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15th October 2012 Tropic of Cancer, Western Sahara – Road side village, L’ambassade Du Senegal, Mauritania

October 16, 2012

273 miles.

A breezy night but still slept very well. A relaxed coffee and breakfast bar whilst we watched the sun come up above the sand dunes which cast huge shadows over our wild camp in the Sahara.

Before we left we dug a ditch and buried our rubbish so not to pollute this beautiful landscape and then joined the same desert road we had been on for the last 800 miles towards the Mauritanian border.

Berbers are becoming less frequent and Black, Africans more popular, a sure sign of our transition into Mauritania.

Along the way we dodged the roaming camels which seem to be alone that is until a Berber shepherd usually appears wearing his light blue robes and riding camel back over the dunes. Another magnificent sight.

The wind is still strong, making it difficult to ride upright. More often than not I have to make a decision to ride with my visor down to protect me from the whipping sand but then overheat or, ride with the visor open for ventilation and just spit the sand out occasionally which is what I normally opt for. Because of the strong wind blowing my nostrils together I have become a custom to breathing using my mouth but is causing chapped lips.

At our next fuel stop we drink more coffee and decide to relax for some moments and very glad we did as a fellow lone ABR (Adventure Bike Rider) turns up on his fully loaded Yamaha Tenere. A South African chap called Eugine en route to see his family in S. A. We discuss our similar planned routes and invite him to ride along with us for a few days. Approaching the notorious Mauritania border it was a welcome meet for all.

The queues at the border were minimal and exiting Morocco was straight forward but remember to get your temporary vehicle import document stamped otherwise you may have problems if you re-enter at a later date.

During the process, a fixer persistently requested we use his services. He obviously had connections with the border guards and at the cost of 10 Euros for all three of us we thought it was good value considering the language barrier though I must say my French is improving daily with both Dai and Eugine often asking for translations.

We successfully exited Morocco without any problems and entered the 5 kilometre stretch of no mans between the two countries. Unfortunately, this piece of land has no tarmac or signs telling you which direction to go and mainly consists of deep sand and boulders. There were cars scattered all over the place where they had become stuck in the sand. Trying to ride with in excess of 350 kg of bike and equipment through deep sand with road tyres is more difficult than you can imagine as the front wheel wobbles like a good on unless you keep the revs on which in turn keeps the weight off the front wheel. Dai was leading just ahead of me when suddenly his front wheel turned in the sand, he compensated and straightened the wheel, only to hit a huge boulder. The bike twisted one way then the other and threw him to the ground with the bike falling on top of him. There was no movement at all from Dai, so I jumped off my bike and ran over to help. He jumped up with a huge grin, but soon realised he had injured himself. We lifted the bike and I helped ride it out of the deep section of sand to safer ground. Being in no man’s land, we were uncertain of how safe we were so Dai hobbled over and re mounted the bike quickly and continued the last stretch.

Once we arrived at the Mauritania border, I and Eugine helped the fixer with the documents required by the authorities. It was a slow process as we had to buy insurance for the motorcycles, have our visas stamped, get through customs which included temporary import vehicle registration and exchange money. The fixer was really useful and well worth his 10 Euros, however we did have to pay the General in the porter cabin another 10 Euro each, just for stamping our passports.

Finally we got through with a sigh of relief only to be welcomed by a sign warning not to ride off road due to live mines in the area.

I had heard reports of fuel shortages throughout Mauritania so we took the opportunity to refuel as soon as we could. Getting off his bike, Dai was obviously in a lot of pain but we thought best to leave his boot on and continue until we found some safe accommodation where he could inspect the damage.

Whilst at the fuel station I decided to switch on my phone and check my messages. It was their I read a message which should really be putting an end to this trip. My wife had broken her leg whilst on holiday and was scheduled for an operation today. My heart sank for her, just knowing that being a husband; I should be there for her as I promised always to be. I called Kerry immediately and could hear the desperation in her voice that she needed me (or was that the Saline drip). Kerry being the lovely, amazing wife she is insisted I continue with the trip. Following an update, Kerry has had the operation, all went well and now trying to enjoy the rest of her holiday, on crutches.

Eugines camp site co-ordinates took us off road so we decided that wasn’t the best option considering Dais injury. I stopped at a road side village and asked for a chambre for the night. Luckily, Madame did, so we unpacked and slept in one of their shacks for the night.

There was no shower in the village just a large balloon of water which looked like it had been dropped off by some local charity. Embarrassingly, the elderly Madame washed us all using her jug and sponge.

Dai’s foot is swollen but not broken and he has asked me to tell all friends and family not to worry and we will report further on the next blog. Dai also sends his thanks for the messages he received via the website. His phone has no coverage so for the time being so feel free to send your messages via the website.