Not-so-silent night

It’s not every Christmas that we open our presents to the booming sound of Chile’s answer to Snoop-Doggy-Dog (or whatever the latest hip-hop chap is called these days) and to be honest, it wouldn’t be our first choice for 2016 either! Nevertheless, that’s what we get 🙂  But before we launch into the Christmas Story, there is the final instalment of the Tyre Story.


The (final) Tyre Story

So… the tyres! Regular Cuthbert readers will be familiar with the looong story so far, so we won’t regurgitate it all again here. Suffice to say that as we arrive over the border from Peru we’re in a state of some anticipation regarding the arrangements for delivery from Santiago. It’s been a long time in the planning, but there is still scope for things to go wrong. Will they arrive? And if they do, will they be the right ones? :-I

Yehhhy!! Arrived!!

In Arica we park-up in a campsite so that we have an address to which the tyres can be delivered and we put the final stages of the plan into action. There are tedious matters such as the delivery payment, the identification of the delivery driver and a few other nerve-wracking moments, but finally… we’re pleased to announce that at 19:30 hours on 23rd December 2016, six lovely new Michelin XZLs were delivered to us at the campsite in Arica, Chile! Hurrah!! Two very happy and relieved overlanders toast the joyous event with a small pre-Christmas tipple!

Next morning, with the euphoria subsiding, we now have the problem of what to do with them!! “Errr… fit them to the wheels…you plonkers” you may well cry. Well we could do that, but here’s the dilemma: since we ordered the tyres back in June, Marcus has done a bit of tweaking to the suspension and steering alignment and wot-not and stuff. The result is that the existing tyres have worn less (and much more evenly) than was projected six months ago. In fact, they probably have some 6,000 to 7,000 km life left in them. Dumping them now to fit the new ones seems a bit of a waste.


We can just about carry the new tyres scattered about Cuthbert’s person, but the extra weight of six new tyres (plus the two existing spares) at 40kg each, limits the amount of water and/or fuel that we can carry at the same time. Weight-wise, the rear axle is Cuthbert ‘achilles heel’. With the weight of all the tools in the rear storage locker and the 230 litre water tank sitting aft of centre, we really don’t want to add any of the new tyre-weight to the rear axle if we can help it. This is one of those ‘problems’ that we had been conscious of for a while, but been putting to the back of our minds in the category of ‘Cross that bridge when we come to it’. Hmmmm….

The problem becomes easier to solve when we notice that two of the existing tyres have bad side-wall damage, so we need to dump those. Once we have replaced these two, we have only four additional tyres to store and Marcus manages to stack them all neatly on the front where we have more spare weight capacity. It’s not ideal, and Cuthbert looks a bit odd stacked-up so heavily, but it’s ‘problem solved’! This allows us to get the most out of the existing tyres whilst maximising our fuel and water carrying capacity. In a few days we’ll be heading up to the remote Bolivian alti-plano to see the Dakar Rally where, even without the additional demands of the Dakar, fuel can be in short supply and fresh water is even more scarce. So we really want to set off with them both as full as possible.

Meanwhile… it’s nearly Christmas! There are lots of seasonal goodies in the Chilean supermarkets and we have some treats like mincemeat (for pies) and Xmas pud that we brought back from UK a few weeks ago.

What happened to ‘Silent Night’?

This is our third Christmas on the road in Cuthbert. 2014 was in south Kenya with views of elephants against Kilimanjaro; 2015 was with friends in Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. 2016 we’re now on a pretty beach in northern Chile. This blog starts with a slightly cryptic reference to Christmas with Chilean hip-hop music, which probably needs a bit of explaining…

All is calm… for now!

After stocking up with yummy goodies in Arica on Christmas Eve, we head down the coast to a small beach south of town. A lovely spot, perfect to park-up for a Christmas. We settle-in to our Christmas camp and put up a few bauble-decos in Cuthbert for the seasonal spirit. It’s a beautiful warm evening and as the sun sets we sit out on the sand with a pile of freshly grilled garlic prawns and a bottle of bubbly whilst watching seals in the surf in front of us. After mince pies for pud, we settle down for the night, falling asleep to the sound of the waves and keeping one eye open for a sleigh heading in over the Pacific 😉 All is calm… that is, until around 05:30 hours.

Long-term readers of the Cuthbert blog may recall from months ago, our complaining tales of Chilean (and Argentinian for that matter) lack of awareness of ‘personal space’ when camping. Now again, despite there being lots and lots and lots of spare beach around… some cool-kids decide at 05:30 hrs that the space right alongside Cuthbert is the place to be for the final fling of their Christmas party night out. No silent night for us… we’re rudely awoken to the latest tunes from the Chilean Hit Parade (hip-hop? rap? I’m not sure of the difference!) booming out across the beach whilst the youngsters sit around on the sand, laughing, having a good time and seemingly in blissful ignorance. We may be wrong, but we genuinely don’t think this behaviour comes from any sense of malicious intent; it’s just a total and utter absence of awareness and consideration of others. We could have gone out to reason with them… but we’re not sure they’d get the point. In any case, it’ll be light soon… we may as well make a cup of tea and open our presents (well a couple of token items really, but it’s the thought that counts 🙂 ). They hang around for an hour or so, then as it starts to get light they decide to move on (probably home to bed) and the not-so-silent night, at last turns into a silent morning.

The rest of Christmas day is spent on the beach where Cuthbert gets quite a bit of interest from friendly local families enjoying the day at the seaside. Obviously we eat and drink faaaar too much (as you do) and we walk it off with a short hike along the coastal path to some nearby caves. Thankfully, Christmas ends with a peaceful and silent night.

After Christmas, we are loving the seaside and the coastal climate so much that we decide to spend the week up to New Year relaxing on the beach near Arica with some other overland travellers. Soon we’ll be heading back up to the alti-plano over 4,000 m and we’re not sure when we’ll next see the ocean. Better enjoy it while we can then!

Cuthbert continues to get attention from locals and a lovely family are so taken with him that they insist on inviting us to lunch at their home the next day. Valeska, Luis and their children are wonderful hosts and treat us to some great Chilean hospitality. We feel so honoured to receive such kindness and really can’t imagine such generous friendliness being offered to strangers in UK.

Leaving 2016 with a Bang!

Arica – last sunset of 2016

Well… 2016 has been a funny old year of world events, but for us it’s been another fab year on the road in Cuthbert. We celebrated the new 2016 in Chile’s most southerly city, Punta Arenas; now we see in 2017 some 4,000 km further north at the other end of the country in Chile’s most northerly town, Arica. We find a place to park-up close to town and head to the central plaza with fellow overlanders, bottles of bubbly in hand. As we wander along the seafront we notice many local families arriving in their cars and setting up their own mini-parties along the promenade, bagging the best spaces ready to view the fireworks. Dressed-up in their party-finest, they lay out pic-nic tables and chairs with food, crockery, crystal glasses, obligatory bubbly… all rather stylish! No crowd-shoving for these guys… they’re well set-up!

As we reach the plaza, a mini-pop concert is underway and the crowds feature two main activities. First – firecrackers. Not merely the little ‘jumping-jack’ variety… these are huge explosive devices of the kind restricted in the UK mostly to military exercises on Salisbury Plain 🙂 ! They’re detonated at random angles, often flying unpredictably towards unsuspecting heads in the crowd, flashing brightly and making deafening cracks of sound booming around the square. All good fun… until one hits you! The second entertainment activity of the crowd is to let fly those coloured bag things into the air. I’m not sure what they’re called… they’re simple contraptions with a flame suspended inside the bag to generate heat and lift to send them soaring prettily into the night sky. Sounds fairly innocuous… but these are launched in a plaza criss-crossed with overhead electric cables and surrounded by parched palm trees. What could possibly go wrong here then? There is gentle breeze which is, of course, not accounted for by the launch parties and (rather predictably, we thought) many of the flying-burn-bags drift into and set alight to the overhead electric cables. These burn rather well for a while. The crowd looks up and gasps, steps aside briefly, then carries on partying under the burning wires. It’s a fun atmosphere, but you need your wits about you here!

Finally, 2017 arrives in Arica with a spectacular firework display lasting over 20 minutes! There’s dancing and jollity in the plaza until the wee-small hours, but we wander back to Cuthbert way before the partying youngsters are partied-out. Tomorrow we’re hitting the road again.

In Arica we’re around 4,000 km north of where we started the year in Punta Arenas, but we have driven 37,500 km, through 53 degrees of latitude, used 6,136 litres of fuel, crossed 13 borders, visited six different countries, stayed at 192 different camp-spots. Now we’re Boliva-bound and excited to see what’s in store for travels in 2017. HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!!!

Link to next blog: The Dakar      Link to full South America Blog


Christmas/New Year 2016/17 Gallery