In Jan 2013 there was a very nice, wide, smooth gravel road from the R103 just south of Assa to the first (only??) town on the route. Can't remember its name though. At the other end near Smara, once off the lakebed you can take asfalt for the last section too (some old and bad, most new and fine)
Much easier riding, but unfortunately the loss of a great, fun track.
Vladivostok - Denmark 2008... Finished.
Denmark - South Africa 2010-2011... Finished.