We had two reasons to go and watch the famous Dakar Rally in South America. First reason was the event itself – Dakar has always been a very important thing that we watched at home on TV on cold winter nights. It was something so big and so far away, it was hard to imagine we would see it from “the inside” one day. Therefore it wasn’t a surprise when Linas, after analyzing our maps and schedules of this trip that was just a plan at that time, said “You know what I want for my birthday next year? I want to see the Dakar.”.
Another reason was the parcel… When we were leaving Vilnius on October 15th, the manufacturer of our riding wear, Clover, did not have the extra-long riding trousers available for Linas, but they prepared it as fast as they could and since we do not have the address to send stuff to in South America for us, we have agreed with one of the three Lithuanian teams competing in the rally, that they would load the parcel into the rally truck and deliver it to us in more than a month when the rally starts.
We planed the riding on beginning of our trip here in South America a bit faster than we initially wanted to, to be able to reach Ushuaia from Valparaiso, get back to Santiago for motorcycles’ service and arrive to San Juan in Argentina before Stage 10 of the rally roars into the town. We managed to do all that in time. We found a nice little house in San Juan to rent and stayed there for a few days. The cozy little house had a closed backyard for motorcycles, which could be entered straight from the bedroom. Or should I say straight from the bed...?
The only thing that could have screwed our plans was the rally itself – a few days before reaching San Juan, two of the three Lithuanian teams got broken down and could not continue competing, but luckily the team of Antanas Juknevičius (Craft Bearings, Dakaras.LT), the one that had our parcel, succesfully continued and arrived to “the agreed meeting place” in good spirits and with good results!
On January 12th according to the local media, there were three spectator zones around San Juan and the one a bit more than 100 km away from the center looked the most attractive. The place definitely was worth coming to. Even the road towards it was impressive!
As we arrived, there was police controlling the entrance which made us leave the bikes about a kilometer away from the zone. But the policemen were kind enough to offer us to watch after our two-wheeled friends while we will watch the rally. Meanwhile in the spectator zone, locals with their cars and tents, and BBQs were already preparing for the views. Apparently, they came there a few days before to get the best spots to watch the famous event!
The temperature that day reached the highest I have ever seen – 42 degrees by Celsius and we may have not survived the day in the middle of dry Argentinean steppe if not for the very hospitable locals. They welcomed us under their shade with friendly smiles and were offering us cold water from their huge portable refrigerators throughout the day. We had our water bag full as well, but since the bag is black, water soon reached the 40 degrees just as the air that day and was more suitable for making tea than refreshing… In the middle of the rally we were also invited to taste the Argentinean BBQ which was perfect as always here in Argentina. We also had interesting company watching the competitors sliding into the sharp turn in front of us. The X-raid team members joined us so we got lots of comments “from the backstage” of this rally.
In the evening when returning to the town together with service trucks of the rally teams we were cheered by hundreds of locals in the streets of San Juan – it felt like being the part of the Dakar :) The Lithuanian team invited us to visit the bivouac so we rode to the local autodrome where it was based. The experience there was one we will not forget! Our team was in good spirits due to the positive results they had during the last few days, even though they were all obviously tired and lacking sleep.
We spent a few hours talking, taking pictures, dining together and walking around other teams’ areas. I even sneaked my helmet for cleaning together with the serious rally helmets! :)
In the late evening, after midnight, we managed to get through the security into the territory with our motorcycles (initially we had to leave them in the parking lot just outside the bivouacs together with motorcycles of about 20 other people who were obviously also travelling and had been invited to the backstage of rally as well) and made some funny pictures before leaving.
In couple of days the Lithuanian team successfully reached the finish line in a 21st position which is the highest anyone from the Baltic states ever achieved!
Meanwhile we continue riding North. We have no more specific places to reach on specific dates... at least for the next few months. Sometime next week we should arrive to Atacama desert in Chile and afterwards we'll head towards Uyuni in Bolivia. Let's see where the roads will take us!