Panda Raid: a low-cost Dakar

The desire to know new worlds is innate to humans. Another thing is that is to be developed more in some people than in others, or who go missing over time as it takes us out of our comfort zone. Sometimes this desire we add the component of the challenge of achieving improvement goals in unfamiliar environments to help us break the barriers that we have set ourselves. That is what is commonly known as Adventure .

What happens is that, often, these challenges are accompanied by budgets that are available to very few. For example, a rally-raid like the Dakar , once a competition that united the cities of Paris and Dakar on a journey in which the main thing was not far from there first. The very fact reach the Lac Rose was already a goal within reach of very few. Today things have changed a lot. Neither the Dakar finishes in Dakar – now it takes place in South America -., And the adventure is as important as competition

panda-raid-36 This type of stories are born from the desire of its creators to share experiences that they have been a turning point in their lives. So it was with the Paris-Dakar, Thierry Sabine to the head, and and began seven years ago the company Panda Raid . Friends a trip to Morocco, with the minimum, the idea of ​​creating a scale reproduction of the Paris-Dakar came, but with much more like those of the early means to reduce costs, popularizing the most of the test and tip the balance more to the side of the adventure that competition .

The Panda Raid lasts about a week and takes place in Morocco.

Actually, the Panda Raid begins at the moment you decide you’re going to do. From there, it is a prep race that is as exciting as the journey itself. The first is the car. Must find a basis that meets the requirements of mechanical and reliability to face more than a week by impassable areas, and what better than a Fiat Panda (or back SEAT Marbella), with that simple, sympathetic yet rue, present in the imagination of anyone who has lived in the last decades of the last century image.


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Finding a Panda second hand is relatively easy , but everything depends on the time and the desire that everyone wants him out. As it is a very democratic race, there from mechanics who buy two “hard” and end up making a whole race car, to lawyers or pilots regular airline, no time to devote to the car during the previous months, that buy ready-made units who have participated in previous years, with an average price slightly higher, around 1,500 euros.

There are investing a lot in the car, that’s one of the keys to this adventure.

The preparation required is minimal . Just regard to security, such as fire extinguisher or auxiliary fuel tanks and emergency water, but it is advisable, depending on how the trace is raised, raise some suspensions and, of course, go with tires appropriate, with taco. We, for example, we add to our car about bacquets competition seats (so our backs did not suffer more than necessary) and an air intake snorkel to wade water areas with a certain calm. What is prohibited is to tweak the engine or any mechanical component that aims to get more benefits. It is that everyone involved, more or less, under the same conditions.


The trip

The challenge of crossing Morocco at the wheel of a Panda is already demanding, much more if it is done with front wheel drive and sections for which spent years in the Paris-Dakar caravan African. More than 5,000 km in total and a higher level of difficulty if we consider that “technology” which is the use of more than twenty years ago, that is, no. Surely if something plays an important role in navigation because driving on areas without any indication and road books and compass as the only valid instruments. is not permissible under any circumstances, any system that can connect via GPS .

is also a joint venture, the participants delivered school supplies to schools with fewer resources.

In our case we went from Madrid’s Plaza de Oriente, Algeciras, on a path sometimes sour, with a maximum limit on Route 100 km / h. A suckling pig, come on. But the best was yet to come so early on Sunday we took the ferry to Morocco, Tangier direction, and from there to the first step in Ifrane where, at the end, we set up the first camp. The good thing is that Panda Raid technical difficulty increases with each step, so that the adaptation effect is emerging as the test progresses.

panda-raid-27 Thus, with the passage of time, you start to look back almost wistfully, wishing he had gone from day when you are caught in a sandy area where up to 4 × 4 more prepared it would wrong . But when you go, and you do it right, the “victory” of having reached the end of each stage is much more pleasant.

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Panda Raid also has solidarity important component . Halfway through the test, on the third day, in an area near the town of Madrid we downloaded all school supplies to deliver in a public school, previously agreed by the organization. Our car, like the other participants, was laden with folders, pens, notebooks and blankets.

panda-raid-47 The South Road Association is responsible for distributing all materials between different disadvantaged schools, and does so in the most transparent way possible, with subsequent notification to the organization of Panda Raid, and under the supervision of the Education Officer of the Moroccan government, which was also present at the ceremony. Far from being something institutional, meeting the children was the most fun. We played with them, football and rope, and all had a surprise prepared for each of the teams, with a picture of our car and our back by themselves.

Adding the return trip, a total of more than 5,000 km, half of them by tortuous areas.

After the hangover of the quiet day, almost off, came back to get on the road, this time towards the dunes of Merzouga. How amazing, so close and yet so far for Europe landscapes. Continually we had the feeling of be unrealistic, driving a Panda in the middle of the desert , across a dry lake -Chott, in Arabic name literally climbing rocks or sometimes without definite direction; something that becomes even more difficult when you bring momentary surprise sandstorms that do not let you see a foot from your face. In that case it is better to retrace his steps, go to one of the starting points marked in the road book and start again.

panda-raid-9 In the desert time is not measured by hours or minutes, but at times . No follow their laws you can end up resulting in desperate situations. One is that when there is doubt with the direction or with the difficulty of the terrain, must be stopped immediately to discuss the situation. Otherwise, I get stuck in one area can be a delay of several hours for the arrival to the camp, resulting in physical and psychological exhaustion. But there, at that time, that is where the best of the people arises. All in partnerships, helping to remove cars from the sand and continue the journey, even if it means more and more effort as they staying trapped cars. But in the end, I’ll never know exactly how, all leaving.

After the hard adventure comes return. 1,500 km back home

Maybe the hardest part is the return home of . And not just because you have to pull nearly 1,500 km between Madrid Essaouira – or wherever they return – at a speed, often 90 km / h (which is what these cars arrive in protracted increases ) but because suddenly you leave behind a wealth of experience acquired in a very short space of time in which you can hardly absorb anything. The beaches of Essaouira, as Lake Rose for the Dakar, put the full stop to a career that is not intended to be the fastest but get as full as possible and respecting the road book.

panda-raid-29 But not an end because once you’ve participated in the Panda Raid contagias like a virus, benign, about which you can never undo.

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This article originally appeared in Curved magazine 4. Curved number is available at the kiosk iTunes or the Android Play Store, along with twelve other magazines created by Mediazines.


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