Another day, another adventure!

Glenn called about 10.30 Argentina time. We were hoping to have some photos, but in the running around at bivouac in the evening, Glenn has misplaced his camera.

Once again the scenery was amazing, but the general community spirit here has been quite remarkable too. Days ago Glenn reported that there were problems with the lack of air conditioning in the truck, made worse by the heater being stuck on. Ambient temperature today was well above 30°C so yo can imagine what it was like with the heater huffing on top of that. Initially the crew managed to get the heater turned off and made do by repeatedly drenching themselves with water in the cab to keep cool. Later they found some other competitors in the rally able to re-gas the air conditioning system and put in a bypass valve for the heater matrix. The only catch was that the bypass is underneath the truck. No neat switch on the dash but considering it was all done by the roadside with a bunch of strangers it’s good enough! What made this more remarkable was the fact that they didn’t speak any english at all, so the whole collaboration was done with Glenn’s best “spanglish”, points, gestures and smiles. These guys had no reason to be that helpful, but such is the community spirit with Dakar – total strangers helping other strangers. Perhaps everyone just wants to keep their karma in check, but whatever the explanation it makes for a better experience for all.

The daunting mountains are now clearly in view on the horizon. There’s a heap of programmed maintenance tonight in preparation for the Andes crossing tomorrow, with a peak altitude of 4,800m. To give you an idea of just how serious the altitude is, there are medics stationed thought the transport with oxygen tanks, and a hyperbaric chamber for anyone with oedema. The transport is likely to take about 13 hours, and the crew were hoping to get under way by 4.00 am. However, the organisers are not allowing the support convoy to leave until the last car departs at 10.00am. The guys are dreading the prospects of more sleep deprivation, having never caught up from their long hours before the event started.

The riders had a mixed day.

Mark Davidson kept the bike straight but had a couple navigation issues. It was a solid day for him though finishing in 117th position.

Warren and Jacob also had navigation issues.

Jacob lost time going to waypoints that he was not required to hit (last minute changes to the route) finishing in 26th place. Warren was lead astray a couple of times following others rather than making clear decisions based on his road book but ended up 34th in the field. These sorts of things are the “traps for young players”, often catching out first time Dakar competitors. That’s the best explanation at the moment, but the guys are both picking working things out and up on all the rules as we expected they would. At one stage Jacob was running in the top 15 for the stage, only losing time badly in the later checkpoints.

It seems that plenty of riders were having issues similar problems and the wheel tracks, loops and u-turns left in the dirt after a few riders passed through would have made it all the more confusing for the riders further back in the field. In terms of riding ability Warren and Jacob are both proving themselves soundly. Up to this point all of the delays that count have been caused by human error, but they’re both well aware of their experience deficit here. This is how they learn. At this point the riders are all strong and the bikes are strong. They’re running to plan.

The crew are learning little tricks along the way too. Today’s realisation was that it’s best to find a toilet stop before they check in at the bivouac. Everyone is busting at the end of the day, generally to the detriment of the facilities provided at the overnight camps.

Tomorrow is going to be a massive effort. It will be a slow haul, made slower because the efficiency of the truck’s engine suffers just as much as the humans in the rarified air. The crew have been advised to stay in their vehicles going over the Andes to help reduce the effects of the altitude, but at some point they will need to get out to turn the heater back on. The riders won’t have that protection at all.