The Dakar

Trip Start Nov 01, 2009
Trip End Feb 27, 2010

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Where I stayed
Hotel Cano

Flag of Chile  ,
Wednesday, January 6, 2010

We headed out of SPDA, heading for the resort city of Iquique on the Pacific coast. We had booked a hotel there knowing that accommodation would be difficult because of the Dakar race being there on the 7th and 8th of Jan.

Leaving SPDA proved a bit of a challenge, as the bike and I got a case of Potholitus. This is where you step into a pothole as you stop at an intersection and spend 5 clumsy seconds wondering whether you are going to be able hold all 450kgs of people and bike up. Alas, this time I could not and over we went. Joolsie was quite shakened and got a couple of bruises but everything else was OK. We managed to pick the bike up quite easily really, probably adrenalin kicking and got going quickly. The old adage about getting back on the horse as soon as you are thrown off was important here to not let a relatively minor incident and the first of the trip wreck anything. We stopped 10 kms out of town to console eachother and make sure we were OK.

We decided to take the coast road to Iquique, as it was recommended by the Dr from Chile we met in Mendoza. This proved a good idea to take us away from the now monotenous desert and onto the stunning coast road. The road twists and turns but basically follows the rugged coastline, sometimes at sea level sometimes 150 metres above all the way to Iquique. Just South of the city Jools spotted the Dakar camp being prepared for the racers and their crews, who would be arriving in 2 days.

Iquique is said by Chilenos to be a lovely city and we had to agree. The old part of the city has a pedestrian street, which is lined with lovely old buildings that have been well restored and painted. We spent several evenings on this street watching everyone enjoying their summer vacation.

THE DAKAR. What does one say about getting the chance to watch the most difficult rally in the world. AWESOME, SPECTACULAR!!!

The morning of the racers arrival, we decided to head South first to the Camp to watch proceedings there for a while and then into the sand dunes down the road 3kms to watch the racers coming down a massive sand hill as they finished the race. Jools had bought a beach brollie for the days viewing and so after strapping that across the back of the bike panniers away we went.

We arrived at the camp site to be greeted by 100s of cars and 4WDs trying to park and watch proceedings, with many getting hopelessly stuck up to their axles in sand. We managed to get a good park avoiding the sand but giving the TKC tyres a good test. I parked the bike on its side stand on a long piece of wood I found at the hotel, to stop the bike sinking and toppling over.

We spent a 45 minutes watching massive crew vehicles arriving and setting up mobile workshops and communication systems, along with catering, hospital, and admin facilities all on the back of huge 8WD trucks. The excitement in the air was palpable, as it was probably 90 minutes until the first of the racers, a bike, would appear.

We then moved down the road and rode into the dunes for a km or so on ripio and found a parking space along with lots of other people. Jools spotted a good place about 30 metres back from the track, with an excellent view of the massive 3kms long sand dune the racers had to come down to finish the race.

At around 1 30 pm the first bike appeared as a tiny speck on the horizon, kicking up a trial of dust in his wake. The accompanying Helicopter filming the competitors giving everyone a clue to the imminent arrival as it swopped down the dune at 50 metres high. This sent lots of people running to the track side to watch and take photos and cheer the competitors on. We watched through binos, as the rider raced down the dune and then appeared over the crest of a small dune and into the taped off area. He was going absolutely flat out and I had to admire his amazing skill at riding on sand, which can be such a difficult surface to ride.

The rest of the day was amazing as we spent first 2 hours watching the bikes, then  came some quad racers, then the amazing VW tourag racing cars, one piloted by Carlos Sainz, who was the world rally champion. Then came the massive and exceedingly fast trucks. Racer after racer came over the crest of the dune and were cheered on by the crowd. Those with Chilean flags got a special cheer.

By 4pm we decided we needed some lunch and headed down to the local beach for some lovely seafood and a cold drink. It was then back to the camp to watch all the racers arriving and proceedings there again. It was easy to see that some of the bike riders were extremely exhausted, as by then they must have been riding for 10 hours and some neally crashed negiotating the heavily chopped up sand near the finish. Jools got interviewed by CNN Chile! She also reckoned it was probably the best days entertainment value, as it cost us nothing to watch, we have had all trip. 

We then headed back in to Town for the evening, through as we expected an huge traffic jam. We had another nice evening watching people on the board walk in the old part of town. 

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