MONDO SAHARA - EPISODE 1 - AUSTIN VINCE'S LATEST ADVENTURE IN HIS OWN WORDS
HOW IT ALL BEGAN...AND IT'S A FILM TOO!
The objective was simple, 4 weeks, an Anglo-American team, riding off-road across Spain, Morocco and Mauritania. Cheap bikes, simple gear, unsupported, mates on the road with a burning dream that wouldn’t shut up. A compact, cheap lunge into the desert that almost anyone could afford and execute. The adventure bike-boom had shown me one thing; people had been bamboozled and misled and I was going to undo that, and set the record straight, once and for all. I am in no doubt, the way to tell a story is with a film. Ewan and Charlie had taught me a vital lesson and had shown that, people believe what they see on TV. Ok, I’ll play it their way; I was going to make the definitive film, once and for all, to show that adventure motorcycling is safe, cheap and easy. But more presciently, that anyone who says different is a liar. Strong words? Maybe, but if you were in my shoes, you’d say the same.
I spent the autumn of 2011 making calls and ringing what frankly, was my dream team. I knew that if a trip rested on my shoulders it was doomed to failure. I needed cool people who dug the vibe, could handle some rough road and who wouldn’t keep whining about where the next hotel was. It was easy to recruit a magic six, which, with me in the mix, made a lucky seven. Within a week, my emails and phone calls bore fruit and we had a team.
As a side note, whilst assembling the group, I had foolishly rung several of America’s premier adventure motorcyclists. I outlined the plan, the itinerary, the Arabs, the sand and the Islam. They all gave me a ‘stand by’, I did, and within a few weeks they all came back ‘ no dice Austin’. They wanted the riding but not in a country red-flagged by the state department as a hot bed of Al-Quaeda radicalism. The Islamic Republic of Mauritania had never had it so bad. Suddenly, I lost my A-list line up. Damn. Ok, breathe deeply. I started ringing just normal mates in the USA, builders, technicians., decorators. I made my pitch and they didn’t need time to get back to me. Weird, the adventure motorcyclists ran a mile, my friends simply said “I’m in”.
The MagniVincent Seven
On the 1st Dec the team assembled at my canal boat mooring in Uxbridge for the build-up. Three yanks, four Brits, the magniVincent seven… I have no garage so I bought a mighty 6m by 10m tarp on e-bay for 14 quid and stretched it out over some hard-standing by the canal. We jury rigged some 500w halogen lights from Wickes and spent three days prepping our mish mash of ten year old Honda XR400s in torrential rain. In a silly way, this is always the best part of the trip.: Divvying kit, checking stores, fitting our Kriega luggage and endless talking, talking, talking….
Naturally, it was chaos. I claimed I‘d been planning Mondo Sahara for two years but in reality, it was thrown together in two days…
Amidst the manic preparation we received a special visitor; Firstly, Luke Wilkins and the crew from Bike Channel TV. Arrrh me hearties, They be no Top Gear flouncies. Instead, a group of zealots totally obsessed by motorcycling in all its forms. It was a privilege indeed to be considered eligible for their hungry lens. The second dignitary was one of us; Richard Kemplay of motorcycle logistics outfit, Beast of Burden. Richard was our eighth man but was in his way, the most important player in the line-up. We knew that Mauritania would be a wild expanse of virtually unexplored nothingness but Richard Kemplay is the UK s leading expert on the region and he had an idea….
Salt and Gold...
Back in 2010 I had met Richard on the Adventure Spec exped across the Empty Quarter known as Salt and Gold. We’d stayed in touch and in many ways, Mondo Sahara was as much Richard’s idea as mine. His plan was simple; to drive his Land Rover out to Mauritania ahead of us and once there, to conduct a special mission. Richard’s idea was to lay a string of supply dumps, or caches, across the desert on a 1200 mile lunge into nowhere. He wasn’t going to just ‘place’ the stores, oh no, this gritty Yorkshire man would bury each and every one. Enough food, fuel and water to carry us through the next day, each trove of buried treasure marked as a GPS waypoint on his dusty computer. If everything went according to plan, he would finish his desert caches just as we arrived at the Mauritanian frontier 18 days from now, hand over the co-ordinates and sit back as we rode off into the sunset, homing in on each cache and gleefully digging it back up each night. There was no need to explore Mauritania by this unusual means, the layman can glean tons of viable desert trails from Chris Scott’s definitive Sahara Handbook but by hiring Richard we would be able to push further away from the beaten tracks than any other group of unescorted motorcyclists before us. This gave the trip, which was intended to start with off-road crossings of Spain, Morocco and Western Sahara, an electric tinge of high-adventure. Put simply, no-one had ever done this before.
We finally set off and the seven man team was totally separated on the M25 within ten minutes of leaving. More good omens? Time would tell….
....and like every good bedtime story this is where we pause.... keep em peeled for the next thrilling instalment!
If you would like to buy the DVD of Mondo Sahara or any of Austin Vince's adventures they are available from Wemoto
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