Christophe Barriere-Varju, riding for Team Rally Australia, has arrived in Buenos Aires ahead of the 2009 Dakar Rally. Here, Christophe explains just how difficult it is for privateers to prepare for Dakar in foreign surroundings.
I am writing this on Christmas Eve, so first of all Merry Christmas, enjoy the family gathering, and best wishes and health for 2009!
The pre-race is always something exciting, not only do you need to tame pre-race emotions, but you also need to get all the bits that are still missing - sleeping bag, tent, markers for the road book, tape, so on and so forth.
I usually fly only two to three days before the event but this year, with the race being in South America, it is all a bit of an unknown.
The motorcycle had to be ready and shipped mid-October to arrive on the 20th of December, this was already a little strange.
When you land in a foreign country everything is new - the place, the people, the language, the way to move around, and the traffic. I suppose I am lucky because I have traveled quite a bit in my life. Still, you need to adapt quickly and make things happen.
The first stop was the apartment in central Buenos Aires, then a taxi to travel nearly an hour where the bike is temporarily located until the Parc Fermé opens on the 27th of December.
Did you know that if more than 10 cars are waiting at the toll in Buenos Aires they are supposed to open the gates and let everyone go through? (Sydney Harbour Bridge, are you listening?) The whole place sounded like a New Year's celebration where everyone was sitting on their horn to get the tollgates open!
Then the real fun began, from simple things like finding a mobile phone SIM card, the best plans, the best coverage, the access to internet in all the small towns and villages we are going to cross so that I can send you messages, from the shops to calling the help centre because the people in the shops had no idea, everything is new, the streets, the shopping hours, the food, the conversations with the taxi drivers, the shop to print those last minute stickers and shirts – not always to perfection. And all in Spanish por favor!
In the next few days I will need to find a pick up truck to go to a track outside the city to test the bike, and then away to carry all the parts to the Parc Fermé. But as usual there is always someone that knows someone that may know someone, and it all works out in the end.
For 2009, our goal (SBS and Team Rally Australia) is to give you a behind the scenes view, like the above, of all the things we experience as a privateer racing in the Dakar. We have no team manager, no communication specialist, no therapist, psychologist, or people to organise all these little things that take a huge amount of time. We just arrive into a country and figure it out.
At Dakar 2009, my goal is to make you feel part of the race back at home, with my blogs. Just try to imagine what it would be like to be on the ground, to feel the crisp and oxygen deprived air of the Andes, the dry heat of the Atacama desert, and listening to the people cheering for you without understanding a word of what is being said.
I have raced the Dakar before and I know how it feels. I know what these experiences have brought into my life, now I want to share these with all the viewers.
The race is just the vehicle we use, whether you ride a motorcycle, car or truck is not that important, but the voyage of self-discovery is.
Join me in the 2009 Dakar Rally, and let's race the 9,500kms together!
:: See Christophe's welcome message from Buenos Aires here