Panamericana roadtrip memories 6

| Sapa Pana Travel

The Panamericana road trip started in December 2011. A car trip through South America with 83 classic Volvo's. In 35 days and 16,000 kilometres, these Volvo enthusiasts drove from Buenos Aires in Argentina, via the south to Cartagena de Indias in Colombia. On our blog we will share memories of this memorable journey in the near future.

We went to hell and back and that’s all I’ve got to say about it

Day 22: Arica - La Paz

Team 68
We overslept on the one day we couldn’t afford to. We drove quite fast and the landscape was beautiful. It only got greener and greener, there were lovely views of the snow capped mountain tops, we saw cute llamas, the snow came closer and it wasn’t hot anymore. We drove past places where there were trucks waiting for us to pass. No one got upset. We were applauded; they took pictures of us and made the v-sign. We came to the border. Well, well, what a drama that turned out to be. I’m not going to tell you the whole story but we were 4th in line at the first cabin and we were the last to pass the border 4 hours later. Meanwhile, we were both suffering from altitude sickness and we were on oxygen. I couldn’t walk anymore; I couldn’t unroll my feet anymore. Pain, pain, pain. I think it will be bothering me up until 2040. We weren’t allowed to drive together either, so was in the car of the technical team and one of the mechanics was driving our car with Mel.

It was dark by then and I could see a strip of lights in the distance. La Paz? It turned out to be the gigantic suburb El Alto. What I saw there exceeds the chaos I’ve seen in Congo and Nigeria. Thousands of people between vaguely lit market stalls along the road dressed in typical traditional dress, women with black bowler hats. The exhaust fumes took our breath away, the honking was deafening. Then one of our motorbikes broke down. We tried to tow it but the road was sloping down so our brakes overheated. I was put in another car while the rest waited for the tow truck.

To make up for all this I all of a sudden saw the most beautiful view I have ever seen. We took a turn and a kilometre below us was the city. Millions of lights like a bejewelled brooch. I held my breath, what a stunning scene. The truck with spare parts got stuck once more, engines overheated and we had to stop. Eventually I was reunited with Mel. After midnight we were in the luxurious Radison Hotel where we had dinner on the 15th floor with a panoramic view of the city. I fell into bed at two in the morning.

Book Panamericana roadtrip

As a reminder of this memorable journey, the book 'Panamericana Roadtrip' has been published. The story is told with the stunning photographs from travel photographer Thijs Heslenfeld, supported by a selection of some of the many stories written by the heroes of this journey. For everyone that did not participate in this journey, it is a wonderful book to dream away with. The proceeds of this book go to the special projects of the HoPe Foundation. This organisation - founded by Walter Meekes - is involved in developing education in the remote mountain villages around the Peruvian city of Cuzco. 

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Would you like to join us on one of these exclusive car trips? Then take a look at our page of LatinAmeriCar. Do you have questions about a unique and round trip in Latin America, would you like a tailor-made travel proposal or would you like to make an appointment at our office? Feel free to contact us. Send an e-mail to or call us on +31 73 610 62 04

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