Needing to kill one more day, we headed out of El Salvador, past the Bivouac being constructed for the Dakar and down to a camping spot for the night. Dilapidated houses were built along a salty stream and provided a hidden campsite for the night.
The next day we were bubbling with excitement to watch the much anticipated Dakar Rally. After hearing and seeing loads of backup vehicles heading towards the Bivouac, we stopped in at Diego de Almargo and asked where would be the best place to view the contestants for the day. Only 8km out of town the route passed over the main road and as we headed out we spotted trails of dust coming over the dunes, a helicopter overhead and loads of spectators off road…it hit us… it was real… we are in South America, Chile and the Dakar is here!! A dream come true.
We must have spent about 5 hours watching bikes (moto’s), cars (auto’s) and trucks (caminos) pass the number 3 check point of the route on stage 11. We couldn’t have had a better spot, they trailed along a mountain top in the distance, down a dune towards check point 3 where they accelerated quickly around a bend and over a jump only to accelerate again and disappear into the distance leaving a trail of dust. Awesome!!
The next view spot we got to see a real Dakar picture moment where the dust cloud looked like it would engulf the cars/trucks as they battled through thick fine sand. The trucks were the most entertaining to watch as they didn’t seem to use their brakes much and in some cases got some serious air-time which got the crowds going!
That night we met some local avid motorbike riders and spectators outside the bivouac and camped near them chatting about the ins and outs of the Dakar rally. We hadn’t realised how tough the event had been through 45 degree temperatures in Argentina, and how nearly 50% of the contestants had already dropped out. We fell asleep that night to the rumble of the generators and noise of the engineers fixing bikes, cars and trucks in preparation for the next gruelling day.
Around 7am the contestants started to leave the bivouac. Nick was standing right by the entrance and got to see Mark Coma (the 4 times winner of Dakar Rally) leave for his day, as well as seeing some contestants arriving back after having spent a night in the desert!! Intrigued we stood for a few hours watching them leave seeing burnt out cars and other vehicles that have been eliminated from the race being towed from one bivouac to the next!
Dakar Rally exceeded our expectations and we enjoyed every minute of it.