Oruro: a mud bath

The heavens unleashed a deluge upon the region of Oruro yesterday and today (January 7), obliging organisers to cancel the longest special stage of the 2017 Dakar Rally and prompting all participants to head directly to La Paz.

Bolivia has been suffering from a terrible drought, to the extent that restrictions on water consumption are in force. However, for several days now, there has been consistent rainfall in the north of the country.

Yesterday, a downpour struck the region of Oruro, with the rain’s intensity increasing at around 4pm, just as the first competitors were arriving at the bivouac. It continued to pour down throughout the night, transforming Oruro’s steep streets into torrents of water.

Established on a large area of wasteland on the edge of the city, it was not long before the bivouac was flooded and the service trucks beached in 20cm of thick sludge. An improvised bivouac was set up on the asphalt of a nearby dual carriageway that had been closed off by local authorities.

During the evening, the organisers initially took the decision to shorten the sixth special stage of the rally, before cancelling it altogether a few hours later. This leg – which had been due to take competitors along the shores of Lake Titicaca – would have been the longest of the 2017 Dakar at 527 timed kilometres.

On Saturday morning, with the rain still falling heavily, competitors and their support crews travelled directly to Bolivia’s official seat of government – 250km away from Oruro – via the highway that had now become the exclusive preserve of the Dakar! Some vehicles that were mired deepest in the bivouac, however, took a little time to extricate themselves from the mud bath...

The citizens of La Paz defied the cold temperatures (just 7°C) to offer the warmest of welcomes to the Dakar’s competitors, who will now spend two days in the world’s highest capital city (3,600m).

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