The Bargain of the Year: Dacia Duster
Can the UK’s cheapest 4x4 survive the Southern Hemisphere’s harshest mountains?
Posted: 09 Jan 2013
Up, past knackered donkeys and more patchy dogs that snarl and nip at the Duster's tyres before retiring, wheezing, to the verge. And then nothing. No cars, no tarmac, no oxygen. Just mud, stones and vertigo-inducing drops. The cloud closes in. We are indarkest Peru, but there is no sign of a small, marmalade-hooked stuffed bear. (Yeah, Paddington Bear references. We totally went there.)
Over 13,000 feet, and the altitude sickness starts to hit hard. We have climbed from sea level almost three vertical miles in a single day. It's an odd, out-of-body sort of sickness: though you're acutely aware your movements are getting slower and your emotions less rational, there's nothing you can do about it. I spend two minutes attempting to locate reverse gear, which turns out to have been cunningly relocated exactly where it was before. This makes me very sad and I decide I should probably have a quick cry. It strikes me hazily this may not be the best mindset in which to tackle a deadly Andean ascent. The Duster, mountain goat that it is, soldiers on relentlessly. OK, so its idle has begun to wander a little, and I discover I have to dial in a load more revs to get going from stationary, but the little Dacia is coping with the lung-busting altitude far better than either me or Matthias, whose face has assumed the colour of absinthe and who is making the sort of respiratory noises commonly associated with advanced lung disease.