Day 10 – San Francisco Passage

The morning started bright and breezy at 4.15am, when one
of our fellow riders battered down our door to check we were up. A
cafe con leche and a cheese and ham sandwich later, the bikes were
on the road at 5am, growling through the sleeping streets of Xxx,
even the wild dog packs didn’t muster. We rode out of the town
centre into the Andes in company of all racers aiming to traverse
the pass as early as possible and the fact that the sun hadn’t come
up yet in no way dampened their competitive spirit to get their
fast. Compared to the trip into Chile, the passing back into
Argentina was a breeze and the worry that this day was going to be
a monstrous 13 hours of riding drifted away, it looked like it was
going to be a breeze after all. That thought was short lived. The
dust from the trucks, the three feet deep sand trenches that panned
the roads and the 16,000 foot altitude at -4C were all waiting for
us and the accidents started to happen. When these trucks and vans
plough through the dirt, the dust clouds completely smother you.
The dust gets into your helmet, your mouth and your eyes at once
and then steering your bike at forty plus mph knowing you may hit a
rock, vehicle or person at any moment ignites every nerve and sinew
as you navigate, in my case, a 600lb motorbike, absolutely not
designed for these conditions. This risk was slammed home as I
entered my hundredth cloud of dust to suddenly see the two guys who
were just ahead of me, Diego and Michael, running towards me arms
waving franticly above their heads. There is only one thing to do
in these situations and it goes totally against instinct, and thats
to gun your bike forward in a new direction. The guys were running
forwards from their two huge bikes that were strewn across the deep
deep sand of the road after Diego had lost control and Michael had
plowed into him, being propelled over the handle bars, hitting the
windshield with his unprotected thighs as he went. He knew I was
close on his tail, so adrenalin had taken over and his arm waving
diversion triggered me to instinctively swerve up the bank and out
of additional harms way. I missed them and managed to stay upright,
and thank god, the ten ton truck that then entered the sand behind
me swerved after me, avoiding a complete wreckage. That sand trap
took ten of our thirteen still riding team and was the first of
many many many issues that day. Three of the team collapsed from
lack of oxygen at the extreme altitude we were riding and three
more bikes collapsed under mechanical issues. This was really
testing both our spirit and the team. After the boarder the team
was split in three. One group that now had to abandon their bikes
and climb into one of the trucks, a slow paced suffering group and
then a pack of five of us that had dug deeper than ever to get
through this and down to the valley below. Which was another
organizational disaster. When we reached the town below, we knew we
had another 200km to go to the next town, and thats when the news
that the rescued team in the support truck had hit a real issue.
The back of our truck had collapsed after the brutal trail had
smashed the truck into a bank and the rear bolt system had sheared,
driving the full weight of the truck onto is back wheels, with
150km to go at a maximum speed of 5mph. Not only that, the support
/ gas truck had sped ahead of the pack, had left three of the
remaining bikes without fuel. Fewelly had also hit a sand bank at
speed and had smashed his bike and left shoulder and the news
coming down the mountain was that he was now out of the action. Our
third of the team collective made some headway towards Chilecto
when our next blow struck. Several trucks ahead had crashed
blocking the road and fourteen hours of riding along, this news hit
us between the eyes. We couldn’t go forward and we had no food or
lodgings. After two hours we connected with the team to be told the
slow group were waiting with a camp site at the ready and food. We
jumped back in the saddle and an hour later we rejoined the group
to discover that was a miscommunication and they were in fact
planning on sleeping on the gravel car park of the gas station – we
were furious. Silent anger waited to explode as we discovered our
team organizers had spent more time trying to fix the damn support
truck than find a place for us to sleep and eat, now at 11pm after
the 5am start. I tell you – I was not happy and I had to walk from
the scene to breath. An hour later we had a solution and Jim Hyde
found us food and rented two homes for us to rest. The family had
taken the overnight bounty of housing twenty knackered riders by
moving to friends and we had shelter at last! Michael, Fewelly and
I collapsed like men in a firing range and the day from hell ended.



About willindakar

Every few years I try and embark on a trip that takes me to places, both physically and mentally, far beyond anywhere I have been before, as a CEO or father. Climbing the highest summits of Antarctica and Europe, diving with Great White sharks, Motorbiking the highest road in the world are a few of the boxes I've ticked - but the trip i am about to depart for should be one of the most testing. Riding with the hardest land race in the world - The Dakar 2011.
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One Response to Day 10 – San Francisco Passage

  1. Russell says:

    Wow! Unbelievable. Great thing you were able to write all this as you can come home and rest for a while without having to talk about it!

    Talk about suspense and drama. Lets forget about my bottling up your energy and selling it idea. Instead, lets write a book about your journey but we will keep the same 51 – 49% split (51 me of course). lol….

    On a serious note, Great job…I look forward to reading about you accomplishing your goal! Russ, Ella, Tyler, Mason, Baby, and the little doggie with the long dry red tongue!

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