Vintage Cape Horn 2013

An epic 6,000 kilometre adventure drive from Buenos Aires to Cape Horn through Argentina and Chile.

Day 16 - El Calafate to Torres del Paine

Well we made it. The Chilean border was open and we got through in pretty good time before setting off for another highlight of our trip... The Torres del Paine National Park.

As we pulled out of El Calafate one hour earlier than scheduled we didn't know what sort of day would lie ahead and rumours of the chaos waiting for us at the border played on our minds as we tucked into the breakfast buffet.

Within 10km of the hotel though we had a test to undertake, it is a rally after all. This one was on a long looping dirt circuit with chicanes and 'stop astride' sections to make sure things didn't get out of hand. Betty Ford, John and Melinda Raker's Model A gave it her all with a huge surge down the back straight and through an open right handed bend.... we could see the crew through the windscreen hanging on for all they were worth. 

Like some of their fellow competitors Robert and Jane Abrey had been worried about the fuel situation before the track. The official advice was to fill up in town as it could be difficult to find petrol out on the road, but this meant arriving at the test with a full tank which would add weight and cost them time. Most played it safe though and with the one fuel station en route doing a roaring trade we all arrived in Torres del Paine with something in reserve.

Following this it was a mix of tarmac and gravel all the way to the first set of time controls where we saw Alastair Caldwell arriving bang on his due time despite a rear wheel puncture. Ever mindful of the clock he drove the last three kilometres or so on the wheel rim which, as we write, is under the hammer in a local forge being refashioned into something a little more round. Wheels are cheap as chips, he says but time is precious and true to this maxim the Time Card was stamped well before the wheelbrace was unpacked.

The border - well that was pretty much a non event. Alex, our local agent extraordinaire had pre filled the forms we needed and handed them to us as we arrived at the Chilean entry point. We signed them and handed them across. The usual checks for smuggled fruit were the only things which got in our way. Woe betide anyone caught with an undeclared banana.

Our hotel for the next two nights, the Explora is fabulous, tucked away in the landscape right on the shore of Salto Chico with incredible uninterrupted views of the Paine massif and sitting down to a silver service dinner of mushroom soup, conger eel and fine wine the rally was in good heart.

There are only 97 km of roads within the park so tomorrow, our last rest day, will see most of us walking, riding, swimming and boating our way through what is arguably South Americas most spectacular scenery. The name Torres del Paine - the Blue towers - is an amalgamation of Spanish and the indigenous word for the colour blue. It refers to the three immense granite towers that rise to almost 3000m above the surrounding flatlands.

Fred Fangio


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