2018ChileLandscapesSouth America

From Santiago via the Elqui Valley to the Paso Aqua Negra

After returning from the wonderful Easter Island, the travel reality comes back to us: our Miele refrigerator (although not even 1 year running net) does not cool anymore. We spend two stressful days organizing a new refrigerator that fits to our dimensions. There is almost no selection of matching models in Santiago de Chile, so we end up buying at Miele again. Luckily Santiago is the only location in South America where there is a Miele branch and there is even a dimensionally appropriate model in stock. Unfortunately, during assembly by a Miele technician, we realize that “fitting” can mean that the new has 3 cm more depth and 2 cm more width – for a built-in refrigerator in an expedition mobile these are quite relevant dimensions! Fortunately, the Miele technician also has some wood crafting skills, so we can make the refrigerator fit.

We also use the good infrastructure around Santiago to install a new branch reflector to Shujaa’s roof. Attentive blog readers have noticed that we have lost this 5-meter-long aluminum tube in a miraculous, unrecognized way already at the beginning of our world tour on the Isla Chiloé in Chile: no “mission critical” part, but helpful if you are often driving under low-hanging branches and especially power lines. Pairoa and his wife Carmen are very supportive of all these activities: we got to know Pairoa about Peter – the builder of Shujaa – and Pairoa has also been working on his 6×6 expedition mobile for six (!!!) years. As a brain surgeon and the resulting requirements on precision etc. that project seems to take a bit longer. Despite the stress in organizing our repairs we spend three nice days and intensive evenings together and are happy to have met the first friends on our trip around the world.

Once inside the local expedition mobile community, you get “passed on” directly and so we drive – what we had planned before – first to La Serena (where my credit card has actually been sent to the local Santander bank, which I forget taking out of the bank teller after getting cash on the day of departure from the Easter Island – a more remote destination does not exist!) and then to the Valle de Elqui to Rene and his wife Karen. Rene owns a nice hotel in Vicuna (Hotel Terral) and as a main occupation he travels around Southamerica with his expedition vehicle about 10 months a year. We spend three beautiful days with both and of course use the vast wealth of their experience to get tips for our route, pitches, tire procurement, etc. Another great and intense travel acquaintance.

In addition, we explore with Shujoo – our quad – the Valle de Elqui. Here they grow primarily grapes for the pisco schnapps: the Chileans argue with the Peruvians over the “copyright” and so they renamed the main growing place in the Valle de Elqui over 100 years ago into “Pisco Elqui” to have better arguments in the discussion. The landscape is a dream: rugged and completely barren mountains, which are crossed by the green vineyards. Of course, we do not miss a tasting and the visit of several Pisco distilleries. Moreover, everything here is “Magico” (nowhere in the world have so many UFO landings been “sighted”) and very spiritual: Karin feels reminded to India. A great lake with permanent thermals strong wind and many wind- and kite- surfers are also here.

After another three days on site we have to continue, because a big event is approaching: we have “organized” an invitation to the bivouac of the Dakar Rallye and therefore have to continue to the north of Argentina. In order to get there we have to pass the dreamlike Paso Aqua Negra, the highest with 4,780 meters above sea level passable pass between Chile and Argentina. The two border stations are more than 150 km apart, there are several lagoons and the landscape is extremely spectacular. At the top there are bizarre snowfields – snow remains that were formed by the strong wind to jagged formations.

We handle the altitude quite well and also Shujaa is in excellent shape. The two turbochargers whistle a little louder than usual, because of the thin air but we can still quickly overtake a number of cars that are struggling more on the steep uphill drive. The two border crossings take a little longer than usual, as there is a lot of traffic. In addition to the summer holidays, the Pope being in Chile and the Dakar Rallye together bring several people to the streets these days.

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