Lima, Peru’s capital, is a beautiful city – but its traffic is notoriously crazy. As I swerved, weaved and elbowed my way into the city, I wasn’t sure what would happen next. I needed to find Magdalena Beach where the Dakar bivouac was already being built, but then?..
In the two weeks before the Dakar, I’d reached out to Lithuanian racing teams: Team Pitlane with Benediktas Vanagas behind the wheel of their Toyota truck, Arunas Gelazninkas, a Lithuanian Dakar rookie motorcyclist, and Balys Bardauskas, a malle moto rider. I offered to help with whatever they might have needed – since I was already in Peru, I figured I could be useful somehow. All of the racers responded: some needed a hand with hotel and AirBnB reservations, some asked to figure out Peruvian SIM cards so they could have an internet connection. As I ran errands and reported back, all three teams offered to help me with bivouac access for a few stages. This was awesome news – official media accreditation from the ASO is over $3,500, which is easily my four-month budget on the road.
But when I got to the Dakar bivouac in Lima, it was still being built, I didn’t have anybody’s phone number, and, unsure what to do, I stood in the parking lot melting in my riding suit from the humid, sticky heat and pawing at my GPS trying to locate my AirBnB for the night. Suddenly, a rally rider appeared and stopped right next to me.
“Labas!”, -a cheerful face said. Hello. I couldn’t believe I was hearing Lithuanian in Lima – it was Balys Bardauskas who’d spotted me from the other side of the fence and came over to say hi.
“Here’s your bivouac pass for today, and we’ll figure out the rest as we go along. Come join us for dinner later?”, - he said, and tore off on his KTM.
I was tired and hot, but I couldn’t just ride away without seeing the bivouac first. Rolling up to the competitors entrance, I was greeted by two Spanish – speaking security guys.
-Holla, caballero!, - one of them said. Hello, sir.
-No soy caballero, - I said, removing my helmet.
-Oh, um, apologies! Hi!, - the security guy suddenly went a little pink.
After a friendly fist bump, I was motioned inside the gates.