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14th Oct 12′ Layoone – Tropic of Cancer, Western Sahara

October 16, 2012

Approx. 315 miles.

After an unusual late night in Layoone, we packed early the following morning and checked out of the UN occupied hotel. A French soldier gave us some words of wisdom with regards to the security in Mali which was reassuring. He also said to ring the British Consulate if any further un acceptable fines are issued. “This normally results in the Guardermerie allowing you to pass freely” he said. A good tip to another traveller I think.

Exiting Layoone, yet another Guardemerie stop check. When approaching I maintained eye contact with the officer awaiting his instruction to pass or stop. He indicated we carried on but as soon as we did he started waving his hands in the air for us to stop. I did, and walked back to see what the problem was. He immediately demanded a fraction which from the previous experience is a reduced fine for not stopping. I argued, then he requested a present instead. I said “yes of course, follow me back to the bike”. I stood him next to the bike and suggested taking a photo of him knowing very well he would not like this. He snatched the camera from me and said “Merci” and began to walk away. I gently took the camera back and on doing so he waved us through in frustration.

At the next fuel stop along the baron, desert road we stopped for coffee. The garage became busy and it was obvious that the chef had run out of meat for his customers. To my horror, two goats were savageley taken around the back of the toilets but still in full view and their throats cut then hung by their tails to let the blood drain. We left. I now realise that what I thought was a dead cat the other morning was actually a slaughtered goat carcass.

As stunning as it is, the approximately 1000 mile desert road is now becoming laborious and I’m looking forward to entering Mauritanina tomorrow where I hope the scenery will change.

After only 9 days on the road health and hygiene is becoming more and more difficult to maintain especially when wild camping. One of the reasons for this is the flies – thousands of them descend upon us as soon as soon as we stop. Also, our limited capacity to carry washing water as well as drinking water is restricted. We, our clothes and equipment are beginning to smell and looking forward to a couple days break in Bamako, Mali in a few days’ time, where we should be able to wash us and our clothes properly.

Along the desert road, villages are sparsely separated by hundreds of miles which means so is fuel availability and accommodation. Approaching Dhakla where the white sands of the saharan dunes meet the deep blue sea of the Atlantic we keep watch for camp sites or hotels. Neither are found, so we look for an accessible track behind a dune. I found one which was coincidentally bang on the line of Tropic of Cancer according to our co-ordinates. I opted for the tent, and Dai (as usual) opted for a night under the bright stars especially since the milky way (mmm, chocolate, I wish) was illuminating the sky and seemed only a few miles away. The wind whipped the sand across my face as another sand storm began to form which made it difficult to erect the tent. Once up, we made dinner (tinned mackerel and pasta) and bedded down for the night at 2000.