October 05, 2006 GMT
AFRICA, Morocco Morocco

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Rob gazing at Africa from Spain


We arrive to Cueta and make it to the Spanish African border. We are directed to a ĘspecialĘ line where we get an abundance of stares, its like they have never seen a chinese women on a motorbike before. Rob is then wist away to sort out insurance, passports, paperwork etc etc whilst I am left to guard the bikes. Its chaotic, full of in your face local tauts, some guys getting beaten up, hundreds of Moroccans in their Jedi knight robes walking everywhere. I start to get worried as Rob has disappeared for longer than expected but he finally turns up with the thumbs up. We going to africa! (like Rob says, bring on the squat toilets and no bog roll)

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Rob is estatic that we have made it to Africa, he has a constant smile from ear to ear that he cannot erase. The surroundings are a fresh change from Europe, there are camels on the side of the road, people sleeping in all nooks and crannies and locals constantly trying to sell us hashish and fossils whilst we ride past.

The roads are surprising in good condition but there is definitely more oil and slick. I find it hard sometimes to concentrate on the surroundings as there are so many things to look out for......donkeys, people, carts and young children that run virtually in front of your bikes to shake your hands. Generally, a great feel to this country.

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A donkey in between the gorgeous blue walled Chefchaouen


We stop in gorgeous Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains and reunite with Justin, Grant and Lara (3 Aussies in campervans we met on the ferry). We roam the souks and see dangling outside a butchers shop, a fresh camels head! This area is meant to be a haven for the best hashish in the world....called "Kif from the Rif"

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lunch anyone?

We see the gorgeous Erg Chebbi sand junes. Overlook guys on bikes training for the Paris to Dakar, another Africa Twin riding through the dunes (Rob is eye gazing). We also meet some lovely spaniards who let us ride their sports quad bike that had way too much power for me but what an adrenalin rush (and I managed to bog it on the uprise).

We stay in a beautiful Kasbah right against the junes with a swimming pool, all goes well except my bout of severe stomach cramps and hot/cold shivers whilst relaxing by the pool. I suddenly have to dash to the toilet with toilet paper in hand and Rob running after me to see if I am ok. All I can say is the next events involved liquid out both ends at the same time....overwhelmed and dehydrated, I faint for the first time in my life. Rob and the lovely Moroccans squeeze a half chopped onion in my face to bring me back. After some rest and fluid intake, my bowels are back to normal. Not a pleasant experience!

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A Berber on the Erg Chebbi Junes


We meet other 'adventure motorcyclists' Olly (English on a Honda CBF 1000) and Mark (English on a Honda Transalps) and change our plans to ride towards Todra Gorge. We also meet 2 Germans (Andy&Axel on KTMs) who convince our posse to ride on a piste from Tinerhir to Agoudal and back to Tinerhir....even Olly, who is on a road bike! (he creates a makeshift bashplate from a camping kitchen table that worked a treat...) Its a bliss to ride without our luggage!

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CBF 1000 makeshift bashplate


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Piste around Todra gorge

Little nervous as this is my first offroad experience but really enjoyed it and I feel the XR Baja is perfect bike for me. It starts off easy but gradually gets harder. Pebbles become rocks, track goes up and downhill, uneven surface, water, mud, even narrow roads with high cliff dropoffs. I try and concentrate even harder and am sure I am gripping my handlebars and gritting my teeth, ocassionally telling myself to relax and let the bike do the work! I build confidence and manage well standing on the footpegs (Rob is impressed as I use to hate it). At the end of the piste, I'm going too fast and lose concentration for a spilt second - managing to direct the Baja into a family of huge rocks.. I feel like I'm riding in a rodeo but surprisingly manage to hold on until i hit the road again and crash onto my side whilst smashing my head onto some rocks. I am temporarily stuck under my bike but manage to get out... No broken bones just a bruised knee, broken left mirror and a nasty scratch on my Arai helmet.....

Amazingly steep windy roads


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The Posse

I am then convinced to do another piste from Taouz to Tagounite (M6 piste by Chris Scott) with no idea what I am in for. It starts off easy with very arid but beautiful scenery. Andy decides not to join us due to a suspected fractured rib so its Rob, Axel and I. We ride over gravel with stretches of sand that get softer and more difficult. I fall a couple of times as I lose confidence but the boys just tell me to screw the throttle, so every time I hit sand I close my eyes slightly and pull my right hand back and the Baja glides me over the sand in all directions. In sand, its like the Baja has its own mind.

We then hit an Oued full of......sand, which makes us all sweat hard to get through. We all take turns falling off and getting stuck in this deep sand but there are Moroccan kids running after us to help us pick up our bikes and guide us through. We get fed up and Axel pays a kid to direct us out of the Oued and out onto some harder grounds. Phewww, we then ride across white clay pans, see wild camels, stop at wells, cross the Algerian border (by Robs GPS) and experience absolutely amazing scenery. A must do piste!

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Stuck in sand, which way out?


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Rob working his stuff


Then after reuniting with Andy in Tagounite for a day, we decide to do another Piste from Tagounite/M'Hamid to Foum Zguid (M7 piste by Chris Scott). We start riding to only hit another Oued but this one is alot easier and we have fun going over the sand junes. I enjoy sand now! Again spectacular scenery, no one for miles. What a great sense of achievement considering I only started riding just before this trip.


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me standing and the Baja


We then meet Carl & Sylvia in Toyota Landcruiser Troopcarrier who offer to carry our luggage on another piste from Ait-Herbil to Tafroute (M12), cook us delicious meals and let us use their shower! Before we head off, we top up with Super fuel as no Sans Plomb from an old petrol station with a handpump! Ride gorgeous red/orange gorge until Rob gets his first puncture!

We ride towards the Plage Blanche to our first river crossing (where I fall in the mud) and then along the beach for 26km heating the Baja's engine. Beautiful, Yes but its hard work and constantly dodging rubbish, wooden boxes, nails and black plastic bags! We camp on a high sandjune over looking the beach and sunset.

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my first water crossing


We ride offroad to Tan Tan but we hit more sand and start to run low on fuel. I nearly fall off many times and we get hit by a mini sandstorm where I cannot see past my front mudguard. I follow Rob too closely I get showered in sand when he revs it. We hit a river crossing but luckily the sand has died down and a road has been made over it. We make it to Tan Tan safely with 300mls left in Robs tank!!!!!

Posted by Amy Lee at 05:14 PM GMT
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 02:45 PM GMT
 
 

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