Disappointing Dakar. Salta, Argentina
The Dakar. A rally where over 350 competitors drive motorcycles, quads, cars and trucks through wild places and crazy conditions. This year, we were in Salta to witness it. Except we didn’t really.
I’ll tell you a secret. I didn’t really care about seeing the Dakar. It’s not something I’ve ever aspired to see, but as all the people around me seemed very keen to see it, I was happy to go along with them. Phil really wanted to see the Dakar. However, his collarbone still wasn’t healed enough to ride, so he had taken seven buses, over three days, just so he could meet us in Salta to see it. Sometimes life just isn’t fair.
The problem we discovered with the Dakar in Argentina was that they don’t publish the route. The manager of the hostel had a list of local roads that were to be closed, but that was all we had to go by.
Let me tell you about the day I raced in the Dakar.
The day all the riders came in to Salta, we rode to the main convention centre where all the teams had set up shop. Cricket was having her fork seals changed, so I was on the back of one of the boys bikes as we rode towards the grounds. Riding pillion, after more than 50,000km on my own bike, was a very strange feeling. I didn’t really like it and wanted my bike back ASAP.
The roads were lined with hundreds of spectators, who all, apparently, really didn’t know much about the Dakar. I know this, because they all were clapping and cheering and taking pictures as we rode by. They thought that the old, heavily loaded KLR, carrying TWO people, was racing in the Dakar. I wasn’t in any position to correct them, so I just smiled and waved at them all.
The real racers went up on a stage to be interviewed.
Unfortunately our racer status ended when we got to the compound. Only real racers were allowed through the gate into the inner sanctum. We didn’t have the right accreditation. All we were allowed to see was the tourist area, with â€œVisit Saltaâ€ stands, a Honda booth, and Dakar memorabilia for sale.
All we wanted to see were the teams cleaning and tearing apart the vehicles, and preparing them for the next stage. That was not to be however. No access allowed. We could stand at the fence and look with longing at the other side.
In the end, that was all I saw of the Dakar. The next day was the official rest day, and there was supposed to be a bit of a parade and such, but it started raining very hard, and even had we wanted to stand in the rain to watch it, it was cancelled.
Phil wasn’t himself in Salta. He seemed tired and depressed. I barely spent any time with him at all. He would sleep in very late, and take long naps in the afternoon. I can only imagine that the Dakar being such a disappointment after he’d travelled so far to get there, and seeing eight motorcycles ready to go South, when he had to make the tiring bus journey back to his bike in Peru, was a tough pill to swallow.
Even worse, there was nothing I could do or say to make it better. While of course I was happy to see Phil again, I found the whole situation very upsetting.
I got Cricket back with her new fork seals in place. The mechanic said there was slight scarring in the left fork, and that I may find that she just starts spurting oil again very soon.
I was very ready to leave Salta and start adventuring again. We’d been there for five nights, and, with nothing much else other than drinking to be done, that was definitely long enough.
The next morning, Alan, Arun, Andre, Josh and I left heading towards Mendoza. Jordon was suffering from self-induced sleep deprivation, and Ryan and Mark weren’t ready to leave just yet, maybe in a few hours. The rest of us were loath to stay another night, and so got on the road.
I said goodbye to Phil once more, not sure if I’d be seeing him again before one, or both, of us returns to Canada, and left him behind again.