Out of the White Stuff

The next day, our new buddy Dario picked us up and took us to get some gas. We had brought our plastic jugs from Bolivia, but it turned out that nobody would fill them. They said it’s a $2000 USD fine – all gas cans in Chile have to be ‘metal’.  They then pointed us over to where we could buy some. Plastic ones. Apparently, their special blue plastic cans count as metal. In Bolivia, you could fill soda bottle directly from the gas pump if you wanted. People did.

No worries – Dario had us covered and we went to his house where he had about 50 liters worth of blue plastic tanks that we could borrow. After getting our second shock on gas prices in Chile – about $7 USD per gallon – we were off and up into the mountains. 120 km later, we were at the bus were everything was just as we left it.

We dumped all the gas in and took off down the mountain with Dario following behind. 4000 meters to 2000 meters pretty darn quick.  Once we were out of the snow, I pulled over and went through everything.

Angela didn’t mention a few things from the other day. Those guys behind us on our way up the mountain? Drunk. All of them. Apparently, they had planned on a few more days of being stuck in Ollague and were hitting the sauce to pass the time. Whenever we stopped, they all piled out and wanted to stick their hands in our engine compartment to ‘help’. This included pulling off the air filters, messing with the distributor, etc. Not good, but I couldn’t do much – I was outnumbered and I knew I could put it all back the way it was. The problem was that my timing light decided to die that day, so now I really have no idea what my timing is. I had a mark on the distributor, so I knew I could get it close and I could try the ole’ listen for the spark jump the points trick.

Long story short – everything now seems okay. More or less normal. Still scratching my head over *exactly* what happened the other day. There was definitely water in the gas, but I can’t believe so little water could cause such a major issue. ‘Bad gas’ just seems like too amateur of an excuse, but it’s all I’ve got.

Dario was great and patiently waited while I went through everything. We all chatted as best we could. He wanted to buy the bus. Angela cooked roadside Ramen for everyone.

We ended up spending another night in Calama. Not a bad place, actually. There’s a pedestrian area with sidewalk cafes. I big new shopping mall and grocery store. No VW parts to be found (or a timing light). Still, if this town were a few hundred kilometers east, it would be the most modern city in Bolivia.

How do we put this? Calama is a shit hole.
-Lonely Planet guide

We did the math, and it was definitely a good decision to hire Dario to help us. I know he burned at least $50 just in gas. There’s no way we could have rented a car, bought a bunch of expensive blue plastic cans (Note: a real metal 10 liter can here is $100 USD) and done it all ourselves for less. Besides, he was good company and offered to help us with anything else we might ever need while in Chile. At least we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

We also want to thank Nicolas in Alaska for a kind e-mail that brightened our morning. Sometimes, encouraging words from someone we don’t even know works wonders for getting our attitudes on track.


10 thoughts on “Out of the White Stuff

  • July 19, 2011 at 10:32 AM

    Holà Bodeswell.

    Glad to see everything is starting to become road-normal again. I had a few days of anxiety while waiting for up-dates. I know how things can get hairy sometimes when entering a new country. To that, adding the snow and before that, the salt ordeals make for a long few days of having crap thrown at you. How’s Bode the star in all this?

    Heather and Morgane come back from BC next Monday. I am starting to look forward to sharing our new diggs with them.

    Happy Chile road from now on…

  • July 19, 2011 at 11:39 AM

    God bless you folks! I don’t know if I’m singing to the choir here, but you can make a static timing light to see you thru by taking that bulb out of the left side rear light (the one over the folding table, tapered at both ends like a blimp). Attach common wire (8 ga. or whatever you have available), and get it pretty close. I don’t know if you are running a stock distributore or a Bosch 007, but it will at least get you over the hump. I’ve been running air cooled VW’s since Aug. 1983, and have your bus’s sister sitting outside my door right now, and have experienced pretty much everything that can go wrong at one time or the other. Let me know, and I can send you folks a copy of John Muir’s book if you don’t have one….it’s pulled me out of many a jam over the years!
    Happy Travels,
    Barry in Pennsylvania

  • July 19, 2011 at 4:30 PM

    Barry – thanks for the tip! I was thinking the same thing (and have all sorts of spare bulbs I have NEVER used). But I’ve got a multimeter, and it works just as well…

  • July 19, 2011 at 5:07 PM

    coulod have been the coil.

  • July 19, 2011 at 9:09 PM

    Wow! You’ve been struggling with so much lately! I’m very encouraged by how positive you’ve remained through it all.

    We’re 8000 miles into our summer road trip with our 87 Westy, about to take a ferry from Victoria BC back into the States. We’ve had so few repairs and challenges compared to all that you’ve gone through – more than once, when I’ve gotten frustrated, I’ve thought about your posts and all you’ve faced, and I’ve said to myself, “Lighten up!” Thanks for all your help in the attitude department!

  • July 19, 2011 at 9:51 PM

    Ghee – you guys have been through unbelievable mess in the last week or so. I hope as the roads lead downhill from now on things will get better!! My thoughts are with you 😉

  • July 19, 2011 at 10:53 PM

    ha … you said ‘bad gas”!

  • July 19, 2011 at 11:12 PM

    Dude. You and yours continue to amaze me. In the middle of horrid conditions, you manage to keep your heads and come out on top. Rock on with your bad selves. And as always, if I can get an address, I’d send you a timing light.

    There is always the “static light” method.


  • July 20, 2011 at 7:32 AM

    hey jason a test lite of any sort can be used to set the timing. hook it to the dizzy side of the coil, set the crank at TDC, then set it to whatever advancement you need,say 7.5 now turn the dizzy counter clockwise till the lite comes on and you are there . I am thinking your carbs were icing up before later md

  • July 20, 2011 at 8:30 PM

    I think you missed some of the best of Bolivia, Cochabamba, Santa Cruz, and especially Tarija.

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