In just a week 38 cars and crew will begin one of the longest endurance rallies in the world, HERO-ERA’s Lima to Cape Horn, a thirty-day extravaganza that will travel almost the entire length of the continent of South America, in the rally to the end of the world.
There are perhaps few places that capture the imagination like South America, it is a continent seemingly marooned in the Pacific and cut off from the rest of America by the infamous Darian Gap. These lands still have an aura of being a little bit wild and unadulterated, perhaps even more so because its northern neighbours are so much more westernised and despite suffering the ravages of 15th and 16th century western colonisation, there is the feeling that the indigenous peoples of this continent still hold onto their heritage and history, although this is maybe conjecture and romance masking reality.
Culture aside the geography and scale of this place calls to the adventure rally competitor, from the coast of the fearsome Pacific to the heights of the mythical Andes, the longest continental mountain range in the world, and their 8900 km length will host much of the 11,500 km route of the Lima to Cape Horn, a route that will rise to heights of over 3500 metres.
There are also the breath-taking plains of Patagonia and the salt flats of Bolivia and a descent through Chile, a country that contains the formidable Atacama Desert, the driest non-polar desert in the world, although for our adventurers it is at this point of the journey where the temperatures will begin to drop, as we head further south and ultimately to Ushuaia at the southern most tip of South America. Next stop; Antarctica.
But just who decides to compete in this sort of event in cars perhaps better suited to a Sunday bimble around the Cotswolds, than taking on the Andes? Well, 11 of the field will be taking to the challenge in pre-war machinery, the oldest of which is the 1932 Bentley Speed 8 crewed by Herman Wielfaert and Katrien Tremerie, a Belgian team and one of the 15 different nationalities on this trip, that hail from all over the world.
Most taking on the challenge travel from Europe, including Danes, Germans, Italians and Swiss, but there are competitors from further afield, including Australia and New Zealand and entries from the USA as well on a truly international event, that is taking place on a continental scale. In amongst the travellers there is a real mix of experienced competitors and P2P stalwarts, and relative newcomers to the sport and to adventures of this scale. It is an enticing mix that will no doubt encourage a sense of community within the group, as old hands help newer ones along the way.
One voice of experience that will be prevalent on the rally is route planner Chris Elkins, who has been crafting this adventure for the past few years now. After Covid delays he, and the rest of the HERO-ERA team are keen to get going, but what can people expect along the way? “The thing about South America is it is vast” says Chris, “There’s something different to see every day, the landscape is constantly evolving.” For Chris one of the highlights is the salt flats, somewhere that he says it is difficult to comprehend the scale of and indeed discussions with him about the route regularly feature a nod to the sheer size of everything about this rally.
“There are some big days” says Chris, “and sometimes there isn’t much on the road, so it will be a true endurance test for the guys, but with big rewards, I remember my first visit to South America, and I just thought ‘wow’, it was just astounding.”
So a real test of endurance awaits, but in a land that will offer surprise, intrigue and inspiration along its full length. The journey itself can of course be measured in distance, but the trip meter alone will not quantify the success of the individuals on this trip, for they begin with nothing to lose and a world to see and whilst there will be a winner, success on this adventure is much broader than first place on the time sheet.
*The Shires host Round Two as the Challenge Increases