How to survive the Dakar
A beginners guide to spectating at the world's most demanding endurance competition
Posted: 22 Jan 2014
No more. That's it. We've made it maybe a tenth of the way to where we need to be and have pulled up next to a VW Amarok. He's having difficulties and looks at our Mini in amazement. In that moment I feel inordinately proud of it. But not enough to chance taking it any further. The terrain is too inhospitable, the temperature too high, the Mini too exhausted, and none of us has enough experience to know what we're doing.
The Amarok man carries onwards, while we resolve to turn round and head back. Uwe crams it into reverse and now we're stuck. Neither axle has traction. Three of us climb out, and rock it back and forward in time with the wheelspin. No good. And now the camping pick-up lumbers into view. Oh great, many children are about to laugh and point at us. They laugh and point. And then, like a mini-militia, they all swarm out of the cab and lend a hand. Two minutes later we're free. We throw them some of the biscuits we picked up earlier and wave goodbye.
We're at the bar. The one we spotted earlier, overlooking the lake. I have an ice-cold Coke in one hand, a chunky sandwich in the other. Things are looking up. It's a two hour drive to tonight's bivouac and my turn to drive. On the way the satnav takes me through a rubbish dump and has me fording a surprisingly broad river. Giovanni loses the plot. Robert sleeps. Uwe curses. It's been 12 hours and we haven't seen a single race car in action. Heck of a day out. Welcome to Dakar.