Rally of the Incas 2016
November 13 - December 9, 2016
DECEMBER 7, 2016
Cusco to Nazca
Stop all the Clocks
A day on an endurance rally doesn't always have to involve timing. Sometimes all you need to elevate a day's drive to epic / endurance status is the weather, the topography and the geography of the landscape through which you're travelling.
Today was one such day and, as we struck out from the old monastery onto the road to Nazca we knew that we were in for something special, with more ups and downs than a day in an elevator testing facility. The organisers also knew it would be a tough day so, showing their softer side they hadn't scheduled any timing save for the early morning start which was quite apt for a place that used to be a monastery.
Mooching around in the car compound just after dawn we saw crews and cars laden with usual rally paraphernalia and bags full of handicrafts and trinkets. Indeed from what we saw we fully expect that shares in Peruvian knitwear will have been sent soaring this morning and we hear that the overtime ban on alpaca shearing has now been lifted.
Leaving Cusco however was an uphill struggle for some and Keith and Norah Ashworth joined forces with Phillip and Lynda Blunden to push and then stop the traffic to allow their Bentley and Healey respectively to negotiate some of the steeper sections of the downtown district. Once clear of Cusco, the Rally enjoyed a roller coaster of a ride down to 2000 m then back up to 4000 m via bridges, along rivers all the while criss-crossing the Cordillera Vilcabamba.
Women carrying baskets of coca leaves and gangs of workers busy lopping the heads off ripened maize plants took time to stop and watch the cavalcade.
Seen through the windscreen, this early part of the route was a never ending set of hairpins, seen on the Garmin screen however this was a veritable intestine of a road whose grandeur was only slightly dimmed by the low cloud which obscured the presumably magnificent views
Once the top had been crested, the long downhill took us towards the town of Abancay, which had plenty of fuel stops and restaurants for those in need of such things and then on to the valley floor where we drove along the Rio Lambrana. The road here passed through a well surfaced canyon whose rocky walls were pockmarked with caves and studded with succulent cacti and gnarled shrubs.
The Passage Control in Tampumayo was more of a lunch halt which offered an excellent chicken noodle soup. The well tended gardens and manicured lawns, complete with tame lama, were enjoyed by all but we feel were much improved by Chuck Lyford's impromptu rearrangement of some of the hard landscaping. The following climb up to Negro Mayo, via the 4552 m Abra Huasshuccasa was a good way to shake off any post lunch lethargy.
A slow run up the valley before a staircase of hairpins had been 28°c at bottom but at the top it was a different matter as hail and sleet made an unwelcome appearance as Layne and Len Treeter were forced to pull over to side of the road with a transmission fluid leak. By now the mercury was at 15° and falling fast.
Chris and Tim Clemons set about swapping drivers in the magnificent setting which at times resembled the famous Glen Coe in Scotland but at around four times the height and with lamas running in herds in thick woolly coats.
The broad flat plateau of the Cordillera de Huanzo (part of the Cordillera Occidental) stretched as far as the eye could see and some of us despaired of ever seeing sea level again. Dropping down into the passage control in the town of Puquio the sun did break through and, over a coffee we learned that Barry Nash and Malcolm Lister’s Rover P5B has only got first and fourth gear but the crew have been soldiering on gamely.
Further up the road however, Leon and Hester Bothma’s Bentley had reached the end of its road. ‘It’s f*&%@d’ mumbled Leon from under the big saloon, ‘the differential has gone and we need a tow truck’. Andy Inskip and Tony Jones swiftly arranged recovery of the vehicle to Puquio while the crew were brought to the night halt to consider their options.
The long drop through the Reserva Nacional de Pampas Galeras and the drive over the Abra Condorcenca marked the end of our high altitude adventures. For the next two days it's all low level driving but, the experiences we've all been through up in the clouds, not to mention all of the extra haemoglobin we’ve generated, will stay with us a while longer.
Nazca tonight - a full 4000 m below the day's high point - is quiet and dark save for a small party celebrating the birthday of Diana Henderson. Many happy returns.