Day 6 – Rest Day – phew!

Last night the thought of a rest day was just a cop out,
but by mid morning I totally understand why the whole race takes
it. Four days and near 1,400 racing miles really takes a toll on
your body and mind and taking the hands and feet off the gas was
perfect. I spent the day with my buddy Fewelly body surfing in the
cold Chilean ocean, supped strong coffee watching some of the nutty
locals and walking, not riding, around the city exploring the art
and architecture of this 230,000 person city. I was thinking of my
step son Michael as I looked at some of the graffiti knowing how
much he’d love it – it’s cool what things spring to your mind when
it’s allowed to wander after intense use. Q, Fewelly and I bailed
from the team to have dinner by ourselves this evening. Tempers had
flared allot within the group these last few days and we needed
some air. I’d had stern words twice now with our team leader Jim
due to the guess work level within the team in some really critical
scenarios, to the thanks of the group and some others had lost
patience with the sheer incompetence of some of the other riders.
To run and be a part of an adventure like this requires great focus
and dedication and solo players are just distractions at either end
of the spectrum of skill. So yes a rest day to detox and refocus
was a much needed event. Our gear is all washed now and ready for
another five days of intensity of the rally. Our bikes are all set
and filled up and with a 6.30 wheels up tomorrow, we’ll be with
what’s remaining of the Dakar pack after all the accidents and
break downs – more on those details tomorrow.

Posted in The Ride | 4 Comments

Day 5 – Vic

So as you may have remembered, we
found Vics bike abandoned, laying on it’s side half way into the
lane of the incoming traffic, twenty feet past boulders that had
bounced into the path of one of the worlds highest and windiest
roads, the Argentina Chile pass through the Andes. When we all
managed to get to the saftey of our lodgings, Vinc’s whereabouts
had snowballed into a real issue as rummers of an accident and
death on the road reached us and our team were obviously panicked
and guilt riden. Why he had been allowed to leave ahead of the team
we questioned and was he really fit enough to be even attempting
this trip as the oldest member of our team? Swift action was
required and our team leader Kevin reached Vics daughter in the US
and then the American Embassey to report the missing person issue.
Every year people die on the Dakar and this is a real national
concern with the race so the Embassey then contacted the Chilean
FBI, who put all systems to go in their missing person hunt on the
pass. There was little any of us could do and as we were so
exhausted we had to collapse and wait to discover, what we prayed
for, would be good news the next day. Five hours later we all
assembled in the lobby for the news that Vic was safe. The winds
had blown him and his bike from the road several times and finally
after he had hit rocks, he decided his life was in real danger and
the day of riding had to stop. To escape the elements he flagged
down a coach which was heading back to the boarder, where he then
transferred to a returning bus to the nearest town, 150km from our
team. The hotel had received the report from the FBI and Vinc was
woken with the news of our whereabouts. Note to self – take the
location of where you’re heading with you when you cross between
countries!! So after that little incident we all breathed deeply,
re kitted up and set off on the three hundred mile route to
Iquique. We now had the support truck and Vic on board so a
smoother day was ahead of us. The route was incredible, passing
Carro de la Cruz, one of the driest places on earth with a hundred
miles of blowing sands and electrical pylons, down to Tocopilla – a
very poor industrial town on the waters edge. As we cut through the
pass to the town the ocean burst in front of us, cluttered with
huge mineral shifting tankers and small fishing boats. There was
little to see but shacks and a gas station, yet lining the roads
were some of the coolest graffiti pieces I have ever seen – amazing
where creativity resides right! The route north up from Tocopilla
to Iquique was spectacular. We sped at 130km an hour for 200miles
along ocean hugging perfect meandering roads, seemingly carved for
our bikes – what a dream after the misery of the previous day! We
met the race at our destination, as helicopters circle over Robby
Gordan’s orange Hummer as it descended the highest sand dune in the
world. I thought he was an absolute nutter until minutes later, one
of the trucks followed him over the edge at a speed nearing 200kmh
– with no use of breaks, gas or steering – incredible! After two
hours of race wrap up we headed for local fair and camping by the
ocean. It was there I discovered the two man tent I had ordered
online and never unpacked, would struggle fitting even two members
of the pigmy TutTut tribe of Zimbabwe, never mind a 6’2″ Brit and
to the amusement of the gathering crowd, it actually looked more
like I was wearing a plastic dress than a tent, as I lay struggling
for my life like some escape act of David Blane! Only one thing for
it – take one of Zhanna’s muscle relaxants she had packed just
incase I couldn’t sleep. Ahhh bliss….

Posted in The Ride | 7 Comments

Day 4 – what in the world…!

It’s 1.58am and we arrived to our beds 45 minutes ago!
Three hours ago I could have sworn I was going to loose the fingers
in my right hand to frostbite and two hours ago really believed, as
did the team, that I was coming down with hypothermia. Luckily I
don’t think I’ll be experiencing either, but hell we all had to dig
deep. The crossing of the Andes from Argentina to Chile today was
one of the most spectacular rides on my life, that was until we hit
customs, at 15,000 ft. There were six stamps to gain with six
different departments and trying to get our eighteen person team
through took four hours! This delay meant that I could not only not
fulfill my promise to call my daughters Amelia and Beatrice and mrs
Zhanna, so I hope they read this and go easy on me, but also that
we had to ride four hours in the dark at -2 with 70 mile an hour
winds across the mountains. Sadly we had two people come off their
bikes with no sever issues, but one chap, Vic went ahead and we
discovered his bike on the side of the road – no Vic in sight and
amazingly no Vic discovered yet! The missing support Truck and team
driving it has been detrimental to our trip so far. We’ve all
seriously been put in danger due to the knock on effects of no
mechanics or real support – but they arrive very early today after
a 1200 mile drive, poor guys. Fingers crossed things snap into
place tomorrow – I am beat!

Posted in The Ride | 9 Comments

Day 3 – ouch!

Yep, I just got handed my ass on a plate! 750km ridden
today over 14 hours of dirt, hairpin bends and mobbed towns and
I’ve just collapsed in my room. But what an amazing day!!! The day
started on mile after mile of breath taking beauty and forever
winding roads, as the team continued along the Dakar route. We past
through towns wall to wall of waving families, cheering us all on
as the racers did their thing. The temperature soared back up to 97
degrees and the bike fueling wait times drained every ounce of
water from our bodies. We’ve travelled into the mountains up to
15,000 feet (where we now reside with altitude headaches) and the
temperature plummeted to 32 degrees – made colder with only one
heated grip working on my bike. Fan packed towns were totally
contrasted with desolate villages, where watching a motor race was
the furthest thing from their minds. Kids swarmed us this time not
for autographs and photos, but for pesos to feed their families. I
bought a couple of knitted key chain lamas for my girls and handed
out the candy I had in my pockets to sweeten up their day. Our
desert crossing ride lasted 200 km and riding the dirt, rock ridden
roads at 130kph I pushed myself to speeds I never thought I’d not
only achieve but have to maintain for such length. Not only that,
we hit darkness while stile on the dirt and a lightening storm
kicked in – not the time to have a webcam on my head leading the
pack, I was the perfect human conductor off 750lbs. Thank goodness
for training in Pine Barons for three months pre trip or I would
have been toast! I’m struggling writing more as it’s now midnight.
What an amazing day – real adventure! Here’s a few pics. X

Posted in The Ride | 10 Comments

Day 2 – shoot me!

I was woken by the sound of helicopters overhead
at 5am this morning – a rude awakening after finally crashing at
1am as my bags had gone missing for twelve hours. The team had
gathered for dinner at Estancia La Paz last night at 10pm, after a
few of the stragglers from the team arrived – myself included. I’d
missed a connection by three minutes, throwing my baggage into
delivery turmoil and me into a seven hour airport wait. Three of
the team had no gear and two no bikes. Welcome to navigating
Argentinian transportation logistics! After the early role call
from above it was impossible to fall back to sleep with the
excitement of day one looming. I decided to have a walk around the
hotel grounds, check my BMW 1200 GS Adventure and get my day pack
and gear sorted. Breakfast was the traditional cold cuts, cheese
and croissants, washed down with strong coffee and a glass of water
and then the full team was set and ready to role. To be honest I’m
not sure how I’m going to muster up the energy to write this blog
at the end of each day like today. I am so knackered it’s untrue,
but I’m gonna try. Today was over 400 miles of riding in 98 degrees
heat. My face looks like I just lost a slapping competition and I
won’t go into how sore my rear is after eleven hours of riding. But
I must say, I have never, in my life, experienced so much support
and warmth from people anywhere! The whole eleven hours involved
crowds of Argentinians, young and old, male and female, waving
flags, their arms, theirs kids, whatever they could get their hands
on as we past through towns. And we waved back with equal warmth.
When filling up the bikes for gas, we were descended upon by
complete villages, kids asked for their T-shirts and arms to be
signed and baby’s were passed over to be plopped on our bikes for
their family albums. I’ve never felt so loved and so welcomed as we
were today, day one and this driving energy carried the whole team
as we were emerged into this fourteen day experience. The cars were
flying, 170kph down dirt tracks with swarming crowds, followed by
swooping helicopters and pulsing hearts. I want to be a race car
driver for sure, says my now primed inner child! My close buddies
Michael and Fewelly are now sitting exhausted and gulping at the
thought that tomorrow will be riding 750 km – we can hardly lift
our heads at the table. Here’s a few pics and I hope I can muster
more strength tomorrow. Night! X

Posted in The Ride | 10 Comments

On my way to join my team

New Years Day was a great prep day
for the trip. I managed to get all my kit washed and sorted into
the one BMW kit bag. Not able to sit still, I decided to venture
out on a borrowed bike from the farm. Bahia Bustamante has to be
one of the most breathtaking places on the planet and exploring its
200,000 acres a must! All lotion and watered up, I set off riding
along the ocean edge trails worn by the landrovers over the years,
watching seals, penguins and ostriches at different stages of the
ride. I discovered amazing beaches and at one point ventured out
across a mud flat to film a small family of seals wean their young
– real David Attenborough stuff! It was at this furthest point from
the farm, 20km to be exact, that either the effects of the seawater
on the metal or my New Years Eve celebration weight kicked in, and
the back end of my bike snapped in two – great!! The following
hours were filled with the thoughts that I will be on the next
series of “They Shouldn’t Be Alive” as 95 degree heat, razor grass
and bolting animals scaring the wits out of me reminded me that I
was still in a very wild part of the world. Maybe this is why the
people are so so kind – they never know when they are going to need
each others help. Arriving a little worse for wear back at the
farm, a worried team welcomed me back for a fabulous farewell
dinner which Zhanna and I loved! It was so sad to leave such an
amazing paradise early this morning but now I have to attack the
task at hand and join my teammates as we all descend on Cordoba and
The Dakar rally. Well that is if my four hour delay and missing
luggage at Buenos Aires airport turns up roses!!

Posted in Pre Ride | 5 Comments

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year everyone!!! We saw in the new year Patagonia
style with three lambs cooked over the fire, delicious red wine and
music off the car sterio – fabulous! Today’s pack and prep day and
then its off to Cordoba to meet the team! Butterflies are kicking
in! : )

Posted in Pre Ride | 2 Comments