Today we had the ambitious plan of leaving the hotel (which as you may recall was not actually a hotel!) at 8am, giving a presentation at the university at 8.30am, and leaving bang on 9 o’clock. Normally everything takes so much longer than expected as there are 9 people to be in the right place and 3 vehicles which all need to be doing the right things, but at 9:11am we rolled out of the university campus very proud of ourselves for being so punctual! It felt like it was going to be a good day…
The drive back onto the Pan-American Highway passed through a small section of the city, but before long we were speeding south once more. Again, the smooth roads and beautiful scenery continued and we began making very good progress towards the capital city of Peru and 4th largest city in Latin America; Lima!
Aside from a stop for breakfast 50km into the journey, we drove uninterrupted for several hours. The next stop was completely unscheduled and came as we were driving alongside the coast. From the road, mountains stretched off into the distance on our left, but on our right, pristine sand dunes abounded for a few hundred metres until the desert turned to beach. The sun was out, it wasn’t cold (as it frequently is in this desert strangely enough) and the road was deserted. So, leaving our hazards flashing we all threw off our shoes, rolled up our trousers, and ran towards the ocean!
Running on sand dunes is actually a lot harder than it looks because the consistency of the sand changes which means there was a lot of falling over as we pelted towards the glistening sea. We had extra impetus to run there as the sand was scorching and was actually burning the soles of our feet!
Completely breathless, we arrived on the most spectacular and untouched beach imaginable. Never had any of us seen a coastline so untouched, and we spent some time just admiring our surroundings. It was an impromptu halt to the driving, but nonetheless an incredibly enjoyable one despite wasting an hour of daylight driving! Discipline won though, so we returned to the vehicles and set course once again for Lima.
After a few more miles we had our first encounter with a blemished road. There were some stretches of a few kilometres each which were being retarred, so they had made a rocky, unsurfaced diversion through the desert which was very SRZero unfriendly! However, upon seeing the SRZero, the boss a.k.a. jefe of the construction site wrote us out a note telling us we could pass through the cordoned off section of road without hindrance. So, while the rest of the traffic took the slow and bumpy diversion, we sped across the freshest tarmac imaginable with the entire road to ourselves; nice!
At the end of the new stretch of road, there was a manned barrier, and the guard there thought that we shouldn’t be there. However, after waving the aforementioned note from the jefe, they were more than happy to let us continue on our way. We came across a few more road works until we came to the end where we were actually driving behind the machines which flatten the tarmac and make it so smooth! Literally, we could not be driving on newer road! But suddenly, one of these monster flattening machine stopped and started reversing straight into the path of the SRZero! There was perhaps 4 metres to spare…
The look on Toby’s face was one of pure horror, and he had not reacted fast enough to start reversing. The flattener was approaching rapidly, and all the rest of us could do in the van was shout, point and honk the horn like crazy! This apelike behaviour clearly worked because the flattener driver looked over and immediately stopped the vehicle mere metres from the SRZero! Luckily no harm was done, and we were able to continue on our way for some miles until the next holdup.
The next delay took the form of a police stop. We have had many of these by now, this one being our 34th I believe, so we were completely nonplussed when the policeman signalled for us to pull over. Normally, the police take a cursory glance at our paperwork, stand and admire the SRZero for a few minutes, and then wave us on our way without any problems. But this guy was different; he wasn’t interested in the SRZero.
He took a look at our paperwork, and when he couldn’t find anything wrong with that, he started walking around the van trying to find something amiss. The translated conversation went something as follows:
Police: “You have tinted windows.”
Toby: “Yes we do.”
Police: “That’s illegal. I’m going to have to fine you. Give me 50 soles ($18)”.
Toby: “But that bus over there has tinted windows.”
The policeman looks over at the bus and mumbles something incoherently before continuing to walk around the car desperately thinking of something to fine us for.
Police: “You were driving the car without a helmet.”
Police: “That’s illegal. I will fine you 50 soles.”
As you can see from the above transcription, he was clearly trying to hassle us into bribing him because we knew that driving the SRZero without a helmet is perfectly legal. We also knew that unless we didn’t pay him, he would hold us up there for hours and cause far more trouble than it’s worth. So we gave him the money, and attempted to get moving again. But now he wanted to chat; “Oh, what’s this car you’re driving here?” he asked, and “Isn’t it pretty!” he explained…
We were pretty annoyed with this whole situation; he managed to rip us off and waste our time. So we came up with a very simple solution; not to stop for the police anymore! Our resolve was tested minutes later when we got waved at by another policeman to come over. However, we just waved back and carried on driving! All they did in retaliation was blow their whistles a bit, but clearly we had worked out the way to save ourselves some time as they clearly weren’t interested in chasing us. Just imagine the drama if you were to try this in the US or Europe…we certainly won’t be exporting this driving style back home!
By this time we were nearing Lima and our rendezvous point with Salvador, our contact here who is very involved in the racing industry. After agreeing a meeting spot, we met up on the outskirts of the city and he escorted us in. For the second day in a row we had arrived at a very reasonable time, something in the region of 7 o’clock, we had covered a long distance today, and we were chuffed with ourselves!
However, our jubilation soon turned to sheer incredulity when we saw the traffic conditions coming into Lima; it was an absolute zoo! People were honking like crazy, swapping lanes without indicating, and generally driving like complete lunatics. This was by far the worst driving and traffic we have ever seen, and I honestly believe that a bunch of drunk chimpanzees could have driven the cars in a more orderly fashion!
However, our convoy techniques were working well in protecting the SRZero, and we slowly inched our way towards the KPMG tower which is where the car would charge overnight. Oops, I spoke too soon…
A crazy truck driver decided to overtake the van which was trailing the SRZero, and then decided to switch lanes, probably with his eyes closed. In doing so, he scraped the rear left edge of the SRZero! We immediately honked the horn into overdrive, and jumped out of the car to stop him doing more damage. We stopped the other vehicles in the convoy, which of course prompted all the cars behind us to go absolutely crazy, and we went to inspect the damage.
Fortunately, the damage was very minimal. Some of the truck’s paint had come off onto the bodywork, and the fibreglass had cracked slightly, but not even all the way through; a very fixable job indeed. In all honesty, we were very glad that this was the only damage because we have seen how quickly and easily this stuff can be repaired, and so we weren’t particularly worried. We did however address the truck driver in fairly strong language as he was completely unwilling to accept any blame despite being entirely in the wrong.
Luck was on our side however because a nearby policeman had seen everything and within moments he was at our side. He ensured that the truck driver cooperated when we asked for his details, and then, when we continued driving, he accompanied us for some distance, fending off unruly cars…very helpful indeed! It turned out to be quite a mixed day regarding our experience with the police!
The rest of the journey, which lasted around half an hour was similarly crazy, but fortunately no more accidents can be reported and we made it safely into the underground parking of KPMG’s office. By this time, Salvador had already called his fibreglass man to come at 8 the next morning to fix the car, and we were ready to hook the car up to charge.
With this done, the normal routine resumed; this being check in at hotel, shower, change, and topped off with some food! This time it wasn’t just any food, it was some very local Peruvian food of which we have heard much about. Myself and Nik tried the guinea pig, or cuy as it’s locally known, and I have to say that it was rather delicious! The others sampled grilled cow’s heart; another local delicacy which was well received! We also tried the local drink called pisco sour which, among other ingredients, has raw egg white in it. I wouldn’t know how to describe it exactly, although it is sour (obviously) and is very strong!
And so that concludes a very exciting day; a lot happening in the last few kilometres before the 20,000km mark! We can’t wait to see what the next 6,000km brings…it feels like we’re almost there!