The country remains the same, but the competitors will genuinely have the impression of entering a new land. The foothills of the Andes sometimes take on a far west appearance, and this is indeed the case for the fabulous canyons in the first timed sector. A little tune by Ennio Morricone would be a perfect sound-track to the sandier backdrop of the second portion, where the competitors will navigate between fairy chimneys. In spite of appearances, it is not a cinema setting: the competitors will have to remain focused and on form for more than 600 kilometres to conserve the benefits of the efforts they have made up to this point.
Overnight, Jim’s truck was repaired in a local shop, and by dawn we were ready to get started. A good hearty breakfast and we took off. The group split in two, half of us took the short route with the dirt segments and the other half went the long way round. In the dirt, Danielle and I took our second dive, this time a bit faster, while going through another rutted pulverized powder section. A few bruises further, one of which is our ego, we made it to Chilecito. We had a great lunch, filled up the water bag, and took off on a long winding dirt road, part of the infamous Ruta 40, that could take us all the way through Patagonia to the Tierra del Fuego, to San Juan.
We had an amazing ride. 500 km into it, the lights on the dashboard start blinking. When we stopped next for gas, the bike gave up. We were two days before the end of the race and looked like we were going to join the group of many racers who do not get to finish it. Statistics show that only 20% of the racers, finish the Dakar. We were going to join the stats. Abuelito, came with Nacho and the truck, and after few attempts, decided that the bike is done. Nacho arranged for it to be picked up the following day. Danielle climbed behind Diego and I got a ride with Charlie, on his 800.we finished the day riding shot gun. Rolled into the night’s stay at 11:30 pm.
Another day, that started innocent, turned into an edgy experience. But our spirit was high, and Nacho suggested we join him in his truck the following day.
Diego tried to figure out how would we get a bike to ride. His plan fell apart the following morning when Steve decided that he wanted to ride his 1200 after all.