10° Latitude / 1000 miles in three days – crossing the Sahara

 Mauritania – Western Sahara – Morocco

N18°13’08” W016°02’10” – N22°03’16” W16°44’51” – N26°07’32” W14°29’09” – N28°59’15” W010°03’27”

Km (miles) today (feb. 23.): 540 (335)

24.: 560 (350)

25.: 645 (401)

Next day (21.) in the evening I recognized I got two Emails from Mike whom I met in Kartong on his Yamaha Tenere. I wanted to meet him in Rao but he didn’t show up. He is in Nouakchott too and wants to head north early next morning. I got everything ready, just would like to change some money in the morning so we decide to go together. I pack all and when I check the bike I find out the oil level is low. Internet is turned off already so I am not able to inform Mike about me having to see a mechanic before taking the ride through the Sahara.

So I get up early next day, Nico shows me the mechanics place and then I go to inform Mike at Auberge Sahara about what had happened. Mike decides to wait for me and takes the chance to change his chain. I am pretty sure a seal in my oil system is a little broken, I already had this problem but the oil level is now ok again and the mechanic says its probably just petrol. He rips me off for this information which I know is bullshit but the oil level is ok now and its incredibly hot! Mike and I decide to spend the evening at Nicos place and hit the road a little past 3am heading to the border which is around 450km away.

Day 1

Its incredibly cold on the bike and I am freezing all the time even though I am well dressed. We arrive at the only petrol station (with not only diesel) exactly in the middle between Noakchott and the border a little past 6 in the morning. Everybody is still sleeping so Mike gets out his petrol cooker to make some fire to get a little warmer. The petrol station opens at seven so we fill up and are on the road again when the sun is rising.

 Arriving at the border at little past 10 in the morning I am a little worried about the Mauretanien stamp in my passport having not paid for a visa. Mike was sent back when he tried to enter Mauretania in Diama without visa but he didn’t have my magic police letter… (they sent him back to Dakar). At the first stop Mike has to do fingerprints and interview about where when and why, I can pass with none of this. And so it goes on at the Mauretanian side for me no problem, no question and for Mike the usual routine. So my advice when u try this – Get that police letter for residential visa when u are in Nouakchott and show it on the way back when entering! Saves obviously money and time! The letter itself only costs a little time.

After crossing the 5km No Mans Land between the borders the good luck turns around. First stop in Morocco no problem but at the second one they don’t want to stamp my passport. They look at all the visas in there again and again and start discussing. Half an hour waiting later they finally give me my entry stamp and I can move on to the customs. The border here has changed since I was here last time I recognize. Much more officials: military, customs, police….

I fill out a form for the bike get it stamped then go to another officer who searches my boxes very rude and impolite, drops my insulin on the floor and leaves me in a complete mess. At least I get the stamp so back to the office to get another signature on the form. Finished, I think when I have it and recognize a customs dog at the vehicles that leave morocco – that’s new too. The way out of customs area is blocked and a minute later I see Mike waiting in front of a big hall – all vehicles coming to Morocco and all trucks going out get x-rayed – at the moment the x-ray is blocked by outgoing trucks.

Its around 2 pm now and we are on the road for 11 hours, still not in Morocco and still 80km to go to a place where we can finally sleep waiting for an X-ray of the motorbikes. When I was asked if I have something to declare I told them only the kalaschnikow in the guitar bag. They laughed at me but did not look. Nobody took care of the bag that was always on my back if there would have been a kalaschnikow inside I would have had imported it legally – at least I had declared one…

Finally after more than 4 hours border procedure I wait at the petrol station after the border for Mike who is trying to get himself an insurance. He takes some time and half an hour later we finally start todays endspurt. Arriving afternoon instead of lunchtime we eat and pass away early evening. I sleep amazingly well until next day morning when Mike knocks at the door around 6 o clock. Like every morning when doing miles I drink a red bull from the ones I bought in the Gambia while I pack.

Day 2:

When the bikes are ready we drink a coffee to hit the road a little before sunrise. Todays target is Boujdour, little more than 500km north of where we start. I slept there in a nice and cheap hotel so its comfortable as we don’t need to search and can just follow my gps.

The sunrise in the desert is mind blowing and I enjoy the day starting at the same moment I start the engine! (Well coffee before was great too) The wind is blowing little less than on the way down, but now in our face and not in our back. We need incredible lots of petrol (both more than 9 on 100km) so I have to stop at the first petrol station after 160km.

We drink a coffee while three cops are just about starting to build up a checkpoint (= they stand on the street staring in different directions). It looks funny in the middle of the desert so I take a picture out of the window of the coffee. That picture costs us half an hour as one of the cops has seen me, they are really bored and have nothing better to do than to check if I have taken pictures of more “military objects” (like petrol stations or bored police officers). I am glad I haven’t and delete the ones they don’t like.

Today we enjoy the road taking many breaks for coffee and petrol and have fun. Late afternoon I see dark spots of several hundred square meters in the sea and it takes me about an hour before I realize it’s the shadows of the first clouds I have seen in weeks! Still the temperature is perfect all day and we arrive in Boujdour in the afternoon. We get all we need soon and find ourselves then at a restaurant eating, drinking coffee and chatting. What an amazing day this was!

Day 3:

Again we leave early and enjoy the desert sunrise on the road. Today will be the hardest one as we expect sand and wind on the way to come. After the first nearly 200km the first town after Boujdour is Laayoune. We stop a little before at it harbor to get petrol and breakfast. For the first time we can choose now: Highway or along the beach to Tarfaya? Of course we go along the beach – the desert landscape of this road is as amazing as itself is tire eating.

I like Tarfaya and we make one of todays many breaks there. It is amazing how we manage to do such a milage together and have so much fun on two so different bikes! Mike can go 400km under this conditions and I have a maximum of 240 maybe while my bike is much stronger and faster. But I wait while riding and we drink coffee every time we get petrol (mostly for me). After Tarfaya the next stop is in Akhfenir. I get petrol and they manage to put 10.5 liter in a 10 liter tank with 2 liter inside before already…. DON’T PUT PETROL IN AKHFENNIR! There are 3 petrol stations with at least one having digital measurement a few kilometers north of town at the police checkpoint!

Between Akhfennir and Tan Tan there are a few lagoons on the beach and in the first one I recognize spoon bills! I brake sharp, stop the bike and get out the big camera. That is one of the birds I wanted to see but until today haven’t! Mike passes by so I hurry up and go on. In the next lagoon again a shoal of big wading birds a little further away. They look a little like flamingos but I am not sure because of the distance. I take a few pictures and find out later that I have really seen two big groups of flamingos out there!

Mike waits for me at a roundabout a little before Tan Tan and we get a coffee in town around 4pm. The decision to go to the next town Guelmim was already made in Tarfaya, its only 130 more kilometers and we have well more than two hours until sunset. At the end of the day we find a cheap but luxurious hotel, great food (well, chicken&chips) and diet red bull! I had the last one this morning so this is just perfect!

Tomorrow Mike will go on heading quickly north while I will only go about 50km to the coastal town of Sidi Ifni. Thank you Mike for these amazing three days, for all the things I learned from you, for your great company and your permanent smile and good mood. There is only one road on this planet and it is connected all over. I hope we meet again out there one day and share another thousand miles!

Save journey my friend!