Friday, 17 January 2014

275 Chile and The Dakar

Monday 13th January 2014  
Miles Today 0 Total 34,184
Today was a day of rest so we just chilled out and recharged our batteries. It seems that lately they are going flatter a lot quicker.
Our hotel overlooked the local swimming pool, the odd thing was it was also used by the local airbourne wildlife. It was just weird to watch the birds in the water and then the locals using it too.

We wandered into the town and went for a bite to eat and a beer or two. It was very quaint but we could not understand the cafe menu and ended up with a seafood soup which had a lot of surprises lurking below the surface.

The town center piece.

Oi, pick on someone your own size.

The had a tram thingy but as the engine part left the carriage behind, it became a public seat.

Tuesday 14th January 2014  
Miles Today 29 Total 34,213
Today was a big day for us. We have watched the Dakar Rally for many years and today we actually get to see a small part of it. The rally, held in early January every year, covers two weeks and around 9000km (5600 miles). It is unbelievably hard, especially for the bikers.
There are 4 disciplines, Motorbikes, quad bikes, cars and trucks. It was made a lot harder this year deliberately to put the emphasis on rider endurance and to take the factory team dominance away. It did not really work and instead, ripped the field apart and all the private entrants were taken out early. The sad part about this is that they have paid around £50,000 to get here. There are currently 18 bikes still in the race out of 196 starters !
The entrants do not set off together but in a staged manner depending upon the previous days arrival time. This means the guy leading the whole race may not necessarily set off first.

Marc Coma (the race leader) chasing Jean Barreda Port (second). 

Last years winner, Cyril Despres. currently third. Oh and on a Yamaha...... Wohoo

The above video shows Nasser Al Alalitiah (301) and last years Dakar winner, Stephan Peterhansel (300). Peterhansel has the nickname "Mr Dakar". He has won it 6 times on a motorcycle, a Yamaha no less (sorry but I am horribly bias), and 5 times in a car.

Chopper following the lead quad into the finish line.

The trucks were seriously scary. The Russians are just nuts.

Carlos Sainz. Multiple World Rally Champion and all round nice guy.

The American Robby Gordon. A very popular guy throughout the world for his clown antics. When he arrived the Chilean crown went mad.

A Dutch truck with a sense of humour.

Mike and Susan Jones.
The only British interest left. A husband and wife team in their late 40s. Mike and Susan Jones run an organisation called Rally Raid UK and have put 350 other people through the Dakar in all types of vehicles. This year they decided to give it a go themselves and although they are not pushing like the other competitors, they are still here. 

Wednesday 15th January 2014  
Miles Today 404 Total 34,617
We decided to try to meet the Dakar at another location. The problem being that the distances they cover are vast. To do it we needed to leapfrog the rally but that meant doing 800 miles in the next 2 days. Ah, what the heck, we are on it.

A lot of this today....

A burned out casualty of the Rally
We ended up at a town called Taltal. We found a small hotel and called if a night with very sore butts.

Thursday 16th January 2014  
Miles Today 399 Total 35,616
Another 400 mile day, this time across the Atacama Desert, and another pair of sore butts.
The usual straight desert roads...

However, the landscape was very pretty.

The Atacama Desert is an incredible place. It is the driest place on earth and the region averages 15mm of rain a year. However, places like Arica and Iquique, where we have just come from, average between 1 and 3mm per year. Other whether stations in the desert have never recorded any rainfall. British scientists have suggested that some river beds have been dry for 120,000 years. It's a dry place!

Sadly the dryness does not stop at water. We struggled with fuel and Wallace was flashing his thirsty light at me before we found another petrol station. 200 miles between stations - scary. The other problem with this part of the world is the wind. During the morning the desert heats up very quickly and the adjacent sea does not. This heat and hot air rises and the partial vacuum left needs to be filled. The cooler air from the sea rushes in to fill the vacuum and the resulting cross wind is strong, constant and very tiring on a bike. Riding all day leaned over is very hard work, especially when overtaking trucks.

View from our dinner table.
 On arrival at La Serena, we found a hotel and went for a bite to eat. We were dragged off the street by a restaurateur and taken to this place. Sadly the food quality did not reflect the surroundings.
The usual city center Church.

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