Argentine 2009

One imperative rule of soft top driving is never to use the soft top. Jim and I were discussing removing the Alfa’s soft cloth altogether as it took up space and served no purpose.  A tourneau we decided would be adequate.

I have on a few occasions weakened to the wishes of my passenger – when the heat of the mid day sun belts down upon us, and have drawn up the roof – reluctantly – but under no circumstances for the reason we may get a little wet!

We left Bahia Blanca early to sprint into Buenos Aries. We never make Buenos Aries that nightfall.

From midday onwards the most frightening storm of such a horrid magnitude started to tear itself across the landscape. Someone had woken a force from a nightmare.

Coming crossways at us we first saw the lightening strike. Not as a bold flicker across the sky in one fork, as you would witness in England. In Patagonia we learnt this lightning will either draw brilliant vivid criss-crossing lines – a child with a coloured wand weaving to transverse the heavens; or explode!

And there is no spectacle like a glowing sudden shocking light, to light up the sky and bring daylight back to darkness. It is as if the Sun, as a spot light, has been switched on and stays on for what seems an eternity. And then it does not give the sun light of a dull stormy day as one would expect, but the strongest light brought back from the hottest mid-summer day.

Following, is a wind whipping up dust and then sand. Finally the lashing rain bends across the horizon bringing down anything left standing. Jim and I could see this destruction and still nothing has reached onto our own path.

Within this big flat Patagonia landscape it is like watching the horrors from the imagination of HG Wells moving towards you. Such was our fate.

And once the storm strikes, in shock horror you are forced to crawl across this big landscape.

Our wipers could not deal with the force of lashing rain. Our electrics could not cope with the seeping rain.  Our tyres could no longer grip the road, and as we started to aquaplane we stopped to allow the storm to pass. Jim and I accepted defeat and the roof cover went up.

Sitting in the Alfa in a deserted and desolate lay-by, trying to pass the time of day under half dark and greying clouds in the company of rain making streams down our windscreen, we watching this almighty energy blow and puff until this storm had passed us by. Once no more than heavy rain we felt confident to press on.

The storm reared her head for a second time, so we obeyed and stopped. We pressed on like this all day starting and then stopped as the storm dictated.

Eventually the standing water came too much and having aquaplaned, sending my heat into my mouth, Jim and I, along with many others, pulled over into a service station, drowned as rats but pleased to be away from driving along a flowing out of control river.

We did, after many hours, and having watched Argentina footballers defeat Peru, endeavoured to carry on to Buenos Aries. The destruction on the road frightened us. Trees had been wrenched form the ground and lay broken. Electric cables were down and out. Telephone line no longer served a purpose, and if the pole had miraculously stayed vertical, then the cable swished whip like around their poles. Passenger cars had even turned over and lay across the road destroyed, reminiscent of HG Wells defeated war machines.

The respite in the storm was not to last, for the force was still howling around the heavens and came back again. This time, with our electrics wet, and our rear lights having failed, and seeing the carnage of the storm, we stopped in the town of San Miguel del Monte to sleep in the car protected by the town square.

On reflection the soft top is staying in place.