Desert in Mauritania – Fun and Trouble

Posted: November 20, 2010 in Africa Orbital, Mauritania
Tags: , , , , ,

Darren writes 18/11

I almost rode off this one

Hi All, It’s great to get all your messages (including yours Ben ch). I read them last night as we are now in Atar, Mauritania. But with such slow connection speeds and a key board with keys in different places than what I’m used to, replying to them all in the time we have is tricky. Just putting the blog update takes as long as digging ones bike out of soft sand! We did a lot of that recently!

Russ digging out... Again!

 To let you know Ben, bikes have taken a bit of a hammering.. Mine seems to be ok with routine maintenance although my water pump may be on its way out and I did break my screen. Russ’ latest problem is fork oil everywhere with broken seals. We will bodge something this morning and get some more seals sent fedexed when we get somewhere sensible. Kris, you’ve done fantastic things looking after this blog and the face book page… everyone should know your hard work.

So what’s been up since the last update? Right now we are in the desert town of Atar repairing our bikes and recovering from our most challenging ride in the Mauritanian desert of mostly sand dunes and sand planes.

One of our campsites

 It took us 4 days to cross 300miles and the sun is so hot. Starting in a village of deep soft sand, Russ boiled his radiator coolant as we took an hour struggling through their streets. We were passing along a train track which carries the world’s longest train and later that afternoon, as the sun was setting, the 2 km long ore train passed… an amazing sight. With hard work, deflated tyres and determination we rode the sand and its dunes the following day. Then disaster… On one of Russ’ falls, he trapped and twisted his foot under his bike… it’s now wrapped in cabbage leaves, which seems to be the local thing to do with swelling.

typical killer sand dune

 Maybe we could get some ice fedexed? Then later in the afternoon, I rode straight off the steep side of a small dune. Through the air and front wheel into the sand beneath. Landing head first, still on the bike and upside down its weight came down on me crushing my upper torso and shoulders. Lying there after I thought I had broken ribs and shoulder and possibly sternum and back I couldn’t move and somewhat worried about being in the desert in this state. A prayer, Mandatory! We camped under that dune with the idea to wait until the morning to see if Russ would ride out for help or sit it out to recover some before me getting back on the bike.

the village of choum. kids fight for photo

 Thank God, it seemed the next day that nothing had broken though the pain was pretty intense. It would have been best to have stayed there to recover but with dwindling food and water, Russ set up our bikes, after test riding mine which seemed to escape with only a broken screen and cosmetic stuff, and we continued. It was about as far to go in both directions so onwards we went. Riding was agony and when the bike started to fall there was no way I could have a chance of keeping it up so Russ spent a lot of time picking my bike up as well as his own. And with a sprained ankle. The thing with sand is you have to maintain good speed or you sink and every dune we went up we would have to slow near the top to see if there was a drop off. If there was, then ditch the bike, if not, back on the throttle down the other side! Though extremely challenging it was a beautiful place and 2 days later we made it to the town of Atar where we have rested the last 3 nights. That said we had to change tyres back, do maintenance and sort out all our dirty stuff. Russ has done the heavy work… which includes picking up even the light things. Thank you Russell! Today we hope to mend Russ’ folk seals and travel south east to Nouakchott. The road will be tar so I should be able to just sit there on the bike and cruz! From there we will head to The Gambia via Senegal where we will service and repair the bikes.

So it sounds a bit cold and windy there… Just think of us having to put up with constant sunshine!

  1. Dave Hider says:

    Sounds scary guys. Keep going. Even though you may not know loads of us are following your trek and amazed by all that you are doing. Go for it!

  2. Murray says:

    Great update, have been concerned the last few days and been praying more. Good to hear they are going to have a few better days and some rest!

  3. Paula Roberts says:

    Hi Russell and Daren, Glad your safely throught the dessert I have been thinking and praying for you both, knowing how bad sand roads are in Zambia for a four wheel drive vehicle and that you would sand dunes to negotiate Thank God nothing more serious has happened you take care of yourselves and I will keep praying for your safety and the safety of all your kit. God bless you both Love Paula

  4. Rob says:

    Hi Darren, that section is very hot and those trains are massive. Remember watching a train heading to the coast at dusk and you couldn’t see the start or end of it for ages, loads of dust. FYI, you can travel to Chom in an empty ore trailer for free! What did you guys do for fuel on route? Ended up buying government petrol from a supply village, the stuff was black as your boot but ran in the bike… Good luck with fork seals and remember to stop at the stop signs in Senegal or the cops will have you!!

    • Hey Rob… Yeh super long train.. Amazing. Fuel.. We dont ride KTM!!!! Our bike is 17 litre and good for 350km on this terrain. We also carried 15 extra litres which we used all of so just about made it. We did pick up extra 5 liters of ugly looking stuff in Choum though but that is being used at the mo for cleaning! Where are you now?

  5. Claire Hollingsworth says:

    Hey boys! Wow – lovely keeping up with your adventures – can’t quite manage to sympathise with Darrens ailments but I am sympathising with Russells ankle – sprained mine yesterday and hobbling around the ice here! Well if you ever need a doc.. : )

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