Your correspondent had dozed off by the time the plane landed at Copiapo airport. And for some time, in that bewildering moment between waking up and still in the process of figuring one’s bearings, I wondered just how come I was in Ladakh!
Except for the majestically soaring peaks in the distance, the drive from the airport towards Copiapo town is quite akin to Debring towards Pang on the Leh-Manali highway. This place is eerily similar and it sits smack in the Atacama desert. Of course, as one gets closer to the city, the intense vegetation shatters the Ladakh mirage quick enough. Those with an inclination to remember names of places may recall that this was where 33 miners were trapped underground for 69 days when a mine collapsed in August 2010.
In the Atacama
The Dakar challenge for Wednesday was 315km of hard desert riding. The stage was slated to start in the afternoon and it was expected that many a rider would finish in darkness. Though, sunset here is expected to be around 2040 hrs, and Santosh had already entered the stage by 1400 hrs, it’s unlikely that he would be riding in the dark.
“I have been told there are tall dunes and it’s very much like Dubai — where I really enjoyed riding. As long as there is no fesh-fesh, I should be good,” he said on Tuesday after having struggled through some more of the powdery stuff which loves to clamp down tyres and is an arduous ask to negotiate.
The 220km stage the day before had seen Santosh dip from 50th to 67th. One expected him to talk about the pain from his injured left shoulder hindering him. He began true to cue. “I could not sleep well as the shoulder was troubling me and had to visit the doctor in the middle of the night. The silly bit is that I popped the pill he gave me in the morning just before the transport. I almost dozed off on the bike.”
Just the skill
The script, however, did not run to form. “The shoulder was not the reason why I dropped down. It’s got more to do with lack of enough skill to tackle the stony technical sections.” Oops! That’s not the done thing in Indian sports. The majority of our sportsmen love to hang on to an excuse and milk it for all their inability.
“I am not even looking at the timings of the top guys. My aim stays finishing and I will push within those limits. This is my first Dakar. I need to learn before I think of speeding.”
The Dakar on Wednesday entered Chile and the riders got their first taste of some actual high altitude as they cleared a 4800m pass but since that was during transport it wouldn’t have been too demanding. By the end of the day, riders would have notched up 3029km. A total of 139 bikers stay in the fray.
The Dakar was struck by tragedy on Tuesday. Underlining the dangers of this event, 39-year-old Polish biker Michal Hernik was found dead at 206km of the special stage No 3. This was his first attempt at the Dakar. Apart from the fact that he was found 300m off the route, the cause of his death could not be ascertained.
Heart is where land is
Chilecito in Argentina has all these vineyards. And they are actually still growing. The huge valley between two mountain ranges has a lot of land that has not been tamed and runs wild. From the air it becomes apparent that the locals are still in the process of culling out arable pieces.
Now, that really piqued the land-hungry sardar in me. I would suggest to my brethren back home that they forget Kanedah (Canada) and Amrikah (America) and instead look to emigrate to Argentina. Surely, the land is far cheaper and as of now the Argentineans may not have figured out that letting one of us in usually means that the cousin, the cousin’s cousin and their uncles will all troop in behind the pioneer.
They may also give us a foothold in the wine business and then, given how industrious the landed community of Punjab is, we could make another little Punjab here. Anyway, this whole wine business could do with a bit of Punjabi chak de attitude. What’s with this 10 to 12 % alcohol content in such expensive bottles?
We could have our own version, you know like the good solid strong beers back home which the rest of the world would barf if they ever ingest one, with a proper type alcohol content of at least 25%.
This Chak De wine will surely rocket up the sales back home. After all, it’ll be a Patiala peg in bottle. And if the locals begin to get pesky over what is sure to be an assured success, I have a solution to that too, yo!
All we would need to do is unleash concert after concert of that guy called Yo Yo Honey Singh. If they don’t run away in the face of such blatant abuse of basic decency and sensibilities, then you can change my name also to Yo Yo – just like all with-it boys back in Chandigarh are doing.