Saturday, August 20, 2011

Final - Friendships

End of the trip at the Equator Monument

From my previous experiences on Hot Rock Africa, I knew that we would build strong friendships on the truck. The people that you travel with, live with and suffer with, will be friends for life. The fun times brings you together, but when you suffer together, that's what brings out the strong bonds.

And there has been suffering, which we have tended to gloss over in this blog. The hardships, the hunger, the cold, the dust, the wind and accidents, even including a death. The death was not part of our group, but we were closely involved in rescuing a drowning boy, but we could not revive his father even after several hours of trying.

Truck bogged badly on the Salt Flats

Sometimes the grind of the trip has brought us close to leaving the truck. But leaving the truck is not so easy - you can't just hail a taxi to the airport when you are camped in the middle of nowhere. The truck tries to keep a hold of you through the hard times so you can move forward to the good times. Even when we work hard, can be good times, like when we got bogged on the salt flats.

Rebecca and Bob finding the critical fence posts.

We had been bogged several times before, but getting bogged on a salt flat is different. You break through the hard crust into bottomless soft mud. The wheels dig down until the body of the truck rests on the hard crust and you are going nowhere. I expected it would take a large tractor to pull us out and in the 10 days we'd spent around this region we had seen none.

Me digging ramps for the wheels

It took teamwork and a bit of luck to drag the truck back onto solid ground. I started digging ramps to lift us back onto the hard crust; Simon jacked up the truck to lift the body; Jonny, Tim and Ken dug out clearance for the diff; while everone else scouted around for useful items. Our luck came in the form of a pile of rocks and fence posts 200 metres away. Everyone gathered rocks in whatever container they could find: shopping baskets, bar buckets, even our cooking pots were put to use.

Boys digging out the diff.

The critical component was the two fence posts that we placed under the main bogged wheels, then filled all the remaining spaces with the rocks. Finally with Andy's driving skills, learned from several previous boggings, along with everyone rocking and pushing the truck, we just managed to extract the truck the 5 metres onto hard ground. I felt that day we all came together as a team. If anyone had not helped, we would have been stuck on the salt flats for days. That's the type of incident that brings us all together.

Everyone helping with rocks

So we had no choice but to stay on the truck. We muddled through the hard times and events changed for the better.It binds us together and makes us feel it was right to make the commitment to keep on going. But we can't wait to get off the dammed truck, to have hot showers on demand, a real kitchen to cook in and a plush couch to sit on and to spend time out of the dirt.

The final push to get the truck out.

Check out our final video for the last drive day.

Friday, August 12, 2011


The cold Antarctic waters of the Humboldt current running up the west coast of South America makes this section of coast one of the driest regions on earth. We had been heading north for several months in this region and stuck in this endless desert. It was still cold and dry right up to 3 degrees south of the Equator.

Then we crossed over into Ecuador and within a few hours driving, the landscape had changed into rich jungle. Here the Homboldt current had finally met its match from the warm waters decending from the North. We drove pass km after km of banana plantations, Ecuador's major export, and then up into the steep forested mountains.

We visited three small climbing crags in Ecuador. The first, a small sports crag high on a ridge up a tight winding road where we had to jam our camp into a tiny switchback next to a fast flowing creek. Now in the tropics, it rained quite a lot and the truck soon gathered a good layer of mud. When the rain held off we managed a few days climbing as the rock would dry quickly in the hot sun.

The second crag was under the watchful eye of Chimborazo, Ecuador's highest mountain at 6,310 meters. We camped at a lazy 3,600 metres which gave us access to good sport climbing and a selection of trad cracklines. Again we worked aroud the rain to maximise the climbing oppuntines.

Our final crag was a huge sports climbing wall next to a raging river. The was one of our best camping spots. We camped on the river's edge and it was an easy, if a bit muddy, 5 minute walk to the base of the crag. We managed a day climbing and there was potential to do more, but after 7 months we had just about had enough of climbing. So we enjoyed the excellent campground while Ee Fu baked cinnamon scrolls on the gas cooker.