Day 16 – Salta to San Pedro De Atacama

Today, day 17, is our lay day so attending to Denise is a priority Seeing that she did some hard work yesterday and in previous days without attention to some of the more hard to get to places. Steve had an inkling about the brakes, a slight steering shake and a rattle under or in the engine bay.
More about that later.
It was raining so the beginning of day 16 was a little dreary and planning the day meant filling up with fuel for a long day without fuel availability almost over the the entire 510 km trip.
All went well with leaving the city, this normally being the most complex navigating exercise. Short distance manoeuvres requiring exact distances to ensure that we don’t get it wrong.
It was a 32 km distance to the only competitive event for the day.
This event is over 22 kms of gravel public highway twisting through a gorge with lots of twists and hills and armour railing.
We commenced our start just after having a large buss and a couple of cars up front.
Bad omen. We need to pass these en-route to the end of the road. The average speed is 70 kms.
We set off as fast as we could, the navigator forgets to push the stopwatch so could follow the speed/distance chart. Stupid!
Still Steve put Denise through her paces hardly ever getting up to the average, so no love lost for not setting the watch. Getting caught behind the public vehicles then passing in tricky situations but without giving in, pushed on. Good run but just too tough for the “girl”.
Stopping astride the finish line some minutes late, so loss of all points.
Then on through this gorge for 110 kms to a little township called De Los Cobbres where there was a fuel station and where we had time control.
This stretch of road was just awesome. The strangest wild geological formations that looked so new as if they happened last year. So fantastic!

Then onto the Argentina/Chile border@ 3800 meters above sea level on gravel roads for 233 kms. Dusty rough corrugated roads that went on and on. Bone shakers.
A tiny border post that usually sees five or six cars per day. We arrived with 55 cars so put the cat among the pigeons the altitude affecting some becoming light headed and short of breath.
We got through the bureaucracy relatively quickly with the paperwork having been pre done.
The road through no mans land was wildly rough. Neither side wants to do the maintenance.

At the border post

We drove on dirt with what seems to be down hill. It was uphill rising quite steeply on and on in clear skies and a cold wind blowing. 30kms on we were at 4575 meters above sea level. We may have been affected by the altitude.
Denise the Morris didn’t baulk. She just went on like a Trojan.
Didn’t miss a beat. Took many scalps who were struggling with fuel problems.
Steve spent some time at home in Mt Maunganui preparing for this event and installed equipment for the fuel system that would alleviate fuel starvation. It worked. Not one problem.
The effects on us humans was minimal although Steve did feel a little dizzy at times and we both had some “internal gas issues”. The air inside us expands as the atmosphere gets lighter and needs escape.
No problem. Some quickies, job done.
Back on Tarmac for the final leg of 90 kms to San Pedro De Atacama.
Coming down from the mountains and seeing the vast expanses of a salt marsh in the distance we queried what on earth could lie ahead in the desert distance. It was arid desert on which nothing grew.

And yet as we got closer to our destination the land became greener, more trees but it still looked like there was no habitation.
Then suddenly a small township exposed itself out of the red muddy coloured surrounds with the roughest of arterial roads into the centre of “town”.
The houses all looked ramshackle and we wondered what we had come to. It looked really rough. No highrise to be had.
In behind the red rough mud brick fences there were the most amazing desert lodges and spas. The contrast of the entry roads and this popular exquisite accommodation cannot be emphasised. It’s extraordinary.

Just beautiful with large rooms as an Eco theme. No tv just fans for aircon. But just great. Two nights here. It’s apparently a place where many young folk aspire to be due to the lenient drug limits. It was just full of young tourists. The lodge we’re staying at even have coca leaves in the bar here for those who wish to partake.
This accommodation includes every meal and any drinks as many you may want included in the price. All paid in advance by us. The high altitude limits the alcohol intake though so consumption by competitors is self limiting.
So back to Denise. Today Steve commenced by replacing the rear right wheel brake line which had been severely compressed somehow and had limited brake fluid flow.
Having done this, laying on a gravel surface, he noticed that the rear spring rubbers had been seriously compressed and he replaced these on both sides. Easy to say but time consuming in methodology, doing it with the springs in-situ using jacks to exact the position for the removal of the rubbers and bolts.
This done checking the front right wheel bearing noting it was a little loose and decided to replace the whole front hub.

That was little time consuming but he then noticed that the brake cylinder was bleeding fluid and decided to replace that too. Very time consuming bleeding the brakes etc.
Under the car the rattle we heard was the guard plate under the engine that had two bolts rattle loose and had fallen out just two bolts remaining holding it loosely in place.
So half the day gone and everything in order it was time for lunch and a well deserved rest.
As I’ve been writing this it’s now 5 in the afternoon and I’m signing off.
Thanks for taking the interest in reading our blog and your much appreciated comments.

7 thoughts on “Day 16 – Salta to San Pedro De Atacama

  1. You are Studs!

    J Montgomery Gingery Gingery Development Group 1001 Rockville Pike Suite 503 Rockville,Maryland USA 20852 T. 1+301.424.3600 F. 1 +301.294.7910 M. 1+301.529.2382


  2. Steve – Corgi according to wikiHow the coca leaves can alleviate mountain sickness. So the coca leaves available are commonly used and can be brewed in a cup of tea. However, you will test positive for cocaine. The other think is eating a high carb diet, which includes pasta, bread, fruits and potatoes, can help you acclimate.


  3. Excellent work by Steve to identify the issues, no mean feat. Not easy to find and fix problems on the run.
    Maybe you could use the excess gas to give a turbo boost for Denise!


  4. Nice to hear Denise and both of you servived the altitude. I remember from our leg from Salta to San Pedro in 2010 that it was not easy to get out of the car and walk to the custom office at the Chili border at som 4.600 m. San Pedro is indeed a sort of cowboy village but verry nice to enjoy with all these restaurants and bars and young people. I wonder what hotel you were in, we stayed in a verry nice one just outside the village on the south side. It must have been a heavy job for Steve dooing this long list of repairs at that altitude. No wonder he is sleeping besides the car. I know, because we had a ‘rest’day there aswel and a lot to do on the car. I was eshausted after half a day work. Nice to see all these pictures of the stuning landscape. Lot of it I do recognice.
    Keep om going. The decent to the Ocean after San Perdo is very special, just straight down hill the dunes (if you take the same route).



  5. Well hi guys- gosh looks u have been to mars and back so fab love the descriptive writing corgi a hidden talent and bro was it a good siesta but u look content hehe bet that took you back to tuakau days with the mud holes we finally having bit of fine weather here just wonderful to see a bit of sun (;-) hope u both had good kip and full of energy for next so mourn lots love sis



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