Today brought us to our final few kilometres in Peru as the border to Chile, our penultimate country, earnestly beckoned! The day was made more exciting by the return of Sebastian Moreno; our friend who had joined us between Pasto and Quito, and who had now got himself sponsorship to join the team all the way to Ushuaia! His network of contacts and the fact that he’s a native Spanish speaker will help the team considerably over the final 14 days of driving.
As usual, we all met downstairs for breakfast at 7am, with Sebastian already there having arrived several hours earlier. With some food to power us into action, the well oiled machine of unpacking and repacking the van was mobilised, and shortly afterwards we were back on the road and heading the 32km to the Peru/Chile border!
We had heard very good things about Chile in the sense that it is a stable and advanced country, but the bad news was that they were apparently very strict on letting in vehicles. Naturally, we were a little worried that this would hold us up, but upon arriving our fears were allayed. The paperwork was very limited, and the bit that there was was very self explanatory. The only hold up was that they wanted us to take out every bag in the van and have them x-rayed.
This was the last thing we wanted as with all our luggage, tools and equipment, this is a massive hassle! But we got on with it by forming a human chain; one guy was unpacking the bags which were passed along the chain to the x-Ray machine, and at the end of the x-Ray machine, we had another chain returning the bags to the van! Very quick and efficient, and it got us done in around 15 minutes! The whole border crossing took around 1.5 hours; a record by absolute miles!
Our next stop was Arica, just inside the border, where we were to meet the British Consul there. As it turned out, we were surrounded by locals as well, and the Governor and the local press turned up; a very enjoyable and successful entry into Chile! After a brief bout of being lost and unable to find the Pan-American Highway, we were back on the road south.
The road was of a consistently high standard and wound its way through yet another magnificent landscape until we made our way up to the central desert plateaux of Chile which stands at over 2,000m. This, starting from sea level was a drain on the batteries, but after all the climbing and 400km of driving, we arrived in Iquique with a good 150km of range left. As you may remember from yesterday’s blog post, I said I would mention how we would prove that there is actually no problem with the batteries.
In order to do this, we needed a start to the day whereby we could get the batteries up to a normal operating temperature without drawing a lot of power from them like we normally do. We were fortunate in this sense because Tacna stood at around 500m and we were able to cruise the 32km down to the border at sea level by using very little energy but using just enough to provide warmth to the batteries. This, coupled with good (but not slow) driving for the rest of the day confirmed that our range was as good as ever! Give us a straight road and we may even hit 600km, and who knows how much further if we actually make the car aerodynamically slippery!
Upon arriving at the hotel, we got our rooms sorted and attempted to get the car on charge. However, while the front desk staff were happy to make it happen, they knew that their boss would not be so keen on it, so they suggested we waited until the boss went home before plugging it in! As such, it was only 10pm before the car went on charge, and quite a few hours later that the team went to bed as we still needed to eat and get work done.
Truly a fantastic day’s driving in the world’s longest country and driest desert!