7th of Jan, 2014
A little tired at our 4am start but it’s a dry and peaceful one. Normally the first people to leave the bivouac, we grab a quick bite to eat in the camp site kitchen and head off.
The beautiful mountain ranges we drive through as the sun rises are stunning. We stop at a service station for fuel and refreshments; this fuel stop is cornered off only for official Dakar vehicles so riders are stopping here as they refuel before they race. Also (and strangely I might add) there are four beautiful Argentinean women dressed in tight clothing posing for no apparent reason next to the riders as they fill their petrol! Amusing but confusing!
The surrounding area is full of locals taking photos of the vehicles and cheering as normal, although it is 8am. This little stop also has an energy drink I used to buy in Oz from New Zealand called ‘V’ - you can guess my surprise that in this little town in the middle of nowhere, there is a reminder of home.
Another 30 minute drive and we get close to where we have been told the bikes, quads and cars are heading through the town of Uspallata in the Mendoza province. We find a beautiful location with nobody around. This section is closed to the public and security are stopping people getting on this stretch of road. Being a resourceful bunch though, some locals have camped overnight before and beat the security. Now they have prime spot to watch the action.
At 8:40 a.m., according to our time sheets, the bikes should be starting so I quickly set up a remote camera close to the road and pick a spot to shoot with a longer lens against a stunning mountain range. At 9a.m., there’s still no sign. 9:30 a.m. – nothing. 10 a.m. - nothing, 10:30 a.m. - still nothing.
Filipe, Danielle our driver and I meet up where only the sounds of cicada’s and small insects can be heard. We triple check the information; we can’t call or radio anyone as nothing gets a signal here. Danielle drives back to the security point and back to tell us that very late last night the bikes had been given a new route because of heavy rain which no one told us about! He says the cars should still be coming our way and within a minute of him returning, we hear the familiar noise of screaming engines in the distance. Quickly, Filipe and I scramble back to our spots to shoot the cars.
As the first car came past at such a fast pace, it brought much dust with it. I was covered in it to the point where I couldn’t see one metre in front of me. I also inhaled way too much, but I was delighted with how the shot turned out. All the waiting wasn’t a waste after all! I love this job! From the initial disappointment of thinking we had missed the bikes, the ‘kid in a candy shop’ expression now popped in to my head.
I moved around getting the advancing Dakar cars in different shots, all the time smiling and loving every second.
After the cars become less frequent, we decide to head off and drive slowly back to the security point where the race track and the normal road crosses. Filipe had to run ahead with a radio to communicate whether it was safe for us to drive on the track.
Twice we had to quickly drive into the shrubs as a few of the race cars who must have had problems played catch-up with the rest of the pack. Once back in the safety of the normal road, we began the five hour journey through some more amazing mountain ranges to San Juan, our next bivouac.
Here, our first question is to the Dakar media people about the information we were not given. It seems they didn’t know either as they left at 6am from last night’s camp site and had not been told either. Not good but part and parcel of such an event.
I sent up my tent, on gravel next to the media centre. This is not what I am used to might I add! Luckily my boss allowed me to get a decent bit of camping kit. Many of the media here and other support staff bring a sleeping bag only, no tent, not even a mattress!
Some people just wait for the information centre, media centre or other official tented areas to turn off their lights and then they move in and put their sleeping bags anywhere to get a few hours sleep but with my equipment, that’s not an option.
After setting up my stuff, sending my edit from the day on painfully slow internet, I am just about to go and get some food when my Dakar media contacts who are very helpful people, tell me I have been bumped off tomorrow’s media truck.
So from disappointment of missing the bikes, to the joy of capturing the cars back to disappointment knowing I will not be shooting any action in the race tomorrow. Instead I will be flown to the next bivouac which is an hour or so away by plane (eight hours with the 4x4).
Without a doubt, the back pain, cramped/hard seat and long journeys by road is well worth it just to be shooting this great race.
Let the Dakar adventure continue!
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