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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Simon checks in- Atacama & Bienvenido en Chile


Jan 5 – Fiambala – Copiapo – Bienvenido en Chile

505 km driven today; up over the Andes and down into the Atacama desert on the Chilean side. Landscape ranged from surreal to stunningly beautiful to downright unsettling as we rolled into the stark aridity of the Atacama. Dubbed the driest place on earth, it hasn’t rained in this place for 300 years; and it shows. Huge gritty sand dunes the size of mountains dwarf anything before them. I was desperate for water – to drink, to bathe in, to break the visual drought.
But the day began with a climb up to a crazy 4760m pass. I stopped to shoot a heap of footage on the way up and by the time we hit the summit was definitely feeling the altitude.

Jacob, the SBS journo I’m travelling with was suffering more than me, suggesting we stop for a sleep at around 4500m! I figured we needed to get down and drove the next 150km or so until the air was somewhat thicker. The switch from mountains to dunes was seamless. So odd to see dunes of this height, at 3000 metres. I found the landscape decidedly unsettling – beautiful maybe but totally alien.
Enough about me. Christophe had a great day today, dubbing it the “first real Dakar stage of this Dakar”. He was at the bivouac when we arrived, hanging out in the shade waiting for his assistance truck to arrive.

The terrain was much more suited both to his riding style and bike. The organizers had shortened the special after a large number of riders and drivers didn’t make it home until late into last night or early this morning. After the horrors of yesterday’s stage, I’d say today was a welcome respite. The bike is fine. Just the air filter to be changed before tomorrow. So Christophe gets a well earned early night before a very long special tomorrow. He’s now ranked 64th overall. Not bad for a bloke who by his own admission didn’t get to train half as much as he would have liked. Was talking to Christophe before coming out to blog and he thinks he’s actually placed second among the riders with no mechanic or assistance. We may have an interesting new subplot on our hands…
You may be wondering how the Fiat is going. Well folks, he’s a little dusty but going good.

We had to dig him out of the sand at 4.30 this morning and ultimately needed a tow from a guy called Sebastien. Thanks Seb. All in a day’s work at the world’s biggest mobile music festival without music – The Dakar Rally.

Yours from the desert. Simon

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