After much long driving from the eastern side of Uruguay, all across the Pampas to the edge of the Andes, we arrived for New Years Eve at the home of the Suzy the Kombi (Rose & Charly) ! It was just super to see my old friend again, though it was having some mechanical problems (no engine) after a massive trip all over Brasil and Argentina for one year. After arriving in the town, Villa La Angostura, I decided it was time to never leave again. So like the last time I saw Suzy, I refused to start. No dead battery trick this time; instead I just cut the entire electrical system. Lots of fun was had as we spent the night next to Suzy. The next day, the slaves were confused with the no start situation, but once again they figured out a way to push start me. Rose's father decided to drive me around the town with everyone in the back. So as Curt was in the back for the first time, I decided to give him some music; clunk, clunk, clunk. Just a little something to worry him as payback for starting me when I most assuredly wanted to stay. After a few days, the slaves gave up trying to coax me into behaving, and we went to San Carlos de Bariloche for some mechanic time! Once we hit the streets, Curt flagged down the first LR Defender he saw and got a recommendation on a top notch mechanic; Beto. Beto changed my rear shock absorbers, my alternator, and greased my U-joints. It was a great day, so we headed on to El Bolson for the night.
After escaping the clutches of the salar thanks to the broken shovel and the amazing Maxtrax, we set on our way alone. The border crossing was closed due to excessive rain erosion of the dirt road, but of course when the border officials saw that standing in front of them was the best 4 by 4 by far, they let us proceed 'off road'. Strangely the rear axle seemed to be loose from the chassis of the vehicle when going around turns on this high mountain road. Just before nightfall, we came across our first car of the day (actually 2 cars stuck in the mud). One was Suzanne & Andre, whom we had met 5 months earlier in Iguazu; the other was Hans & Bente. Suzanne & Andre had been stuck for 2 or 3 days in this spot; and Suzanne was reminding Andre every few minutes that this was the last trip for her ever! After a few minor adjustments such as removing the bent shock absorber and reconnecting the rear axle to frame with a large bolt, we got to work on getting these folks clear of the mud. It was a night spent sleeping on the cold high altitude road before finding an off road track to detour around and make it down the mountain to Salta, Argentina by next nightfall. Got a little reward the next day; new rear shock absorbers and 3 hot baths of diesel and oil to get that horrible salt off.
New Years Eve was going to be great! We had been bush camping on the Atlantic side of Ihlabela near the isolated beach with Suzy the Kombi (Rose & Charly). The place was just fantastic, though the slaves were complaining (what else is new) this time about the barachugas (black flies). But then I overheard the slaves talking about how they were going to park me and Suzy somewhere and leave us while they had a good time in town! This had to be dealt with promptly. So I quickly ran down my two batteries (they thought that with two I would be unable to do such a thing), and then I sat mildly waiting for the exciting drive into town. Oh what a commotion when they found out the batteries were dead! It looked like we would all have to stay at the beach for the New Years. Suzy and another vehicle were attached with cables to me, but I would not start. Then they had the idea of Suzy towing me; which I knew was ridiculous since I am so overloaded with junk. But I had overlooked one thing, there was a small valley a few meters away in the dirt road, so with a tug from Suzy and a few pushes, they managed to pull start my motor. Well, I gave it my best that night, but I made up for it the next day with complete brake failure.