I've never seen a desert before so I've been looking forward to getting to Western Sahara and seeing some drifting sand dunes. However I've been severely disappointed, this area is totally flat gravel. It's just a bit dry. It is an utterly featureless, boring, monotonously huge wasteland covered in litter. This area was Spain's only African colony, and is now disputed between Morocco and a group called the Polisario. I have no idea what the appeal is, it seems to have zero economic, social or aesthetic value! On the plus side though this desolation makes for easy camping and amazing night skies.
The Moroccan authorities spice it up though about every 70 miles by placing a roadblock and asking for a fiche (a written note of all your personal, passport and vehicle details along with your itinerary). At one of these I asked how far to the next petrol station and was told 100km. Needless to say after 140 km I have seen no petrol and the tank is empty. So the next hour goes a little like this;
- Try to flag down first 2 cars. They speed past. This might be more difficult than I thought.
- 10 mins later flag down third car. Taxi. I'm told there is a cafe in 3 km that might have petrol. No lift.
- Start pushing loaded bike to cafe. Pretty tired after 1 km. Stop.
- Realise how stupid I've been and decide it is much easier to bring petrol to the bike than the bike to the petrol. Start walking.
- 2 Moroccans pull over and give me a lift to the cafe. No petrol. Continue lift for another 5 km to petrol station.
- Arrive just as the petrol station is about to send a rescue truck for the bike. They'd been told about the bike by someone passing.
- Get petrol. Get ride back in this Rescue truck.
Now, I didn't get a photo of the truck unfortunately but let me just describe a few things about it, in the order I noticed them;
- It's a land rover defender with a crane contraption built on the back and looks like it was one of the first ever built. Clearly British engineering was good back then.
- Once we start moving I realise I'm not wearing a seatbelt and I'm leaning against the door, which is held closed by string. No fear though, at this point we are in 5th gear and doing about 20 to 25 mph.
- It has an aftermarket stereo which is basically a house stereo shoved into the footwell, however I see why this is needed as the engine is so rough and loud.
- The steering is so slack that the guy is turning the wheel 90 degrees without anything happening. Then he turns a little more and the landy swings wildly across to the other side of the road.
- Then we get near the bike and the guy starts slowing down about half a mile before we get there. I wonder what's going on but then I look and see he is pumping the brake and barely anything is happen. His face clearly shows that this is normal. We slowly cruise to a stop, using the gravel verge for extra friction to slow us down in time.
So now I'm refuelled, but I wonder whether I should follow the truck back to the station. I think there is a good chance I need to rescue the rescue truck!
Off to Mauritania next.Read more