MONDO SAHARA - EPISODE 3 - AUSTIN'S STILL ROLLING
TWO BIG IDEAS - WITH A HELPING OF MORE IDEAS!
The next day’s plan saw two big ideas. First up, I would ring my wife, Lois Pryce, and ask her to fly out to Marrakesh, hire a car and whizz down to the Hotel as soon as possible. Not for a conjugal visit but as a parts ‘mule’. Meanwhile, we sourced a replacement cylinder and head on ebay and with a single call to Wemoto in Sussex all the gaskets and ancillary nik-naks were heading to Lois by nine the next morning. Thankfully she was able to drop everything and come to the rescue. The second brainwave was simply to keep the momentum of Mondo moving! Thusly, Eric Sowle would stay with me for the repairs and the other five would push on into Western Sahara.
By gum we nailed it!
The next seven days flew by but by gum, we nailed it. Lois arrived on time and on-target, luggage heavy with alloy and steel, the rebuild was a total balls-up but we eventually got it running. Eric and I dashed the 1200 miles in three days and the purity returned; The heavenly joy of having nothing to do all day except cruise at 55mph, enjoy the spectacular desert landscape and rough camp every night. All this lubricated by a good luck gift from Lois, a two litre bottle of mineral water from Morrisons, which was in fact vodka. Rockin’
Our seven reunited, as the gods of the road had intended, we rolled up to the southern border of Western Sahara and another quite delightful tranche of exquisitely charming Moroccan officials. Not for them the glum visage so universally worn by the petty bureaucrats of the UK Border Agency. We really were sad to leave this welcoming corner of North West Africa. Whether Western Sahara is, or is not, actually Morocco is a thorny thicket of an issue, the resolution of which will have to be slugged out on the letters page of the Times or the Grand Council of the United Nations but not on the pages of BIKE magazine. Suffice to say, it was adios Western Sahara and Hola “The Islamic Republic of Mauritania”.
Slick and sweet, smooth and silky
Naturally, riding into the AK-47 bearing arms of the Mauritanian border guards caused much clenching and re-clenching of many an American anus. And guess what, it was great. Yup, slick, and sweet, smooth and silky. We, as a group of seven were processed more quickly and more cheerily than when I last flew into the USA and spent 90 mins in a queue at Phoenix airport, the reward at the end of which, was a begrudging stamp and retina scan from a homeland security worker-ant. Sorry, I digress…
He was hanging around the border, like a fusion of mid-level Foreign Office functionary and Mumford and Sons road manager. There he was, in all his beardo sand-drenched glory; Richard Kemplay. He had crossed this frontier a zillion times, maybe a gazillion. He was our man in Mauritania! But it was great fun to negotiate a border post staffed entirely either by soldiers whose heads were swathed in face-covering turbans or simply, men who seemed to be wearing their pyjamas. The Americans gamely lunged forward, brandishing passports and elaborately high-fiving. If there was to be a clash of cultures, then let it be here so they reasoned…. Needless to say, the ‘red alert’ and instant kidnap that their State Dept had promised actually manifested itself as a dreamy smile combined with endless rounds of sweet Touraeg tea. This was a crucial moment, certain bloggers, correspondents and travellers have totally demonised this border; telling fanciful stories of Machiavellian Arab evil. Well, let Mondo Sahara report that if you want to meet smiley, amiable border guards who look at you honestly and transparently rather than askance, drenched with suspicion, then come to Mauritania.
A Nouadibhou night
An easy fifty tarmac miles later, and we were entering the suburbs (this is totally the wrong word!) of Nouadibhou, formerly Port Etienne when all this was somehow imagined to be part of France. Dear reader, if your world sometimes gets you down, if you feel that you are lubricating the cogs of the machine with a cocktail of your blood and sweat and you seek release, release in the form of a drug… A smoke, a drink, a chemical, then stay your hand from that bottle of Famous Grouse. There is little more invigorating than motorcycling into Nouadibhou at night! The cacophony of lights, sprinting humans and wandering livestock is the very definition of visceral! If your world ever seems monochrome, and you want full saturated 70mm colour then, my motorcycle compadre, come to Nouadibhou. Imagine a collision of Leicester Square in 1967, Blade Runner and Mad Max III (Beyond the Thunderdome) then this is it. Quite why the FCO should discourage you from coming here is beyond me. Nobody should be allowed to vote until they have supped the technicolour 3-D joys of Nouadibhou at night, on a Honda XR400, surrounded by their friends and deliriously high on motorcycle travel. Bobblin’ hot…
Richard Kemplay lead us to the dirt compound that constituted a ‘hostel’ but after our days in the desert it was paradise. Laptops were whipped out and the GPS tracks downloaded into Paul Castles hungry hard-drive. I didn’t understand this bit but by the end of it Paul knew where we were going for the next 1200 miles and where the next nine days of supplies were buried. Onward!
The trail along the track
The first trail was set up especially for us tenderfoots. Richard shrewdly realised that something was bound to go wrong with the GPS units so the first dump, or cache was simply 70 miles away alongside the mighty iron ore railway. Just like riding the Zilov Gap in Siberia, we couldn’t get lost.
All we had to do was follow the trail alongside the railway and if that petered out simply ride along the railway itself. Beyond simple. Richard’s GPS cache co-ordinates were augmented by little photographs (yes, he’d brought a printer with him all the way from Yorkshire!) and within a minute of dismounting, we were digging up the buried treasure (X marks the spot). It was working and we were ecstatic.
Seriously though, try to imagine pulling this off without GPS, digital cameras, portable printers. It could have been done with incredibly detailed notes but we were ordinary people yet we were simply breezin’ thru, pickin’ up the goodies, right on!
...And there we end epsiode 3...watch this space for the last and final part of Mondo Sahara...and if you want to buy the DVD and see the whole thing they are available from Wemoto
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