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Desert Travels - Motorcycle Journeys in the Sahara and West Africa!

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  #1  
Old 28 Nov 2010
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Cycling Nouadhibou-Atar is there water

Hi Folks,

I'm very early with my planning but I have nothing better to do on a cold winter night. And I realise that it may not be possible to travel in Mauritania next year but here goes...

After more than a month following a main road through WS I'm sure I'll be ready for some off road work, and dont really want to take the road from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott.

So the first question is of course is it worth going inland towards Atar, whats there to do and see?

I dont really fancy sitting on a dusty train for 8-12 hours so Im wondering if its worth running a few risks and taking the piste that runs parallel with the railway.

So I really need to know if there's any reliable water sources in the villages along this route. Or will I have to arrange water drops with friendly overlanders, or is this just suicide.........

For those of you that don't know me.....I'll be doing this on a bicycle so can only take20-30liters(max) of water(enough for about 3 days if I;m very carefull), and with so much water will be restricted to 50-80km per day, so this "day trip" will take me about a week if all goes well.

Anyway, back to looking out the window at the snow....

Thanks for any "relevant" input.....
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  #2  
Old 29 Nov 2010
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Hi,

Maybe this guy can give you some hints - http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hubb/members/eljulian

He rode Germany to Cape Town and followed Nouadhibou to Atar in between - Julianus Africanus

Nice trip, "when I grow up" I'll also ride down to Cape Town.

BR,
CaBRita
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  #3  
Old 29 Nov 2010
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Thanks,

Thats a nice blog, I like blogs that have more foto's than text, its easy reading

Shane
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  #4  
Old 30 Nov 2010
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Atar-Nouhadibou

The road that libnks these two is very busy with all sorts of traffic. Along the route, can't remember where is the place that bottles all the water that you find in plastic bottles in mauritania. Atar has an airport which used to be used for ther Paris-Dakar. Main flights come in from Vrance. It is a dusty town. YOu would find taking a trip to Chinguetti worth while. This leads onto many 'desert' trips and the twon has a very old history. there is an auberge there where you can stay.

In Atar you have a good infrastructure and if you need things then do it here. Hope that helps
Paramjeet
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  #5  
Old 30 Nov 2010
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Paramjit,

I think you are actually refering to the tarmac road between Nouakchott & Atar. There is no road between Nouadhibou & Atar - rather it is a sandy track that follows the railway line.

Shane,

There are a couple of villages along the railway line, including some workers huts where you would most likely to be able to get water. You can definitely get water in Choum, assuming you go via Choum, rather than heading inland direct to Atar.

If you are riding on the piste, rather than the railway line, you will find that the sand is soft in places, so I think your estimate of up to 80kms per day is possibly a little optimistic.
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  #6  
Old 3 Dec 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Roach View Post
If you are riding on the piste, rather than the railway line, you will find that the sand is soft in places, so I think your estimate of up to 80kms per day is possibly a little optimistic.
Ooh, if there's alot of soft sand then even 8km a day could be hard work.....Guess part of my summer training will be dragging my fully loaded bike over the beach

I suspect cycling the rail line wont be too easy either with 50mm tires.....

Thanks all for you tips.
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  #7  
Old 6 Dec 2010
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Hi Shane,

I don't know about doing Nouadhibou-Atar by bike. You have to realize, it's cross desert and not even a track but a piste, i.e. a bunch of tracks on a width of a kilometer or so. Also, it's all sand (no suprise there). The first half is not too soft, but it get's pretty soft later on. And it's 400k! I think the beach analogy is fitting.
Riding on the rail road tracks wouldn't be much easier on a bicycle. It's fist-sized rocks

Water shouldn't be too much of a problem, there are railroad workers, camel herders and police outposts along the way. I think I usually saw some somebody every 30 kilometers or so. But don't rely on that.

Honestly, I would recommend against it, it could even be dangerous. But then again, I don't like telling people what they can't do and I don't really know what kind of terrain you're capable with on your bicycle.

I'd recommend you look for more information here on the HUBB. I remember someone asking about this a while back, I think in the Sahara forum. Maybe you'll find somebody who actually did this.
I'd also try doing maybe short excursions into the sand once you're down there to see how well you cope.

Sorry to have to tell you this, but I guess Sahara and bicycles just don't match.

I'll be keeping on eye on your website. Have a great trip, Julian
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  #8  
Old 10 Dec 2010
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Hi Shane,

I would recomend you to take the train to Choum!
Two years ago I did Morocco to Bamako on a bike and for this stretch the train is the best option. If you take the open wagons it is free and it is really a nice adventure. From Choum to Atar it is quite fine, only some very short stretches to push in total not even a km. Sand is really ugly on a pushbike.
You can see some pictures from my trip on:
Agadir - Bamako, Radtour über Weihnachten durch Westafrika
For direct link:
Agadir - Bamako, Radtour über Weihnachten durch Westafrika: Geländewagenfeeling auf Schienen

Ciao

Christian
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  #9  
Old 10 Dec 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shane cycles africa View Post
Ooh, if there's alot of soft sand then even 8km a day could be hard work.....Guess part of my summer training will be dragging my fully loaded bike over the beach

I suspect cycling the rail line wont be too easy either with 50mm tires.....

Thanks all for you tips.
what are you riding ?

as Matt says, it's not going to be easy riding and 80 km is maybe over-optimistic.

I think, as a general idea, plan for the tarmac routes. this gives you some reasonable chance to plan for distance per day, assuming you understand the heat issue. and this should make your trip achievable. once there you can then take a 5 km ride up a piste and see what it's like.

there's no reason whatsoever that you can only go to RIM once. a first trip using tarmac would stand you in good stead for a return (if you felt like it) trip with some non-tarmac rides.

check out 'crazy guy on a bike'. there are 2 trips on there that touch RIM. but (like a lot of us) they pass through RIM fairly quickly.

cheers
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Old 17 Dec 2010
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Thanks all for the wise words and warnings.

@ Dougie My chariot

Though I have an active sense of adventure, I'm not a tough guy or too stupid, I'm not planning on doing my best to die, so there's a good chance I'll get the train or just head south, I can only decide that on the day.....

I have experience of cycling the the desert (on tarmac) so know what it does to me and how much I drink, I'd rather cycle in 40 degrees than 4 .

Thanks all for your input, the message seems simple, there's enough water, but that is not the only problem.......
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  #11  
Old 17 Dec 2010
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Shane, this post may be useful, if you've not seen it already. (Have not read it all)
Out of the desert:Nouakchott-St Louis | Big Africa Cycle

He's lately in Nigeria after a bad experience in Dakar.
Takes great pictures and rode for years around Asia a while back.

Having skimmed through this post, I'd have to say you'd be nuts to try and cycle the railway piste, but it would be worth getting to- and exploring the Adrar region out of Atar, be it via train, a lift or the road down and up. Even in November we had 35° on that piste one time and the cars were cooking. As others have noted, 80km a day is far fetched.

I'd save piste exploration for more populated areas, but I think you got that message. Have a great ride.

Ch

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  #12  
Old 6 Jan 2011
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Having driven this route last year I agree with the previous advice that it's not really a go-er by bike. If you haven't already seen it, Helen Lloyd did this route recently - from memory she got the train to Choum. It's well worth the detour.

Take On Africa: A Journey by Bike from UK to Cape Town
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  #13  
Old 21 Feb 2012
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For a bicyclist too?

Hello there,

I am currently planning a long bicycle trip (sorry guys, kind of an outsider on this forum ) through/across Africa and I am researching interesting routes in WS/Mauritania. Yours is indeed amazing.
I was thinking of crossing into Mauri on the coastal road and then TRY to follow the railway line as far as Choum before making it down to Atar.
I have a few questions for you:
-Do you think the gendarmes will let me take that piste along the railway? If they don't am I risking big in sneaking past?
-Is the piste sandy? Sand is the worst you have to deal with on a pushbike.
-If the piste proves too sandy one option could be to ride between the tracks proper or just to the side of it where the ground is firmer. You mention mines in your report, do you think there actually are mines there?
-Are there any settlements on that piste besides the ones that are on my map (Inal and Tmimichat)? I can probably carry one week worth of supplies in my panniers but certainly not that much water...
An other tips you can think of would be most welcome.
Cheers,
Yves.

[post merged to previous thread on same topic. CS]

Last edited by Chris Scott; 21 Feb 2012 at 11:29. Reason: merger
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  #14  
Old 21 Feb 2012
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cycling through WS and Mauritania

Hi Yves,

Cycling is overlanding pur sang (ahum..)!

You might find this blog informative:

tripje

Maarten (from the Netherlands) cycled there last year. His blog entries are also in English.

Happy cycling!

Gee
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  #15  
Old 21 Feb 2012
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Thanks for the link Thimba but your friend stayed on the main coastal road...
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