25th: Caught the Madrid to London flight at 9am. Back in the UK at 11.00 and home via coach and bus at 3pm.
And yet more.... We were stopped twice by the police at road stops and asked for documentation (and 20E). Paul did his "I am a Police Inspector in the Metropolitan Police force" bit yet again and we were on our way. The Zebrabar is 16 km out of town down - impossible to find in the dark, without Dennis, his GPS and chuck's bike. At this stage Denis' bike dis not have enough juice to power the headlight and the GPS unit. Animals all over the place - obviously unlit.
Mon 14th Jan
R&R @Zebrabar, maintenance on bikes. Water supply broken so showers, toilets, etc not working!! Lots of other travellers to talk to: mainly German & British plus NL, Swiss + 1 (solo) French-Canadian cyclist (Delphine) on her first trip to Africa. Delphine ran out of money in Mauritania, only to be offered a lift on the back of Mika's bike to a Bank in Senegal. Both she and Mika (Yamaha Tenere) tell me of their experiences when they caught Malaria. The Plymouth-Banjul guys are doing everything they can to keep their cars running (2 x BMWs, VW Golf, Fiesta, VW Polo, Renault 5).
Unfortunately Dennis has had to return home today due to a family bereavement. This is a great shame since Dennis has been absolutely integral to this trip. He has done a marvellous job of leading the was using his GPS each day. Also he did a great job is getting the bikes through the difficult days in the desert. Least of all we'll all miss his moaning first thing in the morning that we're too slow to pack-up. We all know he's right really....
Tue 15th Jan M@S 21105
ZebraBar to Rhombole
You can see Jo's blog here:
PaulS bike won't start at all and so it's consigned to the trailer. Still - we've Dennis' bike spare now and so that's used instead.
[Gnocchi - one of Paul's secret ingredients.]
We passed into the Western Sahara just north of Laayonne. Whilst looking for a wild camp spot just south of Laayonne I hit a pot hole and had a blow-out. Not going too fast so no problem to stop. Dennis changed the tube in 10 mins only to find the tyre was split and the rim bent. A hammer fixed the rim, but we decided to change the wheel with Steve's spares bike. Another more serious problem with my bike was also found - a broken exhaust manifold. The same problem was also found on Chuck and Steve's bike - the same as happened on Paul's bike earlier in the week.
So now we need to get 4 exhausts fixed tomorrow somewhere.
Paul needed "IM" today and could not fart at all. He was in trouble for most of the day infact.
Finally I bashed my finger with a rock. Ian soon sorted me out with a plaster.
Mileage at start: 20114 No GSM
100 miles with no exhaust - no problem.... The bike dealer at Boujdour dropped everything to fix-up all the broken exhausts. He was ably assisted by a 12 year old who was totally combortable yeilding spanners. The mechanic had my exhaust off in 5 minutes and dissapeared round the corner to the brazer who joined the 2 seperate pieces with great skill. The beaming 12 year old duly refitted said exhaust and my bike was done. All within 30 mins! A similar process was repeated for the other 3 broken exhausts. Not bad eh?
Whilst waiting - it's best to be on hand to chivy the tradesmen on - a smartly dressed man befriended Ian, Dennis and I. Mouhammed lives above the garage and he invited us up for tea. Well - it turned out to be a lot more than that. First off he offered a hot shower which we declined so he then went through an elaborate hand washing ritual before offering sweet cakes, bread, honey and an oil. Then there was the tea and coffee, then then photos in all his best garments and then the offer of couscous as an evening meal. Meanwhile the bikes were still being fixed outside.
Rough camp ln on windy cliffs. foxes close to the camp
10th Jan M@S 20262 No GSM
We both rode the last 50 miles with no exhaust at all!
Rough camped 95 miles north of the border. Someone told us we were camping in a place not allowed so we ended up pitching in the dusk on an old quarry. Very hard ground underneath.
11th Jan M@S 20516 No GSM
Ian had a spill when running into the back of Jo's bike and bruised if big left toe. later on the bruising was quite spectacular.
Rode down to the border. Very hot and dry indeed. Arrived at the border at 2pm. 4 of the group were processed by the customs straightaway, but the other 4 were left waiting for 90 minutes for no reason. The we had to be processed by 3 other authorities before finally leaving Marocco after a 3 hour stint.
Crossed the 3km minefield successfully!
During the process we ditched exceess beer and spirits which was immediately picked-up by someone living in the no man's land. He was very pleased with the 3 slabs we left there.
20616 miles at Mauritania border - friendly reception. Lots of spirits in the customs office.
We left the border at 6.30pm so ended up looking for a campsite in the dark. Luckily
Sahara campsite - pre-pitched teepees with pillows and candles. 2 mile oil train.
Used the mosquito net for first time - just as a practise.
Sat 12 Jan M@S 20634 No gsm
Rode from 9am till 8.30pm and then we. rough camped 60 miles south of Nouakchott (the capital). In total about 310 miles virtually all of which was desert. Lots of wind and sand in the eyes. Chuck had a blow out under the blazing sun. All in all a very hard days riding. Nouakchott is an absolute tip and anything goes as far as driving is concerned. On leaving we encountered out first "official" request for money from 2 policemen. They asked for 60Euros for car tax and were adament that we paid. Paul used his get out of jail card and said the Met would require an official receipt. This caused the to stop and rethink.
Mauritania is a desperately poor country and it's difficult to see how people survive in the desert especially.
Sun 13th M@S 20940
From there we rode the 70 offroad trail (through mosquito alley) to the senegal border near the coast. this was completed around 15.30
A Park official near the end tried to charge us 10 Euros each (park tax). After some of Paul's negotiation theis was reduced to 8000 oobijoobises.
Then at the Mauritanian border there was the Police (10 down to 5), then the customs 20E per car 10E per bike and then the community tax (500 oobijoobises per person). All just to get out of Mauritania. Mileage @ exit of Mauritania 21071
Crossed the bridge to Senegal and the gateman wanted 80E just to open the barrier. We only managed to get him down to 50E, but that was too much for Paul [who later said that was the worst "deal" of the trip].
Sengal Police 10 Euros per person
Sengal Customs. 440 Euros - negotiated down to 360 Euros
Sengal Insurance (we'd prearranged this)
I now have GSM/GPRS coverage again after 5 days. The last time I had coverage was 150 miles south of Agadir. (My home network is Vodafone. Elaine has had much better coverage - though not complete and her home network is O2).
This evening (and tomorrow) we are staying at the Zebra bar. It was set-up by by 2 Swiss people 10 years ago. It will hopefully allow us to have showers, a shave for me and wash ALL our clothes - the first time since we were at Marrakesh - about 6 days ago. Its got a cult status and all the Plymouth Banjul people are heading there also. We are not sure who will get there first though since they have an Australian with them and the Senegalise police are refusing to let him in.
We arrived at Rabat around 2pm. We stopped here in order to try and get a 30 transit visa for Mauritania rather than the 3 day visa from the border. This is because part of the group require more than 3 days for their desert route there....
However we had some problems finding the place and tempers were challenged. Eventually Dennis and I were led to the right place only to be told by a tall and very dark man behind a tiny window that we needed to go back there between 9 and 11 the following day.
So that was it for the day's travelling except getting to the campsite - in the rain and across a very busy Rabat.
Once ensconced the Police Inspector then, again exceeded expectations by cooking a Carbonara - sheltered only by a flapping tarp.
The rain subsided and we enjoyed the grub, through it was too wet'n'windy for a camp fire.
In bed at 8.20pm - bliss since it had been a much harder day than expected.
Steve and I set off to sort out the visas (whilst the others had a lie-in. We were first in the queue there and were joined by lots of Marocans and other adventure traveller (for the Lisbon-Dakar).
Turns out the forms we had spent a lot of time preparing were out of date and so Steve and I had to complete by proxy the new forms. We only had 2 hours to do this, including getting the forms corrected if necessary. All the wording was in French and Arabic and so we had to work hard to get all 8 forms done. Then we has to requeue along woth everyone else. One Marocan did not appreciate that we had 8 forms to siubmit and gave us a bit of agro, but we sorted the out and thankfuly all 8 formas were accepted, together with the 20 Euros, Passport, Photocopy of passport and 2 passport photos. Phew. Steve and I left there at 5 to 11 so just in time. Now we have to go back again to collect out passports - at midday on Friday. So even if this goes OK it will have cost us 2 days!
It was still raining when we left. It is still raining now and possibly tomorrow also. Quite an experience really. Only 1 tent has been lost (not mine). I'm v glad I brought 4 desert tent pegs which are fully employed right now.
Paul is cooking chicken tonight. We're using the shower block for this... It's dry and warm afterall!!