’40˙C’ is what the Countryman’s thermometer read. I knew it might get hot, but not this hot! It felt as though we were in the preverbal sauna, except fully clothed. And where yesterday, I was jumping in and out of the car, taking photos and exploring anything and everything. Today, as we drove down a particularly desolate and sandy basin, our air conditioning going ballistic in an effort to keep us cool, I had no desire to get out of the vehicle. It was way too hot!
Which was bizarre, because when I awoke this morning, it was exceptional cold. So much so, that I was wearing several jackets. The sky was overcast, the sun had yet to cast it’s warm glow into the rocky enclave that had been our home for the night. But all was to change, because by mid morning, it was sweltering.
Day 2 was almost entirely off-road. Not gnarly hardcore 4×4 tracks – but the sort of tracks a car can go down if they’re careful. We are driving Mini Countryman All 4 – which means that we have a little extra ground clearance and four wheel drive – but with 19 inch alloy wheels with low profile tyres, bumps and pot holes were something we were keen to avoid.
James (Baggott) had the foresight to suggest that we put our ‘shower water’ on the roof, so that the heat of the sun warms it up for our evening shower. A gleaming idea – but also hazardous should it fall off. Luckily it didn’t! More on that later.
However, what became very apparent during our drive to Chepes, our camp for the night, was how perfect Argentina (Chile/Bolivia) are for the Dakar Rally. I simply had no idea how vast a country it is. Moreover, it’s got every type of terrain you’d want. One moment you’re driving though what could be Dartmoor, the next you’re in Wales, but suddenly you’re driving through South Africa before ending up in California’s Nevada. It’s a geologists paradise.
I think the highlight of the day was driving up through Los Tunnelles – a windy stretch of road that took us over the mountains to the west of Cordoba. We had learnt at lunch, that this was the exact route that the Dakar Rally would follow. We were having fun in the Countryman Cooper S, but could only imagine the speeds that a Mini X-Raid car could attain on these tracks.
On approaching the Los Tunnelles, we came across a panoramic view that at first, looked like the sea. It was only upon closer inspection, did we realise that we were looking at a glacial-esq basin of bush. it was flat as a pancake and stretched as far as the eye could see, with one dirt road though the middle of it.
As we descended from the mountain, it got hotter and hotter. And a lot sandier. It was actually becoming quite hard to drive on this – and certainly not a good place to stop. Over the course of 100kms of this dead straight track, we passed only two 4x4s/cars.
Eventually, we arrived in Chepes – a somewhat desolate but charming town, with 12,000 inhabitants. It turned out they were expecting us. So much so, that several hundred members from the community descended upon the hippodrome where our camp was, to look at the cars and speak with us. From their perspective, us arriving in their town was a big deal.
Local journalists, photographers and cameramen turned up to capture us arriving and to interview us for their local media outlets. For all intents and purposes, we were celebrities.
Which was possibly why they laid on a horse race, complete with gauchos (the Argentine equivalent of a cowboy), to entertain us, before killing and roasting a couple of goats – which they then fed us at dinner, whilst gauchos sang in the background. It was an event that they would talk about for months afterwards.
The only snag was that the Hippodrome where we were staying was devoid of any type of shelter. Sand and dust reached every edifice. Numpty that I am, I left the window open of our car – which meant that by the morning, a small beach had formed inside. Classic Mews mistake!
Tomorrow will be a big day – we’ve got 400kms to cover, including stopping off at several national parks. Loving this adventure!
- La Posta to Chepes
- Distance driven: 230kms
- Punctures: 0