Dakar Day 11: Chilecito to San Juan – in a wonky truck

Jan 14, 2011 by     No Comments    Posted under: Activities, Motorcycle adventures

Roadside memorials

A mere 431km, with 54km of dirt, awaits us.  But I won’t be on a bike today.  A damaged shoulder, which hurts (but not as much as it could thanks to Will’s super-strength expedition emergency drugs), means I’m in the truck.  Should be a comfortable cake walk right?  Yes, but this is the Dakar Tour, and the truck is the most impressive looking, worst performing marshmallow vehicle ever.  While the 20 year old Toyota HighAce luggage van scooted through the deep sands and terrifying trenches of Paso de San Francisco, the super dooper truck snapped key pieces off its axle, and it now hangs on by one little pin and the prayers of the occupants.  Add challenging roads, crazy drivers, and no swaybar, and it means one unsettling ride.

Not far out of Chilecito, as we watch the red mountains and dust devils menacing the highway, we come across the luggage van with my bike. The bike is toast – the end of its journey. Roger got a good 50km out of it, before it spewed boiling water over his crotch and refused to proceed any further.  So there we are, full luggage van, broken truck with 1800 lbs of broken bikes already in the back, and few options.  A ton of luggage goes onto the roof, the 650 goes into the luggage van, and we wobble down the road at 30km per hour for the next hour or so, just waiting for the truck to tip over.  We eventually make it to the lunch spot, where we willingly dump the bikes into the care of a mechanic to take back to Cordoba, repack the bags in the van, and wobble on our way.  Ironically, the best my bike ran was when it passed us sitting on the back of the repair truck.

Plenty of scary moments, including one where some maniac in a double semi trailer overtakes us with his idiot companion hanging out the window, pushing us onto the verge resulting in us fishtailing down the road.  Only the skillful driving of our police-trained driver kept us from what could have been a spectacular disaster.

The day’s highlight came at a gas station in the middle of absolutely nowheresville.  A bunch of kids emerged from the desert, all brandishing standard issue laptops, which they used to fervently take photos and video of us and the truck.  To see their excitement really brought back what the Dakar means to this large and predominantly poor country.


For those still mounted on their bikes, it was another adventurous day:


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