Thursday, February 05, 2009

Phantasmic adventures over the roads of maddening distance


Associated with born nutcases obsessed with wheels and riding or driving them over the roughest terrain imaginable, at the fastest possible speed.

Having purchased three DVD's in recent weeks, I have been following the series called "Race to Dakar" which is one of a set of three armchair travelogues by Charley Boorman and his team of savvy adventure entrepreneurs.

The first dream was to travel east from London to New York over land on three motorcycles. That epic was filmed and became the documentary series "Long way round" and featured Charley's best mate, the affable and oddly laconic Ewan McGregor.

The third motorcyclist was the impossibly impetuous cameraman Claudio Von Planta who's presence was graciously acknowledged (which to me, was kinda new really for this type of doco - at least at the time I first saw it. Usually the camera crew is presented as utterly "invisible"). Claudio is pretty much a klutz on a motorbike - or he was in the first series it seemed - but his skills as a cameraman are super human to say the least! He captured the heart of these documentaries which told grand stories of genuine courage, survival, terror, comedy and landscape. He also showed the dynamic relationships between a group of incredible men who had such different temperaments and even louder ego's but who all cohered into a Team - Capital T. Amazing to watch this aspect really.

Then came Charley's decision to have a bash at doing the Dakar Rally. It nearly killed him...twice! He broke his collar bone just training for this gruelling event. In the event itself, just five days into the 14 day, 9000km ride, he broke bones in one hand and dislocated his thumb on the other. In sheer agony, he continued to ride another 400kms to the next bivouac and the "comfort" of his team mates. A testament to his determination to try his absolute best to succeed when he felt a "failure" at this task from practically day one!

It's gritty, dirty, romantic Boys Own Adventure Series realism of the first order. LOTS of swearing, whinging men and sand! You feel the horror and the insanity of Dakar and your admiration for the men and particularly the amazing women who do this race, sometimes many times over, suck the air out of your lungs.

Charley's, and most of the rest of the team's experience of Dakar left a slightly sour taste in their mouths. Too gruelling, expensive, life-threatening and utterly MAD to be considered worth trying again?

.....Well..... maybe!!!! Many who swear off Dakar the first time find themselves toying with the idea of trying it again not that long after they're home. It must be like some kind of dirty drug or something. One that is so insane and so addictive and which is such a "bad trip" at the time but you want it in any case because it has that kind of phantasmigorical element to it that says...

It's when you're nearly dead that you're most alive!

No comments: