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Sahara

Day 25: Atâr

Tougadh, Mauritania 
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A Dakar Rally contestant negotiates a rutted track through an oasis.
Michael Palin - SaharaAll the competitors, apart from a few stragglers, are back at the airport by mid-afternoon. Minor injuries are nursed, positions checked. Stories and rumours spread through the camp. One car somersaulted over a dune, but when the co-driver managed to struggle back to lay a helmet on the dune as a warning sign the next car flew right over him. Alfie Cox, one of the top bikers, won the stage, despite riding the last 200 miles without water after a fall had severed his supply. Leading the six trucks left in the race is the Russian team, admired by one English journalist less for their driving than their spectacular devotion to the hard stuff.

'Anything'll do. They finished off the windscreen washer fluid last night.'

And Dave Hammond is still in the race. Despite two falls, he completed the 250-mile course in just over four hours and has moved up to eighteenth place. He and his mechanics are cleaning the bike meticulously.

After they've finished they'll gather with other riders to watch video footage of their day's performance.

There's a strong family feeling at work here. At heart, the Dakar Rally is about fraternity - bands of brothers united by common language, enthusiasms and ambitions. I admire their mad bravery, but we don't have much in common. Mauritania excites me much more than motorsport.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Sahara
  • Day: 25
  • Country/sea: Mauritania
  • Place: Tougadh
  • Book page no: 90

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