at top speed on an uneven and gravel strewn surface without things getting a little out-of-shape? Well, apparently Tim could. I'll give you this: she will perform a neutral 4-wheel slide on a loose surface but such things require a driver with far more than 5 minutes' driving experience. Young Fossey has about 6 minutes. Young Fossey is lucky he's still allowed to drive. Barry isn't going Rally driving again.

With all happy and relieved to be alive, we took 10 minutes out to watch Condors soar on the wind seemingly just out of reach - seriously they were very close. That night, as dusk was falling, we rolled into what can only be described as a ghost-town. Chaiten sits on Chile's Pacific coast in the shadow of an active volcano. The ash of that volcano lines the streets and the inhabitants of those streets are gone. The eruption occured 2 years ago and whilst the town was not hit by the lava and thankfully no-one was killed, subsequent rains inundated the town with copious amounts of the ash produced in the form of a highly viscous mud. The towns-folk fled and have largely remained away. This entire episode was unbeknownst to us and as we entered this erie town in the near dark it was with a certain trepidation. Our chief concern however was to find the ferry port and to establish when the ferry would leave and how we could get on it. This was our link with the north and the next stretch of the Panamerican. We found the ferry ramp but typically no timetable or indeed any information about the ferry or how to get a ticket to get on it. We hoped the morning would provide answers so we set up camp on a nearby beach and warmed ourselves around a campfire.

In the morning, as we struck camp, dolphins swam past us along the shore. They couldn't appreciate our land-locked dilemma. Fortunately we found the ticket office and bought tickets for the following evening's ferry since that morning's was full. We then watched a half-empty ferry leave; funny and frustrating in equal measure. We had tried to persuade various parties to let us on the boat but in this part of the world the document is king and we had tickets for the next day.


Scott said...

"I'm not Lebowski, you're Lebowski. I'm the Dude alright... so thats what you call me. Or his Dudeness, or El Duderina if you're not into the whole brevity thing..."

Really guys... no more stealing classic movie quotes. I've had words with you about this already Mr Ollier... and I suspect this latest form of blatant plagiarism flowed from the ink of your pen! I will call you boys on it every time! And Tim... keep up the good driving buddy... It IS a rally car!

Philip said...

Homage not plagiarism (it´s El Duderino anyway - The Dude's a dude).

Whether Barry's a rally car or not, Tim ain't no rally driver. Big talk so you're more than welcome to sit next to Tim as he fishtails your car around a blind corner on a mountain road (for all parents, family, loved ones that didn't actually happen, honestly, so no need to be concerned).

Scott said...

El Duderino is technically still a boy... O in spanish is Masculine, A is feminine.... and FYI, I have done Durban to Joburg (6 hours) as a passanger with Tim driving a hired like a Go-Cart, so I think I more than qualify to pass "Big Talk" thanks.

Philip said...

O not A, exactly: Hence ¨it´s El Duderino¨ not ¨Duderina¨.
Not your car then.

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