We started out from Antofagasta 11 days ago refreshed and relaxed after our great visit with Shauna and Julian.
We kept heading south and found a good place to stop for the night at Pan de Azúcar National Park right on the ocean.
The next morning we dropped into one of Chile’s best seaside resort towns, Bahia de Ingles, to have lunch before deciding to head to Huasco for the night.
On our way to Huasco Dave felt something go with the front brakes while stopping. We looked and couldn’t see anything obvious so continued. A few kilometres down the road we began hearing some scraping and then all of a sudden we didn’t have any brakes! Brake pedal to the floor with no results… We managed to slow to a stop without hitting anything and again checked everything over. We took off the front wheel and had a closer look. We saw that the left front brake was completely missing a brakepad! Not good. The brake backing plate was still there, but all of the brake lining was gone! We tidied it up as best as we could, and then with the help of a friendly neighbour, Juan, we plugged the brake line so we could at least get to a repair shop. Of course it was a Friday night as well. Juan said we would have to go back 45 mins to the larger town of Villenar to get new pads installed. We camped out in front of Juan’s place and took off the next morning and very slowly, made our way to the mechanics.
We managed to find a brake specialist garage in Villenar, but unfortunatley there we no pads to suit our van anywhere in town. Thankfully they knew what they were doing and set about making a complete new set of pads by using our old backing plates. This involved cutting and drilling new linings and riveting these to the existing backing plates. This was all done by hand – we didn’t even know this was possible. New hand made pads fabicated and installed for less that $80. Not bad at all! And best of all they work great! We decided because it took most of the day that we’d head back to the coast and to Huasco where we hadn’t managed to see much the night before.
It was a Saturday night and we thought we could park at the waterfront for the night. However we were soon accosted by many a passersby (mostly drunks) and so we returned to the safety outside of Juan’s house! This time he invited us in to meet his wife and of course partake in some Chile Pisco. They also have a crazy dog and I was trying to ask them what his name was but with my barely passable spanish I only got doggy. Guess it turns out his name is ‘Doggy’ or when he’s misbehaving, ‘Dog-ito’! We also learned that Juan’s 3 previous dogs were also called ‘Doggy’. Juan may not be the most creative sort but he was a great help, and host, to us!
In the middle of the night we woke to hear some kids walking by and then some time later we woke to a thump and the van shaking. Both of us woke up yelling to ward off the culprit who had assaulted the van and Christine even jumped up in a flash and was at the front doors. When we quieted down we looked around, listened and heard nothing. Oh well, the punks must have done a runner! It wasn’t until well into the next day that we realized what had happened was that one of the suspension springs had given way! It was the cause of the middle of the night disturbance, not hoodlums!
So the metal spring that broke was not in our plans at all. We gingerly drove back to Villenar and went to see our new friends at the brake garage to get a recommendation for this next repair. He gave us one and said that they’d be able to look at it first thing Monday morning. Being Sunday we had to try and entertain ourselves in this small little town which we found not to be so easy…
On Monday morning we got the van looked at. The mechanic dismantled the suspension system and removed the broken spring. He tack welded it back together and then indicated that we should come with him to get a suitable replacement part. We all jumped into his car, for what we thought would be a trip to the spring shop. So we were quite surprised when he pulled up outside a car salvage yard. Because we were in a small town, and the van is an ’88, they had no replacement parts, and no way to make any. Oh well – so we started hunting around for similar size suspension springs.
Amazingly we found a great match that looked in good condition and paid by weight. It was less than $5. By 5:30pm we were back on the road with a new (to us!) spring and ready to get going south. After weeks in the deserts of Peru, Boivia and Chile we were desperately in search of trees and forests!
The next 2 days were completely dedicated to driving. We even slept on the road both nights, one night next to at a police control stop and another at a highway rest stop. Great amenities here with free hot showers at most of the rest stops. We eventually made it to the start of the Chilean Lake District that we were so excited for! We stayed 3 nights in the Villarica and Pucon area, however we had lots of rain and cold and didn’t manage to do much besides trying to stay dry and catching up on emails.
Today was the first day that we actually could see some of the volcanoes that are around these parts! We’ve come a bit further south again, and are checking out some more of the lakes district before going up and over the pass into Argentina. Our last and final country!
And we are also counting down the days we have left with Ginger as they are numbered…