My Dakar

It normally takes a leisurely four hours to drive to Pinamar from Buenos Aires, less in winter when you’ve just got the cows watching you whiz by.

In summer, traffic can make it a six- or seven-hour journey, sometimes longer.

That was our fate on a recent high-season Saturday.

We’d begun well, jetting out of the city with few entanglements. I was confessing to my sister-in-law, who’d come for a visit and was the only other passenger, that we’d get to the pine tree paradise in no time at all to see the kids and hit the beach.

Then in the final stretch, we came to a standstill. A line of vehicles stretched for miles. I turned off the engine and people got out of cars. Oh no, I thought, an accident.

Ten minutes later we began to move again, in first gear only.

In the distance we could make out a juncture. Cars were being sent on a detour down a dirt road. When we got there, an official was explaining to one after another. “Brush fire. Road closed. Go that way.”

We did and dust flew everywhere. Lots of it.

And it all came to seem very much like the Dakar Rally, which was held here in Argentina and Chile last month. I don’t like car racing, not at all. I don’t see the point in it, really. But a bit of pretending would do no harm. So I leaned back, straightened my arms and tightened my grip on the steering wheel. And we were off. Vroom!

It took two or three seconds for my windshield to become caked in dust and we couldn’t see a thing. I turned on the window wipers and the dust smeared across the window.

Worse! My sister-in-law gasped.

I slowed down and checked the rearview mirror. Gaining on me was a Renault Clio. It pressed down on us and then over took and sped past.

I slowed further, our visibility even worse. I thought, thank goodness car racing isn’t my thing because I’ve just been left in the dust.

Then again, that’s better than the Dakar racers who really do bite the dust.

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