11th of Jan, 2014

9 a.m., we board our bus to the local Salta airport for a flight to Uyuni. 

Sleep deprived, I pass out seconds with sitting down and wake up as the aeroplane tyres hit the ground. 

As the doors open to this dry and very grand landscape we (the Dakar medical staff, media and Press organisers) are greeted by police, military and Bolivian Tourism people.  Our documents are checked; we collect our own bags from under the plane and walk to the waiting buses. 

We have a huge police/military escort!  

The airport consists of a control tower and fence so it doesn’t take long to exit the grounds.  Here the Uyuni locals have come out to great us with the now customary waving and photos as we make our way along the dusty road into the centre of the town. 

As we get closer to our destination, the roads been cornered off and VIP treatment is on the cards, very different from every other job I have done.  We arrive at the Military base in the town centre and the media centre, medical and catering facilities etc are all here.  Normal military routine is going on around us. 

Here we leave our stuff and head into town where another photographer Victor from AP knows a local photographer who takes to a restaurant for some Bolivian food. 

Unfortunately they are out of Lama steak! 

Here we discuss the plan for the day with no race action, the locals recommend seeing the Salt Flats.  This was one thing that I always wanted to see so getting a local driver, we make our way there. 

A huge Dakar Rally sculpture made from salt by 8 artists stands surrounded by flat space, and loads of tourists. 

Filipe, Victor and I take pics of this and a small elevated area with many nations flags flying in the cool but dry wind. 

The colours of the flags and the perfect blue sky make for some pretty pictures, you can see them on the Getty site of course.  It's getting later now so we head to a place where salt water sits no higher than your knee and is known for spectacular sun sets. 

Kit in hand, shoes off, the three of us leave the vintage Land Cruiser 4x4 our local driver has and head off in three different directions.  Tourists and locals are spread though out the watered area and I am shooting away. 

Its stunning and surreal, the vast space, the colours and the sheer flatness of this area leaves me breathless, and not just because its over 3500 metres above sea level! 

The sun set seems to last for ages and you are engulfed in light.  Reds, Yellows, Oranges from the sun in front both above and below from the reflection in the water, above the sky is a beautiful blue and behind you the mountain ranges light up from the golden light, the clouds fluffy white lined with oranges of the distant sun. 

It a photographer paradise! 

There are photos in every direction. Its the first time as a photographer with anything close to this light, I stop at moments, put the cameras down and just take in the spectacle. 

Maybe because in other places I have been, sunsets do not last this long but either way, I am in awe of this place. 

As the light faded I head back the 4x4, trying to take what I have just witnessed in.  Victor and Filipe arrive within minutes are we are all showing each other photos and exchanging experiences, all amazed at what we have just seen. 

As we make our way back, hungry and exhausted, we have a great surprise, the Dakar media team have got us a hotel for the night. 

We head back, its after 1am now and the internet is down so I do my edit and will wait until tomorrow morning to post images I am very proud off. 

This town apparently is running on empty, not only from the Dakar crew but from all the surrounding area local coming in to see the show, so telecommunications, food supplies, taxis are all super busy to just plain not working. 

Tomorrow, the bikes come into town with the Bolivian President, Evo Morales making an appearance so it seems like every Bolivian journalist and photographer is here as well.

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

  • UYUNI, BOLIVIA - JANUARY 11: A local man rides his bicycle as the sun sets over the Salar de Uyuni of Uyuni Salt Flat during Day 7 of the 2014 Dakar Rally on January 11, 2014 in Uyuni, Bolivia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • UYUNI, BOLIVIA - JANUARY 11: Soldiers at Denodado y Aguerrido RI-4 LOA Military Base sit in the shade during Day 7 of the 2014 Dakar Rally on January 11, 2014 in Uyuni, Bolivia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • UYUNI, BOLIVIA - JANUARY 11: One of the artists involved poses near the large sculpture representing the Dakar Rally made using salt blocks he helped make in the Salar de Uyuni or Uyuni Salt Flat during Day 7 of the 2014 Dakar Rally on January 11, 2014 in Uyuni, Bolivia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • UYUNI, BOLIVIA - JANUARY 11: Tourists pose near the large sculpture representing the Dakar Rally made using salt blocks in the Salar de Uyuni or Uyuni Salt Flat during Day 7 of the 2014 Dakar Rally on January 11, 2014 in Uyuni, Bolivia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • UYUNI, BOLIVIA - JANUARY 11: Tourists enjoy the sun set over the Salar de Uyuni or Uyuni Salt Flat during Day 7 of the 2014 Dakar Rally on January 11, 2014 in Uyuni, Bolivia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • UYUNI, BOLIVIA - JANUARY 11: Tourists enjoy the sun set over the Salar de Uyuni or Uyuni Salt Flat during Day 7 of the 2014 Dakar Rally on January 11, 2014 in Uyuni, Bolivia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)
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  • Dean Mouhtaropoulos is a Sports Photographer for Getty Images. Follow him on Twitter at @AllSportSnapper
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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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