When we left El Calafate the wind had mercifully abated and the poplar trees looked less likely to be uprooted than they had the night before. There was some cloud around but blue sky was visible too.
There was an option to save some distance in total but to forego a fuel opportunity by driving 65km of gravel. Some of our cars are more suited to tarmac but a number, having done some local research as to the quality, decided to take the short cut, including us. We had calculated that the rationed amount of petrol available would make little difference to our range anyway. In the event the quality of the gravel was, indeed, good and the petrol station had run out but those who had taken the tarmac had enjoyed their smooth ride.
Luckily, the fuel situation improved at Tapi Aike where a small petrol station already boasting many rally stickers gained another and delivered ‘gasolina’. There was more good gravel to drive on as we approached the border with Chile. This one was very quick and efficient. The officers looked at our passports and carnets, collected forms and stamped everything in the correct place first time. The Chileans then requested our photo cards and showed us photos that they had taken of our friends earlier. We took the hint and the carnet officer sat in our car to have his photo taken. We parted with smiles and handshakes. This is, after all, a ‘Friendship Rally’.
As we drove into Chile the promise of the mountains grew with every kilometre. The views improved and there were many photo stops. I have added a few more photos of cars than usual to show the varied driving conditions and the views. I have also included one of our esteemed blog editor and his spouse. I can assure you that they are a little less dust coloured in the evening after a shower. We entered the ‘Torres Del Paine’ National Park, so-called because an early Prussian settler who spoke French thought that the towers of rock looked like a comb (peine in French), and drove on to the hotel with ever better views.
We saw some wildlife during the day. Guanacos are everywhere and birds of every sort were spotted. Robin has been given a bird and flower chart as an early birthday present and announces that number 29 has been seen. It is certainly a privilege to be in such beautiful surroundings with the chance to see all these creatures. An Andean deer (huemul del sur) even turned up in the car park.
We made such good time that we were able to go on a walk after lunch at the hotel. Once again the views were spectacular and the flowers were particularly beautiful. Our guide was a mine of information on the park and all related matters. The day ended with dinner in the hotel with an amazing display of geology outside. Before dinner we were asked what ‘Exploration’ we would like to do the next day. We chose the French Valley Trek (same Prussian) between the Torres and another ‘massif’. I hope my muscles and joints will hold out as it is to be 16km.
Although the wind is low at the hotel we drove through some very windy patches during the day which resulted in a new rally term. Two of the Jaguars noticed engine smells in the car. It was decided that they resulted from fumes being blown back by the wind. The effect has been christened ‘inhaust’, the opposite of exhaust. So far we have had very good weather in the National Park – all the more surprising since the worst storm in 15 years passed through during the week before our arrival.