8 JANUARY 2005 – OVER THE HUMP
Tidjikja to Atar (399 kms)
Liaison 3 kms
Special 361 kms
Liaison 35 kms
Note – Click here for the CMG Dakar Glossary (just in case you don’t understand some of the terminology used).
I was in a bad way, I was completely exhausted and it was all I could do to eat and put up my tent the evening before. I didn’t do any bike maintenance at all, other than buy a new air filter off the KTM truck to stick in my pocket.
By now I had begun to talk to the bike. I had made a deal with that if it didn’t break tomorrow, I would wash it, change its oil, and put on new chain & sprockets the day after in Atar. I didn’t know whether it accepted, but I promised to uphold my part of the deal … if it upheld its.
Again, I had woken up in the middle of the night, this time soaking wet. Somehow I had rolled over onto the bite cap of my Camelbak and there were 2 litres of sticky ‘Cytomax’ drink covering the floor of the tent.
My sleeping bag had been doing a great job of soaking it up – like a giant wick – and transferred it all onto me. I couldn’t believe the irony, just when things were going badly, something like this would happen to make it worse, as if just to demonstrate that it wasn’t so bad before.
The sandstorms started up as if on cue as I stuffed my soggy gear into my airplane box. This wasn’t ideal, but tomorrow was the rest day and so I would be able to deal with it all then. Besides, it was insignificant as tonight I was going to get to see my wife Sharon, as she was flying into Atar this afternoon to spend the rest day with me!
This would become my sole motivation for getting through the day and every time I would think of her waiting there, tears would well up in my eyes. I would have to force myself to just concentrate on the job at hand and the end would come in due time.
RUBBING SAND INTO THE WOUND
The stage started out in soft blowing sand, winding between sparsely spaced trees. Navigating was tricky and it didn’t take long before I had lost the track. I thought about following someone else, but bikes started coming back toward me. Rather than just turn around and follow them back, I had now learned to stop and figure things out for myself – after all, in all likelihood they were lost too.
|Helicopters follow the action. Sometimes it’s not a bad idea to follow the helicopters!Photo: Maindru Photo|
Then, through the sandstorm, I saw a helicopter off in the distance. It was due east of me and from what I could decipher from the road book this was more than likely the direction that the piste was in. I set off cross-country and eventually found the correct path – right where the chopper had been! Another lesson learned.
At about the 100 km mark we were faced with another dune crossing and even though it was quite short, it was particularly difficult. I managed to get through after a lot of digging and pushing when it dawned on me that the bike was low on power. It had gone two and a half days on the same air filter, which was probably clogged solid by now.
I stopped on firm ground, pulled off the seat, opened the tool kit and proceeded to install the new filter I had stuffed in my pocket the night before. I buttoned up the bike, chucked the old filter off into the dunes and set off on what felt like a brand new motorcycle.
Although air filters are completely reusable (it’s just a matter of washing out the oil and debris, blowing it dry with compressed air and re-oiling it – a 20 minute job), I had been throwing them out and installing new ones at $50 a pop, every 1 or 2 days. But that’s fifty dollars well spent, if it meant I could get another 20 minutes of sleep!
The terrain became rocky again and I was afraid of damaging the bike. I was riding along like a Grandma when I came across another rider on a 660 Rallye. He had crashed, breaking off his clutch lever, and he stopped me to see if I had a spare.
|Cresting dunes can be a tricky operation.Photo: Maindru Photo|
Of course I did – you would have to be a fool to set off without a spare clutch lever – but as I began to open up my tool kit, I realized he obviously didn’t have a spare, and if I gave him mine, neither would I. His problem could easily become my problem because he was unprepared. So I pretended that I couldn’t find it and set off feeling rather guilty … but then sometimes it’s every man for himself.
AVOID THE PHOTOGRAPHERS
I eventually ended up at the final dune crossing that guarded the finish of the stage. It was slow going and as usual they had placed the final CP behind the worst of them.
Then, with only a few kilometres to go, I crested a large dune to see a group of photographers gathered like vultures around a huge soft dune ahead. Judging by all the tracks, this was going to be very difficult to cross. Dakar vet, Lawrence Hacking, had warned me about photographers. Apparently, wherever they tell you to go, go somewhere else – they want you to get stuck! Riding past them trouble-free doesn’t make for great photos.
They all indicted to go straight up the dune, but from where I was, it looked like the worst option. I’m sure they were all disappointed when rode down to the firm base at the bottom of the dunes and then opted to make a sharp right instead of tackling the dune ahead.
This lead me down the valley where the dunes quickly shrank in size. I then found the lowest point, climbed a single15-foot dune and emerged out the other side at the checkpoint. They didn’t get any good photos of me but I didn’t care, all I could think of was that in half an hour I would get to see Sharon, and enjoy the rest day together. Statistically if you made it to the rest day, you stood a very good chance of making it to Dakar, and I knew this.
|Happy locals. Photo: Maindru Photo|
Gradually buildings appeared, and finally Atar itself – I was out of the desert and back into civilization! I could barely contain myself as I rolled through town waving at the locals as they waved at me. I had done the hardest part of the Dakar! They had tried to get rid of me but they couldn’t. I had proven it to them and to myself.
Two European tourists appeared in the streets waving and clapping – I couldn’t contain myself any longer and I cried like a baby behind my goggles as I rode toward the airport.
I couldn’t wait to find Sharon, I half expected to see her at the CP. Maybe she would even be there to stamp my time card. I rode around the Bivouac looking for her when I came across the Estonian I had met in the desert a few days ago. You couldn’t get the smiles off of our faces; we never ever thought we’d be standing here together.
Then I felt someone put their arms around me from behind …
Next day …
Dakar related Links:
Official Dakar website – Daily updates of the 2006 Rally.
Maindru Photo (who graciously supplied us with pictures) – Check out their daily update of pics from the 2006 Dakar.
Eurosport – Dakar 2006 coverage.
Total Motorsport – Latest news from a Dakar sponsor.
Adventure Rider website forum on racing – Lots of Dakar threads going on.
ODSC website – Read all about how Bob prepped his KTM 660.
Bob would like to thank the following people for helping make his Dakar adventure possible:
Jim, Colin, Richard and the crew at Cycle Improvements.
Michel, Paul and Jocelyn at Kimpex.
Guy, Patrick, Bill and Mario from KTM Canada.
Digby and the ODSC posse.
The Harden off-road crew.
Everyone on the U.S. Red Bull KTM team.
And of course Sharon McCrindle.