RALLY OF THE INCAS — PART TWO

THE EPIC SOUTH AMER­I­CAN JOURNEY CON­TIN­UES

New Zealand Classic Car - - Contents - Words: Garry Boyce, Ash­ley Webb Photos: Garry Boyce, Ger­ard Brown

T EAM A BD ( ADV E NTUR E BE FOR E DE M E N T I A ) AR E ST I L L GO I NG S T RONG A F TE R THE FI R S T G RUE LL I NG 1 4 DAYS OF THE R A L LY O F THE I NC A S

In last month’s is­sue, we fol­lowed Garry Boyce and Ken Wil­liams on the first 14 days of the epic 27-day Rally of the Incas. At the end of Day 14 we left this gal­lant pair of Ki­wis in Tu­cumán, Ar­gentina, as they were head­ing north to­wards Peru. Their trusty 1964 Mercedes-benz 220SE was still go­ing strong, de­spite look­ing a lit­tle the worse for wear. This is­sue, we re­join them on Day 15 on the trail. Back over to Garry.

Day 15

Dur­ing the night, we had a bril­liant light­ning storm and rain, and we started off the day with rain and misty over­head con­di­tions. The first reg­u­lar­ity at Cer­ros Tu­cumanos started in the mist and rain on a very windy hill climb, through what felt like a rain for­est, with tree­top canopies join­ing over the road. We went well and fin­ished by only 43 sec­onds over. We then had an un­event­ful tran­sit to a time con­trol called ‘El Jardín’ for cof­fee.

By this time, the rain had stopped, and we had clear sky. The next tran­sit was 117km on a dirt road. You could choose to take an al­ter­na­tive route if you wished, but most — in­clud­ing us — took the dirt road! Well, this is what ad­ven­ture car ral­ly­ing is all about.

Le­gends and sto­ries about this leg will be told for years to come. Mud, mud, glo­ri­ous mud, in a river val­ley the or­ga­niz­ers called the ‘Reo Sin Nom­bre’ (the river with no name). We ar­rived through mod­er­ate mud to our first ma­jor river cross­ing. Cars were stacked up in a line, as some were hav­ing prob­lems. Ken got out and took his crocs off and waded over to the other side with the cam­era, oth­ers went through, and then it was my turn. The snorkel we fit­ted to the car worked well, but we had left the coil very ex­posed. Wa­ter was picked up by the bot­tom fan-belt pul­ley, and the fan then sprayed it over the coil. I was about three-quar­ters of the way across when we came to a very undig­ni­fied stop, much to the amuse­ment and plea­sure of all the cars wait­ing be­hind us. But, up with the bon­net, a quick rag wipe and a CRC spray, and we were away again. The mud got deeper, but the ruts be­came our friends as we slid from the edge to the over­hang­ing cliff face into which the road was cut. The line of cars came to a halt at a very muddy steep hill sec­tion, while we went up one at a time. We watched oth­ers while we waited for our turn. If a car got stuck or stopped, peo­ple would push or pull it to get it go­ing, but some had to be towed by a four-wheel drive to make it through. Then it was our turn — the crowd waited in an­tic­i­pa­tion! I took a good run at it in sec­ond gear, held the revs at 4000; we slid, we skid­ded, we stayed in

the ruts, we sprayed mud over our­selves and the by­standers, but we made it up!

On through many river cross­ings, more mud, and more mud. What a fan­tas­tic ex­pe­ri­ence, both Ken and I loved it!

Fi­nally, it was on to a time con­trol and track test at Salta. Ken did 5.13 min­utes, just be­hind a Porsche with a 5.12 time. No time point lost. We ended the day in 10th po­si­tion.

Day 16

This was billed as one of the most dif­fi­cult days of this rally. We were still start­ing at 36 — that is, 36 min­utes af­ter the first car would go. We headed to the reg­u­lar­ity at El Alisal — a 70kph av­er­age was needed. It started on a wide shin­gle road with fine round stones. It was very slip­pery, as it wound on through a river gorge, and, as the cor­ners got tighter, there was lit­tle grip, so we were slid­ing the car through the sweep­ers. Then we got held up by a car in a nar­row bendy sec­tion and dropped back, be­fore driv­ing like hell — we fin­ished 26 sec­onds late, but were pleased with that.

On to a time con­trol, and the start of the long­est tran­sit sec­tion of the rally — 255.88km. It was only 41km in, and we were onto the rough gravel. The climb into the An­des started. At 28km, we reached 4369m. The doc­tors were there check­ing peo­ple. We strug­gled to get the car up this high, and had one stop to re­set the air-fuel mix. We had also cut a five-litre oil con­tainer in half, placed it un­der the fuel fil­ter, tied it up with elec­tri­cal ties and filled it with wa­ter, placed rags around the fuel pipes from the fil­ter to the in­jec­tion pump, and poured wa­ter over these — all in an at­tempt to keep the fuel cool. The 12-per-cent ethanol in the fuel va­por­izes at 60 de­grees, so, for at the last part of this

climb, we were hold­ing the car at 3000 to 4000rpm in sec­ond.

Fi­nally, we were over the Alto Chor­rillo and into the start of the high Ata­cama, from which it was 120km to the bor­der into Chile.

This is a very re­mote cross­ing that on some days only sees four cars, so to have 50 cars and eight sup­port ve­hi­cles was a strug­gle, but we were through in about one and a half hours. At the bor­der, we were down to 3800m. On into Chile, and the slow climb up to the high­est we would ever go on the rally, 4575m — that is, 15,010 feet. Hand­shakes all round — we had made it, so it was all down­hill from here.

The high desert is spec­tac­u­lar. The scenery is like nowhere else on earth, with moun­tains and vol­ca­noes all around and no snow at all. No veg­e­ta­tion; just rocks and sand. Many dry salt lakes, lla­mas, and al­pacas.

Af­ter that, it was on to the pas­sage con­trol at So­caire, back on tar­mac and down to the time con­trol at San Pe­dro de Ata­cama. We then went on to the Alto Ata­cama Desert Lodge — check it out.

What a day! My lungs, Ken’s lungs, and the car’s lungs had made it.

Day 17 — rest day

The rest day in the Ho­tel Alto Ata­cama Desert Lodge was most wel­come. The big day be­fore, and reach­ing 4575m, had taken it out of us a bit. Rooms with large doors that could be left open at night for the cool desert breeze to en­ter, com­bined with over­head fans, worked well for a long un­in­ter­rupted night’s sleep. We worked on the car most of the morn­ing, do­ing rou­tine main­te­nance mainly; washed the mud off; and went into town for fuel — that was an ex­pe­ri­ence: Garmin [GPS] to find fuel and Garmin to find the ho­tel.

Day 18

First up we started with a climb out of San Pe­dro De Ata­cama and on through the most stun­ning high desert land­scape, through the Valle de Luna, named for its in­cred­i­ble rock for­ma­tions, which look like the sur­face of the moon. We were now los­ing al­ti­tude. We passed the town of Calama, home to the largest open-cast cop­per mine in the world, through a pas­sage con­trol to a reg­u­lar­ity at Sin Nom­bre. I drove. It was short, windy, and rough. We were seven sec­onds late, so were through; that was OK. The next pas­sage con­trol was at To­copilla. We were at the sea (the Pacific Ocean).

On to the next reg­u­lar­ity at Desvio. Ken was driv­ing. A slow set speed of 45kph. It needed to be — it was very rough, steep, and twisty, with bluffs that were very close to the edge. It was long, but Ken nailed it, just one sec­ond late. Only eight sec­onds lost for the day. Then a tran­sit up the coast to the Ho­tel at Iquique. There is just no life in this desert — no bugs on the wind­screen, no birds, no flies, no mozzys. Not one blade of grass or scrubby bush, just rocks and sand and heat.

Day 19

Af­ter leav­ing the ho­tel, it was a short tran­si­tion to a track where Ken per­formed his now usual magic. Then a climb back into the Ata­cama Desert to a time check at a his­toric salt­pe­tre mine at Hum­ber­stone. It was an in­ter­est­ing day in the desert. Just hot, brown, grey, and tan. Rocks and sand. We reached the ho­tel at Arica in good time, so all time points OK. We were on a beach; Ken went swim­ming!

There is just no life in this desert — no bugs on the wind­screen, no birds, no flies, no mozzys. Not one blade of grass or scrubby bush, just rocks and sand and heat

Day 20

An early 5.30am start, so that the rally could be at the bor­der at 7.30am, which was 5.30am Peru time. The bor­der cross­ing took for­ever, with long lines to get out of Chile. Not only was there the usual im­mi­gra­tion and cus­toms, but the car also had to be ex­ported out of Chile then im­ported it into Peru, so it took about three hours. As we fi­nally got all the doc­u­men­ta­tion cor­rect, with the four stamps on the re­lease pa­per, the day from hell started.

At the fi­nal bar­rier the car stopped, and we had to be pushed through. We fi­nally got started, and pro­ceeded about 20km to the first test, at a track. As the car was not go­ing well at all, we waited to be last to run the track. Ken got around OK, but, at the fin­ish line, the car just stopped. We pushed it un­der some shade. It was 11am by this time, and get­ting hot. The sweeps came along to help. I will not go into the de­tail of the next two hours, but it in­cluded things like re­mov­ing the tap­pet cover to check valve clear­ances. Dur­ing all this time, the distrib­u­tor was elim­i­nated, as we had re­placed it on about day three. Fi­nally, a check of the points showed that they were too close. We read­justed, the car started, and we were away!

We de­cided to fol­low the route in the hope we could make up time, but by about 40km along the coast, we were down to about 40kph. The sweeps ar­rived. We knew that our trou­bles had to be in the distrib­u­tor, so it was off with the cap to find the points all out and fine metal all around. Out with the old distrib­u­tor, the new was fit­ted, and wham, we were back in busi­ness. Big lessons learned. We were then over three hours late.

We pressed on along the coast go­ing north, get­ting the car up to 120kph at times. Then we turned east and started the climb into the in­te­rior. It was about 2pm by then, with just wa­ter and a fruit bar since 5am. The climbs were long and hard and con­voys of trucks trav­el­ling at 15kph blocked progress to the point that any hope of mak­ing up time was lost. As we started to ap­proach Are­quipa, it be­gan to get dark real quick. The route book showed a di­ver­sion for road works, but they were not there, so we car­ried on through the traf­fic. We got ter­ri­bly lost; the Garmin would not pick up the ho­tel or the street ad­dress. At that point, we saw one of the Bent­leys in the same sit­u­a­tion as us. We both stopped at what looked like a con­ve­nience store, and, af­ter three at­tempts, found a taxi, with a driver who knew where the ho­tel was, to take us there. We were in a very dodgy part of town — back streets, mas­sive pot holes, mad traf­fic, try­ing to fol­low the taxi and the Bent­ley. I got very ag­gres­sive road rage, and was on the horn. Ken had the spot­light and was shin­ing it into the eyes of barg­ing traf­fic, but, af­ter 30 min­utes, we fi­nally made it, just on 8pm. A shower, some din­ner, and bed.

A very hard day. This is an en­durance rally run by the En­durance Rally As­so­ci­a­tion. With two time checks and a pas­sage con­trol missed, we would lose points!

Day 21

Hav­ing had such a bad day the day be­fore, we were back in 28th po­si­tion. Hero to zero in one day. The ob­jec­tive was now to get us and the car to Lima. We de­cided to be con­ser­va­tive but, if pos­si­ble, com­pet­i­tive.

The day started with a dif­fi­cult exit from Are­quipa, mad traf­fic, then out into the desert as we started to climb. Over the Zone de Vi­cu­nas pass at 4110m, the car stopped once but we man­aged to get go­ing again. We found a sweet spot at about a third to half throt­tle that worked, so we tried to keep it there. We made the time checks. We climbed on and made it over Portezuelo de La­gu­nil­las pass at 4528m. We and the car were still go­ing; many were not. We were on time at the next con­trol. Some lunch, and then a small reg­u­lar­ity test through a sub­sis­tence farm­ing area. I drove and went OK, just 13 sec­onds early.

Back on to a rough road over an­other small hill, and we stopped for fuel. We were up high. I put my head down to talk to some peo­ple in an­other car and as I stood up straight, I felt a lit­tle dizzy. Ken took over and drove on to­wards Puno and Lake Tit­i­caca. As we ar­rived, we over­shot a turning and had to turn back, a nine-out-of-10-for-dis­rup­tion U-turn was ex­e­cuted, with me jump­ing out of the car to stop traf­fic.

The ho­tel is on the shore and has panoramic views over the lake. Some peo­ple took a boat out to the reed is­lands, but we opted to have a good look over the car af­ter the events of the last days. Miss­ing nuts were re­placed and loose bolts on the back en­gine mount­ing were tight­ened — it could have been a ma­jor prob­lem if we had not found it. Ken and I were re­ally tired. Al­ti­tude has an ef­fect; we were in bed and asleep by 9.30pm.

Days 22–24

Day 22 started with an easy exit from Puno, but the ease wouldn’t last. At about 40km out, we en­tered a town called ‘Ju­liana’ and were in the cen­tre of a Sun­day­morn­ing mar­ket! What chaos! It is dif­fi­cult to de­scribe — buses; tuk-tuks; push carts; dogs; a con­voy of rally cars, some over­heat­ing and stop­ping with bon­nets up and doors open to the traf­fic chaos; hot Ford Fal­cons with their Nascar en­gines all foul­ing up and hav­ing to be revved, as they would not idle; lanes chang­ing from one way to two way. Just chaos on a grand scale — you could not have seen it any bet­ter if you had been in the mid­dle of Cal­cutta. We got a gouge along the pas­sen­ger side door from a tuk-tuk in the melee. Fi­nally, we got through but were 12 min­utes late at the con­trol. Ev­ery­body was late.

Then it was on to a reg­u­lar­ity at Pico Mocco. It was a hill climb on tar­mac, so we de­cided to do it. You could only be 60 sec­onds late, and the car was per­form­ing in its sweet spot. Ken was driv­ing — we were painfully slow up the climb, over a minute late at the top, so he set off down­hill like a man possessed! I had a cou­ple of tense

mo­ments, but he gained time and came in at 26 sec­onds late.

Tran­sit took us through time con­trols and the Abra La Raya pass at 4338m to a pleas­ant lunch place and time con­trol. Then it was a long tran­sit over many speed bumps to the garage at Cusco and a shut­tle to Ho­tel Monas­te­rio. What a ho­tel! We would be here for three nights. Machu Pic­chu the next day. Just three rally driv­ing days left un­til Lima. We spent the nights in Cusco be­fore we were back on the road.

Day 25

This day was al­ways go­ing to be tough: 664km through the An­des. This was a tran­si­tion day, with only two pas­sage con­trols and no time con­trols, Cusco to Nazca. We started out at 6.45am. The climb out of Cusco was dif­fi­cult but OK af­ter the car had warmed up and we were out of the city. The first two hours were quite magic — the high An­des at its best; you felt like you were driv­ing on top of the world. At 157km out, we climbed over the pass at 4011m near Aban­cay. It was slow progress but we got over.

On to the first pas­sage con­trol at 295.67km. We tried the cof­fee, but it was un­drink­able, so we started out for the next climb, this time to 4552m. We climbed most of the way at 3500rpm in sec­ond gear, do­ing 39kph, but were down to first for the last kilome­tre at the top — the car just made it. We thought that was it, but, as the day wore on, we had many more climbs. At times, the Garmin screen was 90-per­cent yel­low as it showed switch­back af­ter switch­back. There were high plateaus with about 20km of rel­a­tively straight road, and then you’d drop down into a val­ley only to climb out on the other side. The day started at 3380m, got up to 4552m, and fin­ished at 303m. One of the nav­i­ga­tors mon­i­tored the climbs all day, and said that, added to­gether, we climbed over 5000m.

Af­ter the sec­ond pas­sage con­trol, we had an ice cream to cel­e­brate and car­ried on, start­ing to lose al­ti­tude, to drive to the ho­tel at Nazca at 6pm — 11.5 hours of the most de­mand­ing driv­ing of the whole rally. Many of the cars did not make it un­til af­ter 9pm. Luck­ily, the traf­fic was light, and bug­ger, I hit a pig; it was a real thump. It was a small one. I saw it roll away and get up in the rear vi­sion mir­ror, so just car­ried on. There is a small mod­i­fi­ca­tion to the front num­ber plate! It is now bent around the front bumper.

Day 26

This was al­ways go­ing to be a slower day, and yes, we needed it. Many took an early flight over the fa­mous Nazca lines; we, along with many oth­ers, de­cided that a look from an ob­ser­va­tion tower about 20km north of the town of Nazca would do. It was in­ter­est­ing, but I think overrated. Many who went on the flights were of the same opin­ion.

Then on to the last reg­u­lar­ity of the rally at Rio Grande. I was to drive. It was a short hill climb on tar­mac. We were third in line to start when an MGC GT that was just about to start burst into flames. The driver

and his wife ran from the car, think­ing that it would blow up at any mo­ment. The mar­shal jumped into his ute to move it away from dan­ger. Ev­ery­body was pan­ick­ing. The paint was blis­ter­ing on the bon­net. Ken said the fuel tank is in the back, so it wouldn’t blow up. I said, “Grab our ex­tin­guisher!” He did and ran to the car. Luck­ily, the bon­net was blocked up 30mm to help cool the en­gine, so Ken was able to get the ex­tin­guisher noz­zle in the gap. Af­ter a good minute of spray­ing, the fire was out.

Mean­time, the owner was in the back of the car, try­ing to save his and his wife’s pass­ports. So Fire­man Ken saved the day! He was shouted many drinks at the bar later that day.

The sweeps re­built the hoses and carb link­ages and had the MG run­ning about two hours later. So it was back to the reg­u­lar­ity. Just as we started, a van passed us and then held us up for some time as we ap­proached a tun­nel, and I had to fol­low it through. I even­tu­ally got around it and pressed on. I was only 12 sec­onds late at the fin­ish, which was good, con­sid­er­ing the cir­cum­stances.

The car was run­ning the best it had been all rally. Back at sea level, and fuel with no al­co­hol. We drove on north through the Grand Tablazo de lca desert, with a strong west­erly wind blow­ing sand across the road, to ar­rive at the Ho­tel Para­cas re­sort early af­ter­noon. Ken and I went swim­ming in the pool, my sec­ond swim of the event — very rash for me. Af­ter din­ner, the sweeps held their tra­di­tional sweeps car-park party, with drinks served from the back of their utes.

Day 27

The fi­nal day saw us start­ing at po­si­tion 16, so that meant a 9.16am start time. On to the PanAmer­i­can Sur High­way north to­wards Lima, with time and pas­sage con­trols to keep us on the ball — we made one by only two min­utes. I was driv­ing, Ken was say­ing, “Press on, Garry”, so there was some ag­gres­sive driv­ing around the trucks and buses. Ken then took over for the tran­sit to a track test about 40km from Lima. He did well on both the long and the short track, then I took over for the drive to the fin­ish in Lima. It was again a bit of what we now call a ‘rally’ drive, weav­ing our way through the traf­fic, us­ing the horn to at­tack the barg­ing tax­ies and buses. On time at the fin­ish, then on to the arch and chequered flag out­side the Coun­try Club Lima Ho­tel at about 2pm. There were tankards of cold beer, big crowds, lau­rel wreaths, and cham­pagne showers for the win­ners. We fin­ished in po­si­tion 22, both pleased to have made the fin­ish and sorry that it was all over. Of the 50 cars that started in Buenos Aires, 38 had made it to Lima. In 27 days, we had ex­pe­ri­enced tem­per­a­tures from 41°C to 5°C. We had climbed a to­tal of 62,940m and de­scended 66,311m over a to­tal of 9989km, passed over the An­des three times, gone through four bor­der cross­ings and achieved our main ob­jec­tive, to make it to Lima!

The pre­sen­ta­tion din­ner was held in the ho­tel, with a fan­tas­tic video taken through­out the event, speeches and pre­sen­ta­tions.

Fi­nally, would I do it again? “Yes, at the drop of a hat”.

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