Driving the Dakar: Muddy and Deadly

Jonathan Miles writes beautifully in the new issue of Men’s Journal about the Dakar Rally, a brutal, deadly, overland race from Barcelona to Dakar Senegal. The punishing terrain, over 3′ tall camel grass, or sand dunes, or through raging rivers grinds down both car and driver. Their modified Kia Sportage had a 90-gallon fuel tank, racing seats and a stripped down interior, and a truck followed with dozens of tires and spare parts.

“In the Dakar, the dangers are obvious and everywhere. You’re riding or driving as fast as you can through unfamiliar terrain, much of it roadless desert, often with little or no sleep and little or no food. Take a dune too fast, and you can end up planted in the sand like onions. One story made the bivouac rounds that a donkey had walked in front of a Mexican motorcyclist. The rider jumped off but the bike kept going, hitting the donkey and cutting it in half. Later there are other hazards.

“About 15 tribesman appeared out of nowhere and descended upon the car, opening the doors, yanking everything out that they could. They rifled through my backpack, even tore out the Kia’s hood pins. When Darren slammed the car into reverse, then forward again, rocking through the boulders to unsettle the man’s grip on our stuff, a grapefruit sized rock hit the plexiglas driver’s side window with a loud ‘Thwaack. The window remained bowed for the rest of the trip.