14th of Jan, 2014.
We are in Iquiqe, Chile which is a coastal city yet is surrounded by desert.
There is a huge dune that takes around 3 hours to walk up if you had the courage and fitness to try.
We headed off at 4am from Calama to get to our photo point. We are given 3 to 4 way points to get to the photo point, some of these way points are addresses but most are coordinates, so if you get lost, you can go back to the closest point and try again.
These points are not marked in any way so it's a lot of guess work as they can be very isolated places. Our photo point today is in one of the highest dunes in Iquiqe. The drivers and riders must come within 90 metres of this point or face a time penalty.
Our final 15km journey through a mining part of the desert is disappointing. The baron but beautiful dunes and rocky mounds at times have been torn apart in search of valuable minerals. This, while not pleasing, I can sort of understand with the demands of a ever expanding population, it's something else which is way to obvious.
For kilometre after kilometre, the sand and rock are sprinkled with litter. Baby chairs, bottles, foam, plastic bags, even mounds of some sort of plastic which have been burned and left.
I am no eco warrior but I try to do what I can, recycle, buy environmentally safe products, buy local food etc but this is disturbing for me to see. So much modern waste ruining an ancient landscape and I fear to what Iquiqe’s sand dunes will look like in 10, 50, 100 years time.
Back to work, like I mentioned before, nothing is easy in the desert. Walking with kit is tough but I and 5 other photographers head in the general direction of the photo point.
An hour or so later, the first riders head our way.
They have taken a route which is not close to me, so while I get some images, they are not what I am going for.
I head closer to the left tracks from these riders. Others come through.
Moving along the track marks I head to a higher point. It’s amazing to see the Pacific Ocean, bright blue one way, and shades of brown with sand and rock formations as far as I could see in the other. Extraordinary and disappointing, these dunes have wind whirlpools blowing unacceptable level of trash around.
I managed to shoot on areas where the rubbish is minimal like at the top of the dunes as to get clean photos, but I send some images which show the state of this place.
The bikes are starting are coming thick and fast then the cars start. Skill, precision and power is the only way to describe the drivers and riders and their machines as they manoeuvre their way through the large dunes.
I love the trucks and the unfamiliarity of seeing something so large crashing through the sand. Sometimes the competitors stop at the bottom of these dunes and wait for locals or us photographers to signal the direction they should head in as it is very disorientating when all you see is sand and sky with no reference points.
Some make the climb, others don’t, some try again others go around looking for an exit, all the while knowing they have to get within metres of the point we are given, not to get time deductions.
Two of the lower ranks riders got to the top of one dune, gave a little cheer, then his mate on another bike next to him pulls out a little point and shoot camera and takes pictures, not something you see form many competitors in an event like this.
It’s hard work moving around, the heat and the sound of your lenses grinding with the fine sand entering parts of your equipment it shouldn’t be, but it's fun! Getting images you really don’t get at other events, in locations you don’t get to see very often.
Slowly I make my way to the massive dune I mentioned at the start. It's a bit of an iconic shot you have to do when here the car, bike, quad or truck making the decent with the beach and Pacific Ocean in the background.
Once done, we get back in the 4x4’s and head back to the bivouac which we can see at the bottom of the dune but cannot drive down the race way of course so we head back the way we came, mines and rubbish galore.
Back at the bivouac, I get the nod, my first trip in a helicopter tomorrow.
Tent up, food, Edited, clean up and 2am that lights up my phone tells me in 3 hours my Dakar adventure is continuing sooner than I needed to read but its in a chopper!
If you have any questions about today or any of the previous days you have read, please feel free to ask away on @AllSportSnapper on twitter.
View Dean's coverage of the Dakar Rally 2014 on Getty ImagesSee more images
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."