6th of Jan, 2014.
Feeling unusually fresh for a guy who has had another two hour night’s sleep, I fold up my tent located right next to the media centre and shove everything in the back of our media truck.
My new friend and fellow photographer, Felipe Trueba, looks at me, smiles and tells me to “get used to it” as this is how it will be for the whole rally!
We are off again, same car, different driver. The drivers alternate day to day to stay alert which we all agree is best.
After five hours, we make it to our first media point to shoot the race. This journey time has allowed me to catch up on this blog and do some picture editing.
The race chair and harness really don’t allow for sleep as you can see from the picture of my travel space!
The destination is not what Filipe and I expect so we decide to go to the next location which again is not ideal but we manage to capture the leader bikes and quad bikes and I am fairly happy with the images.
Two minutes later we are in the car again for another hour to the Nihuil Dunes.
You can see from the picture the 4x4 we have, and now I understand why we have it. To get to these dunes, the roads are more like goat tracks for around 20km. I say goat tracks because no normal car would make it on this stretch plus we had seen four goats on the road.
After exiting the rocky goat road on to a dirt track for a few kilometres, we hit the sand dunes littered with small shrub bushes and 4x4 tracks. Our driver gets out and deflates all the tyres for extra traction on the sandy surface.
Our vehicle has all the things you would expect for going off road to reach these photo media points like harnesses, ropes, a winch and grip boards to put under the wheels in case we get bogged.
My first 4x4 experience is just as you would expect - bumping around and I hold onto anything I can whilst making sure my cameras don’t get too banged up.
Another 30 minutes in what feels like a washing machine and we arrive at the Nihuil Dunes and my thoughts of how much by back hurts turn to getting some photos!
It is my first time at the desert, although I realise (embarrassingly I must add) I come from Australia, a land mainly of desert! The small shrubs stop and immediately, darker sand and small mountains of dunes like huge rolling waves out at sea go on and on.
The locals, as usual are out in force with their infectious enthusiasm. Cheering, waving, dancing with deck chairs, Eskies (cools boxes for you non-Aussies) and flags - the Dakar party continues.
If a rider falls in the sand, they are quick to help by lifting the bike or offering water to the hard working competitors. Same goes for the cars or quads - if you’re in trouble, the locals want to help.
Walking about 700mm from the car doesn’t sound like much but up and down three very steep dunes with heat from the ground and above carrying most of my kit is an effort. And when sand fell in my shoes, it was hot hot hot! Also you don’t want to fall down when walking up and down the dunes, not because of the hot sand, not because of the camera equipment but because of the hundreds of people there watching and waiting for someone to fall for their amusement. The Dakar competitors get help and respect, everyone else is fair game!
Photo wise as this is new to me, I love it but I did wish we had a quad bike to go to some different spots because moving around is very difficult. About three hours in, hot but happy with the images, Filipe and I head back to the 4x4 where our driver is waiting and we get ready for another three hour journey to our next bivouac. Here we edit, set up our tents on the grass next to the media centre, clean up and eat.
Just as I am about to sleep, word comes from some locals that heavy rain could hit during the night, so those of us still awake move our tents into the large media centre tent as when it rains, it rains heavy.
1am ticks on the clock. Alarm set for 3.30am.
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."