For our last day in the high Andes of Argentina, we travelled Patchetts, Gaults and Edmund - and took a small diversion from the recommended route to take in the old Ruta de los Carricoles (Wagon trail) over the mountain north of Mendoza - rather than following through the valley with vineyards. We understood from our map and guidebook, plus a little internet research that the old road was metalled, but contained an optional 17km section of dirt road that consists of '365 bends' (actually only 270) clinging to the side of the mountain. When we got there is appears that the dirt road section is 88km long and that the only way through is via the route with the bends, so there was no way out other than turning back - which if course we were not interested in doing! The bendy section of old road was initially in the cloud, so we went at a steady pace on the narrow road. It is probaly good that this kept our speed down and stopped us seeing the vertiginous drop beside us (open road with no safety barriers or markings.) We followed Edmund's bright orange Porsche which was a great help in seeing the bends. As the light improved, Edmund's pace picked up and we started to drop behind. We stopped to take some photos as more patches of blue sky appeared, culminating in reaching the top of the pass to be rewarded by a panoramic view of Aconcagua, the highest mountain in South America and other snow-capped peaks. The gravel road was in good condition and we made swift progress down to rejoin the rally route. A quick phone call on the satellite phone and we had confirmed to Paul the mechanic that we were back in the fold. As it happened he was only 10km ahead of us and we quickly caught him up onthe way to the Argentin/Chile border at the Libertadores pass.
The valley leading to the pass was spectacular with enormous bare rock mountains all around us in vivid colours. After a stop at a natural stone bridge we headed for the tunnel through the mountain pass. The other side of the pass we found all of our friends still in the customs queue with their cars and in all the border took us ove two hours. The Argentinians were very efficient, but the Chilean side was very slow.
We joined Tessa for a short lunch at a ski resort hotel where she had worked forty years ago - and found one of the waiters still to be there!
Donhill all the way to Chile's Pacific coast with fast roads towards the end and we made it to the hotel in time to reach members of the Cilean classic car club, who welcomed us with a glass of champagne. The low roar of the Aston's exhaust in close proximity sets off the car alarms on some of the modern cars, so in the large underground car park where they met us, we were able to announce our arrivial with a fanfare blaring from all corners - to everyone's amusement.