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19th Oct 12′ 50 miles West of Kiffa –

October 22, 2012

Approx. 250 miles.

This morning, we woke at 0600 whilst it was still dark on the mountain top Bedowen camp site. We have noticed the further South we get the quicker the sun rises as the night stalkers of African wild life go to sleep whilst the birds wake as the light appears and their beautiful, unusual songs get louder and louder the lighter it gets. Since leaving the desert, the bush road is now surrounded by yellow, sun burnt grass where hundreds of cattle graze. Every few yards,  there are goat, camel, cattle and donkey carcasses scattered along the road side giving off an awful stench of death. I can’t work out whether these are road kill especially the donkeys which roam aimlessly in front of oncoming traffic or where the farmers drag their dead animals as a warning to motorists or/and the animals themselves.

As Ross warned the road was under construction so a diversion took us off road along a very bumpy 40 km dirt and sand track from Kiffa to Ayoune. The wagons kicked up clouds of dust making it almost impossible to see until we could safely over or under take them taking care they don’t run you off the road by suddenly swerving to avoid a crater size pot hole.

At one of the many check points, one of the guards recognises us from an earlier check pint in Noukashott and I couldn’t understand how he had jumped ahead of us. Realising we were approaching the Mali boarder we took this opportunity to eat lunch at the guard post, a jam sandwich. The guards resembled and sounded like Eddie Murphy, so we had a good laugh as he did his impression. Eddie (the guard) made a phone call using his mobile so I listened in and picked out the words I understood in French. It was then I realised that we had been tracked by the Guardermerie since entering Mauritania from Western Sahara. The officer had made a call to the next check point to warn of our arrival. I found this concerning but also reassuring, knowing if we didn’t arrive at the next post for some reason then hopefully a search party would be mustered.

Heading towards the Mali border a storm was evidentially forming as the sky had suddenly turned black with flashes of lightening and sounds of thunder up ahead. A Mercedes travelling towards us had his hazards flashing and shouted something in Arabic. We presumed he was warning us of the storm up ahead which he had obviously avoided by turning back. Dai and I stopped to determine if we should continue or not. Regretfully, we continued. First large splats of rain was a welcome break froim the dry heat, then mini tornados formed, whipping swirls of sand up high in the sky. Not being familiar to such sudden storms it took us both by surprise. We pulled the bikes over at the next guard post to take shelter which had already been abandoned due to the weather. We dived for cover under the make shift bivouac held up by branches. The bivouac quickly flooded and by now our clothes were drenched. The rain water formed rivers around where we had parked the bikes until eventually washing the sand from beneath Dais bike stand. The bike crashed to the floor luckily causing no damage. We picked the bike up and parked it on harder ground. We started to consider an action plan if the rain was to continue as we didn’t want to be caught in a flash flood. Luckily the rain started to reside so we continued the journey.

Feeling very wet and sorry for ourselves, we stopped at the last check point before the Mali border where surprisingly the nervous Guarda showed off his AK47 and demanded to see our passports and Driving Licences. We knew something wasn’t quite right, usually we only have to submit our Fiche. The Guarda put the documents straight in his pocket to protect them from the rain and ordered us to hide the bikes in the dunes and get in his truck. Because the bikes are so heavy and the sand so wet we struggled and Dai’s bike went down again. We refused to get in the truck so the other soldier ordered us to a bivouac at the bak of their shelter. The soldier explained a curfew had been activated in this area surrounding Northern Mali and we are not able to continue until the morning and that we must sleep by their check point. I foundtthe soldiers intimidating and considered bailing somehow but as soon as Dai approached his bike the soldier came running over to stop him. We decided to make the most of an early night and hesitantly set camp in the wet sand. During the night the soldiers baracded the road to stop any chance motorists slipping through and checked thoroughly every vehicle by torch light. Amongst the occasional shouts to stop the cattle, donkeys and camel called to each other during the night just a few meters from our tent making it a restless night.