Shap Ahoy Challenge Diary - Western
This is an account of Nick
Capron and Tim Lovatt's journey from Cumbria to the Gambia during
the 2006 Plymouth-Banjul Challenge. It is based on notes taken along
the way, their photos and their memories. This page covers their journey
through the country of Western Sahara - i.e. the Sahara Desert. Use the links at the
top of the page to see other parts of their story, or to return to
the Shap Ahoy Summary Page.
On this page
Wed 28 Dec
Laayoune to Dakhla, through the desert but
near the coast
Thu 29 Dec
Day in Dakhla, preparing for off-road across
Fri 30 Dec
Dakhla across the desert to Nouadhibou in
Day 12 - Wed 28th Dec (99,395km)
No nearby mosques or minarets, so we sleep in
Left Laayoune at around 9.30am, target Dakhla.
Although we are travelling through desert, it
seems strange that we're so near the coast. We are frequently
reminded of this by the smell of rotting and drying fish when
passing the makeshift camps & villages. Mile munching mode again. Boring road but
fascinating scenery as always.
Named our new camel 'Tripod' cos he can only
stand on 3 legs at any one time. He lives in the centre of Bills
dashboard, secured by Velcro of course.
Petrol very cheap here, at about 40p per
litre. Getting well used to the sight of sand now.
Get to Dakhla well before dark. Staying at
campsite, although we manage to get a room for £1 extra. The room is
large & furnished with a light bulb, floor mat and two mattresses.
We break out the tinned stew & sprouts for
supper. Nearly the whole group is staying here for 2 nights. Much
bonding with fellow rally goers. We meet up with a New Zealand
traveller (Tim Rose) who is looking for a ride into Mauritania.
Little did he know at this stage what he was letting himself in for!
Have a look around Dakhla town, unexpectedly
nice. Seek out only hotel that sells alcohol, so stock up on beer &
wine before next few days in desert wilderness.
Fill water containers with water, fuel up car
& jerry can.
Group briefing today before going 'off road'.
Everyone sorts themselves into small convoy groups of 5 or 6 cars.
We are one of 6. Loverly Levers, Renault 19 - Giles and his
9-year-old son Tom (youngest person on challenge). Organic
Mechanics, Opel Omega - Steve & Patrick (oldest persons on
challenge). Driving Ambition, Nissan Sunny - Richard & Claire. Team
VWC, VW Camper van -Philip & Sara. 4X2Xtaxi, London Black Cab -
Paddy (Patrick) & Paul + Tim (New Zealand hitchhiker). With the
exception of Tim, Philip and Giles our team is made up of people who
have worked or still work in the public sector - education,
environmental work, nursing, social work and the probation service.
This does not bode well for any mechanical failures - but reckon we
will be able to have some good meetings, share 'thought showers'
(can't say 'brainstorming' now as this offends epileptics & the
like), discuss our predicaments, have evaluations & reviews -
despite not having a power point or flipchart available.
Later on we secure the services of a
Mauritanian guide, very good and d helpful - Abdullah, for the next
Many spend much time tinkering & repairing
cars. Tim treats Bill to a wash, checks oil & water, nothing
Plan to leave at 8am. Guide arrives late so
leave at 8.40am.
Much tinkering with 2 way radios. Objective today is to cross border and get to
Nouadhibou in Mauritania via off-road route. More desert, bit like driving through a snowy
landscape but much warmer and brown.
Arrive at end of Morocco (Western Sahara) at
1pm. Passport & customs officials decide it's lunchtime so bugger
off for 2 hours. We clear Moroccan officialdom before others so
drive through no-mans-land on our own, important to keep to
established tracks here, as landmines are still present.
Mauritanian passport control consists of a
garden shed, likewise the customs point a few metres further on.
Nick gets us through swiftly & without bribes, except for 5 euros at
passport & 10 euros at customs (standard fees apparently!). Hassled
by moneychangers, we wait for our convoy to emerge 2 hours later &
get our first 'yellow card' for crossing no man's land without them!
Arrived at camp in Nouadhibou just before
nightfall. First impression is that of an outlaw town, but its OK
really. The camp is actually a sandy car park with some toilets &
showers. At this point Nick demonstrates his camping prowess by
throwing his tent over the poles and getting under. Tim, as befits a
campsite manager, erects tent and ensures all is properly secured,
guy ropes tensioned and ship shape before moving in! Nick decides
that if tent falls apart or weather turns nasty he is straight into
Couldn't be bothered to get stove & pans out,
went for Chinese meal with others. Camp is noisy, cacophony of wailing from all
the nearby mosques & minarets, supplemented by dogs barking, camels
honking, donkeys braying and traffic.
More Team Shap Ahoy Information
Challenge 2006 website gives a great
deal of interesting information about the Challenge, and there is
Shap Ahoy Team Page on this
website, and an archive of
SMS messages sent during the
Page gives more
information about other teams who took part in the Plymouth-Banjul
Amsterdam-Dakar 2005 Challenges, and the
Saloum Nursery Page
tells more about how Shap Ahoy and Pageant are helping Saloum
Nursery in The Gambia.