After hanging out at the Malle Moto camp for a little while, I left to find my AirBnB for the night. Rolling out through the gates, I felt a little antsy – would they let me back in with the bike? Or was this a one-off? I didn‘t dare ask, as if it would have broken some magic spell. Either way, I‘d wing it. I figured.
My place was just a couple of miles away from the bivoauc, situated in the quiet residential area of Miraflores, one of Lima‘s most beautiful and modern districts. Miraflores feels a little like LA‘s Santa Monica and Venice Beach mixed into one, with a pinch of Mexico‘s Playa del Carmen, a touch of Spanish or Portuguese colonial old towns, and distinctly Peruvian hustle and bustle.
Quickly, I lugged all my gear and panniers to the apartment, jumped in the shower, and changed into a t shirt and jeans. The humidity and heat were unbearable now, but I knew I couldn‘t miss a minute of the bivuoac life: I had no idea whether I‘d have the access pass for the next day, or the next, whether I would be able to talk to riders, whether I would be able to keep up, so I wanted to make the most of it for as long as I could.
The bivouac had changed in my absence. Police and security officers at the competitors‘ gate had to make a little corridor for me to pass – local Pervians had come out to see the Dakar pilots, and the bivouac was now besieged with curious fans.
Una foto! Una foto!, - the Peruvians yelled, trying to snap an image of me or a quick selfie with me. „I‘m not a competitor, I‘m just chasing the rally“, - I tried explaining, but it didn‘t matter. Una foto!
Once inside the bivouac, feeling a little like an undeserving impostor, but, secretly, also a little like a rockstar all at the same time, I slowly made my way towards the car camp. I was hoping to say hi to Benediktas Vanagas, a Lithuanian car driver who has made Dakar famous back home by relentlessly competing each year despite all the odds – minuscule budget, bare bones of support – and this year, he was hoping to finally place among the top ten. It was Vanagas who told me he‘d help me with the bivouac passes whenever I needed them, so I wanted to ride over and say thanks.
Vanagas‘ team was already there, working on his Toyota Hilux, but the pilot and the navigator weren‘t around yet. I rode back and forth from the car camp at the back to Malle Moto in the front – the bivouac was a long, rectangle-shaped camp with cars and trucks parked on the far southern side, quads, UTV‘s, and motorcycles in the middle and finally, the Malle moto camp at the northern end, right next to the fence separating the bivouac from the public access area known as the Feria Dakar where the podium was.On the Western side, the bivouac ended at the sea, and all the other three sides were fenced off.
All around the chainlink fence, Peruvians flocked to catch a glimpse of the competitors and take photos. Una foto! became a mantra outside the fence; some of the most patient fans waited for hours to see their heroes. And when the Dakar competitors weren‘t around, ADV riders who‘ve come here to chase the rally, including me, were fair enough game. During the first few days in Lima, I saw ten to fifteen or more large adventure bikes parked near the entrances daily. Most often, they sported Colombian, Chilean, Mexican and Argentinean plates, but there were also Americans, Germans, South Africans, and Irish riders around.