A detour through the Andes

The Dakar caravan was blocked by a landslide on Ruta 9 on Tuesday and the organisers were forced to concoct an alternative route through the Andes to reach the overnight halt in Salta, Argentina.

It was around 10:30am local time that a huge landslide near Volcan, 40km north of Jujuy caused havoc. The Dakar Rally’s medical staff joined forces with the local emergency services to tend to the local victims.

Ruta 9 is the only road that connects Bolivia with northwest Argentina and was naturally the itinerary meant to be used by the Dakar competitors and followers. Very few vehicles succeeded in passing before the landslide and the majority of the caravan found itself blocked after completion of Stage 8.

The organisers initially considered setting up a makeshift bivouac by the side of Ruta 9, but finally decided to send vehicles along an alternative route – 200km longer - through the Andes. As a result, the first competitors didn’t reach Salta until around 10:30pm!

After the end of Stage 8, the emergency itinerary veered off Ruta 9 to head southwest along a long dirt road which was completely straight for 100km over a vast plateau.

At sunset, we faced another 100km or so to reach the Andean town of San Antonio de Los Cobres where the population wasn’t expecting to see the Dakar pass through this year!

After climbing over a mountain pass at an altitude of 4,100 m, we caught up with Ruta 51, a part-asphalt, part-dirt road through a deep canyon that eventually took us to Salta, which sits at an altitude of 1,187m.

After our six-hour drive through the Andes, we eventually arrived at Tuesday’s bivouac at 11pm. Due to the big delays engendered by the situation, the organisers announced that Wednesday’s Stage 9 would be cancelled and that everyone would regroup in Chilecito, Argentina.

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