The first day of the new year brought with it to Buenos Aires the start of the Dakar Rally. It is only the second time the adventure race has been held in South America and thousands of Argentines lined the street of the city center to cheer the drivers on.
With the backdrop of the Obelisco, the bright and shiny sponsor covered motorbikes, quadbikes, cars and trucks have begun the 9000 kilometer loop which takes them through Argentina, crossing the Andes into Chile and the Atacama desert before looping back along the Pacific coast and returning to the finish line in Buenos Aires.
The drivers managed to negotiate the first tough obstacle, the crowds of eager locals. With cameras and mobile phones in hand people got as close as possible to the vehicles as they left the theatrical starting ramp. High fives were popular as drivers passed, high jumps were necessary to reach the outstretched hands of the truckers or at least be the lucky child sitting on their fathers shoulders. Some drivers handed out postcards, with their vehicle, website, autograph and obligatory sponsors names. Huge smiles splashed across the faces of the people who received these presents.
The day took on a unique Argentine atmosphere. Entrepreneurs carrying cola, water and cold beer walked up and down. Ice cream men pedalled by as the peanut man yelled out his prices. Whenever a brightly coloured blue and yellow bus passed by my group of friends would cheer and chant, ‘Que colores!’ and ‘Vamos Boca’ in reference to their football team.
It was a parade off people over 6 kilometers long sending off the rally drivers. On the 16th of January when they come racing to the finish line, covered in the mud and dust of the South American countryside the crowds will also return to welcome them back.
For more information on the route and racers check out the official website at www.dakar.com
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