21st March, Lima, Peru
Our four-day excursion to Machu Picchu began on the morning of 21st March, when we were collected by minibus and taken to the airport in Lima.
The short flight of an hour and a half, took us the 1000kms to Cuzco where we checked into an hotel before we began a walking excursion of Cuzco, once the centre of the Inca world and from which roads led to the four corners of their extensive empire, incorporating most of present day Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Colombia.
When the Spanish invaders took over, they built new plaza’s and churches, often incorporating the older Inca buildings, remodelled and hidden beneath Colonial styling. Thus it was that an earthquake in 1950 revealed beneath the colonial clothing, the palace of the sun. During the rebuilding, more of the structure was discovered, which is now visible, the roof and cloister walls of the Spanish period having been retained, leaving the Inca buildings, some restored, visible to the visitor.
Cuzco is 11,000 ft above sea level and we again noted the effects of altitude, although less this time than in Colca Valley, since we are now more used to the symptoms and better equipped to deal with them.
22nd March, Cuzco, Peru
The minibus collected us at 07.00 and the first stop was our initial taste of an extensive Inca site on three levels, the highest of which, Sacsahuaman, overlooks Cuzco.
The site of a pitched battle between the Spanish and Inca, it was from here that the Inca melted away into their jungle hideaways and from which they faded away as a Nation.
In the afternoon, having travelled through the Sacred Valley making several stops at points of interest, we boarded the train from Ollantaytambo to make the 1 1/2 hour journey alongside the Urubamba River to the small town which serves Machu Picchu.
In a two-carriage diesel railcar along the single track, the long descent wound alongside the raging torrent of the river, through steep-sided ravines and short tunnels. Arriving at our destination at dusk was a culture shock, the town only exists to serve the visitors to Machu Picchu and operates as a giant selling operation.
There are no road connections with the outside world, all supplies, including vehicles, come in by rail as do the visitors. However, as compensation, over the town loomed a vast peak, dominating the skyline and outlined by the indigo blue of the darkening night sky, it was thrilling and immediately brought to mind the similarly shaped peak over the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu.
Tonight is a World Cup qualifier between Peru and Chile, our guide Mario is very excited about the anticipated win over the old rival, the match will be live-cast in the town plaza. Both Stan and Diana spent the evening trying, without success, to pay the tour company by PayPal, a truly obscure and unnecessarily complex method, with which we battled for several days afterwards.
23rd March, Machu Picchu, Peru.
We left the hotel at 07.00 and took a bus up the zig-zag road to the level of the main site. Gradually the terraces and constructions of the site were revealed. Climbing the hundreds of steps to the main level made one gasp at the sheer enormity of the effort involved in building this rest retreat for the Inca King.
Finished in only 50 years it was a complete city, involving royalty, nobles, priests and workers. Complex water supplies and extensive terracing have made a considerable area of flat land, albeit in thin strips, on which crops were grown to supply the population.
We followed our guide as he explained the complex nature of the community, it’s probable purpose and decline, its ‘scientific’ rediscovery in the early 20th century and restoration, led by Hiram Bingham. Now a Unesco World Heritage site it is well tended and worth all the efforts to get there.
After the train ride, we returned in the minibus to Cuzco by a more dramatic route than the previous evening and spent another night there before catching our plane back to Lima. The whole trip a succession of images it will take months to fully digest and appreciate I think.
As we left, we made a short diversion to Cuzco’s Monasterio Hotel
and paid homage to the memory of John Peel (BBC DJ) who died of a heart attack there in 2004 whilst on a journalistic trip with his wife Sheila. Passing the crowds in the Plaza de Armas as they gathered to join a colourful Palm-Sunday procession around the city, we were delivered to the airport for our flight back to Lima and a sort of reality, forgotten in the last few days, of mending cars to continue our journey.
We have now passed the 3,000-mile point and are nearly 30% of the way through our journey. We have passed through three of the twelve countries, crossed the tropic of Capricorn and are now chasing the sun north, it having crossed the equator, north of Quito in Ecuador on the 21st March. If the repairs are successful we should be able to set off tomorrow for the north of Peru and into Ecuador and then Colombia, where we head towards Cartagena, where we put the cars onto a ship in a container to head for Central America.
24th March. Lima, Peru
On our return to Lima, we returned to the apartment to find River, who had flown in from the States early that morning. We gathered our thoughts and Stan, Diana, River and I went to the garage where Javier kindly let us in, it being Sunday and normally not a work day for him.
Javier had been busy while we were away, the three cars had been beautifully cleaned and the roof fabric bullied-up, the tyres blacked and all looked spick and span.
There was a Lima-Peru and flag sticker for each and in racing fashion, vinyl stickers of our names to put on each car. The thought and care put into our intrusive presence has been immense and we were all very touched by Javier’s kindness.
Five hours later both Feisty and Bertie were back together, Bertie had been run and was sounding quite good, Feisty needed the radiator and surround finishing.
Bouyed up we returned to the apartment for supper, Amanda and I went to meet Javier and Monica, his wife, in Miraflores and enjoyed a late evening ‘postres and coffee‘ in their company, beside the ocean.
I had been writing to the Austin 7 Friends Web Forum, seeking answers to why Bertie’s engine may have had such a failure and with information posted there and looking back over the recent history the answer I have arrived at is this. The three head gasket failures came about because of a small imperfection on the cylinder head between bores 2 and 3. This in turn caused the head to warp when the gaskets went and skimming it finally cured the imperfections and warping. The last gasket failure was more dramatic than the first two and allowed coolant water into at least cylinder 3 and an hydraulic lock when I attempted to restart, having come to a stop in the road, when halted by the police near Iquegue in Chile. The engine may, due to overheating, have partially seized the rings in the bores at that point and subsequently the rings may have been cracked and finally began to break up a few days later, again due to extreme climbs and hot running.
That it ran at all and that more damage to bores and pistons was not incurred is a matter for which I
am extremely thankful. I shall have some concerns until we have done another 500 miles or so to allow all to bed in again.
25th March. Lima, Peru
Diana and River left to work on the chummy early and Stan, Amanda and I followed after clearing up the apartment and getting our bags into a taxi. Feisty was almost ready and I spent an hour tightening down the head after its initial run last evening and repacking the spares department under the back seat and stowing the luggage. We had intended to leave around midday but during the morning it was found that Feisty’s battery was flat, it had been an ongoing suspicion, so it was replaced with a new item.
Whilst testing the starter, new brushes had been made for it in the garage and running, there was a nasty noise during one test and inspection showed that the starter motor had apparently stripped one of its holding-down bolts. Upon removal however internal damage was reveled, one of the two bendix spring bolts had sheared off and resulted in a damaged internal locating sleeve.
A short group discussion decided that starting the engine on the handle for several weeks was not a safe option and so Javier’s contacts were yet again plundered for assistance. He and River went off to find a repair solution, which was eventually found at the same machine shop that Bertie’s bores had been polished. The intention is to weld the broken component and machine it back to fit, if possible.
Having left the apartment, we moved into an adjacent hotel, conveniently located across Avenue de La Marina from the garage, to be on hand when the component parts came back. Javier kindly invited us to his house to meet his family after we had had supper and so we all spent a very pleasant evening in the company of his wife Monica and three delightful children over a glass or two of very good Malbec. Monica makes very intricate costume jewelry, of which we saw some fine examples and we enjoyed hearing about the university careers of the oldest two Renzo and Mariapia and Joaquin, who is still at school.
26th March. Lima, Peru
The repair to the component had gone on into the last evening and is still not complete. After welding, the component had to be machined back to size and then heated to expand it to fit over another part of the mechanism and allowed to shrink fit. It was proving difficult to accomplish a satisfactory moving fit in the worn old components. We hope it might allow us to move on by early afternoon, certainly safer and more sure than setting off without a starter motor at all.
Yet again we are indebted to the willingness of Javier to put aside all other responsibilities and help us to solve a problem that would otherwise have occupied an immense amount of time and effort, if we had been able to do it at all. The whole saga began with a call to Javier to find transport for Bertie from Atico to Lima and has now occupied both him and Rafael in Arequipa far beyond the normal scope of friendly help. We offer our heartfelt thanks and hope that we may in the future be able to repay their unstinting and generous assistance.
Meanwhile the finished component has been received from the machine shop and is just now being refitted to the starter motor, fingers crossed 14.00 local time, Lima, Peru
Its done, we are off! 14.45