woman's world Thu 26 April 2018

Discovering Dakar  TRIP TO SOUTH AMERICA

PROLOGUE

My name is Silvia Giannetti and I was born in Grosseto on May 6, 1972. To explain the reasons that led me to plan my new adventure, I must briefly describe the most important moments that gave rise to my unbridled passion. When I was ten years old, my sister and I always went with uncle Mauro who loved to jump over ditches with his SWM, in my beloved Maremma. As soon as I could, I seized my grandfather’s CIAO, riding it around town with my friends. This until I came of age and could ride a 125 cc. Only in 1986, after sacrificing a lot and working many odd jobs, was I able to fulfill my dream buying an Aprilia Tuareg. Later, I bought a Ténéré 660 and then an Africa Twin 750.

My love for Africa started in 1999 during a trip to Morocco with my twin sister Stefania. In 2000, unable to forget the intense emotions the desert aroused, I bought a Yamaha TT 600 and left for Tunisia headed for the dunes!
Further on, when Fabio Fasola was looking for people to accompany groups in Tuscany, my sister and I started working as tour guides for KTM Adventurtour.
In 2004, I travelled to Tunisia again as part of a tour organized by Fabrizio Meoni. When he saw how confidently I rode in the sand, he suggested I participate in some rallies. To that day I never even thought of racing in a rally, but my passion was already so deep that it took only this suggestion to make me feel the desire to try.
In 2004, trusting Meoni’s judgement and armed with my enthusiasm, I raced in the Rally of Tunisia with my Beta 400 mounted with a bigger tank supplied by Boano Racing.
Of the race I especially remember the difficult El Borma – Ksar Ghilane sand section, where I ranked number 19 overall with more than 80 racers. Encouraged by the good result, I participated in the Pharaohs Rally, the Dubai Rally and the Morocco Rally: I always ranked first in the female category with very good placements even compared to the men category.
I signed up for my first Dakar in Africa in 2008. Unfortunately, the race was cancelled six hours before road book distribution due to the risk of terrorist attacks. However, the intense disappointment for the cancellation of the race wouldn’t be the only worry that year. A fall during training caused a compound fracture of my humerus and of eight ribs with lung perforation. I risked my life since it took a lot of time to locate me and I was taken to the hospital many hours after the accident. I’m extremely grateful to Mr. Edoardo Crainz and to the staff of Siena’s hospital for their competence and care. The rehabilitation took about 8 months and consisted of long physiotherapy sessions and pool-based treatments. My bones healed so fast that I was back in no time, so much so that the doctors considered it a miracle, but there is no question that in these matters willpower, resolution and a great desire to be back on the two-wheeler play a key role.
So, under the bewildered and skeptical look of those near me, as soon as I felt I could ride, I took my backpack for a solo trip to Tunisia to test myself physically and mentally. Seeing that I was still able to stand the physical and psychological stress of this type of adventures, in 2009 I signed up for the Pharaohs Rally with Dakar 2010 as final goal.
In my first Dakar Argentina-Chile 2010, I finished 2nd in the female category and 67th absolute. In 2011, in my second Dakar, I ranked 3rd in the female category and 69th absolute. It is a rather impressive result if one considers that I wasn’t backed by a team, I raced with a standardly produced bike, I shared the mechanic with two other racers and I slept in a tent in my sleeping bag. A long period of inactivity followed due to various obstacles, amongst which my father’s health problems, the loss of a few important sponsors and a new love that would last for the next 5 years. For this, I decided to turn my attention to other matters rather than pursue my passion. However, my motorcycling activity wasn’t meant to finish there. A new heartbreak and my passion, only temporarily put at rest, reset me on my bike.
Races would no longer set my daily pace, but the landscapes would remain those of the South American Dakar.
I decided to leave on a 2-month/18.000 km solo trip with my KTM 990 along the trails of my Dakars.

TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA
THE JOURNEY

According to the trip plan, the motorcycle with all the luggage was going to be shipped in a container while I would fly in.
So, on the morning of October 10, I transported my KTM 990, bags, tent and sleeping bag to Viterbo where Ermanno and Giovanni would take care of customs and container loading. The bike left from the port of Genoa and after about one month arrived in Valparaiso, Chile. On December 15 I flew out of Rome for Santiago; my itinerary included riding South to the Tierra del Fuego, mostly on secondary and dirt roads. My trip started in Valparaiso where I stayed at the hostel used by the bike transport organizers. There I met other riders who had itineraries similar to mine: Antonio from Milan, Alberto from Modena and Dino and Giovanni from the Italian region of Abruzzo. The morning after we headed for Porto Secco, about 20 km away, to collect our bikes and after two days spent preparing our luggage, bags and bikes we left together bound south. We traveled with the Andes on one side and the ocean on the other, realizing pretty soon that we didn’t have the same idea of trip. They preferred to sleep in in the morning, leave late and stop rather early in the evening choosing to sleep in hotels and eat in restaurants that where rather expensive for me; in other words, a view of the journey completely different from mine! Therefore, after two days Antonio left the group while I stayed for three more days, finally deciding to go on solo.
When I left the group, I covered 300 km of trails along the Carretera Austral, in the middle of the country with wild animals and wild horses, and birds of prey and parrots flying over my head. Breath-taking landscapes, with Andean glaciers on the background and the stormy sea along the fjords, where sea lions and elephant seals sunbathed.
In Pucon, along the Route of the 7 Lakes, I saw the directions for a bike-only campsite. I decided to stop and here too I met a lot of riders from all over the world. Even the owner of the campsite, Cristian, is a nice motorcyclist that traveled solo for no less than 5 years visiting 175 countries on his BMW GS1200.
Proceeding south-wise on the Carretera Austral, near Villa Santa Lucia, I was blocked by a landslide that interrupted the road. The only way to head south was to board a ferry with the bike. I waited for the ferry until 11 pm and while I was waiting, more bikers arrived, and this is how I met Adrian from Cordoba, Manuel from Buenos Aires and Carlos & Gonzalo, two brothers from Lima. After ferrying to the other side, we decided to continue the journey together heading towards Ushuaia; due to different necessities and paces we parted rather soon, even if I would ride with some of them for short distances further on during my trip.

Still riding south, along the sea shore lined with charming and beautifully colored pile dwellings, distracted by the landscape, I forgot to stop for fuel and risked being stranded on an empty tank. I stopped and asked the owner of a house along the way if he could help me. Unfortunately, he only owned diesel machines but was able to direct me to a person who could, and did, sell me a few liters of gas; I would meet this person again, by chance, 30 days later and 2000 km from where I first saw him.

Text and photos: Silvia Giannetti

End of the first part

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