February 21, 2005 GMT
And then there was one....

Twenty four hours later and Tobi's bike went in the luggage compartment of a bus from Laayoune to Tangiers (about 1500 kms) he also took a bus, while I rode on through torrential rain - the frst rain I had seen since setting off six weeks ago, it turned some of the desert road into a quagmire of mud, the following day I was hit by vicious sandstorms, then the bolt on the broken shock absorber snapped - whoops!

In Marrakesh, another bike traveller (Sam) helped me to pack old rubber bits around the spring on the shock absorber to try and make the ride a bit safer; everyone seems a bit shocked at the state of the suspension. We also replaced the broken bolt.

Having been delayed by these repairs, I then had to get on my way, a last minute chance to buy some Moroccan slippers and it was hit the tarmac with a vengeance time, making it to Madrid from Marrakesh in 26 hours.

North of Madrid I was in extremely snowy conditions – riding along with wistful thoughts of the heat in the desert. In Bilbao I bought another battery, caught the ferry and arrived home in one piece.

Posted by Tiffany Coates at 03:13 PM GMT
February 10, 2005 GMT
Ethel to the Rescue

For several days now it has been Ethel to the rescue as first Tobi ran out of fuel and then got a puncture.
Whilst the major event of the last 2 days is that he has broken his gearbox - it happened on the desert highway - we then had an epic of a day (too long to go into here) involving a refrigerated lorry, the police and a team of Japanese people in a minivan.

The upshot is that I ended up TOWING Tobi on his R100GS (that’s a big 1000 cc bike for those of you not in the know) for 125 kms - it wasn't much fun as I had my nearly bald desert tyre on the rear and NO suspension, and naturally the desert winds were blowing as well.
Ethel coped well though and we reached the nearest small town where the bike was transferred to a ...Mitsubishi taxi - bit of a squeeze but we managed it and got to Laayoune – the biggest city in southern Morocco at 10pm that night.

Posted by tiffanycoates at 03:23 PM GMT
February 07, 2005 GMT
Plan X

Plan X
To rebuild the exploded battery in Nouakchott -as I had discovered that the replacement battery had turned out to be a dud and actually there are NO 12 volt batteries in this country. Loo and Gary (bike-riding friends from Cornwall) had arrived in Nouakchott with a tube of weld stuff and so the operation to rebuild was undertaken.

The next morning I set off with some trepidation - 450 kms to cover to reach tarmac and Morocco - with a dodgy battery and no suspension. Thirty miles into the desert we realised that the battery was leaking, and so I have put a sanitary towel on it. It seems to be slowing the acid leakage, Tobi has now taken to rolling his eyes whenever I say I have got an idea.
We ended up camping in the NO-Man's Land between the Mauritania and Morocco borders - us and about 50 dodgy-looking people trying to reach the Mecca of Europe.

We crossed the last of the sand and entered back into Morocco – the last country before Europe.

Posted by tiffanycoates at 03:08 PM GMT
February 03, 2005 GMT
Homeward-bound in Mauritania

I am in Nouakchott and the sand storms are blowing. it's like being in thick fog but more painful.

Ethel and I limped into Mauritania from Mali -her suspension has gone - Ooooh yes, just 300 kms south of Timbuctoo so it has been a painful ride over hundreds of kms of corrugated dirt tracks and as for the sand - trying to steer though it while the bike is like a bucking bronco is almost impossible at times.

reached Nouakchott and relative sanity (as well as cold beer courtesy of the chinese restaurant- getting quite a liking for this rice beer)

We returned to the hostel where they have been storing my jerry cans for the next bit of desert crossing.
Met an English Honda rider at the hostel - complete with badly broken collar bone and ribs where he attempted the desert crossing.....hmmmm, gives me food for thought as I contemplate what lies ahead. It then turned out that he is a fellow Horizons rider - Simon Fitzpatrick, who has been stuck here foir a while waiting for his collarbone to heal, the good news is that he is having the third operation this evening, which is to remove the pins and so he is hoping to continue his journey next week.

There have been a few ups and downs....

There is not a lot I can do about the suspension, so I am concentrating on the chain - meeting everyone's expectations I have been abusing it badly (as I only have experience of shaft driven bikes) and it has fallen off a few times - usually at a dicey moment.

I knew it was time to change it and yes, I DO have a spare with me. A German bloke called Herbert staying at the hostel has tools and know-how and so helped me with it, all was going well until he took the angle grinder to the old chain (assuring me that is how they are removed) there was suddenly a loud pop noise and the battery exploded- luckily both Ethel and the various spectators are OK.
Whilst Herbert continued his demoltion of my pride and joy I had to take to the streets in a taxi in search of a battery aided and abetted by Hassan and Barry - local guys. Finally ended up with one that is half the depth and a bit wider but have squeezed it in, got the filling with acid bit correct and then was overuled by the blokes present about charging it up... so I have a flat battery stuck in the battery compartment - oh well, open another rice beer.

Other parts of the bike are safely duck taped on; and we are going to set off early in the morning for the final bit of desert - actually I should re-phrase that as the final bit of "sandy desert " as there is tarmac in Western Sahara - whilst Mauritania is a country with just 4 tarmac roads.

The good news is that the bike dropping tally now stands at:
Germany 10
England 6

so I'm not doing too badly.

Posted by tiffanycoates at 05:32 PM GMT

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