Leo Donkers is happy again, after 4,000 kilometers within a period of 3 days and only 7 hours of sleep "At last we slept well for the first time last night, about 8 hours," tells a lively Leo Donkers at breakfast in the bivouac at Bobo-Dioulasso.
Leo Donkers is happy again, after 4,000 kilometers within a period of 3 days and only 7 hours of sleep
"At last we slept well for the first time last night, about 8 hours," tells a lively Leo Donkers at breakfast in the bivouac at Bobo-Dioulasso. "We really went through it. The suffering started on Thursday when we left for Atar. The assistance trucks were not allowed to start before noon. For us, it meant 01.00 p.m. Subsequently we were stopped by an army unit that wanted 50 Euros from each competitor before we were allowed to go on. All in all we started only at 03.00 p.m. with the 700 kilometers long track. In fact it's irresponsible what the Organization did. We had to go straight across the sand dunes. And yes, just before dawn we got totally stuck. We had to remove the sand with our hands for 4 hours before we could use the skids. All this in pitch dark. Than there was a real sand storm so we lost our bearings. When we got over the hump we managed to release the truck and we started driving again. Of course without any sleep as when we got going I didn't dare to stop until we left the dunes," tells the pilot of truck number 605.
Still clearly touched by his bizarre experiences, he continues: "It looked like a battlefield around us, everywhere competitors who got stuck. At that moment the only thing you can think of is that you're there to assist. In this way that's impossible and I think the Organization is to blame. And I don't even mention the fact that I have to drag with my 6-wheeled truck about 24 tons through the sand. It really was a titanic job. You don't eat as you don't have the time and energy for it and you don't sleep at all. At the end we haven't reached Atar at all. We also had to go to Bobo-Dioulasso via Bamako, so we did about 4,000 kilometers within a period of 3 days. In the end we slept not even 7 hours. These distances are really too long and too tough for the assistance vehicles.
Especially the journey across Mali touched the man from the Dutch town Gerwen: "It was great, waving people everywhere. At the same time you see the inconceivable poverty those people live in. Complete families live in huts as big as a third of my container. But in spite of this all they are cheerful. That gives food for thought. We don't realize what we have." A silence falls before he continues: "A good night rest and a shower works. Gerard's truck is ok. It needs just to be serviced and a few parts have to be replaced before we can start with the second part of the rally. Again a stiff challenge for us; 300 kilometers track, including 150 kilometers washboard like. We are spared nothing," he laughs. Finally he knows what he started.
A bit farther onwards Gerard de Rooy talks with a few men from Euromaster, one of the sponsors. Like all the other days he's very lively: "Of course, last year was a pleasure trip compared to this year; but than I dropped out and I don't want that to happen now. Whether I finish 3rd or 5th, everything is fine for me as long as I arrive."
Who saw Gerard and Tom Colsoul during the last few days on the Dutch Television must have noticed that the team feels extremely good and might spring everyone with a place on the stand.
Much to everyone's surprise suddenly Jan de Rooy and his crewmembers Hugo Duisters and Dany Colebunders walk into the bivouac late this afternoon. "The truck is parked up safely at the Sofitel hotel in Dakar. So I hired a plane because I want to see how my team is doing. Besides, now I can have a serious word with Gerard," smiles a cheerful Jan de Rooy.
Dany Colebunders adds in jest: "We had to come to the bivouac as all our cloths are still in Leo's truck. All joking aside, we preferred to be in the rally of course."
The absentees must report before 06.00 p.m. today. If they do, they are allowed to start tomorrow, however with a firm time penalty.
The Organization reports the presence of 198 competitors at the bivouac, which means that yesterday another 30 gerbils managed to reach Burkina-Faso's Capital city. Still not present were Nissan pilots Colin McRae and Ari Vatanen.
To be continued . . . . . .