The second hero of our travels is actually group of individuals rather than an a single person. It’s the people who helped Save Elvis, our camper van, and indeed us – when we needed it most.
It can feel pretty isolated at times when you travelling overland in countries where you don’t have a proper grasp of the language and it goes wrong in someway. There were times when we needed someone to turn to and almost in their entirely the Argentine, Chilean and other overland travellers delivered a helping hand.
There was the time at the bottom of Ruta 7 when hazardous weather and a gravel road landed us in a ditch and we had to be pulled out by the combination of a group of lads and a lorry that miraculously had a crane on it which provided just the job for lifting Elvis out. No damage, apart from a little dent in my pride as I was driving at the time. We gave the ad hoc recovery team a few cans of beer and we were on our way.
In fact it would seem that most of the occasions where we and Elvis needed to be saved were down to me! Oooppppss! This included a spate of rather flat batteries caused by leaving the headlights on. I protest innocence here as there was no warning horn to indicate my oversight but in reality the stats don’t lie – it happened on 4 occasions and they were all down to me.
Nevertheless each time we had a flat we were rescued. Despite our clumsy Spanish we were given a spark on the side of a fishing lake in Terra Del Fuego, in a car park in Ushuaia, in another car park in Bariloche and on a campsite in Puerto Natales.
‘We’ eventually resolved the problem by sticking a post it note on the dash with LIGHTS!!! emblazoned on and the constant call of “Lights” whenever we turned the ignition off.
Alongside the Ruta 7 tow out there were several other ‘shit we’re stuck’ incidents that required a helping hand.
Near Pucon, a dead end road to a thermal spar quickly became a rather steep incline that we became stranded upon – neither prepared to risk going further down or able to reverse due to a lack of traction (that would be resolved by new all train tyres quickly after this!) – we where stuck!
With Elvis stranded I wondered off to find help and came upon a farmer fixing a boundary fence near by. With hand gestures and broken Spanish galore he threw a shovel and a tow rope in the back if his pickup truck and came to help.
With a shovel aided 10000 point turn we managed to get Elvis facing the right way and I gave it the beans to get us just about back up the hill. This farmer was a legend, he knew exactly what to do and was super clam with us. I wish could remember his name.
The aforementioned new tyres were however no use when we found ourselves beached and dug into a plot of sand on a campsite in La Serena.
Again some locals came to the rescue in what was almost a chain of marooned vehicles. First attempt ended badly as a scrap yard dodging Daehoo, that was less than roadworthy, was lashed to Elvis and began to pull.
Unfortunately this washing machine of a car didn’t have the power and the rope snapped just as the car was becoming stranded itself. It add even more humour to the situation, the driver of the car pulled on the steering wheel and the wheel came off, along with the steering column… Not an original design feature I understand. Nevertheless when a neighbouring demolition workman appeared at circa 3 pm from his ‘lunch’ rosy cheeked and bleary eyes he pulled us all out with his tractor! Winner!
In return I wandered off to the shops to get our rescuers a beer!
As well as liquid rewards, we have adopted the philosophy of paying it forward with the help we received. When we came across a couple of families stranded on their summer holiday with no fuel between Bariloche and San Martin we told the two dads to get in Elvis and we would drive them to the closest petrol station.
That happened to be a hour away so we also drove them back as well. A interesting couple of medical doctors we had great chats with them on the about, football, led zeppelin and asado’s – the docs definition of the later being a cow walking on the side is the road – “asado, asado” the shout from the rear of Elvis would come!
We got them back and their family were delighted with what we’d done, they’d been saved by Elvis. However, it was the least we could do for on our travels in Elvis we had been saved 10 times over.