As we had not made our big distance yesterday, we wanted to drive a long leg today which was not only required by our schedule, but also by the fact that there are so few towns in this part of the world; we have to do massive cross-country hops to get down to the bottom of the world! As such, we had another 600km route planned, this time going via the coastal city of Comodoro and then ending up in the small town of Puerto San Julian about 440km south of Comodoro. It was yet another ambitious day planned…
As can be expected now, the team was up at 6am and before long the van was packed, we bolted down a quick breakfast, and headed over to the cultural museum where the car was waiting to be picked up. From here we rejoined the main road and continued south east for 150km until reaching Comodorro. An interesting point arises from this actually; remember the range issue I was talking about a few weeks ago, and how the starting temperature of the car drastically effects how the first 15% of energy is used?
Well, here we had a perfect test because for the first time in a long time, the car was charged overnight inside a warm building, and not outside in the freezing cold. As such, the theory should predict that the car has a normal energy consumption straight from the word go, and fortunately, this is exactly what we experienced. As such, for the 150km to Comodoro, we only used 25% of the battery pack and so our intermediate charging time was subsequently less than it would have been. This proved our theory to be correct.
However, we were in a rush to charge up and get back on the road if we were to get to San Julian on time, so every minute counted. Upon reaching the outskirts of Comodoro, we realised that we would waste a huge amount of time driving into the city to our prearranged charging point, so we were keen to come up with a new plan.
Looking back to our previous experiences for inspiration, we remembered that we had a very successful intermediate charge at a Toyota garage on our journey between Quito and Machala. Coincidentally, as we were discussing this, we found ourselves driving past a whole row of car dealerships. This was a chance to charge up quickly without having to get into the city centre, but also a time gamble because if we did not succeed in securing a charging spot we would end up wasting our time.
The nearest dealership was a Mercedes Benz one, so the convoy pulled off the main road and came to a halt outside the smart building. Toby and I strolled inside and managed to convince a manager to come out and take a look at the car. They immediately agreed to help, and within minutes we had located a suitable charging spot, and the car was inside the garage sucking up billions upon trillions of tiny electrons! Actually, just to clarify, no electrons are sucked up from anywhere; the energy from them is merely used to reverse the chemical reaction in the batteries to restore the chemical potential, and the electrons are returned to the grid.
Anyway, seeing as the car was now charging for a couple of hours, we had some time to do something extremely crucial; fix the broken shock absorbers. We needed to be 100% sure that even if we had another shock absorber failure in the next 1,200km, we would be able to keep on moving, and seeing as we had now used up all our spares and there was no chance of getting new ones, fixing the broken ones was our best alternative. We had done this before in Texas and Mexico to great success, so we were inclined to do it again.
So, while Nik, Toby and Sebastian went to a workshop with Gustavo from Mercedes, Andy, Claudio and I showed some of the Mercedes staff some videos and photos from the project; they loved it and we quickly became amigos! After the shock absorbers had been fixed we went to a local restaurant for a lunch of meat, meat and more meat, and after this, we went back to the dealership. Before we took the car off charge, we quickly replaced the front shock absorber which hadn’t broken as we suspected that it was near to failure too.
With this done, we took the car off charge and after thanking the Mercedes staff profusely, we rejoined the main road and begun the 440km leg south to San Julian. Contrary to previous advice, the road was actually very bad to begin with and we had serious concerns about making our destination before midnight! However, the road soon improved to a very good standard, and we were able to pick up the speed.
Stopping only once for a quick bite to eat, we pushed on through the wilderness. The isolation was incredible; rarely did you see another car, and a huge variety of wildlife including llamas, ostriches, sheep, snakes, and a large cat even (we suspect a puma) roamed the wide, flat spaces which spread far into the horizon. The vegetation seemed to be just more than a desert with no trees at all, but a constant amount of low level grasses and bushes. It was simple, and it was beautiful.
As the sun set to our right, and darkness encroached upon the southern Argentinian plains, you couldn’t help but feel that we were approaching the end of the world. The sky seemed bigger, the clouds different somehow, and it felt like you might just fall off the edge of the world upon reaching the horizon!
Just after nightfall, we arrived in the small town of Puerto San Julian, and we quickly located the hotel where we were to stay. While Toby and Sebastian took the car to a local garage to charge, the rest of us unpacked the van, and after a bit of work, we headed straight to bed!
Just 2 days awaited us now until Ushuaia, and we were buzzing with excitement after such a successful day’s drive!