Returning to Argentina

It has been a beautiful English summer, with lots of BBQs and time with friends.

The photographs we brought back from our first trip were great and one of the end products has been what I am calling a bio-montage. This is a compilation of ‘white background’ images as well as a panorama, more about this in another blog.



Southern Yungas biomontage



We are really longing to get back to South America and Argentina in particular, to see friends and continue with our ‘Search for Species’ in the Andes. This expedition will be longer and will stretch through the southern summer into 2015.

We will find some amazing wildlife and meet equally amazing people, so log into our blog periodically and now we have a Facebook group as well –  Proyecto de Animales Andinos


Burrowing parrots 2



Paula and I are off any day now,  winging our way towards Argentina.





The Hilux has landed

The long awaited time has come to see if our ‘Proyecto de Animales Andinos’ vehicle has arrived safely in Montevideo. The wonderful person of Virginia Vizgago working for Repremar ensured its passage through customs was easy and without any problems.


With the paperwork complete and all the necessary formalities done we went to the warehouse and found the Hilux in perfect condition.


Now we are almost ready for the expedition to start.


The expedition Toyota Hilux camper is on its way to the Andes at last


All our equipment has been packed into the Toyota camper, most of this is photographic gear but  also some boxes of clothes and an eclectic  mix of other paraphernalia such as – a white sheet ( for wrapping up a body) a legal requirement ir you are driving a truck in Argentina ! a mountain tent in case the winds are too strong in Patagonia to put up the camper roof and  two aquariums in which to photograph fish and amphibians,  ah well our attempt at travelling light was but a dream.

Then a drive down to the Tilbury docks on the north side of the Thames and the attempt to get the truck into a container. The container will be shipped by the Pentalver shipping line.


Container terminal, Tilbury, London.

Container terminal, Tilbury, London.


With our hearts in our mouth the Toyota camper edged towards the container –


The tightest fit possible

The tightest fit possible



The camper went in with 3cm on the length to spare, then all 4 wheels were strapped and tightened and chocks put under all 4 tyres to prevent movement and hey presto all done.


Strapping and chocking the truck safely inside.

Strapping and chocking the truck safely inside.



Onto the Santa Rita ship bound for Montevideo.

The Santa Rita

The Santa Rita






The Andean Wildlife Project..still coming together

The important, boring, difficult and expensive bit, that’s the stage we have been going through in recent weeks.

Going to South America and traversing the longest mountain range in the world is going to be tough.  Seeking out species of every hue, and tracking the biggest bird that soars our planets air currents is going to be the  fun stuff.  The not so fun stuff is preparing for it,  to ensure that the expedition doesn’t unravel in disaster due to being unprepared.

Reliability of the Toyota Hi lux is renown and to maximize this have had the vehicle thoroughly serviced and checked over for all possible points of wear and tear.  This pre-expedition check , undertaken by Nene Overland  in Peterborough, has resulted in some major component replacements.

Up in the air at Nene O

 The following have been renewed and fitted, rear leaf springs and U bolts, Koni shock absorbers, suspension coil springs.

Koni Shock absorber + leaf spring

In addition a local fabricator strengthening and re positioned our rear bumper to better protect the rear of the vehicle.

rear bumper 3










The  last major job we have done is to have fitted a long range fuel tank, done by Devon 4 x 4 

L R fuel tank

This fuel tank will enable us to travel up to 1000 miles between fuel stops, vital in the Andes where reliable garages are scarce.

Expedition ready-2
























The vehicle is now almost finished, there have been lots of other modifications as well, security bars fitted to the 4-Wheel camper window, new Michelin All-terrian tyres,  an access step to help Paula get inside the car, headlamp protectors and of course  redesigned de-cals done by Pro-graphics in Peterborough

























Pre-expedition planning for the Andes Wildlife Project

Sometimes we shall need to reach remote areas of the Andes to film and photograph its wildlife. The landscape of Chile and Argentina is tough and unforgiving, glaciers, rainforests, deserts all connected by wild and rugged roads and tracks.  Personal safety is at the top of our list.  Pre-expedition planning is vital to our success and so several months ago we booked ourselves onto a 4×4  driving course, tutored by the experts, the men who trained Ben Fogle as well as the Top Gear presenters. Yesterday was the day that we arrived at the  Motor Safari training ground near Chester, they put us and our Toyota Eagle through its paces and what a great day we had.

Here are a few of the tips we learnt ……….

Toyota Hilux with 4-Wheel Eagle

Paula at the wheel of the Hilux undertaking a controlled 35 degree descent

When taking an expedition vehicle on descents, walk it first, looking for potential difficulties such as rocks & ruts and plan the route. Align the vehicle straight and ensure you are in the lowest 4 wheel gear.  If you cannot see the ground beneath you, don’t panic, take an initial marker way in front and keeping the steering wheel level proceed with your foot off the brake,  we did this and our Hilux did the work for us, slowly and safely.


Paula drives through water which is no problem at all to the Toyata Hilux


Driving across rivers is not normal for us in Leicestershire, so knowing what to do when we just  happen across a mountain torrent was something that had  drifted in and out of recent sleepless nights.

The best thing to do if possible is to try to walk it first, that way you can feel the bottom with a stick and feel the strength of any flow,  if you start to float away, forget it and retrace your steps. Either way, doing this will increase the likelihood of making a safe crossing.

I always thought that the source of air into our vehicle came through an open window.  Where the air came from to cool the engine was a thought I had never had, I always expected engines to be cool, sudden combustion was something I’d expected to be ironed out years ago.   So imagine our surprise to find out that the  Hilux air intake is situated fairly high under the front wing, drivers side. Suddenly we started feeling much better. However you ought not to cross water that is higher than a pair of wellington boots, approx 40 cms.   The exhaust is important, ensure it does not fill with water.  Use a low gear such as L2 on the Hilux and drive in a meaningful way, do not stop, keep going, you are likely to create a bow wave, that is OK and expected, your motion will push it away.  When you are safely on dry ground it is best to check the air filter.  The brakes will make a noise for a while, don’t worry that’s normal.  Should you for any reason stop in the water do not keep turning the ignition key as you will flood the engine. If you have to get out of the vehicle in water do so THROUGH THE WINDOW, do not open the doors, unless you want fish for tea and a ‘write-off’ claim to your insurers.   Still water such as lakes are more dangerous than rivers as they are likely to have muddy bottoms, or may be deep, take great care.


All smiles at the end of the days Toyota 4×4 training at Motor Safaris,


During the hard days training we were taken through a wide variety of backcountry driving skills, assessing dangers, understanding the capabilities of our unique vehicle, maintenance tasks and vehicle recovery.   At the end of the day we felt more confident in our driving capabilities moreover we have been alerted to things we need to sort out on the vehicle and some emergency kit to buy.