Shap Ahoy Challenge Diary - Mauritania
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 Mauritania to Senegal - more of the Sahara Desert, plus some
driving along a very long beach. 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
Sat 31 Dec
Nouadhibou through the desert to campsite at
the 'Big Dune'
Sun 1 Jan
'Big Dune' through more desert to campsite
Mon 2 Jan
Nouamghar along the coast to Nouakchott
Tue 3 Jan
Nouakchott to campsite at Zebrabar in Senegal
Day15 - Sat 31st Dec (100,394km)
Out of Nouadhibou and off road over desert.
Our guide advises on routes according to ability of vehicles and/or
how much fun we want to have. Day progresses with learning how to
drive in sand (rev the nuts off the engine & go fast), over rock
fields (slow & careful), over rutted piste (pray nothing shakes or
breaks off car), and over desert plain (really fast). Vehicles get
stuck in sand and boys being boys decide to use some of their toys -
radios, air jacks, sand ladders etc - advice from the guide centres
more on reducing tyre pressures and pushing than using gadgets -
still we soon learn. Combination surfaces can be problematic.
Camels replace goats.
The guitars then came out, courtesy of Paddy
& Paul (black cab) and impromptu blues session ensued. Tim & Paul on
strings, Nick taking lead vocals & improvisation based on the blues
"I woke up one morning" thread. The whole evening was topped off
with a bonfire and superb surprise firework display, provided by Dilys (Chevy Blazer) who organises outdoor events for a living. Our
midnight countdown was facilitated by Nick who had tuned in his
radio to BBC world service. Not bad for a New Year party not quite
in the middle of the Sahara Desert.
Wonder what the nomads & camels thought?
Just about everyone looks jaded, except those
that didn't go to bed at all. Lots of people seemingly just walking
off into the desert clutching spades, then my bowels send a familiar
signal to my brain and the penny drops (just before trousers). There
is no natural cover here for miles, except for one bush and the dune
itself, so you either have to make some cover, walk a very long way,
or just say, "sod it, I need to go and I don't care who's watching".
We eventually break camp, pack the cars and
wonder how so much sand has got onto and into the dashboard, centre
console, seats, glove box, food hamper, caffetiere, belly-button,
nose and ears.
Another variety of surfaces today including
some high-speed dune bashing, digging & pushing & wearing of beige
required (please consult author for explanation). Nick walks miles
to help stuck vehicles & then can't find way back to own car, "it
all looks the same," he proclaims. Eventually gets lift from team in
a 4WD who make light work of search.
Young Tom gets a ride on a camel. Taxi looses complete exhaust system, a common
occurrence for many vehicles.
Stay the night near coast at a kind of
campsite (near Nouamghar); it has a kind of fence, a kind of toilet
(far too scary to use), no running water and a kind of kitchen from
which we were offered (and accepted) camel and chips. Local children
raiding rubbish bags on regular basis. More goats.
2am last night Tim went for walk with spade,
camels' revenge we think.
Bought some fresh bread. Used jerry can to
replenish our near empty tank, fuel consumption virtually doubles in
rough desert. Emptied car of sand.
More children raiding rubbish bags.
Sat around camp till 2.30pm waiting for tide
to ebb enough for us to drive down the beach. Many cars getting
stuck in soft sand between track and beach (some are very slow to
Very pleasant run down beach, with enough
time to stop for a quick dip in the ocean. Male non-swimmers bribe
Tim to ensure Claire enters and wins the only Wet T Shirt
competition held on the rally.
Passing fishing villages, car, bus & shipwrecks and goats.
Usual suspects get stuck in sand again trying
to get off beach, assisted this time by Range Rover with towrope.
Make first contact with 'The Major' (Robin) who can be heard on the
two-way radio trying to impose radio discipline to other members of
Arrived Nouakchott 7pm. Nice hotel with air
conditioning & reliable shower.
Today we head for Senegal, goats featuring
prominently again the whole day. Group spends time in the morning
tracking down petrol, so a later start than planned, Nick and Tim
eventually manage to find a garage with fuel, assisted by a local
money changer who is keen to do business, and buy our car - to no
For crossing the border we choose to take the
western route. A long morning drive brings us to the border at Diama,
which involves a 100km drive on very rough dirt tracks along a man
made dyke. Cars have to leave big gaps between them due to the
massive dust clouds generated. This at least is our excuse for going
like hell down the dyke - with Tim at the wheel leaving other
members of the group in our wake. Another yellow card narrowly
avoided by Tim, Nick and Giles diving back into cars and pretending
to have just arrived at the border as the rest of the group hove
We wait at border for the whole group to
gather before crossing into Senegal. For those that got up and away
early, this equated to a near 5 hour wait!
We eventually get out of Mauritania OK, but
another long wait ensues on the Senegal side while 'negotiations'
are made with customs. Getting older cars into and out of Senegal is
not straightforward. After our 41 cars have each parted with 50
euros (no receipts) we leave the border en mass with a customs
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.