Jumping out of the moving truck window back in Namibia to open closed gates to prevent the truck having to stop, and thus stalling, as the clutch had packed in, is now nothing but an entertaining memory. But the clutch problems continue…. The truck had lost the ability to find low gear box. Pulling off in sixth is a slow process, and with the combination of a sensitive clutch the truck stalled half way through a U turn mid street. The street was busy, and reversing would mean having to clear cars from around us to make space. Fi looked across at me, her annoyance showing. I looked at Fi, then altering my focus I stared out of her window. „TRAIN!!!!!“ Fi turned to follow my gaze. „FUCK!“ Who would have expected a freight train to be pulling itself along the tracks through the middle of the main market? The tracks were the same ones that the truck was, at the time, straddling. The market stalls were moving a lot quicker then us and slowly the train approached. I jumped out to try and make space for the truck to move, the train still ground its way towards us. At this point I assume that the train driver awoke as there was a screeching of brakes and the slowly approaching train was no more, it had stopped. The risk of being skewered had gone and we edged our way out of town and along the road to La Paz the capital of Bolivia. Almost a month earlier we had been based for a week in the mountains of Los Arenales, near Mendoza in Argentina. The base Camp was in the garden of a border control post and the climbing, a three hour walk-in and at an altitude of 3,300m, was incredible…… We had just descended from one of the many 300m towers and I was catching a few z?s when a shadow flew over me. I opened my eyes to see a condor 3m in wing span no more than 10m above me. It was probably deep in thought as to whether to invite me for dinner or not. But it soon disappeared in amongst the maze of unclimbed rock. Yet again we had come to an area where a life time of climbing would not do the area justice. The long drive north to San Pedro, and Socaire Gorge, was punctuated with Christmas on the beach. The feast consisted of a 10kg piece of Marlin, 6kg of Pork ribs, 15 mackerel, 5kg of clams, 3kg of shrimp, 4kg of squid, all served with fruit salad, barbecued veg and champagne. A short walk along the beach saw those with „itchy feet“ climb until the sun dipped into the Pacific and darkness brought them home. New years eve was spent a further 2 days drive north through the desert in San Pedrode Atecama. The small typically Chilean town is a hive of activity. Yet the bar we had the new years eve party in said the night was beyond anything they had seen before. the climbing area was a further 1.5 hours towards Bolivia. At 3,700m in altitude Sociare Gorge winds for 10km down the hill side. Stupendous cracks, arêtes and faces provide the climbing that kept us busy for the week that we were there for. We claimed a further two new routes bringing the total to 25 since the start of the S. American leg…… The sky at night provided the camp with a perfect ceiling. The stars were brilliant, the only light pollution was that of distant electrical storms over Bolivia. We now began to travel into Bolivia over salt flats, past thermal springs, through the spray of geysers, under the shadow of six thousand meter peaks and into the city of Oruro. Oruro, a town complete with strange positioned train tracks with freight trains that appear from nowhere, and a bustle and ambience in clear contrast to Chile that makes you feel „out there“ even before the climbing starts. I hope that you are all well, and the icy grasp of the British winter is beginning to lessen its grip. Dave
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