No respite after the dunes of Merzouga

Leg 3

This was supposed to be a calmer day to allow the Gazelles to catch their breath… Beyond Erfoud, the teams found themselves on the plateau of El Mraïer, a rather complex playing field offering a variety of different terrains.

Across the vast plateau, the teams made their way between small dunes, rocks and camel grass. The infamous camel grass is a real nightmare for drivers, who must avoid the sandy hillocks at all costs to avoid damaging the vehicle. Today, still tired from yesterday’s dunes, some Gazelles are lacking concentration and will pay the price.

The day’s challenges…

Anniversary edition = surprises. For this 3rd leg, the organization placed 5 virtual checkpoints that were triggered automatically on the team’s approach. Without visual cues, navigation had to be extremely precise. 2nd surprise, no 1:100,000 scale maps. These were put away and replaced by 1:250,000 scale maps for the day, making navigation more difficult due to the reduced level of detail.

CP3: a plateau crawling with ants

To find the best heading without making the vehicle drive unnecessary distances, most navigators decide to scout the terrain on foot.

Like busy worker ants, they scurry over hundreds of metres to find the best path to take. Once their decision made, they simply guide the driver in the right direction and then head off to tackle the next CP.

Team 113 (Elsa BECHTEL / Marjorie HUET) are constantly deflating and inflating their tires to avoid getting stuck in the strips of small dunes.

Mixed reviews

Some teams found the beginning of the morning rather easy, and were even able to enjoy the scenery…

Jennifer Kalka of Team 102 (Jennifer KALKA / Claudia MARTIN)admits that she doesn’t take enough time to admire the desert. She is aware that she is incredible lucky to be here. After her last rally, when she saw the images on TV, that’s when she realized how beautiful they were. She even said to herself: “It’ so beautiful… To think that I was there, among those landscapes, but I didn’t really see them.” This year she wants to make up for lost time.

Thinking they had not hit checkpoint 1, which was virtual, the 2 Gazelles preferred to turn back to make sure. An extra 40 km round trip, but too bad: without CP 1, the others wouldn’t count, because they have to be done in order. Better safe than sorry…

Between CP5 and 6: watch out for the sand

Team 274 (Manon WOITELLIER / Ingrid LABOUTE)gets stuck in the sand and is assisted by Team 260 (Fatym LAYACHI / Clémence LABATUT)under the amused gaze of some desert nomads. With a good technique, it doesn’t take them long to get out. Relieved to have managed so quickly, they hug each other and promise to get together that evening to share a drink.

To avoid the penalty of an assistance call, Teams 160 and 231 have been trying for an hour to get out of the sand, linked together by a tow strap. They finally make it to the next CP around 3:30, overjoyed that they managed to do it alone. Good job, ladies!

This “easier day” proved to have its share of challenges, but nothing that couldn’t be overcome with a good dose of solidarity: that’s the Gazelle spirit!