Raid Atacama is the largest event of its kind in South America. Familiar faces, unforgiving sun shine and enough odd-ball 4x4s to start a circus show, its like combining Moab's infamous Easter Jeep Safari week with California's Glamis sand dunes. Only here, the dunes are much bigger and the discipline of transversing their massive faces is well understood.
It all started Wednesday around 12:33 local time. After a ceremonial kick-off in the downtown Prat Plaza Square, Rick Pewi, this years honorary Grand Marshall led some 300+ vehicles out of town towards the great Atacama deserts. The scene reminded me of the starting line of the Baja 1000, where hundreds locals line the streets with camera's ready, cheering on the convoy as it passes through. This year I was allowed to drive the director of the event, Patricio Rios's Suzuki Vitara as the second vehicle of the group in front of me were the ATVs and dirt bikes. Patricio rode with Rick to point out the appropriate route out of the city. It was truly a parade of 4x4s, the police stopped traffic and Everyone waved Chilean flags and honked horns to express enthusiasm for the annual vehicular exodus.
Once at the start of the dunes the group stopped to air down. The fun was about to start!
Come back for more photos tomorrow.