On leaving Banjul in the Gambia, Dave travelled on alone for a week to explore the Casamance area of Senegal, to visit the capital of neighbouring Guinea-Bissau and east to locate the site of Simon’s accident near Kayes in Mali.
He then took an offroad route north out of Mali to Ayoun-el Atrous in Mauritania and rode back to Nouakchott via the Rue de l’Espoir ( Road of Hope ).
I took a more relaxed route back north into Senegal in order to take a better look at some of the places we had rushed through on the way down. The Isle de Goree off the coast near Dakar is well worth a visit for anyone thinking of going to Senegal. Dakar on the other hand is a grand place if you are into hustlers, pickpockets, backed up toilets, power cuts and traffic fumes. Some interesting sights despite all this though.
I reentered Mauritania via the notorious crossing at Rosso. It has to be the worst border in Africa — it certainly has that reputation — Some Dutch guys I met gave up after 6 hours of waiting, scams and rip offs. My strategy was to get there at first light and get people out of bed to sign papers before they had properly figured out that a potential victim was about to slip through the net. It worked and I escaped with only the loss of a few Euros and Bic pens to the thieving scam artists on the Mauritanian side.
The ride to Noakchott takes you back through the final areas of Sahel and into the Sahara proper. The road is perfectly OK to ride, but you have to watch out for fresh potholes, as the local population have a habit of stealing the tarmac for other uses — I saw one guy digging up the centre lane of a roundabout and stacking the tar into a small donkey cart.
Meeting Dave, we both set off along the long new road to Nouabhibou (NDB), a 450 km stretch with no fuel stations — the fuel cans came in handy again. We did ask at a couple of places en route for petrol, but found none, only diesel. The owner of one place did offer me his young child in return for my GS Dakar though….
Stopping overnight at NDB, we headed for the Western Sahara border, catching sight of the ore train once again. Formalities for reentering Morocco controlled territory were far simpler than the tout infested border at Ceuta and a long haul saw us once again in Dakhla and the following day Laayoune.
Crossing the desert northwards is a different experience. The light seems different (no sun in our faces this time) and new colours and contrasting landscape reveals itself. The vast emptiness is still a humbling and awe inspiring experience though. I will return some day.
After Laayoune, we stopped in Tan-Tan, Morocco. An excellent town, with a good hotel, but apparently no alcohol. After a long ride though, a beer is just the best way to finish the day off and after a few enquiries, the hotel knew of a guy, who knew of another guy who may deal in beer. However, we would have to take a taxi ride with yet another person who the beer dealer trusted. So ensued an interesting experience of a circuitous taxi ride around town, followed by a ten minute wait up a dark alley, while the ‘friend of a friend’ took our money, talked his way past the beer dealer’s look-out and ‘scored’ a few bottles of Flag Specialle for us. Some places in Morocco are intended to be very dry indeed.
The day before yesterday we stopped in Agadir for the night, arriving in Essaouria yesterday evening. Tomorrow we head for Gibraltar and out of Africa.
So really all we have to report is an awful lot of motorcycling. The GS Dakars have both held up extremely well. No bike relates issues so far, though the tyres are starting to look a little thin… The Metal Mule luggage continues to impress, offering good solid storage space with plenty of security. We’ve shot a fair bit of footage with the video cameras which were supplied by BikeCameras.com, so we’ll have to figure out what to do with this when we get back. One idea is to produce a short film which comes on a DVD along with plenty of Riders for Health and Motorcycle Outreach resources, plus other resources which link to our terrific sponsors. However, let’s get the trip finished first.
I should also mention the Scottoilers as well. Mainly to say that 6,000 miles later and two dusty desert crossings and we’ve yet to adjust the chains on either bike. Nuff’ said…
Oh, and it’s getting quite cold now…. Freezing nights and warmish days. So that’s it for now. I’ll do my best to get a final update out before we leave Bilbao.
Craig and Dave — on the road