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Old 09-06-2010, 01:54 PM   #61
civhatch90
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This is awesome! We need faster updates!!!!
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Old 09-06-2010, 07:34 PM   #62
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This is amazing, thanks for taking the time to write this up. Keep it coming -- I am on the edge of my seat here. Obrigado!
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Old 09-07-2010, 07:41 PM   #63
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Old 09-08-2010, 07:42 AM   #64
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Sorry I have been very busy at work, More updates coming very soon!
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Old 09-08-2010, 09:50 AM   #65
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Hey Neil,

Just read the whole story posted so far in one go and I have to say, you got a really good writing style - especially for being a mining engineer!

Waiting for more.
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Old 09-08-2010, 10:02 AM   #66
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The video camera guy tells me maybe there is water in the bowl of the carburetor, so I drain it a second time, and take off the air filter. I figure itís too late to open the sparkplug now, if thereís damage thereís damage. I kick the engine a few times and it coughs and clacks. I try again. Nothing. It seems hopeless. I watch a couple more bikes come through. Iím been here nearly an hour now.


It looks like Iíll be out of the race after all.

Phil arrives and stops to help Ė Thanks Brother! There is nothing he can do so I give him the thumbs up, the universal rally sign that l that I am fine and he should ride on.


I find out later he has crashed and thinks he dislocated his thumb, but he doesnít tell me until later. Apparently he freaked when he tried to start his bike and his thumb moved backwards when he pressed the ignition. Anyway he has overcome and gotten this far. Well done Phil!

I appreciate his gesture of stopping big time. There are a couple more bikes that pass after him and then the scene becomes quiet again. Apart from us passing through, itís an amazingly peaceful spot really, the overhanging trees, the sound of the gentle river, broken only by the odd photographer crashing about in the bush looking for a better position to take the next shot. I am aware of the sands of time draining away, and am expecting to see cars charging through soon.

The cameraman suggests we stand the bike up with the front wheel in the air and try and start it like that.


We do this and it nothing happens. We drop it down again, and I have no option but to try again. This time it coughs and burps. Suddenly it bursts into life, so I keep the revs high, itís still coughing and spluttering. That feeling of relief washes over me big time. Eventually the motor evens out a bit and steam rises from the engine. Its a miracle! I let out a whoop of delight. Once Iím sure itís running okay I rush up and give the cameraman a high five and thank him for his assistance.

Iím off and he films as I go. Iím so overwhelmed that the bike has survived the river, its difficult to concentrate on the road book. Iíve lost so many places but at least Iím still in the race. I stop at the top of a rise and look back; I see cars descending down to the river. Oh no! Iím suddenly anxious to get move on. They catch me in the end but are kind enough to warn me with the sentinel so I can get off the road. Itís stunning to have these vehicles pass so close to me. Theyíre simply awe-inspiring. One-by-one the front four cars catch me over the next 30 km. Theyíre nice to follow though, their dust trails can be seen from so far away.

Eventually I get to the end of the special. Somehow Iíve still made it before the cutoff time. Iím last in but I made it before the cutoff time. Brilliant.

I still have 193km of liaison to do, this becomes a very long, monotonous connection on tar. I find it wearing riding on asphalt, and I am amazed to find myself nodding off! I never thought it possible to fall asleep on a motorbike, apparently it is! I learn to keep myself awake by emptying my camelback, and stopping at refueling stations often. Each time, I buy three ice cold bottles of water and one red bull, I drink one bottle immediately along with the red bull and an energy bar, one bottle I dump over my head and pour down inside of my jacket, and the one I loosen and fit into my fairing for easy access. I use this one to dump down my jacket when I get drowsy on the road. The cooling effect of this is tremendous, even in the 40 degree heat. It works pretty well and I try and I do this as often as I feel tired.

Iím overjoyed at reaching Unai. Itís a mining town, there are mine dumps everywhere, reminding me of Renco in the hills of south eastern Zimbabwe. The box area is in the showgrounds of the town, and itís an open day for the local population to walk in the bivouac and meet the racing teams. This is the way it was to be at every town from here on.


Thousands of people visit the box area, and we are inundated by fans seeking photos with the riders and autographs. Initially there werenít so many people, but after dark the place becomes packed. Itís really wonderful to be at the centre of so much attention. People literally queuing up for autographs from us. Fantastic. Unworthy heros. After todayís performance, I know Iím certainly no Alfie Cox or Marc Coma, but now at least I know what it feels like. The attention is overwhelmingly nice but I can't help but feel a little self-consious.

The support team tell us about their own challenges for the day.


The dust was appalling and very dangerous apparently. It was impossible for them to overtake the big trucks, they had zero visibility often but were to afraid to stop in case a truck behind them rammed them from behind.


The Kombi overheated again. The air filters had to be replaced.

Then they met up with the polish support guys (Kuba Przygonski & team) in some or other town, and asked for directions. Des goes up to this huge truck and talks to the driver.


Iím talking about this support truck, the one that won the truck category of the 2006 Dakar.

Des brightly introduced himself to the driver saying, ďHey! Wow! Thatís an awesome truck you have there!Ē The truck driver leaned out of his window with this dour, frowning face and responded with a deep and very serious ďI know.Ē
ďOk thenÖHa, ha. Ahem, we are lost, to do you which way it is out of town?Ē
ďYes, my navigator who you cannot see says itís that way.Ē
ďI see. Thanks,Ē Des replied, the a little bit stumped by the super serious conversation. Not to be out-done, Des leapt into the Kombi and raced away, the challenge was on. In about 2 seconds the truck had passed them but made a wrong turn shortly after that. By this time Des and team had cottoned onto the right route and had another head start, but were apparently nearly killed by this monster vehicle charging out of another road that forked back onto the main one, pipping them to the post as they left town. Good thing too, imagine the story we had beaten these hard men in our 73 Kombi!


Once out of town onto good roads again, views were good, and


There was even some wildlife to be seen. The DD & I felt like we were back in South Africa.

Back at the bivouac there is a carnival atmostphere. Actually, the bivoac always seems to be like that. The word that pperhaps best describes the bivouac is a circus. One really screwed up, insane, demented circus, filled with crazy men and even some women who have a passion for cars, trucks and bikes. No wonder its such a spectacle. Later in the night, the mechanics need to do some work on Mauroís quad, the frame needs some work.


Out comes the angle grinder, URO rally-style! Being a mining guy, conscious of safety regulations and procedures, this was quite an eye opener for me. I couldnít help but laugh Ė No gloves, no safety shoes and who needs eye protection!? Fire extinguisher? Hah! Fire extinguishers are for sissies. Is the area safe to work? Of course not! But somehow, the job gets done all right without anyone losing eyes or limbs and without burning down the bivouac either. Stunning.






We try our best to concentrate on our road books,



while mechanics work hard on the bikes, much to the amusement of the others, and of course in front of lots and lots of spectators.


DD tries out a new G-string. Its a carnival mode here.


Later a young lad gets to sit on it. He is delighted. The poor boy; if only he knew where it had been!

At the briefing it is confirmed I came last. Iím still beaming that I came in on time. Phil and especially Dave did very well. Phils hand is very sore but he thinks he can make it tomorrow. At least his thumb seems to be operating okay, but itís still pretty sore and swollen.


The dayís result.
For those interested , the full results are HERE.

Three pilots Did Not Finish (DNF) the stage. Although there were some crashes, no pilots are officially listed as DNF. In Sertűes you can start the next day with a penalty if you do not finish.
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Old 09-08-2010, 10:48 AM   #67
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I am so relieved you got that bike running!
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Old 09-08-2010, 03:17 PM   #68
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Originally Posted by Bluebull2007


I find out later he has crashed and thinks he dislocated his thumb, but he doesn’t tell me until later. Apparently he freaked when he tried to start his bike and his thumb moved backwards when he pressed the ignition. Anyway he has overcome and gotten this far. Well done Phil!
Yikes, I never realized how dangerous E-start buttons are. Here I have been pressing the button, totally unaware of the risks.

Loving the story Neil.
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Old 09-08-2010, 09:33 PM   #69
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Stage 3 Unai to Alto Paražso

29km - Initial Liaison
214km Ė Special Stage
192km Ė Final Liaison



We are woken up to the usual sound of bikes warming up, I remind myself that would make a great ring tone or alarm.




Marcelo is out an about on his little scooter looking for breakfast.




Dave talks to Des about problems he is experiencing on his bike. Des looks concerned.




Getting prepped after breakfast. Randall does the paramedic thing with Philís thumb.





He going to try and ride with his ruined thumb. Go Phil! Notice the fancy anti-blister webbing he is using. I don't have that stuff, but its okay because I have nicely worn callouses on my hands - For me the best solution!




As I climb onto my springbokkie, I feel nervous for the fourth day in a row. Yet yesterday afternoon I was fine, so relaxed and happy. I realize Iím still allowing myself to get very intimidated by the unknown even though I know the outcome is not in my hands. Every night it builds up and the next day I find myself decidedly anxious. Iím quite angry with myself for allowing these feelings of insecurity to get to me because my job has taught me otherwise, and I have been very successful in that. This is not my job, and although Iím riding well most of the time, I am way out of my comfort zone. Everyone around me, the riders are all so professional, so focused. Even Phil & Dave who are also doing their first rally seem so calm and professional in everything they do. They do it faster than me, they are also more organized than me. Iím thankful for them though, because they were always encouraging me, always positive, when they speak to me.



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Old 09-08-2010, 09:36 PM   #70
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I realize experience does have something to do with it, so I take a deep breath, decide pull myself together, ignore that pang in my stomach and do my best to patiently wait for DD to finish with the camera so I can get on to the start, something I really want to do with a sense of urgency. While he finishes his shots I put on a brave face even though I'm not feeling brave at all. Actually, I feel a bit guilty for being so impatient with him.

The scenery in this area is really spectacular. Itís an area of bushveldt overshadowed by the towering cliffs set of a karst landscape. The cliffs form little mountains and the road leads into and between these mountains. Astonishingly beautiful. But there is no time to admire the scenery we have a race to run.

I start, determined to make up for yesterdayís poor performance. We are riding straight into the rising sun and itís very dusty so visibility is low. The road is very rocky and covered by a thick fine dust called fesh-fesh. Itís tricky riding through this stuff because you slam into rocks and things hidden in it, and itís so thick it really plays around with bike, almost toying with it as one rides through it. It requires concentration and effort to keep the bike upright and in the right direction. Iím hammering along, and in my eagerness and poor visibility, I notice too late that Iíve sped through a radar or speed controlled zone. Damn! Iím going to pick a penalty for this lack Iím sure. Nothing I can do about it now. I have time to think about it and I conclude that this is a result of not marking the speed zones well enough in my road book, as well as plain inexperience. I really need to learn to read these road books better. Itís just so hard, while you are flying along at 120km/hr on a narrow, dangerously winding course. I need to get the balance between sacrificing speed for accuracy. Slower is faster, sometimes.







We cross a few small creeks, here is Dave doing what he does best. He loves the technical riding and gains on all of us in these areas. I prefer the faster sections with sweeping curves and the odd really dodgy bit, while Phil is the easy going consistent rider in our group. I love his attitude. Itís calm and relaxed and it rubs off on me.





After twenty minutes or so, Iím again back into my groove and lapping up the kilometers, here I am checking my road book on an open stretch. Itís very cool.


We get to another speed control zone and I catch this one in time, stopping shortly after that to receive a stamp at a road crossing. We follow the bitumen road for a couple of hundred meters before breaking off again onto another broad fast road, being encouraged on vigorously by an excited official. This is my cue and I give it gas, wheel spinning my way up to 140km/hr. I take a curve and realize then that actually we never got to the end of the speed control zone yet. Braking hard while scrolling back I confirm this to be the case and scold myself for being such a bloody idiot. NEVER EVER take cues from the numb nuts on the side of the road! I should know better than that. Oh well, my philosophical side of the brain takes over for a while and calms my inner rage.

The speed control end passes not long after that and I push on, the road remains fairly wide and straight but is interspersed with a lot more mataburros and bridges. Its fast, my favorite. We stop to refuel, and one of the lead pilots in the Brazilian championship, Marcos Finato comes up to me looking somewhat haggard and asks if I can let him pass, he has been eating my dust for the past 30km and cannot get past. Naturally, I agree, and he is really happy about that. Iím happy too because it means I have been too fast for him to get past!


I get to this one bridge, itís a triple caution and I soon see why. It consists of only four large, irregular logs about 10m long arranges in twos, with a gap of a meter between them exposing a six meter abyss into the stream below. Holy moly! How can they expect us all to get across!? The only option for a bike is to pick the top of a log and ride across. Choosing to ride between the logs would mean jamming a wheel in the gaps between them. I float across, preferring to keep my speed up and my head up as well at about 60-70km/hr. It works and Iím relieved but also worried, because I know we still have another 6 or seven of these to negotiate today. Iím just sorry I am unable to capture this on camera, so youíll just have to believe me, it was hairy as hell. Normally I would probably not consider something like this, but there is a huge pushing force (the race) that just willed me through.

At least in between these horrors lie some really awesome high-speed sweeping tracks with the odd jump and mataburro. In the end it turns out to be not too bad.




Here is Phil looking good on one of the many creek crossings.





Dave cruising.






Phil





The scenery was very beautiful but we missed a lot of it, we had other things on our minds. I finish the stage without mishap, in other words very well, and apart from the penalties, Iím sure I will have a reasonable result.


The liaison turns out to be quite a ride as well. There are quite few of us who set out together, riding in twoís to stay out of the red dust. I end up with Pierluigi Clini, who turns out to be a very nice guy and prefers to ride a bit faster with me to get the liaison finished sooner.

We end up behind two quads and itís really hard to get past them in all the dust. Being a liaison we need to be careful as well because the roads are open to normal traffic. Eventually I see my gap and go for it, with Pierluigi close on my tail. As I pass the quad inadvertently moves over cutting off my line. I gas it to make the gap and slip though, unsure whether my new team mate made it. I slow down and look back and donít see much, so I stop. Still nothing. Fearing the worst I turn back and there is the guy getting up from the road and dusting himself off. It seems there was a collision incident with the quad, because they had both stopped. Lucky Piereluigi is okay albeit a bit sore and press on.

We have to split up as the road narrows after 30 km and goes up an incredible pass perhaps 400m high. The road is narrow and steep, and actually very technical, it feels like we are riding another special. Its really beautiful though and I get tremendous views. The countryside looks like the Highveld again and there is a nice cool breeze to blow away the thick fesh-fesh near the top.

At last I reach a tarred road again and I finish the last 60km on it, passing our support team on their way to the next bivouac. Itís nice to see DDís face behind the wheel and we share a few kilometers in companionable tandem. He gets the opportunity to snap away some of my less imaginative riding positions.




Avoiding monkey-butt at all costs becomes important in the long run on these liaisons.









Arriving at Alto Pariaso (High Paridise), the spiritual capital of Brazil really is a very pleasant experience. Itís a beautiful city, surrounded by rolling hills with deep valleys at an altitude of around 2,000m, high for Brazil. We learn itís a bit of a hippy hangout, and automatically I start looking around for fellow wild-dog member Ganjora.

The box area is set in an open area within the suburbs of the place, and once again there are crowds milling about everywhere.




Iím the first bike in the camp and it is still being setup, the guys literally arriving minutes before I get there.





We are settling into a bit of a routine: Randall normally sorts out a rehydration drink for me, a one-liter cocktail of powdered Cytomax, water and ice or something similar and I wolf down about 10 bananas, which are available everywhere.




Eight tents are erected in minutes by DD and he also sorts out the mattresses and personal gear of each rider, ready and available outside each tent.





Randall, DD and Des complete the erection of the ďeasy upĒ, tables & chairs and are basically done as the other guys come in. They then of course go through the whole rehydration and banana eating routine as well.





All our gear is wet from the river crossings, blood, sweat and tears, so it normally goes up to dry.



The bikes normally end up outside the mechanics ďeasy upĒ for servicing and Des makes notes of the problems of each bike as discussed with the riders as they come in. I normally double check with the mechanics in Spanish that they understand what needs to be done on my bike. They start working on the bikes immediately and on a good day are finished at about 3 or 4 am. Then we shower when we can, sometimes earlier, sometimes later. Theyíre always cold and pretty unpleasant, but afterwards we feel semi human again. Donít mention the ablution facilities, they are very character building. Actually theyíre mostly non-existent or in such poor condition that they cannot be used. ThisÖis problematic.





Normally we have our road books for the next day with us, having been given to us at the finish, and we get started on them as soon as we can.





Laurent and I discussing the dayís ride. It takes a couple of hours to go through marking the road books with interruptions, well for me anyway.





Finally the generator comes out and lights are setup.



By the time we are finished with these we are normally famished and look around for some kind of pasta or rice based food. Sometimes the food for sale is not great or too far away. Sometimes there is no food and then Randall makes us some. We eat a lot. By that time its normally time for the briefing so we go to that. Half an hour after later it is done and we return to our camp to finish our road book, make preparations for the next day, maybe make a phone call if there is a signal, and then sleep. There is no time for anything else really.





My bike is looking a little bit used.









Some of the paint on my tanks is bubbling off, helped by the occasional drop.




I also have a problem wringing the neck of the bike: Oil comes out of the breather pipe and filter from the overpressure in the engine and leaks out over everything, making gear changes a bit of a drama. The maintenance boys are going to see what they can do about that. I also have problems starting the bike again. I think the battery may be flat. There is a power problem on the bike, and I have had to turn off everything again. The boys will be rewiring cables tonight Ė looks like there may have been some short. Also the fuel line running near my header & exhaust is melting. The mechanics look horrified at the positioning and tell me I have been riding on a bomb. Then they start joking about the ghost rider. I learn that they have also decided to call me Pastrani!





By the way,this is what my nav. Setup looks like. On the top left is my ICO, top right is my GPS, this will need to be replaced with the ASO GPS and CAP repeater if/when I do the Dakar in 2012. I plan to install the CAP repeater (which has your heading or bearing) in above the ICO. Then there is the MD road book, with key refueling and control points written in on the side. Those two little wheels on the left are what you turn if you need to operate the roadbook when there is no power. Over the road book motor (on the right), I have spare duct tape so I can stick pages together if I have to tear some out for clearance purposes/ease of use.

I also have the spare gear lever, brake levers (front & back), and clutch lever attached to the tower, along with a spare front tube, medical kit & liquid metal. Bigger spanners go in behind the bash plate along with tyre levers, and all the smaller spanners, allens & and sockets go in my camelback. Dave and Phil carry most of this on their backs, but I am not a fan of carrying a large backpack.




The results are good for all three of us, with Dave going up 11 places, myself 6 and and I think Phil 6 place as well. I realize that maybe the route was a little more technical than I thought, because I actually thought I did better than I ended up. But there you go, thats rally. Dave still holds 3rd in his class!

I have a lot of work to do to climb in the rankings. But the rally has just begun. There are still seven steps to go. This step also marks the end of those riding the Sertűes Series, the guys on the big KTM's.

From here on we are told the really rally begins, and things are going to get more difficult and challenging. Tomorrows stage is described like this: "This special has all sortsof terrain. it begins downhill with some erosion, followed by slow roads and log bridges and lots of rocks. The final part is more beautiful with tight stretches on farms and river crossings with rocks and sand. The technical level is high.

Little did we know it would also prove to be a day of carnage.

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Old 09-08-2010, 10:24 PM   #71
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Old 09-08-2010, 11:29 PM   #72
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Really well written. Love it!

Thank you for taking the time to share.
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Old 09-09-2010, 06:28 AM   #73
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Old 09-09-2010, 07:18 AM   #74
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Great storytelling, Neil! You've got a good memory.

Cheers,
Dave
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Old 09-09-2010, 07:24 AM   #75
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Originally Posted by GSNorCal
Great storytelling, Neil! You've got a good memory.

Cheers,
Dave
Thanks Dave! BTW, I hope you dont mind me linking some of your photos on Smugmug!!

BTW 2: Do you know where our bikes are at the moment?
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