God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

Reflections / Gedanken

Day 27: 13th May 2011

Friday, the 13th – a  bad day? Not for us. In the early morning we are picked up by VW Argentina and brought to the place of the press conference, a restaurant called “Clo Clo” close to the domestic airport. More than 50 journalists are waiting for us and we are welcomed by Leonardo Airel Beh, head of VW Commerical Vehicles Argentina. He phrases a very valid sentence: “With money one can achieve a lot regarding the topic HIV and AIDS, but communication is more important.”

In the afternoon we  bring our vehicles to the International airport for the air transfer to Germany. Even here customs is a pleasure. Monday they will go to Frankfurt, we follow on Tuesday.

We are booked into Girmondo Hostel, simple and clean. In the evening our dreams of juicy steaks become reality, what a treat after days of trekking meals. Red wine and beer help us to digest all the meat we can eat. We deserve it. 27 days on the road, 17167 km behind us in 20 driving days. 7 days stuck in Vancouver, Panama and Cartagena. The team has found itself feeling homesick and everybody deals with this in his or her own way.

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Day 26: 12th May 2011

Once again we have to get 1000 km done in one go. We pass crop fields and cattle – a reminder of the good Argentine steaks. We pass Santiago de Estero, Rafaela and Rosario to arrive in Buenos Aires, our last stop before leaving the Americas. In between we stop to re-organise all our stuff to prepare for the air transport to Frankfurt. And Mahuma is flirting with a female police officer. First he takes the wrong turn and then he goes against a one way road which seems to irritate the police officer. And she stops Mahuma, who is delighted: First she is young and pretty, second she has a wonderful laugh and finally he does not get a fine. And the farewell of the police officer is also remarkable: “If you think of Argentina, you will think of me”… Well, that he will certainly do.

In the eve we have our last camp across from a petrol station and a transfer station for Amaroks close by the VW buildings. We have reached the origin of the vehicle where it is built. Representatives will pick us up tomorrow for the press conference.

We are guarded by security as there are gangs in the area. So protected we bid farewell to our first guests. They were part of the team, our “Provinzial” representative and it is a pity that they have to leave. A long farewell lasting until deep into the night, so to speak….

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Day 25: 11th May 2011

Today is a very special day for us as we finally conquer the Andes. It feels like Hannibal crossing the Alps a long time ago, but the difference is that we don’t have any elephants but 167 horse power .. But they also have to fight in the thin air, especially when we are at 4830m above sea level. Not only is the air is thin, but it is also getting increasingly cold and we reach temperatures of minus 3 degrees. Some snow is laying right and left the road and we encounter some ice on the road. Some of us have a headache and other minor symptoms caused by the high altitude.

After noon we cross into Argentina without any delay and suddenly the landscape is changing. There is green again, some grass and bushes. We see lamas and donkeys and the salt sees and again cactus fields and wild canyons. It looks like the scenery of the Winnetou movies.

But then crop fields and green valleys are seen again and the temperature climbs again to 20 degrees Celsius. The landscape reminds us of Europe again, it feels somehow homely. But there is still a way to go till Buenos Aires. We have left 16 000km behind us and we stop for the night at a small petrol station next to Miguel de Tuciman where we try to digest all the landscape impressions we have seen the last days.

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Day 24: 10th May 2011

The saga continues, or better the desert continues…. Wide and empty wasteland up to the horizon, no human beings and the colours changing constantly between grey, red and brown as well as black.  Mountains with deep gigantic cuts in between and sometimes a little bit of green like an oasis – the whole day the same programme.

In the afternoon we pass the border to Chile in record time under 2 hours. Then 45 minutes later we are welcomed by the honorary consul of Germany in Arica, Mr Ulrich Probnow, who hands over a word of greeting from the German Ambassador to Chile, Mr Michael Glotzbach who resides far away in Santiago de Chile.

Then we continue our journey and realise that we only have petrol for 100 km per car but no petrol station in view. Around midnight we leave the Panamericana to drive to Maria Elena and feel relieved as we see a petrol station. But within minutes we are back in reality: the Diesel tank of the petrol station is almost empty and the next delivery is only expected the next day. Too late for us – we have a tight schedule to reach Buenos Aires in time.

A decision is quickly made: each car gets 10 liters of Diesel and off we go in the hope of finding another station with sufficient Diesel. But before we climb the Andes again we chose to take a nap around 40 km south of Calama, a windy place at 2000m altitude.

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Day 22: 8th May 2011

After a very stormy night we follow the legendary Panamericana via Sullana, Piura, Chidaya, Trujillo, Chimbote until we arrive at the outer suburbs from Lima. Between all these major villages there are only a couple of green places, mainly used to grow sugar cane; the rest is desert. Even looking south of Chiclayo, where one can see the Pacific Ocean, there is only desert and beach; no tree or bushes.

But when you thought that the desert’s colour is monotone, you are wrong: amazing changes between black, grey, brown and greenish colours and all the shades in between.  Not to forget the amazing dunes of sand in this kaleidoscope of colours, rising high into the deep blue sky.

Beside the road we see many crosses, signs of remembrance for those drivers, who did not make it.  So we achieve more than 1000 km and we still have time to fulfil our photographer Uwe´s, dream to catch an Amarok on photo while driving through sand and mud and cover the photographer himself in the yellow dust of the dessert – taking a sand shower so to speak. Wishful thinking becomes reality.

Our guests from the Provinzial Insurance Company Oliver and Mocca use the day to hop from car to car to get to know all the team members. And of course they can’t wait to sit behind the steering wheel, which means fun for them and more recovery time for us. At our team meeting at night, Mocca tries to summarize their experiences: “Already after one day we feel part of the team. For that we want to say thank you.” Which triggers the spontaneous answer: “You get what you put in, and that was openness and friendliness.”

Later that eve we rest in the north of Lima on a dusty place next to a red light establishment. And surely in our dreams we will once again be back in the beautiful desert with the burning sun creating so much diversity in colours, never boring at all.

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