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Thursday, 4 February 2010

Into the Western Sahara

We had to get over to the coast in order to meet up with Hans, who we had met at Bikers Home, and another bloke Peter who were going to join us for the next part of the journey. The ride from Form Zguid was pretty tiring. The wind got up in the afternoon and Mike and I seemed to spend most of the time leant over 30 degrees into it. Sapping stuff. That night we stopped in Gulmime, a dusty administritive town in the middle of nowhere. We popped up for a hotel room instead of camping which was a bit of a treat and set off again late the following morning. On our way out of Gulmime we saw a familiar figure on a BMW GS800. It was Hans, accompanied by Peter. Coincidence!

Following introductions and a few coffees we took off towards the coast. Two had become four and we turned a few heads as our convoy of bikes roared out of Gulmime. Should probably introduce the latest additions to the ensamble.

Hans is German but has lived in the UK since he was fifteen so we sort of see him as British. Although evidence of his Germanic tendancies are many, from the meticulous labelling of plastic bags of foodstuffs to the orderly manner in which he keeps his tent (in stark contrast to me and Mike).

Peter is an Aussie. A bit of a legend. At 57, he has been riding his BMW GS1200 around the world for the last two years. He shipped it from Oz to Chile and rode up through South, Central and North America before shipping the GS to Europe. Peter is at his happiest after a days riding, fussing around the campfire making billy tea and telling a few yarns. He sure does have a few.

Our next destination, the Western Sahara. The Western Sahara is a part of Morocco but is still depicted on maps as having it's own borders. The Spanish colonised it in the 19th century and occupied it until Moroccan independence in 1957. Nationalist fervour saw a war begin between the Moroccan backed Polisario and the Spanish, the latter soon realising there was little point in fighting for this dry, desolate corner of Africa.

We crossed into the Western Sahara and began our trek south, following the coast most of the way. The scenery, whilst often repeated frames of barren stark landscape was at times spectacular. From massive Laurence of Arabia style dunes to dramatic cliff tops plunging hundreds of feet into the Atlantic below. Amazing stuff.

After a few days riding the four of us made it to Dhaklar, the biggest town in the Western Sahara. We stopped for a couple of days at a camp 30kms from the town and stayed for a few days. The spot we had was great, a tidal lagoon surrounded by sand dunes. We passed the time swimming and chilling. I also changed both my tyres and Mike got some welding done on his rack which he had found to have snapped.

After a couple of days R&R we set off again. Peter was in front, followed by Mike, then me whilst Hans brought up the rear. We'd just filled up at a petrol station and were on a straight bit of road when up ahead I saw a huge cloud of sand and dust go up on the right hand side of the road. Peter had come off. Shit! Heart in my mouth, I pulled up and ran over to where his bike lay on it's side. Thankfully the tough old bugger was on his feet and looked okay. He was lucky but. Looking back we could see he left the road (we have no idea why) some 80 metres back travelling between 90 to 100kmph on soft sand. He had a nasty graze on his leg and his hand was a bit tender but fine other than that. His bike and panniers had taken a bit of a knock but were in okay shape. Soberly we continued on to our destination that night, a grand looking hotel some 80km from the border where we would cross into Mauritania the following morning. The road leading to the hotel was littered with signs warning that we were in a heavily mined area, so we were careful not to stray too far off the road when stopping for comfort stops.

We spent that evening doing a few repairs to Peter's bike and prepared for our border crossing the next day. We had heard a few stories that the border crossing could be a bit tricky. There is a piste through a few kilometres of no mans land which goes through a minefield between the two borders and the soldiers could apparently be a bit difficult. Aaaah well I guess we'd find out for ourselves in the morning.....


  1. Excellent reading and pics Simon.My google search is working overtime looking up all these as before unheard of places.Welcome Pete and Hans to the comfort of our living rooms in New Zealand.Family are all well and we all wish you good luck on your next stage and will ignore picture 6 !.

  2. It looks so barren, still very cool though! Poor Pete, he had a pretty lucky escape! I am soooo jealous, your campsite looks cosy right on the beach. Wishing you all well, be careful!! xxx

  3. Gemma and I love reading of Uncle Simon's (or Uncle Dimon as Gem says)adventures although I do feel somewhat nervous for you all and look forward to the next post so I know you are still with us!! Love you loads!! xxx

  4. Glad to see that you've been enjoying your time in Western Sahara.

    But I'd like to say that no country or international organisation recognise Morocco's illegal occupation of Western Sahara. On the contrary there are over 80 countries worldwide that recognise the Saharawi Republic which was declared by the Polisario and the Saharawi Republic SADR is a member of the African Union (AU).

    The Polisario never gave up. It is still trying to recover the country that Morocco stole in 1975.

    Western Sahara is very rich in mineral resources and fishing. It seems to me that it also has a potential in tourism.

    While enjoying your trip you should be aware that there are terrible human rights abuses taking place in Western Sahara by the Moroccan authorities.

  5. Alright, I see that the blue, yellow, red and pink Power Rangers have finally re-united...metamorphosis!

    Stay safe in the next part of the trip.

  6. Still glued to your progress reports & Keith can't keep up with the map reading! Was a bit concerned with picture '6' and agree with your Dad's comment. Take even 'more' care all of you!! Lynda & Keith. xx

  7. Hello - following your travels with awe. Nana would have been amazed! What an adventure you are having - Keep safe. Hugs and love Aunty Marion xxx & Co
    Love the hair style!