Facts and Figures
February 3rd - 9th 2009
Maritania Cont. & Senegal
Another rest day, which we spent washing dirty clothes, a bit of reading, updating the website and waiting for Abdoul to appear with the “New Tyres!”. We hadn’t realised how far behind we were with the site, not that we had had much internet access to upload it anyway. After all that was done, we wandered off to an Internet Café we had seen to check out the price which was surprisingly cheap, Oog 200 for an hour, about 70p. After uploading the website and checking/sending emails, we went back to the Auberge for a shower before dinner. Typical, Abdoul knocks the door half way through my shower, so I finish with the shower and go and see what he has for me…. A set of brand new TKC 80’s …. no.. He had a mixture of tyres, all the right size mind, but not TKC’s. a complete set of Tourance’s (Road Tyres), a Michelin Desert front and some tyre for the rear I had never heard of, which he assured me were only dirty and scuffed because they had been in the shop for so long. They all had less tread than I’ve got on my O.E. set which should get me to Ouagadougou at least. Next, we went to search out somewhere to send a Fax to DVLA to let them know why the bike won’t be SORN’ed or Taxed for the next couple of years, we never found anywhere, so we paid another visit to Restaurant Prince for some nosebag. After dinner it was back to the Auberge and a bit more tweaking of the website, then bed.
Start Mileage - 6474
Nouakchott - Rosso
We only intend to run as far as Rosso today and then to look for somewhere to camp or a cheap Auberge for the night to give us all day on the dirt road to Diema which neither Lorraine or I am overly confident about doing. So no real rush to get started and after being chased out of the room so the next “Guest” could move in, we were on the road at 10:15. And then the finding our way out of a city fun begins again!!!! It wasn’t too bad this time, we only had to ask 4 times, and the last guy took us all the way to the correct road.
Not too bad a run, taking it easy at 65MPH until about 40 miles outside of Rosso and the road deteriorates quite bad with lots of big potholes and the surface cracking up under the weight of traffic. Makes riding quite hard with the concentration needed and a safe speed of 40-50MPH tops. A couple of times I had scanned the road ahead for danger before having a look around at the scenery, and by the time I looked ahead again we were nearly in a hole having to swerve quite violently.
We see a Hotel just before the Diema turn which turned out to be a bit expensive so we carried on towards Rosso. Then about a mile further on we are at the border and immediately being hassled by people wanting to “help us out”, all for a fee of course. We mangae to turn the bike around in the mass of helpers and head back to the expensive Hotel we saw up the road followed by a few of the helpers in their car still hassling us. When I got the bike stuck in the sand outside the Hotel we were surrounded again until the gates were opened and I thrashed the bike out of the sand with a strong smell of hot clutch and parked up in the Hotel.
Start Mileage - 6603
Rosso - St. Louis (Senegal)
Up at 07:00 today. We are hoping that the helpers from yesterday aren’t hanging about waiting for us, so no coffee before we leave (Mary), pack the bike and get going by 08:15. The turning for the Diemma road is before Rosso town and we make it without being spotted. Having turned onto the road we are now wondering whether it was worth avoiding the helpers and going the long way round (90Km) rather than taking the short ferry crossing from Rosso itself.
We’ve got to get used to it sooner or later, off we go.
The road wasn’t too bad to begin with, hard packed with some light rutting, but after a short while we encountered my favourite …”Sand!!”. Luckily it only came in short stretches though deep at times, but we managed to stay upright. The rest of the 90K’s was a mixture of not too bad and seriously rutted and potholed surface which kept the speed down to around 20-25MPH. With regular stops and LOADS of concentration we made it unscathed … although the wallet didn’t fare as well.
35 KM’s from St. louis we turned a corner and were confronted by someone wearing army greens who told us we needed to pay 20 Euro’s because we had crossed through a National Park area. After much haggling and realising we weren’t going any further till we paid, we conceded and handed over a 50 Euro note, change to be given in Oog .. And guess what? He didn’t have enough, so it ended up costing us about 55 Euro’s all in…. Rip off 1
On our way again and the road is really bad, lots of corrugations right across the road and some deep potholes, the bike is getting shaken to bits and no way to avoid it without running in the sand alongside the road, and that’s not going to happen, so we suffer the discomfort.
Eventually we see the border post, the end is nigh! Six hours to do 90Km, we’re both exhausted.
First off is customs to get the bike cleared. Although they had stamped the carnet into Mauritania and asked for it so we could get out, there was still a charge of 10 Euro’s because the carnet wasn’t recognised in Mauritania … when we questioned it, the customs official said we would have to go back to their main office in Rosso to sort it out. Not likely! 10 Euro’s later we can move on to the police. Rip off 2
Into the police cabin to get the passports stamped out and the bike paperwork checked again. All ok except.. Yes, another 10 Euro’s for the police formalities. Rip off 3
At last we are clear of Mauritania and we can see the Senegal border over the bridge, but we cant get to it unless we pay another 10 Euro’s to cross the bridge. Rip off 4
And it’s not over yet, the police on the Senegal side need 10 Euro’s, and it costs me 5 Euro’s to customs to be allowed to ride my bike around Senegal freely. Nearly £70 in total, most of it in a 500 yard stretch!
Next we have to buy insurance which is available just behind the customs post in the little red café.
53 Euro’s for insurance to cover the bike for 3 months and supposedly in most of the countries we will passing through up till Cameroon, which, if it’s true is not too bad. Time will tell.
A 25 Km run to St. Louis, on nice flat tarmac, and find Camping Ocean, recommended by a local we met at the border and one of the waypoints on the satnav, which again proved not as straightforward to find as we would have hoped, but find it we did, eventually. They only had one tent available which the owner said wasn’t a very good one, she was right, and no facilities for campers with their own tent, so it’s a room again.
We went up for dinner at around 19:30 but they had finished in the kitchen so the owner got her son to show us to a local restaurant, only to find it closed as well. As we hadn’t really eaten much for the last two days we were both quite hungry and the only option was to break into the emergency rations again.
Start Mileage - 6693
St. Louis - Lac Rose
Once again we only have a relatively short distance to go today so no rush to get going. After breakfast we pack up and are on the road by 10:30. We managed to find our way out of the city very easily this time, not even having to ask for directions. Just as we are leaving the outskirts of town, we come across one of the waypoints that had been set on the satnav, “corrupt police”. A guy in police uniform and flip flops waived us down, and informed us that we had been speeding and must pay a fine, although we had seen as we approached that, 1. he had not even been looking in our direction, 2. no speed gun or radar trap, and 3. he hadn’t stopped any of the vehicles we were following at the same speed, so we argued the fact with him. In the end he asked for my licence and insurance. Time to use the dummy licence I had photocopied and laminated, it worked, he was none the wiser, but he had hold of the insurance so doing a runner wasn’t a good idea. Good to know the licence works though. In the end, whether he heard me mention to Lorraine about phoning the British Embassy or if he just realised I wasn’t going to pay him, he let us on our way. The rest of the run was uneventful, bar the odd stray goat or pedestrian wandering into the road without looking, riding some good tarmac and passing through some nicer looking villages. One of the things we have noticed after passing through some of the villages is the amount of rubbish at the side of the road which spoils the otherwise beautiful scenery.
About 12miles before Dakar, we pass a bike being pushed along the road in the opposite direction so we turn around to see if we can offer any help, not having any mechanical skills, I’m not sure what help I could offer but I had spare petrol if that was the case and anyway, you can’t pass another motorcycle that is in need of assistance. The bike is a BMW F 800 GS, and is being ridden by a guy called Jaroslav Sima and his other half (sorry, we didn’t get your name!). He is a journalist for a Czechoslovakian Motorcycle Magazine and is doing a 200,000 Km test on the bike. Petrol is not the problem, at least not the lack of it.
Some links from Jaroslav’s card : -
www.honda.cz , www.motorkari.cz/detail-clanku-akce/?cid=4529
He comes this way every year and gave us an address for somewhere to stay at Lac Rose, the finishing point for the Dakar Rally. Camping Tool Bi is right on the edge of a big lake and the water has a red tint to it, hence the name, and it is easy to get to according to Jaroslav, with solid roads.
After swapping stories about where we had been and where we were going, Jaroslav thumbed the starter of the bike and it started first time, and kept running, which it wasn’t doing before. He thinks it might be dirty fuel filter but he said I was his “Maribou” (witch doctor) because the bike now seemed to be ok.
Glad I could help!
They get going while the bike is still running, hope you made it with no other problems, and we set off for Lac Rose.
A couple of miles further on we spot a sign for the lake but miss the turning, we turn around and miss it again .. DOH!! So we stop and ask. No wonder we missed it, it is a small turn into a narrow sandy lane which thankfully isn’t too long before we hit tarmac, or rather a lot of potholes linked by narrow strips of tarmac, but this good fortune doesn’t last too long as the road soon deteriorates into yet another sandy lane. We keep going, the bike sliding left and right and needing loads of throttle to get through some of the deeper stuff with the inevitable smell of burning clutch. Stopping for a breather and to let the bike cool down, a coupe of lads pass on a scooter and ask where we are going, they tell us to follow them. They shoot off at a rate of knots and we paddle on in 1st gear trying to keep the bike upright. After about 9Km’s and the lads having to stop a few times for us to catch up, we reach the lake, I’m dripping wet with fighting the bike, but it was fun, sort of! We still have 2 Km’s to go before we reach the camp site but it is a bit firmer going along the lake edge and we make it in one piece.
We check in and opt for a beach hut style accommodation rather than putting the tent up in the sand. As we are staying a few days, we can leave all the gear secure in the room and not have to worry about it while we are out, plus there is a shower (cold water only), breakfast is included and it is only a couple of quid extra a night, which it would have cost for the coffee I drank in the mornings.
Talking later with Hassan, the owner, we find that there is a good tarmac road that leads from the main road to the lake which we obviously missed!
We ate at the camp site this evening, chicken and chips for Lorraine and chicken with rice for me, both with a nice lemon and onion sauce and a stack of bread. The first proper meal in a couple of days and it went down well.
Breakfast is booked for 09:00 and then it’s a bit of maintenance on the bike. With the Diemma crossing, all the corrugations crossing from Mauritania, the pot holes and sand I had noticed a few nuts and bolts were coming loose. The equipment bar on the handlebars was nearly off, the handle bar clamps had worked loose and the pannier mounts were barely still attached. An hour or two later and everything is tightened up again, I hope.
Time to head into Dakar and try to find the Embassy for the Cote D’Ivoire, hoping we might get the Visa’s for the next few countries today.
Following Hassan’s directions and the satnav we manage to get totally lost and once again find ourselves on sand roads, it’s not going overly well to say the least as I manage to get the bike completely bogged up to the rear axle in a deep bit of sand, not going anywhere, a good photo opportunity, but Lorraine’s camera has packed in. Traffic is passing in both directions but no assistance being offered until a guy on a scooter stops and lends a hand. 20 minutes later we are free and moving again, but not clear of sandy roads. It is about 15Km’s of hard going before we see solid tarmac again. The bike is hot, we are hot and we are now in nose to tail traffic on the main road into Dakar, two lanes but cars, trucks and buses at least 5 abreast going for any gap available, all belching thick black smoke from their exhausts. When the gaps open enough to be able to ride up through the traffic, the added hassle of street sellers wandering through trying to sell phone cards, nuts, oranges and an assortment of other goods appears, even on the nice new motorway section there are vendors wandering the lanes … madness!!
We eventually clear the traffic and find the centre ville and after asking a few times we find the Embassy, it closed at 12:30. We had half expected it to be closed but at least we now know where it is and we should be able to find it easy enough on Monday .. Ha. I just hope they can do the visa’s there and then on Monday.
After clearing the traffic on the way back out of Dakar, we follow the satnav to Rufisque which looks like it is the road we should have taken to the lake in the first place, nice and flat. We pull into a service station on the way to get some water and to get the bike washed, it is caked in sand and we immediately become the centre of attention, people wanting to know about the bike and what we are doing. 45 minutes later the bike is done, hand washed and looking nearly new again.
Back on the road again and the satnav is telling us to turn left towards the lake. All we can see are sand roads, and knowing the satnav will only give directions in a straight line from one point to another we are not too sure where to go, we pull over and ask a couple of people for directions via good roads and it seems we do need to go left, so off we go. First through a scrap yard, then some pot holes, a rubbish dump, and more sand at which point Lorraine decided she is going to walk. We get a couple of lads who show us onto the hard stuff through more sand and a river crossing, well, a little brook really! And it is plain sailing from then on. We find the camp site and realise we turned the wrong way out of a junction this morning.
Lets hope we manage to get it right on Monday morning.
Lorraine wanted to get some fruit on the way back so we stopped at a fruit stall on the side of the road and bought a few oranges to eat later.
We had decided not to eat at thesite tonight but to have a look to see if we can find Café Bonabe, which is just up the road according to the satnav. After walking to the end of the tarmac road in the direction of Café Bonabe and seeing no lights up ahead we checked into a small bar on the lake front which is attached to the Hotel Palal and had a liquid dinner instead, although they did supply copious amounts of free nuts.
Breakfast at 09:00 again, and a lazy day today just hanging round the camp site, updating the web site and a wander into the village where there is supposedly an Internet Café.
We found the internet café in the Palal Hotel a couple of hundred yards from ToolBi, but no-one knew the access code so we might come back later this evening and try again, meanwhile I’ll have a beer!!
Beer supped we head back to ToolBi. Lorraine wants to get in the pool, but when we get back the place is mobbed. The lake, and it seems more especially, ToolBi are very popular at the weekends. There seem to be a lot of French families around Dakar on job exchange, military and emergency services, and a lot of them were at ToolBi today. They all thinned out around 17:30 and Lorraine managed to get into the pool, I had a beer!
We ate the oranges that we bought yesterday, not as sweet as we were expecting, so sour they made your teeth curl, but refreshing anyway.
We had told Hassan that we would eat at the site tonight and we both opted for Brochette Viande (Meat on a stick), rice and some of the nice onion/lemon sauce again. I think the kitchen staff might have been a bit hacked off with having to stay and cook our dinner two hours after finishing a busy lunchtime session. The meat was very tasty but it wasn’t the most tender we had experienced. After dinner we decided to just watch a movie and try the internet at the Hotel after going for the visa’s.
Breakfast at 09:00 again. 10:30 and we are caffeine’d up and ready to brave the onslaught of traffic, heat, fumes and sellers in the road on the way back in to Dakar. Surprisingly we found the Embassy first time and joined the queue of people waiting for whatever paperwork they were after. About 15 minutes later we are called to the window and I ask for a VTE (a visa, that someone on the HUBB had said we could get at the Cote D’Ivoire Embassy that would cover us for a few of the countries we were headed for and be cheaper than getting individuals, even with getting the Cote D’Ivoire entry although we weren’t going there). They wouldn’t do it, even after telling them, as suggested on the HUBB, that a friend had obtained one only a week or two ago. Bugger!
If we had been on a time schedule that would have been a whole weekend wasted waiting. You can’t believe everything you read.
We arrived back at the site at around 17:30, after stopping for a big lunch in Dakar so we wouldn’t have to bother the kitchen staff again after a busy lunchtime session, and to let Hassan and Abdoul get home early to their families as they were only hanging around looking after us.
We had a beer and then walked over to the Palal to try the internet again. We were lucky this time, someone had managed to get the password for us, although it was the wrong one. We succeeded in sussing it out with the help of a Dutch Lady who was on her laptop at the time and sort of remembered the code. She had been here a couple of years and had horses on the beach that she took people trekking on through the dunes. We had a bit of a chat about what we were up to and when we told her we were heading to Tambacounda the following day, her reply wasn’t too comforting .. “what, Tambacounda, 400Km’s in one day? On Senagalese roads, you’ll be lucky!” hmmmm.
Anywho, a couple of beers later and after a Skype session with friends and family it was forgotten.
Back to the site and time to pack up again. Packing up is the hardest part of the trip so far in a few ways. Leaving somewhere nice not knowing what’s around the corner. But that’s all part of the adventure and when the wheels are turning, you get that cooling breeze blowing down your collar and up your sleeves, and the new sights and smells get the spirit going again.
The start of the 90 Km run to Diemma.