October 29, 2006 GMT
Western Sahara & Mauritania - sand dunes & rallies

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Tan Tan, the gateway to the Western Sahara


We enter The Western Sahara with long stretches of straight monotonos tarmac with only some sprayed painted rocks and random people to break up the journey. We are now travelling with Chris (aka the rain man) & Natasha, Germans on BMW 650 GS & Dakar. We get stopped quite often by Gendamarie Royals that ask for our passports, professions and what seems like useless details that the last officer asked 2km back. We get so fed up that eventually we say we are in a Dakar rally (even though its not on until Jan) and they frantically wave us through!


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hope there are no landmines anywhere, camping in Western Sahara


We camp on this amazing boomerang shaped sand june and awake early the next day for the Mauritania border. First stop, we get waved to the front of the line, it seems like island time in these countries and it wasn't until Rob points to our passports amongst piles of African ones that they guy starts to process them.

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camping in the junes


We then ride through no mans land off road and I start to get a strange feeling that we, in the western world are not use to as I read earlier that along this road, tourist have been killed before from landmines just a few metres off the track. More paperwork and waiting around, we single file into the dodgiest rooms whilst another man is cooking fresh liver in a side room. Let me into Mauritania! exploitation of money for visas as it's a different price for everyone. We see a bureau de change office in a run down old van that you would expect to purchase hotdogs from in a fair. When you think you have gotten through a checkpoint, there's another one 200m down the road..... more money and details. Last checkpoint is insurance in another old beat up caravan. As we wait, we gaze at a train going pass on the 'le train du desert' with a camel on the last carriage to be then approached by a guy who gets a little insulted as we don't speak french, he then pulls up his cloak to reveal a sharp knife and mutters something in arabic.... it wasn't until another older man comes over to calm this guy down that I breath again. All checks clear and into Nouadhibou, Mauritania. Camel steaks for dinner!

We stop off by the beach in Dakla to check my oil, to then be approached by a Kiwi guy who asked 'You wouldn't happen to be Amy, would you?' shocked that Blair had heard about us from other travellers (he even had our emails). We later teamed up with Blair & Kati to do the 540km piste along the railway line from Nouadhibou to Atar and agreed that we wouldn't do it alone. We are very grateful to B&K as we would not have been able to do this piste without help carrying extra fuel & water for us in the grand mother ship!

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The slowest and longest trains in the world


We ride south along the railway as the north is bordered with land mines. It's hard work, concentration plus. I'm constantly dodging things and trying to judge the surface. Sand sand and more sand, Rob & I have fun rolling over these huge dunes with Blair & Kati 4WD in the distance. We take turns in getting bogged or falling off. Problems with the Baja.......it won't start! 3 busted fuel filters, shite in the carby and broken seat brackets. What a place to get stranded. Rob & Blair go to work whilst Kati & I laugh about bikes and cars. A french humanitarian aid worker stops and gives us her stocking as a new fuel filter. Thunderbirds are go!


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performing open heart surgery on the Baja in the middle of nowhere


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Riding the sand junes, I think I'm beating Rob!


We stop in these remote villages and we pour well water from cut out petrol containers over ourselves as its 41 degrees. This village is built on train sleeper and flattened out oil drums. We watch a newborn baby camel take its first steps, see the second biggest monolith in the world (Uluru is the first) and play with the local kids. We free camp in the beautiful Saharan desert and I am awe where I am!

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sleeping under the stars


We make it to Atar completely exhausted but in high spirits that we've made it, 4 cold cokes Sil vous plait! We rest, play with kids in the street by racing old tyres and kicking a deflated soccer ball.

We then head for oasis towns - Chinguetti (the 7th holiest city of the islamic world) and Tirgit for a few days. We decide to take the old route aka the Amogjar pass and boy was this a shock of a piste. An absolute beautiful part of the world but we both agreed that its the hardest ride we've done so far (and didn't expect it). The road dips, strips of sand and rocks on narrow tracks ascending up the mountain with hairpin drops to tracks that were either not there or completely covered in rocks the size of your computer screen. We crunched through scraping the underbodies of the bikes and rocks hit us at speeds that nearly knock you off. We both actually have to stop and get off our bikes to assess the surface as its too difficult to pass. No turning back now. Slowly but surely we get through and I am baffled at what we have gotten through. We finally get to the new Ebou Pass lined with continous corrugations, which is heaven compared to what we have been through. Both agreed no more pistes for awhile..........

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Amogjar pass, the old route to Chinguetti


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Water, Amy..... I need Water!


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Some of the treachous roads, where's that sheepskin seat cover i never bought!


We decide to head to Nouakchott in one long day from Tirjit as we are running low on fuel and Ougiyas (Mauritania $). We ride in the extreme heat in the middle of the day, I run out of fuel so we continously tip my bike onto its side to gain more fuel stuck on other side of tank. This gets a bit tiresome after 5 or 6 goes when the Baja konks out. Rob then comes up with the idea of towing me for the next 20kms but I get the shits as he speeds up when I tell him to slow down. So we come up with another idea of loosening my tank and as I ride I lift my tank like a cowgirl so the fuel tap gets filled. Yeeha, we ride closer to our destination but alas unbeknowst to me, I had managed to pull the fuel pipe out of the carby so when we put the last of our precious fuel in my tank 2km to the Auberge, it went straight through!!!! Tired, fed up and overheated, I egg myself to the closest petrol station to spend our last Ougiyas on 400mls of petrol. And then Voila, we finally make it.


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Kids playing by side of road in Tirjit, an oasis town


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Rob does need a new back tyre, Nouakchott


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fishermen in Nouakchott

Posted by Amy Lee at October 29, 2006 02:45 PM GMT
 

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