Dakar Dunes Up Close. Bistro Bivouac & Peruvian Rations.

I’m sure the last thing Raff and Bill wanted to do last night was to remove the transmission from the Desert Warrior. Sure, if we were still in the race and the clock was ticking, that’d be the norm. As spectators and assistance and mired in our ongoing challenges—remember, the T-5 Chevy 2500 has transmission problems of its own—but considering this would be the third time clutch issues with the Desert Warrior had to be addressed. Robb wondered if we were still in the race, would the clutch issues have hampered and caused further problems and prevent Darkcyd’s likely finish. But that’s just hypothesizing and a waste of mind space.

Fact is, when the Desert Warrior rests on solid ground in the USA, the clutch, brakes and differential issues will be a high priority. And not because the team is planning another race for the Desert Warrior, but because the techs need to get more comfortable and intimate with the vehicles idiosyncrasies. But for now, the Desert Warrior had to make it to Lima—preferably under its own power and not behind the battery and transmission challenged RAFFmobile Chevy 2500 T-5.

I combed the passenger compartment of the Desert Warrior and familiarized myself with the safety equipment and nearest exits, but there was no barf bag in the seat pocket. – Allan KarlWe’re just one day out of Lima. Today would be my last day to log some miles in the Desert Warrior. Though yesterday too many hours under the beating sun and a case of indigestion spurred by Bistro Bivouac, I was feeling a bit worn, tired and under the weather. The prospect of climbing into the passenger seat of a race car while in the driver seat sits a zealous and anxious and certainly frustrated race-car driver, I wondered how I’d fare. I combed the passenger compartment of the Desert Warrior and familiarized myself with the safety equipment and nearest exits, but there was no barf bag in the seat pocket. And the pilot had no initial support on how to adjust the five-point racing harness, but it was clear the prior co-driver was quite a bit larger than moi. After some adjusting and support from Raff, Robb and I took off.

It was the earliest departure time on record for the entire Dakar 2012 for the Darkcyd Racing Team. Why? We were anxious to get to a media/press viewing area so we could see the leaders race deeper on stage than we’d seen before. With GPS coordinates locked and a working yet still temperamental clutch, we set out about 6o kilometers to the turn off that would take us another 10-12 kms off road and along yet another set of dunes. As we raced through the sand the Desert Warrior competently squirreled and swerved in the sand. We climbed small dune-ettes and after about 20 minutes we spotted the viewing area. As we approached we could see a spewing trail of dust approaching us. It was Robby Gordon. The race had started.

At barely 8:30am the sun was already unbearable. Dressed in long sleeves and donning a special sun hat, I was loaded with camera gear. I fitted Robb with my spare “Buff” for sun resistance and we headed out to the dunes to watch Dakar action live and up close in the sand. Rather than explain the adrenalin and excitement from watching the race out in the dunes, check out the photos below for the up close action.

Due to our early start, we actually made our arrival to the Bivouac the earliest of our adventure. With the sun still high in the sky, and the dining hall not yet open, we were able to enjoy culture, appetizers and a taste of Pisco Sour in the host hospitality tent. Each country hosts a hospitality tent where, if you are early enough, Dakar bivouac dwellers can get a hint of what the host country offers from a culture, tourism and culinary perspective. Like the rest of our team, hough I’ve been on the road for about two weeks, I’d never made to a bivouac host tent. After today’s experience, I wish that I had.

For the most part, I feel that yesterday’s sun stroke was compounded by today’s dune dwelling photo session—rather than complain I just hydrated with liters of water and though I felt my appetite had escaped, the Peruvian stuffed potatoes, pork filled empanadas and rice with milk settled nicely. We were treated to music and dance from the locals and overall I could sprawl out on a somewhat comfy sofa that was sand free and under the shade of a massive tent. Yes, it feels we’re getting closer to Lima.

The Peruvian bathrooms in the past bivouacs have been perhaps the cleanest, as well. Several attendants rush to the door once you leave a porta-potty and they clean and sanitize the cozy cubicle before another enters. But unlike other bivouac portable potty boxes, the attendants here were committed to almost a Stalinesque-approach to rationing—toilet paper rationing.

The first time I retreated to porta-potty central in Arequipa, I opened a half-dozen doors only to find each void of toilet paper. After the fifth or sixth I barely heard this meek voice from across the yard, “papel? papel?” It didn’t register at first, but then it fell on me like thunder. I nodded, “si, papel, por favor.” She had a stash of pre-rolled toilet paper sheets, perhaps 10-12, and handed me my thin ration. Geeez, I wondered. I know the dining hall crew can be stingy on the good food nights, but 10 sheets of toilet paper after a dinner at Bistro Bivouac? I grabbed my ration and applied a conservative and sustainable approach to my toilet paper usage.

Back at camp I quickly learned that I wasn’t the only person in camp Darkcyd to have been rationed. I guess to gain a little, as the old marketing adage says, you’ve got to give up something. I know Tara gladly gave up the toilet paper rationing — because she always keeps a secret stash—and always a supply of the legendary Action Wipes — oversized and all natural towels for keeping clean and when the showers are just a little to scary — her savior and certainly a life savior for the rest of us as we brave the harsh conditions of Dakar the Desert and the Bivouac.

There are things to learn here in Peru and on the Dakar trail. Toilet paper strategy has been earmarked for future reference.

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