|AN OUTSTANDING 8,000 KM ROUTE, STUNNING MOUNTAIN SCENERY, BRILLIANT MAN-SIZED SPECIAL STAGES
After a month on the road in South America I can promise you this is the best looking, most exciting route we've ever created. Rallymen and Challenge competitors alike will be delighted and astounded by the 34 demanding special stages, some of them over 50 kms long.
Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador will make this a memorable event.
You'll remember the stunning high altitude scenery, the mountain pass views looking down into the clouds.
The amazing moonscapes of petrified sand dunes above the tree line where no vegetation grows.
The endless superb motoring roads over the Andes on which you can exercise your driving skills and pleasures to the full.
There will be days when you'll feel that the sheer exhilaration of driving the roads is as much fun as doing the stages.
The challenge of the superb stages, some of the them from the World Rally Championship, some long enough to make you sweat and puff a bit.
The local ladies in bowler hats and the violent clashing reds and purples of their traditional Inca dress.
The daunting canyons and gorges, water splashes, long tunnels hand carved in towering rock faces, horse drawn wagons, jaunty gauchos astride handsome ponies herding their cattle and more sheep and long necked llamas on the roads than cars.
It's breathtaking stuff in both senses of the word.
Mike Summerfield rode with me keeping us and TWE's Jeep on the right roads while creating another of his famous Road Books that will also prevent you from getting lost.
Changes. We've made some to the provisional published route. A couple of our planned days turned out to be over gravel roads that were linear collections of the world's great potholes. Not fun for either man or motorcar. So we dumped them.
Some of the days were too long, so we've re-routed and trimmed them to be more user friendly.
There are rest days in La Paz, Bolivia, the world's highest capital city at 15,000 feet and another at Cusco in Peru with the opportunity to make a day trip to the amazing lost Inca city of Machu Picchu.
In addition to the rest days we've built in a couple of 'half' days that can be used for loafing, servicing or doing the tourist bit. The long days covering big distances are on the flat lands in Argentina. Up in the high country where it gets a bit breathless the daily distances are shorter.
You'll fly in to Buenos Aires, a smart and well polished city. It's here you'll collect your car from the shipping agent and, no doubt, spend a few days learning to tango(!) and enjoying some of the fashionable restaurants around the trendy Puerto Madero waterfront.
The start and the HQ is 300 kms up the motorway at Rosario, a gentle half day's drive.
It's here that we provide you with your first two nights hotel on May 4th and 5th. During those two days you'll do documentation and Scrutineering, attend the briefing and enjoy the Welcome Dinner on the evening of the 4th.
Now let's look at the route day-by-day.
You'll receive a Road Book that gets you from Buenos Aires, in your own time, up to Rosario. How long you chose to spend In Buenos Aires and when you chose to arrive in Rosario is up to you.
We'll provide a list of useful hotels in Buenos Aires in various price brackets and there will a room deal in Rosario for those who wish to arrive before the 4th and 5th when the event provides your accommodation.
Throughout the event the Challenge will run in front of the Rally using some of the more challenging sections of the special stages for their Regularities.
May 4th + 5th
Documentation, Welcome Dinner, Scrutineering, Drivers Briefing.
Sat May 6th
Rosario to Cordoba
The flag drops and 21 days of action- packed adventure begins.
We head north across the flat lands, the pampas, through cattle country pointing ourselves towards Cordoba, the heartland of rallying and the home of Argentina's round of the World Rally Championship.
Here we are treated to three superb gravel stages that were used on this years WRC event. Compare your times with those of the stars!
Day's total: 595 kms
Stages - 16 + 20 + 26 kms gravel.
Sun May 7th
Cordoba to Tucuman
Three excellent tricky stages early on in the morning. Fast, tight and narrow then fast straight roads across the wetlands, home to curious long legged birds. (No, not the ones in bikinis).
Watch out for serious large 'speed bumps' in towns often unmarked and designed to slow you down or create business for your dentist.
Police control points at provincial boundaries are there for document checks, smile and they'll smile back.
Day's total: 726 kms
Stages: 12 + 16 + 18 kms gravel
Mon May 8th
Tucuman to JuJuy
Today it's a complete change of scenery. Acres of lemon orchards, roaming wild horses, and colourful bird life swooping from trees and shrubs.
Tall fluffy topped pampas grass blown in the breeze, Jacob trees and huge red rock formations. Quite spectacular.
Two stages early on in the morning, one at 36 kms, the first of the long ones with three water splashes, both on fine gravel roads fast and flowing through forests.
A good opportunity for the Challengers to complete their run and stay on and watch the rallymen hooning off the gravel into the watersplash.
Ah, and just to help with pronunciation of local places names, where we are tonight is pronounced (Hoo-hooey)
Day's total: 487 kms
Stages: 36 + 23 kms gravel
Tue May 9th
JuJuy to Potosi
Today we start our climb into the Andes. Our day starts at 1,000 feet and by evening we'll be in the old mining town of Potosi at 15,000 feet. The change of scenery will boggle your minds.
This morning the backdrop is of green fields and pastureland. Tonight it's the majestic snow caps that ring this tiny town, which in the 16th century was the biggest and richest gold mining city in the world.
From here came the legendary gold ingots that were ferried to Spain and became the targets of the pirates of the Spanish Main.
All those stories of sunken galleons with holds full of ingots and chunky gold coins are true. The coins were minted in Potosi. Ooops... Back to the rally.
The 300 km run to the Bolivian frontier is on fast tarmac but over the border the roads turn to gravel.
And we're in magic stageland. Are you ready for the first one - it's 57 kms long. This is big boy's stuff which makes the second one at 28 kms feel like a stroll in the park.
It's a day of 5-star stages and 2-star hotels.
The town with its tiny winding narrow cobbled streets was laid out in the 16th century so expect to get lost very easily.
The town square is pure 16th century Spanish colonial. Park your cars outside one of the five hotels we'll be using? No space to tie up a donkey, let along park a car. So we've commandeered the Army barracks in the middle of town and that will be our security park for the night with shuttle mini buses taking you to your hotels.
The first of many days on this event that will stay etched in your memory.
(It's pronounced Pot-O-si)
Day's total: 654 kms
Stages: 57 + 28 kms gravel
Wed May 10th
Potosi to Sucre
OK, it's only 172 kms to Sucre so this is a short day. You're not going to believe what I tell you we will fit into this day.
First up we do an 8 kms stage on the outskirts of town. Hold on, why would we be doing a piddly little 8 kms stage on a marathon rally?
Because the stage was created by the locals, carved out of the hillside with bulldozers, because they love rallying and 25,000 of them will turn out on the morning to cheer you on. That's why. And let me tell you, it's a real gem of a little stage.
Now this next bit you won't believe. You'll think I'm smoking something John Player doesn't make.
This next stage is 28 kms long. It starts on gravel, turns on to the main tarmac highway for a few K's, then back onto gravel, through a tiny narrow village on cobbles, back onto gravel, then onto a dual carriageway to finish in the town. Trust me, every word is the truth. Mike Summerfield reckons it's worth the entry fee just to do this stage.
Sucre is the old capital of Bolivia and the main square where all our cars are parked overnight is another fine example of Spanish colonial architecture.
Tick box for another day to remember.
Day's Total: 172 kms
Stages: 8 + 28 kms gravel and other assorted surfaces!
Thurs May 11th
Sucre to Cochabamba
Another stunning day's driving on deserted, good fun, fast sweeping roads climbing towards distant mountain views. Drive past waterfalls and through fields of vibrant blue and yellow wildflowers.
And over hundreds of kms of narrow twisting patterned cobbled roads. These were built ten years ago by a labour force paid for by the government to mop up unemployment.
Pause to think that each one of these river-washed cobble stones was laid by human hand.
Yep, and you've guessed that TWE has produced another all-time first.
Two stages 10,000 feet above sea level on cobbles. Probably a Guinness Book of Records entry.
The stages are just amazing through country that few Bolivians get to see.
Day's Total: 353 kms
Stages: 14 + 15 kms cobbles
Fri May 12th
Cochabamba to La Paz
A great early morning stage, just the one today and the rest of the day to make it to La Paz either at a spirited pace or cruise and take in the stunning scenery.
Roads switch from gravel to tarmac and back again through small villages but always ringed by snow-capped mountains that circle the world's highest capital city.
La Paz was founded in 1682 and is still using the original street plan. Finding the way down into the city is like laying dominos in the dark.
But trust Mr Summerfield's road book to take you to your nice posh 5-star hotel
Day's total: 408 kms
Stage: 25 kms gravel
Sat May 13th
A rest day! You've earned it. Enjoy exploring the city, the cathedral, the quaint markets and finding where to buy the best beautifully knitted vicuna sweaters.
Sun May 14th
La Paz to Puno
This morning's 40km tarmac stage is run on the main road around Lake Titicaca, fast sweeping bends and spectacular views across the world's highest lake.
Ignore the view and concentrate on beating Hannu Mikkola's stage record which was set on our London Mexico rally in 1995 when the road was gravel! And his fastest time still stands.
You and your car cross the lake on small wooden punts, a unique fifteen minute ride. Then it's 10 kms to the Peruvian border and a short drive to our lakeside hotel.
The dawn view across the lake is a great spectacle; shoot pics of the sun hitting the bright blue water and the electric green algae. Worth rising early to see and do.
Day's total: 309 kms
Stage: 40 kms tarmac
Mon May 15th
Puno to Cusco
The first stage is 13 kms on gravel then a spectacular half days alpine mountain run over tarmac roads that inspire sporting motorists to become 'men behaving badly'.
These are the sort of roads that you spend the rest of the year dreaming about.
You'll probably arrive early at Pisca the scruffy little riverside town at the beginning of our next 28 km stage.
Use the time to wander through the market, grab a snack and shop for colourful souvenirs,
The stage finishes in the town of Cusco more rally fans. Cars are parked in the sports stadium and mini busses shuttle you to your hotels.
Day's Total: 459 km
Stages: 13 kms gravel 28 kms tarmac
Tue May 16th
Another rest day. The town is based around the colonial Spanish Main Square and there are day trips by train to the Machu Picchu, the lost city of the Incas. To do this you'll need to be up at 05.00hrs to catch the mountain train.
Late risers with a few more dollars to spend can do the journey by helicopter.
Book your trip on arrival at the hotel; it's a very popular attraction. Heaps of websites, key in Machu Picchu on Google.
Wed May 17th
Cusco to Nazca
It's a big day climbing to 4,800 metres. Different scenery - gorges, canyons, white water rivers, rock-strewn moonscapes, strange sandstone slopes that look like huge rumpled eiderdowns stretching as far as the eye can see.
We're above the tree line and there's no vegetation. But later as the super tarmac roads descend there are llamas and vicunas roaming wild.
How to tell a vicuna from a llama? The vicuna has a prettier face with big round eyes and its fleece is worth five times more than the llama.
Al Capone had $5,000 suits made from vicuna wool, Not a lot of people know that!
There are no stages today. When you've driven the roads and seen the amazing landscapes you'll know why.
The famous Nazca Lines have long baffled archaeologists. You can see them from viewing towers or take an hour's flight and see the whole thing from the air. Amazing stuff. Go to Google, search for Nazca Lines.
Thurs May 18th
Nazca to Ica
An easy 4-hour run today through deserts and craggy dunes. Yes, some of the dunes are green, not grass but curious mineral deposits.
Two spectacular tricky desert stages twisting through the dunes.
Ica is a scruffy town, not a place to walk in the evening. But we're in two good hotels with all facilities including swimming pools.
Day's total: 170 kms
Stages: 17 + 17.5 kms gravel
Fri May 19th
Ica to Lima
Out of the mountains and down to sea level and your first view of the sea for a while. You've now driven over the Andes from the Atlantic to the Pacific - the hard way. It's taken you 14 days, in Panama you can do in an hour!
Two very demanding desert stages through a barren but spectacular landscape.
Tonight's unique 5-star hotel is a recreation of an old Spanish village, tiny cobbled streets, each room is a mini house. There's even small chapel in the main square. One of a kind! Arrive early and enjoy the experience.
Day's total: 358 kms
Stages: 13 + 13 kms gravel
Sat May 20th
Lima to Huaraz
It's pronounced (Hoo-raz).
Two tricky sandy gravel stages in open farmland and sugar plantations, tight and challenging. Then a dream drive climbing again to 4,000 meters towards the snowcaps set against a blue-on-blue sky. The sort of picture you see on chocolate boxes, but here it's real life.
The two hour climb on a super twisty tarmac road is almost as good as an un-timed stage.
Day's total: 519 kms
Stages: 17 + 17 kms gravel
Sun May 21st
Huaraz to Truillo
It's (Troo-hee-o). And I'm about to run out of superlatives. Today is an extraordinary day!
It starts with a 19km stage on a tarmac mountain main road. This is pure James Bond car chase stuff.
Then it's small primitive alpine villages, pigs, cows and dogs sleeping in the streets. Old men with donkeys laden with firewood. It's a film set for a medieval movie.
Oddly amongst this you'll see tiny kids in immaculate simple school uniforms, quietly self-contained, walking to school.
Then there's the most outstanding 80km gravel road drive of all time. We chase a crashing white water river through a canyon with sheer rock walls rising as far as the eye can see. So tall it's like looking up at the sky through a chimney.
Crude rope and plank bridges cross the canyon; hand hewn narrow tunnels dust filled and dark are treated with caution as you burst from pitch black into bright sunlight.
Cruise and dawdle and take it all in. You're in a part of Peru that most Peruvians don't know about. A once in a lifetime experience.
Day's total: 369 kms
Stage: 19 kms tarmac
Mon May 22nd
Truillo to Piura
Another change of landscape. Gun barrel straight roads, flatland desert that suddenly becomes lush green farmland with banana plantations, violent purple bougainvillea and palm trees.
In small primitive villages donkeys are the preferred form of transport, which make our rally cars feel a century out of place.
Two great tricky sandy gravel stages and into Piura, a tidy elegant old town.
Day's total: 633 kms
Stages: 16 + 16 kms gravel
Tues May 23rd
Piura to Loja
It's (Low-ha). Today we leave Peru for our final country, Ecuador.
There's good news and bad news. The bad news is there's only one stage today. The good news is it's 40 kms long and mind-boggling.
Tight, flowing and undulating on good gravel. It's a huge challenge.
Ten dollars for the driver who can tell me where there was a 200 metre straight. No kidding.
You'll be tap dancing on the pedals, knotting your elbows, sweating and puffing and going red in the face. This is a real rallyman's challenge. There won't be driver who doesn't emerge with an ear-to-ear grin. Promise!
All cars park in the town's main square tonight. It's a small modest town.
Day's total: 409 kms
Stage: 40 kms gravel
Wed May 24th
Loja to Cuenca
We climb again into the clouds, a vibrant green patchwork of distant fields across the valley is what the drivers won't see as they concentrate on the first gravel stage of the day.
Nor, hopefully, will they see the fast flowing river fed by waterfalls far below them.
Challenge competitors will be able to tell about the sights the racers missed.
The final amusement is a neat little 12 km tarmac stage as we fall from the mountains down the city and into a pair of smart side-by-side hotels.
Day's total: 235 kms
Stages: 32 kms gravel + 12 kms tarmac
Thurs May 25th
Cuenca - Cuenca loop
Now here's neat idea. A short morning loop to take in two super 25 km stages and back to our HQ hotel for a barbeque lunch in the riverside garden.
Yes, Nick's treat on the penultimate day of our great adventure.
Day's total: 162 kms
Stages: 25 + 25 kms gravel
Fri May 26th
Cuenca to Quito
This is it - the final day. You're still in the high country with great scenery.
There's one final stage - the last blast over good twisty gravel and then we head for the nation's capital.
White fluffy clouds shroud the roads creating odd effects as you come out of them into brilliant sunshine and back in the clouds again. And midst all this there are rain showers, not surprising since these are rain clouds.
That's it! It's all over. You've been through Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. You've covered over 8,000 kms and 774 kms of some of the world's great special stages.
Tonight is time to celebrate! Tomorrow we point ourselves to the port of Guayaquil where cars are loaded into containers and then it really is all over.
Day's total: 454 kms
Stage: 28 kms gravel
Check the schedule and the daily distances and you'll see that we've softened the pace of the event compared with previous marathons.
Daily driving distances are much shorter, there are two rest days and a couple of half days. Overall the average daily driving distance is around 420 kms.
But what we have managed to do is cram 770 kms of outstanding special stages into this 21 day schedule.
I'm confident that this re-styled schedule will keep both the dedicated racers and Challengers, who like more time to cruise and enjoy the local sights, happy.
There are just 60 places on this event and that covers all categories including service.
The number of places is determined by the hotel accommodation that is available is some of the more remote locations.
As this Newsletter closes for press only 17 places remain.
THE BUY-BACK DEAL
There's an outstanding deal on offer where a fully equipped 4-door Toyota 4x4 pick-up can be used on the event for a cost of US$ 10,950.00.
Arrive in Buenos Aires, collect the keys and hand it back the day after the finish in Guayaquil. See the enclosed flyer and our website for details.
PETROL AND DIESEL
Both are plentiful along the route. Argentina, Peru and Ecuador offer 97/98 octane in the cites and at large petrol stations but 85 and 90 in remote areas.
In Bolivia it's only 84 octane which did work in our Jeep but made it a bit lethargic and certainly wouldn't do good things to a decent competition engine.
So we will arrange strategically placed tankers of 98 octane petrol along the route.
Some garages in big towns take credit cards, but don't rely on paying with plastic. Always carry enough local money to buy petrol.
Fuel is sold by the litre except in Peru, which is measured by the American gallon!
Closer to the off we give you up to date prices in a Newsletter.
Yes, up where we're going at 15,000 feet does make you breathless. It can effect different people in different ways.
On the first evening I felt a little dizzy, Mike suffered a bit of double vision and a headache. By the following morning this had passed for both of us, we both acclimatised quickly.
The golden rule is to move slowly and find someone to carry your suitcase.
Above all make sure you're fit before you leave for the event. Energetic walking or jogging and gym workouts are a good idea.
Talk to you doctor if you think you need professional advice on coping with the thin air at these heights.
Silverstone Tyres, a brand that worked well on our last London-Sydney event have offered a supply and fit service at various locations along the route. Check their site: www.silverstone.com.my for product details.
We will put together deal whereby tyres can be pre-ordered and pre-paid. More details and order forms later for those interested.
CURRENCIES AND PLASTIC
Argentina has the Peso, Bolivia the Bolivar, Peru has Soles and Ecuador uses the US dollar. Check with www.xe.com for current exchange rates.
There are currency exchange facilities at all the borders. Carry US$ as your base currency.
All hotels and shops take credit cards.
We will be producing a series of them giving specific advice about passports and what visas are required, updated advice on shipping agents and how to ship your car, what happens at Scrutineering and how to obtain a Carnet document for your car.
The latter is effectively a 'passport' for your car enabling it to pass from country to country without paying import duties. We will have a group deal with the RAC in the UK for providing carnets to all entrants.
All this and more. Stay tuned. A flow of Newsletters and Guidance Notes will tell you everything you need to know during the coming months.
But if you have queries call either of our offices and talk to me or Ron Jackson during normal office hours.