A trip to South America

A Trip to South AmericaTwelve months ago, almost to the day, a mother and son from Lobethal were packing their bags for South America. Dianne and David Schwarz were both heading off to Buenos Aires and were about to have two vastly different experiences.

David Schwarz has been an endurance motorbike rally rider for the last 23 years and was going to compete in the world class Dakar Rally, a gruelling 14 day desert race. David competed in the 2005 Dakar Rally in Africa and that experience helped him considerably this year in South America. The race was moved there for the first time, due to political unrest in some African nations.

Dianne Schwarz was inspired by her son’s travel plans and decided to make up some of her own. She asked her friend, Bev Eckermann if she felt like having an adventure in South America and Bev accepted. So the three of them set off on a long haul flight to Buenos Aires, not really knowing what lay ahead.

On a 690 KTM Rally motorcycle, David’s race began amongst the crowded streets of Buenos Aires where over half a million people gathered to witness the start of the rally. With more than 9,000km of such varied terrain, only the best in the world are able to compete. David said it was much tougher in South America than in Africa; the sand dunes were bigger, the hill climbs were steeper and rivers deeper.

One section of the route took the competitors over the Andes from Argentina to Chile. At 3000m above sea level, David said he would have liked a better look around, but being under constant pressure this wasn’t possible. Another stage went through the Atacarma Desert in Chile which was basically a 700km sand dune ride. David said “it was a long day”! Perhaps the understatement of the year, in fact how do you fit 700km of sand dunes into just one day?

An incident in Chile caused David some worry. Propelled by the deep undulations on the track, his motorbike was launched high into the fork of a tree. David said he wished he had a camera at that moment because no one was going to believe this! While contemplating his options, along rode a friendly local on horseback who offered him a hand. Together they successfully retrieved the bike and David raced on to a remarkable 36th place overall in a field of 276 bikes and over 600 other vehicles on the same route, at the same time.

Meanwhile, after seeing David off, Dianne and Bev were touring the countryside on four wheels instead of two, no 12 hour days fighting sand dunes for them. They started in Buenos Aires, Argentina and toured Chile, Bolivia and Peru. Quite a large step out of their comfort zone, but these two retired Lobethal ladies managed some exciting tours to isolated pyramids in Bolivia, they sailed reed boats on Lake Titicaca and walked on the floating islands. They were blessed by a Shaman on Sun Island, toured the Inca Trail, visited the famed Machupicchu and enjoyed cities such as Santiago, Cuzco, La Paz and Lima.

One of their most memorable moments was having a glass of bubbly on a balcony in Argentina surrounded by the magnificence of the Iguazu Falls. The falls are a series of 275 cascades in a two mile horse shoe shape, straddling Argentina and Brazil, and situated amongst tropical national parks. Bev and Dianne decided on a boat tour of the spectacular Iguazu River. It started out serenely enough, but the closer they came to the falls the tighter their grip became! Understandably, the water below the 270ft falls is rough, to say the least. Dianne said they had an exciting time getting wet and drying out, only to get wet again.

It was an amazing adventure for Bev and Dianne, who absorbed the local customs, history, people and cultures with wonder and delight. However, this was almost ruined when Bev became the victim of some clever pick pockets, who conned them into thinking they were helping. Her bag was unguarded for less than a minute, but this was long enough for the thieves to steal her purse and camera. Bev wants to get the word out to every traveller to be wary, lest they have the same experience. But she didn’t let this spoil her trip and said she would do it all again, given half the chance.

David, Bev and Dianne met up again in Buenos Aires with a lot to talk about on their flight home. The trio said they would happily travel back to South America, with its amazing geography, history and cultures so very different to our own.

*The internet has copious amounts of information on South America and the Dakar Rally. The 2010 Rally will be televised on SBS channel from January the 1st to 17th.

Story by Kendrea Rhodes.

David Schwarz in the
Atacama Desert in northern Chile.