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!

Western Sahara – Mauritania (Nouadhibou)

 N22°03’16” W16°44’51” – N20°55’33” W017°02’22”

Jan 28.

Km today: 150

I hardly sleep this night so I am happy we are not in a hurry and I can sleep a little more in the morning. When finally waking up I check everything on the bike as its standing on a clean place (I have to mess up – no but honestly its nicer to lie on clean floor than on desert sand), have two coffee and then hit the road to catch up with Andi and Julia at the border. The landscape becomes more and more amazing but here it is very not recommended to leave the road as there are lots of mines out there. Last year three French offroaders died when “finding” one! Even though I make quite a few stop on the 80 km to the border I catch them when I arrive there.

Leaving Morocco takes about half an hour and then we enter “No Mans Land”. Several kilometer between western Sahara and Mauritania without road, laws or authority. The first time I have no option but to go offroad. Its really crazy how big trucks manage to pass this border! The Mauritanian border is very friendly and straight forward too, no bribes have to be paid, only 10 Euro for the registration of the bike and another 10 for the insurance for 10 days. The registration is only valid for 7 days so I will have not much time in Mauretania.

Sun is nearly setting when we leave the border so we decide to sleep in the closest town at a peninsula similar to Dakhla. The landscape becomes real desert now and the sunset is mindblowing! After Andi and Julia stop at a place where they will stay for tonight I go on to town to check a hotel that was recommended to me at the border. Its dark already and I really don’t like arriving in a new town after dark and needing to find a place to sleep then.

The recommended place – ABBA Hotel is shit. All the rooms are full and I am offerd to sleep in a shared sleeping room with a French guy. No possibility to lock anything and mattresses are lying on the not very clean floor. He asks 3000 whatevers (7,50 euro) for me to sleep on one of them. I thank him a lot and leave. On the way back to the city I see a big white Mitsubishi and a guy in an important looking uniform just about to drive away. I stop him and ask for a hotel – he tells me to follow him and then minutes later we stop in front of a hotel with inside parking for the bike, huge amazingly clean rooms, big bathrooms with BATHTUB (!!!) and wifi for the same price: 7,50 euro! I would love to stay here for longer but unfortunately the vehicle registration…. The guy at the reception is unbelievably friendly and smiling all the time – so is the waiter at the restaurant where I eat a little later. Mauritanien people are really friendly! You can see and feel immediately they are not that much wasted by tourism like Indian or Moroccan people are.  

Dakhla – Nowhere

 

N23°42’03” W15°55’47” – N22°03’16” W16°44’51”

Jan 27.

Km today: 300

I will meet the Freetech Nomads at 1 o clock to continue together so I have a shanty morning and slowly pack my stuff. I get petrol in Dakhla and when leaving the petrol station I hit something at very low speed with my left luggage box. The bike falls down (again..) but nothing happens but both boxes falling off. Why do the stupid things have locks if you just need to kick down the bike to open them…? I put them on the bike again and stop at my friends place 5 minutes later. Today is the first day it feels hot so I really need to take of some clothes before we leave. I drink a coffee and talk to some UN soldiers while the others take some petrol at the next petrol station. In the truck they will be much more slowly than I am so I take some more 20 minutes before I hit the road.

When riding through the nowhere I start calculating how long it will take to catch up and then I pull the gas handle. For the next hour I go 120 – 130 in a moderate sidewind and 150km after the petrol station I finally overtake them. Now I drive a comfaortable speed keeping around them maybe going a little to the front to take some pictures. Soon we take a little break at a place where the beach is just a few meters away from the road.

The tide is low and we discover an octopus in the rocks so we try to take some pictures teasing it to come a little out of its cave. Perfect chance to make nice pics with my waterproof camera I think but the octopus doesn’t like flashlight and just grab my camera out of my hand taking it into its cave! F*%$ing thieve! After some attemps I quickly go to the bike to get my gloves as I don’t want to get bitten by that pretty large specimen. When I come back 3 minutes later the water has already risen a few centimeters so I have to step in the water to get to the cave. I quickly can feel the camera and the octopus that is obviously hiding behind it. Its holding the camera strong but luckily I can grab the little line at one end. Holding only the camera I can hardly move it but pulling the line very hard I can move it little by little. Now its just a question whose muscles get acetous first and mine are way bigger… just don’t want to break the camera so I take a few more seconds until I finally get it back. I make a few more attempts to get out the beast as well but no chance. I am happy I got the camera back anyway and my eight armed friend even took some selfies…

After that adventure its late already so we go on quickly. The UN soldiers had promised a petrol station after 200km which I am desperately waiting for. The last one I passed at high speed hunting the truck so I am pretty empty. Last time I went 70km when the reserve light was burning and now a small village is promised to be 55km after it turned on. Carefully going on suddenly I feel the petrol is done! I can do a few more km by turning the engine on, accelerating in very low tours to maybe 90, then switching the engine of rolling until I am at 40 and then turning on again. I can see the village at the horizon when I can’t turn the engine on anymore 293km after putting petrol to the limit.

Five minutes later the guys in the truck arrive and help me out. Half an hour later we meet some overlanders at the village coming from the south and sharing some important information with us. The border is only 80km to go and the sun sets. As we hear it makes no sense to be at the border early so we decide to stay. In this amazingly nice place (pictures next time) in the middle of the desert I get the most clean room ever in Morocco for only 100DH. That’s amazing! In the evening we sit together in the truck and chat and make music. There is no hurry tomorrow.    

Cape Bojador – Dakhla

 Jan. 24

N26°07’32” W14°29’09” – N23°42’03” W15°55’47”

Km today: about 350

When I wake up this morning I hear the sound of the wind outside. Seems to be stronger than yesterday and yesterday I already thought if this gets stronger I don’t want to be out there in the desert. I manage to get the key for the rooftop and see a yellowish shining in the lower sky in the desert – sand! I talk to the owners of the place and they advice me not to go to Dakhla on the motorbike today. They seem to like me and its hard to tell if they maybe just want me to stay… I make a walk to get a coffee and some copies of my passport to hand them over at the police checkpoints. Its only 350km to Dakhla so there is no hurry and when I pack the bike around lunchtime the wind slows down a bit.

I leave town at 12 am and then cross 350km of pure desert neighboring the coast of the Atlantic. There are only 4 petrol stations out there one being 145km after Cape Bojador, two at 170 and another one 230km later. That’s it, nothing else but desert and a wild coast (of which there is hardly something to see). I enjoy the road a lot as there is way less light sand in the air and the wind is mostly hard to recognize when riding – as soon as I stop its stormy.

I try going offroad again several times again but fully loaded the bike seems to heavy so I let it be after two or three attempts. A little before Dakhla I even drop the bike in the sudden wind when making a stop for taking pictures. Lucky enough nothing happened and the next car that comes along stops and the driver helps me to lift it up again – no problem.

Arriving in Dakhla I first see a lot of campers (again) and kite surfers in the bay. I go nearly to the end of the peninsula and after checking a hotel which is way too expensive I decide to get coffee and food first. And, as I hope the guys who run the restaurant tell me the way to a cheap hotel. The hotel is old but I have a bathroom, a balcony and a big window in the big room facing the sunset. For 100DH a pretty good deal – they even have wifi!

Seems to be a good place to wait for one or two days for two friends from Austria who should be around Cape Bojador by now riding another KTM and driving a Caravan.

Morocco – Western Sahara

 Tan–Tan – Cape Bojador

Jan 23.

N28°26’00” W11°06’21” – N26°07’32” W14°29’09”

Km today: +/- 500

I didn’t sleep very well and jump on the bike as soon as I wake up. Without even having coffee I hit the road and decide to take a coffee at the next possibility. About 1.5 hours drive through the desert I stop at a petrol pump which is the next possibility to get coffee either. Its pretty windy and all is full of sand. In the east it looks like a thunderstorm in the desert and to my right is see the sea most of the time under a blue sky. I am in between with a few drops hitting me every now and then. After having coffee I get stopped at the police station and my passport is being checked. Like in Pakistan they write down my details before I go on – and like in Pakistan this procedure is reapiting itself several times this day. Seems like I arrived in Western Sahara! Arriving in Tarfaya I notice the petrol is a lot cheaper here too – only a little more than 70 cent per liter! After Tarfaya the road turns left and I go more or less directly south now. The wind is blowing a surface of sand on the road hitting from the north so it soon looks like I am riding on clouds! Hard to describe but it looks fucking awesome! This way the wind not only produces great optic effects but also enhances my speed. I arrive in Cape Bojador around half past four which means two hours before sunset. Ad Dakhla is still 350km away and in between there is only a very small village offering a café and two petrol stations. I am tired anyway and take a nice, clean and big room with a nice hot shower for 150DH. Garage for the bike included and wifi available. This place IS recommended!

I have no idea why the pictures are completely mixed up – they have numbers at least…