Rallye Gazelles & Men 2018: this is how we live this old-fashioned rally
Between the driving course in sand, the navigation course with compass and technical-administrative verifications were passing the days at frenetic pace. Almost without realizing it, we saw ourselves on the start line with the full tank, half a car in spare parts, twenty liters of drinking water, food for six days and many eager to start the real challenge. In total it was just two weeks since we crossed the strait until we came back, including the preparations in Africa, the competition itself and the way back ... but the reality is that it seemed like two months. Here is a summary of how our stages ran.
Stage 1, we can do it!
Tic - tac - tic -Tac ... not yet dawn when a voice wakes us saying "Good morning, it's five in the morning." For express wish of the rally organizer, the alarm clocks are completely forbidden at the base camp and she personally wakes up one by one to all the participants. According to her, last year many hours of sleep were lost due to alarm clocks that sounded earlier than necessary.
After a brief restroom we have the rest of the participants to receive what would be our first "briefing" of the rally , where basically the sports director strong> tries to highlight key points for the current stage and some safety rules. In this case, it reminds us of the absolute prohibition of stepping on the scarce crops that we would surely be in the southern zone of Nejjack and stay away (far away) from the posts military from neighboring Algeria.
The first stage began loaded with emotions because a little half a kilometer from the exit we already found a zone of dense dunes pretty damn. It was dunes of small height (around 5 meters high) but with very changing surface and very loose sand in the leeward area, precisely where we were forced to attack them. After lowering the pressure of the BFGoodrich KM3 , Irene and I raffled this first area quite successfully getting out the other side of the first, not without losing some guidance on the way. Unfortunately one of the participants was declassified by dumping his Jeep Grand Cherokee in this first set.
After a brief recalculation of course my partner Irene guided us to the first beacon without major consequences. Finding this first beacon relatively where we expected to find it was all an injection of moral that would accompany us the rest of the day. And so we were completing all the checkpoints of the day at a great pace until we waded through an "oued" (dry riverbed) we left the car completely engrossed in a "herbe à chameaux" (basically a mazacote of sand and earth where tall grasses grow in such a way that they become great obstacles).
We put on gloves, shovels and unblocking plates, but it still took us a long time to get the car out of there.So we like it, without stress ... they have only been 113 km of constant tension
Stage 2, the disaster
"Good morning, it's five in the morning ..." with our particular good mood we get up at this untimely hour to attend the participants' briefing. I discover multiple aches and pains throughout the body, I do not know if due to the intensive excavation session after packing our Toyota or twelve hours of driving the day before. Irene is similar, so I guess it will be a spade.
Today we were changing the playing field, moving to the northern part of Erfoud and Er-Rachidia . Today's route is long (about 170 km), it seems unreal how the terrain can change, from large esplanades of sand and loose soil to steep slopes of large and menacing sharp stones. Today's briefing focused on extreme precautions with the "choux-fleurs" (a plant with hollow cauliflower appearance where the sand adheres on its internal part, giving the plant the hardness of a stone in such a way that if you step on it at great speed you destroy the car) and in avoiding the bed of a river, very heavy of water due to the intense rains.
We start the stage with a new surprise ... there are also dunes in the middle of this sea of rocks , and evidently the organization has put the checkpoint right on the other side to warm the environment from the first moment. We lower the pressures to 1 scarce Bar looking to maximize the traction and we get to the control point without more than a few sweats and some tachycardia. The day painted well and we even managed to be the first to reach the fourth checkpoint !!
Unfortunately the joy was soon truncated by a novice error : we were wrong to interpret the coordinates of the next checkpoint and we went to look for a non-existent control point where Christ lost the sandals. After this cure of humility and the calmer moods we took the route again and started to recover some of the lost time at the expense of forcing the car over the account and checking the routes less than the account.
The rush was our second and more serious error because for the second time we misinterpreted the coordinates and we ended up completely off-route on a steep mountain. To liven up the party more, a sandstorm was placed on us, limiting visibility to a few meters, a situation that lasted until it was practically dusk. With this scenario, we still had several tens of kilometers across to reach the next checkpoint and there was almost no light, but given that "almost caught step" to return to the camp we launched for him ... without success.
Later in the camp they told us that we had passed a mere 50 meters from the checkpoint but in the dark it was impossible to see it. At this time and since the checkpoints closed at 7:00 pm (we were already out of hours) with all our pain we began to calculate the route back to the camp.The reality is that we never considered trying to cross the river in the middle of the night if we did not see it 100% clear, but the organization acted with excessive caution and thanks to that we were not disqualified.
Los despistes cost us dear , as we fell to the 22nd position of the general with a substantial penalty of 128 km. To our surprise, when we arrived after 9pm, there were still several cars scattered across the pitch.
It was a very hard day with moments of anguish but that allowed us to live" the essence "of this rally: to overcome the Adversities taking decisions as a team, always maintaining an attitude that allows reaching the goal.
Stage 3: playing in the arena
"Bonjour, il est cinq heures ..." after just 5 hours of sleep, our human alarm clock brings us back to reality. We got up with an amazing feeling of having a great sleep , maybe a placebo effect of remembering that yesterday we were resigned to not being able to return to the camp and sleeping in the middle of nowhere. Today's briefing turns out to be very brief: basically knowing that there are two paths to choose to avoid the dunes of Erg Chebbi: the easy and the difficult. If you choose the easy you will be added a kilometric penalty to compensate for the greater simplicity. If once you have chosen the difficult one, you can not overcome it, you feel, you can not change to the easy one: get your life back.
I look at my companion with the small hope that for a moment she would consider choosing the easy route and before even opening her mouth and he lets me loose "we for the dick, right?" . And after this conversation of 3 seconds, without having practically no idea of driving in sand we saw ourselves able to climb those huge dunes of more than 100 meters high without losing the course of the checkpoints at any time.
So much confidence overwhelms me so that while we wait for turn in the starting line I'm mentalizing that today it's time to give everything in the arena. The route today is barely 65 km compared to 170 yesterday but with the time running on our side since the sand is losing hardness as the day progresses, becoming more and more difficult overcome the dunes. Anyway we have warned that today's stage is addictive and we are looking forward to check it out.
We arrived at the first big dune and after putting 0.7 bars on the rear wheels and 1 bar on the front wheels (maximize traction back by keeping some more pressure in front to avoid Destroy) We managed to overcome approximately the first third of the route finding the beacons without more problem than to take the blades a couple of times. But ... every time it was costing us more to overcome the dunes, to the point that in some occasion we got to be stuck even in plain. Without any regard the sand wanted to gobble the two and a half tons of our Toyota at every step and that we already had the tires to the limit of the conservative.
After dozens of anecdotes, with more grief than glory and under a hellish sun We reach the checkpoint farthest from today's route.Too bad that to follow this route meant crossing the highest dunes for the worst place at the worst time of the day ... but who said fear!
We went for the next checkpoint with the foot to table to overcome the Tremendous unevenness of Erg Chebbi and after a few kilometers we started to find several teams thrown for the journey. As expected, we also started to have problems to leave the "pots" (they call it a pot when you get into a valley with big walls on both sides and it's just as difficult to keep going as to go back). where you came from) so it was time to reflect.
Since the sunlight was consuming and we still had not reached the most complicated, we decided to draw an alternative route that would surround the biggest dunes, giving us a break themselves and the car. Making this decision gave us a certain sensation of having thrown in the towel in front of the biggest challenge, but the truth is that we finally arrived at the end just after dark, without losing any checkpoint and in a satisfactory 15th position for what was possibly the decision successful In addition, this small rodeo took us to meet a curious nomad village based on shanties that provided an added experience.
In summary, the visit to the great dunes of Merzouga is an exhausting but fascinating experience totally recommendable.
Stage 4: the marathon begins
The marathon stage would take us from Nejjack to Oumjrane in a long trip of two days. Between average 13 beacons to find, crossing 267 km of immense desert fields, mountains, rivers and even some populated areas. During the briefing we were reminded of the sleep ban in the "oued" Rheris channel due to the risk of flooding and because the "herbe à chameaux" in this area are the favorite home of scorpions and other types of unfriendly animals . They also recommended not to cross the other oued due to the great difficulty of its steep walls. The idea painted interesting ... in addition the organization supplied some bottles of champagne for those teams that could meet again at checkpoint 6 or 7, recommended places to spend the night for the beauty of the landscapes .
The great diversity of areas to cross led to various anecdotes , some that we will remember with humor and others with less joy. Especially funny was when trying to go around a town in the shortest area started to leave children everywhere and it turned out that we were going through the courtyard of a school . Luckily both children and adults were tremendously collaborators and helped us to continue the journey, leaving the school by the pedestrian door (car included, of course). As thank you and remember we left a few pens and colored markers that we used to trace the routes and some of the t-shirts of the WoMen Forward network (our main sponsor).
One of the worst moments were when we had to choose between going through a certain oue that during the briefing they had recommended not to go through or to trace an alternative route with several kilometers of rodeo.Downloading it was not easy but ... the complicated thing was to upload it on the other side, because here gravity also plays against our Toyota. Finally the maneuver took us about 1 hour well spent that we amortized in kilometers compared to other competitors.
After this express master in sapper we were forced to accelerate the pace because once again the sun was beginning to hide, and after a meteoric step for the last area of dunes and "herbe à chameaux" we managed to validate the sixth checkpoint at 6:59 p.m., just one minute before closing. With this last maneuver the organization congratulated us for having drawn a very simple, direct route end with hardly any kilometric penalty. At this time we could not know the status of the classification but seeing that only a handful of cars had reached the sixth checkpoint we imagined that the other teams would not have found a path of roses either.
The night "a la belle étoile" that the French say was fascinating. They did not lie to us when they talked about the beauty of that place. In addition, and thanks also to the champagne, we took advantage to fraternize more with the rest of the participants, who at this point of the competition every time saw them less as opponents and more like survival companions . Good atmosphere and sportsmanship for a night that once again promised to be short.
At sunrise the second day of the marathon stage began with long runs between checkpoints with which little by little we got closer to the desert places of the Sahara We were very lucky that it had recently rained and we could contemplate an unusual landscape : a large sand valley (called "slide") covered in tiny green plants dotted with some flowers. The sports director said that we were lucky to see this rare phenomenon, one of the most beautiful in the area.
Finally and without having to fight the battles of the previous day we reached the next camp with our already Traditional punctuality at nightfall. Result: Fifteenth position and the satisfactory feeling that we had done the best we could.
Stage 5: the exciting final.
The last stage of the rally (149 km) returned us back to rugged mountains , with some dunes in between and long runs of almost 30 km in a straight line between checkpoints. We started on the right foot, following a different route to most teams and finding the first checkpoint easily near an abandoned town. As an anecdote, we went through a copper mine (not indicated on the map) before a mixture of laughter and strangeness on the part of the workers. The stage led us to cross rocky areas where the capricious nature drew intricate patterns that even sometimes seemed artificial. Picturesque landscape which we can assure you that "as ugly as it is, it turns out to be pretty".After reaching the last checkpoint we only had to arrive at the camp before 6pm (limitation imposed by the organization). Therefore we had two hours and only two mountains and an esplanade in between, so we almost reached with the tips of our fingers the finish line of the rally. Always attentive, my companion and navigator observed that we could gain some seats if we crossed literally in a straight line through two threatening gorges covered with sand and cut in stone.
Although on the map there seemed to be a step, I personally did not think it was the best option but after a few minutes of debate we launched to try our luck with the first descent, getting to get down after a lot of work and some lost time. The second cut was on the rise and proved to be a much more complicated challenge as the sand rolls the stones, the wheels slip and when sharply hooked on sharp rock it is easy to break a transmission .
The situation was going wrong: time passed, we could not get to the other side and after each ledger appeared a new one even worse than the previous one. Everything seemed to indicate that we were going to arrive outside the camp (if we arrived) but a small last-minute recalculation allowed us to take an esplanade of a couple of kilometers of loose sand that allowed us to gain some minutes and reach the foot camp. table with our already traditional last minute Spanish punctuality . Laughter, emotions, hugs and photo finish !! Total, a meritorious tenth place achieved thanks to the end of the stage incidents.
A challenge for three
This has been only a summary of the hundreds of anecdotal we live An incredible experience of teamwork where each member always gave the best of himself to achieve the common goal. In this competition we were three in the team, all equally important and essential: navigator, driver and car . Never any of the participants imposed their criteria without seeking an agreement, always maintaining the good humor and the spirit of improvement. We help each other overcome difficult times and we celebrate our small victories together, as a good team. And above all we knew how to take advantage of our advantage: our differences! In fact, it was our slogan throughout the project: "our differences are advantages!"
The importance of support
In order to reach a good port it is essential , during the competition, that the navigator and driver have full confidence in one another. It is also necessary to trust the capabilities and reliability of the car. But logically all this would not have been possible without receiving before, during and after the support of all those people who believed in this project from the first moment. Thanks to the work of the WoMen Forward network and the financial support of our sponsors , my colleague Irene and I have been able to do our bit to promote diversity in the business world .You may be interested