Joined: Feb 2008
Location: Lima, Perú
Well, in that case have some more:
The route wound it way up, higher along this ridge from hell. The sides were ridiculously steep making it imperative to keep to a worn-out track in many places, and this varied between soft, soft sand with no traction and very rocky areas with plenty of traction. Finding the balance was not easy.
The steep, rocky bits especially took it's toll on us. Guys were coming off everywhere, it was carnage out there - Wait- Let me rephrase that, three guys were managing just fine, I was managing average to okay, but it wasn't pretty, and the other three who had also never been here before were coming off all over the place. I know it was selfish but I felt a great relief, these three guys were the same rock-solid riders who could make no mistakes on all my other rides with them; now I was doing better, and it felt great. They were human after all! Each time we came off, it was a battle to get sorted out: Picking the bike up without it sliding off down the mountain was always challenging. Then its was a battle to get the darn thing back down to some suitably level place to turn around and try another attack. After all this effort it was heartbreaking only to come off again perhaps 3 metres further on. This started to wear on both the guys and the bikes fast.
Water became scarce, Fabio's bike also started to give problems, and kept cutting out as well - some or other fuel issue. We asked our leaders, "How much further, socio?"
"Ah, not much further, it gets much easier as we go."
"Ooh, I don't know. Some of us have to get back early, and this bike is giving us problems."
"Noo, its only two little hills, easier than this one, and then its all downhill from there."
Foolishly we all listened, an the conversation was repeated a few times through the day. We rode on,
and on. More steep rocky slopes, it seemed never ending. At least there were some level bits (if you could call it level!) in between, and occasionally even a downhill to do. Guys still falling off everywhere, now with no water, in the hot desert sun, sucking air like oxygen theives. We all started helping one another, and fatigue was becoming a serious problem, I know I was beginning to really battle with dehydration. Every time someone came off, the train stopped, some could rest, while others who were closest helped out. We always stayed in the group, getting caught out here in the open was not really an option worth considering. Going back was now almost not an option, we were committed to riding this through.
The one bloke (I forget his name now, sorry), who probably rode the best out of all of us told me he came off on this route the last time, and he ended upside down on his back, facing dowhill just above a cliff, with a mild concussion and three ribs broken close to the spine. They had to use bike straps to pull the bike up the mountain, and he had no option but to ride down with his injuries. Self-rescue out here is the order of the day, and you are intensly aware of it when you ride. I was focusing on my new rule: Crashing is not allowed, especially seeing I have committed so much to the Dos Sertoes already. It worked well and all my offs were minor and injury free.
Finally we made it to the top after more promises about the easy way on turned out to be false. The view was spectacular, with some dizzying drop-offs on both sides. Still it was the hope that drove some of us on. By now things were really rough, we must have spent an hour or more near the summit, rescuing bikes, or just waiting for someone to rest enough to press on without going off the precipice. Amazing to think that we literally ridden up a mountain to an altitude of 1,050m from 50m! Thats as high as Table Mountain in South Africa!
Unfortunately my camera battery died here, so I don't have any of footage of some of the most radical downhill riding I have ever done. I have some video as of the climbs and stuff as well, would any of you be keen to see it?
But first we had a couple more technical climbs to manage. The field spread out a little here, more out of self-preservation than anything else: Hanging around in the boiling sun was becoming a problem too, we had to cool down and to cool down we had to get moving. It was a good thing too, because people were getting to the stage of tossing down their bikes and giving up. We cold have gotten a couple of KTM's really cheaply had we tried. Only getting it out of there was included in the price! :biggrin: Seriously, the only reason guys did not give in was because a 40km walk in the mountains with no water just was not going to be succesful, and there was no-one around to lift the poor guy.
I remember thinking that I might be able to get back to the gas station, but I would be in no state to ride another 68km of dunes and rocks back home after that.
The downhills become something that replaced any thoughts of the gas station...how can I describe them? Picture a slope 300m high basically at the angle of repose (37 degrees) covered with rocks and sandy bits. We went straight down a couple of these. I learnt quickly that standing equals coming off over the bars; there is just too much on the front wheel. Sitting gave me more control. Locking my back wheel did nothing of course except keeping my slide relatively straight. This was also a problem when we had to cut across slopes because it drags the bike downwards off the line of travel.
I used my left foot to help stabilise the slide a bit. The front brake was the only thing that stopped uncontrolled acceleration, and if it locks, its all over the bars. I came off twice doing this but after that became quite skilled at literally surfing the bike down the mountain. Speed is better than doing it slowly, it get its over with quickly if nothing else, but with the added risk of losing it after the occasional vertical bit. Some of the guys preferred just to walk their bikes down.
We got to the bottom and waited for the stragglers to fall/slide/toss their way down. The worst was over. From here it would be an easy cruise out the valley to the gas station. -Wrong-
The valley turned out to be filled wall-to-wall with football-sized rocks interspersed with a few deep washouts just to make it interesting. On any other day this would have been fun, but all we wanted was out at this stage. We traversed this wasteland for a few kilometers before arriving at a whooped-out section which we all found quite relaxing after all that we had been through. Then we took a "shortcut" over a small neck to avoid following a long section of the riverbed looping around a moutain. To our horror, the other side was another 150m long ultra-steep downslope. Somehow we all got down this in one piece as well, two guys opting for the long detour in the rocks. Our senior rider Walter did this last slope on a flat-front tyre. Impressive. Big-time respect.
Anyway from there on the riding really did get a bit easier, and about 20 minutes later we straggled into the gas station. After rehydrating in the biker cafe, I felt a lot better and managed to get home unassisted through the desert, despite my initial misgivings. This gave me a boost.
Reflecting on the ride, it really stretched me, but despite a couple of off's here and there which was pretty normal given the conditions, I felt I had never ridden this well before. It also really boosted me when I found I could ride better than some of the maestros, and Im riding a wave of confidence again after a few weeks of feeling pretty down about my chances actually. My hands gave me no problems at all, and although I was pretty pooped at the end of it I felt less exhausted than I have felt on previous long days.
I am slow getting better at this thing now, and with a little bit more training in the gym and a few consecutive long days in the dirt, I will have learnt enough to give this 10 day marathon rally a good bash.
Dreaming of Dakar