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Sunday, April 24, 2011

ALTITUDE AILMENTS (GR2)

Camping at 3828m meant that our diesel hot water & heater wouldn't work, but fortunately our stove top did. We woke to a very cold morning (-1.5C outside) with ice on our roof vent.
Our next stop was Viaducto La Polvorilla - a massive viaduct 64m high x 324m long on what is called Tren a las Nubes (railway in the clouds) which is still used for tourists. We are still at high altitude (4000m) and get "pooped" just walking up to the viaduct. But it is not just us that is "pooped". So is GR2. She has been great going up over passes, but doesn't like staying at over 3500m for any length of time, but as we head towards the Salinas Grande (salt lake) lights start flashing. John stops to try to over ride the auto system to clear the build up of gases (as we had in Peru), but it doesn't work and after 50km we lose power and GR2 goes into "Limp Home" mode (50% power).
We had been planning to head over another very high border to Chile (no food in our fridge now for this event) but that seems crazy, so we change direction and head back to the cities of Jujuy and Salta to find a mechanic. We need to plug into a computer to clear the fault.
We didn't actually check on our maps, but the route was via another mountain pass of 4170m which we drove very, very slowly. Then down through more "gorgeous" gorges and stop overnight at Purmarmarca. A really cute town set beside Cerro de los Sieste Colores (hill of 7 colours). That night John tries llama steak - very nice once I stop thinking about cute llamas. Oh and they had great markets here (bought Sammy another jumper here)
Anyway I digress. On to Jujuy - cannot find any suitable workshops, so head to Salta (a much bigger city) via what I think is the most direct route. Sadly we go on the narrowest, windiest road ever. Absolutely gorgeous bush, rather like Mt Glorious at home, but a nightmare with a "Limp Home" GR2. Finally, and after much sweating, we reach Salta. After eight attempts to find someone, we strike gold. Jorge can fix it in a flash!! Feeling very relieved we set off back to Chile, with lots more power. No more dirt roads for us. We travel on lovely tarsealed roads all the way to the border. BUT...........the Paso de Jama is at 4170m, and after the border we continue to climb to 4800m and stay at altitude for over 100km. Incredibly scenic, but again....you guessed it. Lights flash and we go into "Limp Home" mode again.
So we limped to the first town in Chile - San Pedro de Atacama (we have come here to see the geysers), but now need a mechanic. We think we should be OK in Chile as they have Isuzu, whereas Argentina didn't. After another morning spent with a mechanic we have to head to Calama - a city 100km away in the Atacama desert. At the second attempt here they really try to help, but again no joy. We now have to go to Antofagasta - 200km away.
Johns Verdict: In Chile the Isuzu is marketed as Chevrolet, but unfortunately their pollution standards are much lower than Australia, so none of their computer software is compatible. I just love computers!!
So after an extra 700km and mechanics spending 7hrs (at no cost to us), we have to head back to Jorge in Salta, Argentina.

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