Hero Image

The click clack of new adventure.

Friday, January 8, 2010


Jan 7 - Antofagasta - Iquique - the day the dream almost died

I awoke late. About 7.00am. As I sat and stared at my bivouac breakfast, styrofoam coffee in hand, I was thinking about the film. One of the difficulties of making a documentary like this is that you really don’t know what will happen. I am very much aware of the elements required to build a compelling story, but this story is very much in the hands of the gods. So my concern this morning was around whether there is currently enough drama in the movie so far. Is there enough going on to keep an audience engaged?
I needn’t have worried. After a 370km drive to Iquique, we parked at the base of a mountain of sand 1000m high. Crowds of people were assembled at the bottom, staring up, as spectators at a ski race would do, gazing at the distant shimmering sandy summit.

As I set up my camera, a plume of dust way way above me marked the speeding descent of a motorbike. Straight down - a ski racer line, tearing across the sand, tracking across the mountainside, then down into a dip before roaring into the view of the crowd, hammering past us towards the end of the stage, just a kilometer or so away.
Confident that I had found a great viewpoint from which to capture Christophe’s descent, I readied myself for a wait that I imagined would be 30 to 40 minutes. Bikes came and went. Cars began to make their sense defying way down the dune. Then trucks. Spectators started to pack up and leave and still Christophe had not arrived. I shuffled uncomfortably, needing to pee but not wanting to miss the glory shot. Two and a half hours at least had past. In my mind, dark scenarios began to play out. Could this be where the dream ends? Here at the bottom of this infernal mountain of sand? Surely nothing bad could happen on such a beautiful day? I’ve spent too much time in the mountains to know that bad things do happen on beautiful days and that the world, beautiful in her insouciance just carries on.
A Chilean stood beside me handed me a beer. Jacob asked me whether I’d head home if Christophe was out. A helicopter past overhead, and there, right up there, from over the ridge came a motorbike. The first motorbike we had seen for 20 minutes. I tracked it with the long lens, hoping, hoping, unable at this stage to make out a number or color that would identify it. My bladder throbbed, my brain played through hospital bedside scenarios and flight re-arrangements to get home to Mel and the girls. And then I knew. Out of the dip, into the shot I’d been setting up all afternoon, hunched over the handle bars, heading home, it was him. “Es mi amigo” I shouted to the beer donor. “It’s Christophe, he’s in, the dream is still alive!”
But the dream was so very nearly not still alive. With no more than a third of the special still to go, Christophe had hit a hole, a big hole and taken a serious fall. In his words: “I’m lucky to still be walking, even luckier that the bike is still ok”. I’ve watched footage of the fall on the POV footage and believe you me, it hurt.

Christophe lives to ride another day. He has some bruising and a stiff back, but at 5am or so tomorrow, he’ll head out for the longest special of the rally - over 600km over the same terrain that nearly had the better of him today. 28 Luca Manca from Italy will not be so lucky. After crashing his motorbike on the stage, he was airlifted directly to a hospital in Santiago where he underwent brain surgery. At the time of writing, he is fighting for his life.
After something like this happens, how can you, more aware than ever of the risks involved in this endeavour, just get up tomorrow and keep going? When I asked him, Christophe didn’t really reply - I guess his answer is simply that he can, and he will.


No comments:

Post a Comment