13th of Jan, 2014

After cleaning my kit and clothes the previous night and getting three hours sleep, the 4 a.m. alarm comes way too soon. 

At half four we start to make our way around the Uyuni salt flats to a photo point. 

As the crow flies, it’s a couple of hundred kilometres but you cannot drive through as the chances of getting stuck are way too high. 

As we start the journey, another vehicle with some other photographers joins us. This is for greater safety as there will be times where we will have no way of communication and the Flats are mostly isolated. 

We journey through the Bolivian mountains and salt flats, and it’s exactly that - huge areas of flat salt with large pools of surface water, like a mirror on the horizon, then smaller areas of rocky places where small villages are scattered. Then suddenly earth rising into mountains, some snow capped. 

It’s a tough, dry and harsh landscape, and the locals are all those things but also welcoming, happy and very colourful with flags and clothing speckled all through our bumpy expedition. Waving is now customary. 

After six hours, most of it off road, we are seven kilometres away from our salt flat destination and the large group of locals on a rocky mountain side we approach are cheering and screaming a bit louder than normal. We realise that the first motorbike is closing in on us. 

From previous days of arriving too early or even not seeing a bike, we are now on the race track as the riders come past.  Quickly we pull off the road and some military men run at us with stern words for our driver. Realising that we will not be moving any time soon, I grab my cameras and run back the 100m away we are to road and start shooting, annoyed as I have missed the first three riders. 

I see that our 4x4 will not be going anywhere so I start to walk, hoping to get better spots. I try to incorporate the salt flats into most of the shots I do.  The vision I held of riders mirrored on the salt flats will not be happening!  Still, with such a beautiful landscape and nice clouds, I get some photos I am happy with. 

Around an hour and a half later, I am about 4km from where I started. The bikes and quads are no longer coming through but I still walk towards the photo point on the salt flat which I want to see. I meet up with Filipe and we walk together.

Then our transport comes by so we get back on board for the few minutes journey where our photo point is.  It’s not as good as we hoped as it was too wet so no riders actually hit this stretch of the salt flats.  We take the customary shots and get back in the car and get bogged.

Another 40 minutes later, dirty but free we head back to the track they call a road. 

We travel on to the Chilean border control which looks like a throwback to an old cowboy movie (see train picture) and on through The Andes.

Long story short, we spend 16 and a half hours in the 4x4 travelling to Calama!

We arrive after 11pm, after what has been a very very long day with not much shooting.

View Dean's coverage of the Dakar Rally 2014 on Getty Images

  • 462702079. UYUNI, BOLIVIA - JANUARY 13: (EDITORS NOTE: Image has been converted to black and white.) (#79) Alberto Santiago Ontiveros of Argentina for Yamaha San Juan Gobierno Rally Team competes in stage 8 during Day 9 of the 2014 Dakar Rally near the Salar de Uyuni or Uyuni Salt Flats on January 13, 2014 in Uyuni, Bolivia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • 462699833. UYUNI, BOLIVIA - JANUARY 13: (EDITORS NOTE: This image was processed using digital filters) A local mother and child are pictured during Day 9 of the 2014 Dakar Rally near the Salar de Uyuni or Uyuni Salt Flats on January 13, 2014 in Uyuni, Bolivia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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Editors Note: The 2014 Dakar Rally will be the 35th running of the event and the sixth successive year that the event is held in South America. The event starts in Rosario, Santa Fe, Argentina on January 5 and finishes in Valparaíso, Chile on January 18 after thirteen stages of competition. To find out more visit the official Dakar Rally 2014 website.

 

Dean Mouhtaropoulos is a Sports Photographer for Getty Images. Follow him on Twitter at @AllSportSnapper

About Deal Mouhtaropoulos
Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Mouhtaropoulos' love for photography began when his godfather bought him a camera for his 12th birthday.

"My journey to become a photographer had started and led me to the Big Smoke as I always knew London would provide a good platform to start my career in the photography business.
Working full time in various non-photo related roles and shooting for magazines and newspapers on weekends, it was then that I discovered Getty Images. When visiting the Getty Gallery, which was in Chelsea at the time, and looking at all those amazing pictures I had an epiphany and knew this was the company I wanted to work for.

I started hounding Getty’s Human Resources department to give me a role, any role, in the company. A few months and hundreds of phone calls later a role came up doing coffees, spreadsheets and filing.
Thanks to my boss, who saw some potential in me, I became a Field Editor for Getty which is like the modern version of working in the Dark Room. I got to work with the best photographers around the world at events like the MTV Awards, Cannes Film Festival, both Football and Rugby World Cups, the Olympics, Champions League football, World Championships in Swimming, Diving, Hockey, Athletics and so on.

This has taught me more than I could ever imagine and after 7 years of absorbing information and applying it to my own photography, I earned the opportunity to become a staff photographer for Getty.
10 years in London came to an end at the start of 2012 and I am now based in the Netherlands covering sports and news in the Benelux, France and Germany. My knowledge of photography has progressed but my passion is as strong as it was when I picked up my first roll of Fuji film as a 12 year old."

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