Alastair's Blog

Alpaca Classic Rally 2016

Alastair Caldwell - Wednesday, July 27, 2016

In May this year I took part in the ROARRallies Alpaca Classic, a month long trip from Cartagena, Colombia to Lima, Peru, including a loop around Peru’s southern highlands. My car of choice for this mammoth journey was my 1968 Porsche 912, 2000cc, Flat 4 cylinder with air cooled twin Weber carbs, HP150Gearbox, 5 speed manual. This is a short wheelbase car with full cage, stripped for rallying.

Volcano Mud Bath


The third car only just got out of customs in time to leave but everything went well at the start. Cartagena city was great but very hot all the time, day and night. We stayed in a lovely hotel in a national park, swam in the Caribbean Sea and went to a volcanic mud hole and took a crazy collective mud bath - had a good time, as you can see from the photos!

   

Return of The Bucket!


On the London to Capetown rally in 2012 the 912 overheated all the way until in Namibia we stuck half a bucket on the engine air intake to feed the oil cooler and hey presto, cool oil! I thought we were over our bucket days but no, in Colombia it was so hot the bucket was reborn though now in a more tasteful hearing aid beige. 



Holes in the Road


We stayed in nice hotel in Mompos then did an 84k dirt road section which was really challenging because of massive rain the day before, so there was lots of soft going, roads washed away etc, loved it! The little Porsche seemed to thrive on it. We had lots of good twisty Tarmac, broken surface holes etc. The Colombian traffic was good fun, lots of big speed bumps. We got chased by cops again - seems to be a habit - but we outran them even after having to pay a toll whilst being chased! The Mustang broke its alternator and had to be towed in but it was ok the next day. The photo below of me with some cops are ones who didn't chase us.










Peculiar road signs


We drove from Monteria to Medellin along a great road, Columbia looks really good and everyone we meet is nice, they seem very gentle and the traffic is certainly passive. There were lots of police about and a big army presence with soldiers checking vehicles all the time. They weren't interested in us though, except to give the Porsche a thumbs up! We stayed in a very trendy hotel in the centre for two nights, all good again though lots of loud music around. We also noticed some very interesting road signs.

   

The Trampoline of Death


We went off to Pasto on a road affectionately nicknamed "The Trampoline Of Death", that made us feel good! This is the road that connects the capital of the jungle department of Putumayo with its Andean/Pacific neighbour, Narino. This road is famously dangerous, and is often called the most dangerous road in the entire country, and one of the worst on the continent. Shrines to the lost litter the roadside, however it is also a beautiful road as it The road winds rapidly upwards through jungle to cloudforest and ultimately to paramo, with mist-shrouded waterfalls seemingly tumbling from the forest at every turn, and often engulfing the rough, unpaved road itself in their icy waters. We went way high as well to add to the mix, about 2000 metres above sea level. It was fun, the little Porsche thrived on it, huge drops, rough road slips and big trucks all combined to make for a tough day. We had a puncture, fixed it and then arrived in Pasto before crossing the border to Quito in Ecuador, another first for me. We went way high as well to add to the mix, about 2000 metres above sea level. Here is the little white Porsche in the Colombian jungle on the Trampoline of Death and the map of the road.





LIke an episode of Breaking Bad


Some of the rolling country here is so like NZ it is uncanny. We went to see one of Pablo Escobar, the infamous drug lord's many estates, but it was not exciting and has been turned into a theme park by his relatives so we did not go in. Then we drove to St Augustine on rough roads in really remote areas in the pouring rain most of the way. It was a great drive and the only casualty was the support van with a holed sump which held them up for a few hours. They epoxied it up so they were ok. Some of the rally went on an off piste trip to visit a cocaine making factory, fascinating with a long and involved process using amongst other things cement, petrol, battery acid and at the end, baking soda! No samples were given out but the guide took the product home and seemed happy! Some of the vehicles and scenes we met along the way reminded us of Breaking Bad.


We had a traditional Colombian meal, Bandeja Paisa, on the last night in Colombia. It was very good, the basis is beans then the rest you can see. Lots of horses were 
being used for travel and freight all over the country. 


On our last day in Columbia, we visited this amazing black and white cathedral in Las Lajas on the way to the Ecuador border. We crossed the border no problem then went on to Quito, the highest capital in the world. Huge and madly busy, first impressions were good, staying in a lovely hotel overlooking the main square.


Earthquake


We had an earthquake in Quito at 3am one night, the hotel shook for what seemed like forever but was probably about 30 seconds, the shutters banged, the chandelier swung and then it stopped. It seems that it was a quake on the coast which is about 100 miles from here. We had a couple of small aftershocks but then it was all quiet, thankfully.

We left Quito for Banos and stayed in a lovely mountain spa above Banos, the Luna Runtun. It was a good drive through the mountains past volcanoes, over passes, all very high now. Ecuador is fine and we feel safe apart from our quake scare but we're now a long way from the epicentre. Here's a screen shot of the height yesterday and a shot of a painting I bought from the artist.

   

We made an unscheduled stop in Trujillo where they were celebrating Corpus Christi with music and parades, there were several of these parades with bands and fireworks. Here's a couple of videos.



The Canon del Pato


The start of the Canon del Pato (Duck Canyon) in north-central Peru. Loose gravel, lots of trucks and buses hurtling down many tunnels; big washouts with no warnings, all good stuff to keep you on your toes!  The canyon is on the Rio Santa (Santa River) at the north end of the Callejón de Huaylas (Corridor of Huaylas).






Nazca Lines


Had a bit of time off as the Jaguar was retiring and the Porsche was having work done. We went off to see the Nazca Lines in Peru. Went again to fly over these amazing lines in the desert, saw them last year from the ground as not enough time to take a flight, but this time went up as I did on the Inca Trail all those years ago. One of the wonders of the world, just amazing to see and wonder how and why.  We also paid a visit to the Maria Reiche museum. She was an amazing woman who guarded the Nazca lines for 50 years and made the Peruvian government pay attention to the lines. The picture shows seas of chillis being dried in Peru. 



We spent two nights in Lima after three days on the road, then off again having fixed Conrad's MGB. Spent yesterday putting new struts and pads in the Porsche; here we are having cocktails at Belmond Miraflores Park Hotel.


Photo we took from our little plane of the Nazca lines.



We saw lots of animal activity, llamas, alpacas, guanaco, not seen a Vicuña yet but still time. These are Guanaco



Visit to Machu Picchu


This was our first sight of a proper Andean mountain, magnificent sight. We travelled through Pisco, ancestral home of the famous Pisco Sour cocktail, encountering small boys trying to sell us squid on the beach and lots of fishing boats. Went again to see Machu Picchu, it was great because you see more the second time, like seeing a film again and there were a lot fewer people so it was very nice. A shot from the site. One general of the site, The Condor shrine and a temple with a rock matching the mountains behind. 

We came across a stricken Mustang with a broken oil line - it was a big mess but we were able to fix it. That's me under the hood and you can see the wee Porsche hiding from the sun in the background. Also a photos of a jar of local Pisco, a grape-wine spirit, which I had a shot from, complete with snake! 






We made it through Bandit country ok; more great roads and hundreds of speed bumps; And stayed in a very quaint Hacienda, couple of nice classics in the yard. And here's a photo of Snjezana making friends with the local wildlife!





The end of the rally


Then all of a sudden the rally was over and we all went our separate ways now. It was a great trip, 33 days, 3 countries and some fantastic roads. We stayed in some great places and some not so good but all a good experience, got trapped up a mountain by roadworks and drove into the night to catch up. The little Porsche loved it all, making its way over some truly bad rough roads with no complaints and still running really well. Had to change the front shocks and she ate a set of pads and tyres but could do it again tomorrow. And here he is outside the very posh last hotel in Lima where she stayed until she was shipped back to the UK.



And a couple more videos of the driving, one through a town.




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