( 13,000 feet) above sea level, we came
into a storm with heavy rain and hail.
I saw lightning strikes just 300 meters
from the place where I was riding.
I was soaked, and it was extremely
cold. It seemed like the stage did not
have an end. At the finish in Uyuni
we had the shortest night of the rally. I
slept on a concrete floor in wet clothes
with two short blankets. I slept maybe
one and a half hours, full of stress,
before the start of the next stage. It
was impossible to rest longer, not only
because it was hard to fall asleep in
this condition, but also because we
had to do all the work on our quads
for ourselves, like mechanics normal-
ly do. (Marathon stage rules exclude
any mechanic participation.) I also
had to prepare the road book for the
next day’s navigation, and most of all
try to warm up a bit. It was definitely
the night to forget.
THE WET DRY LAKE
Salar de Uyuni is the highest
salt flat in the world, located in the
Bolivian Andes, almost three miles
above sea level. Usually, it’s dry and
it has perfect conditions to ride at full
speed on perfectly flat, open space.
Unfortunately, because of the heavy
rains the night before, it was cov-
ered with water. In some places it
was “only” 1-inch deep, but in other
areas it was around 15 inches. And
it was not water but brine, because
the rain water had mixed with the
saline in the soil. Now, try to imag-
ine riding 100 miles in brine. Who in
his right mind would do something
like this? The salt clogged the radia-
tors, destroyed components and had
a devastating impact on electrics in
the quads and bikes. It was like the
lottery—if you had luck, you finished.
If not, you were stuck in the middle
of nowhere waiting for the helicopter
to finish your rally. Many first-class
competitors ended their quest on that
stage. I was close, too, but fortunately
I reached the finish line in Iquique.
That stage was also hard, because it
had a strong influence on the follow-
ing days. In stage nine I had huge
problems with the electronics. It had
been almost impossible to clean the
quad perfectly from all of this salt.
Rapid and extreme changes in altitude, temperature, humidity and riding conditions make the rally so hard.
We crossed the passes in the Andes
between Chile and Argentina twice,
and both times we had to climb for
almost 5000 meters above sea level.
It was not only hard because of the
altitude and thin air but also due to
the temperature. It was - 10 degrees
Celsius ( 14 degrees Fahrenheit). I
stopped one day in a town and purchased some warm gloves and a
thermos with some tea of coca leaves.
I won’t say it saved me, but it really
I rode a heavily modified Yamaha
Raptor 700 because of its simple,
durable construction. It’s reliable, and
we know almost every single screw
in it. We know all the weaknesses of
this quad and, most of all, we know
how to cope with them. The engine
is also reliable when you don’t make
any modifications inside it. It has
ergonomics that fit me. I simply feel
good and comfortable on the Yamaha
I think it’s very important not to
modify the engine. I’ve ridden on
the same model for years, still waiting for something new from factory
Yamaha. I do not make modifications
because it is too risky. This year’s
Walter Nosiglia rode a Honda 700 to third ATV at this year’s Dakar.
Frenchman William Alcaraz was first among UTVs again. The quads race through
all the same sections as motorcycles, while UTVs take the routes for cars.