Challenge Diary - Page A - Cumbria to Sidi
Day 1 Tues 26th
Dec 290,722km - Cumbria to Alençon (France) .
At 7am, Tim, Arlene, Nick & Jenny meet up at the
near the M6 for a send-off.
Nick and Tim leave their spouses behind and head off south with a
full tank of petrol, 'Tripod' our camel mascot, lots of Euros and a
supply of corned beef & mustard sandwiches in our 1994 'twice round
the clock' Ford Escort.
Tim & Nick, early start from Crooklands
Ferry queue at Dover,
with Ian & Sam behind
Uneventful journey to Dover where we rendezvous with Ian and Sam
Hunt, a father and daughter team from Darwen travelling in a very
old Isuzu Trooper (team Bodge-it and Scarper).
Nick gets out portable CD player to connect to car radio & cassette
unit. This is soon followed by the acute realisation that he forgot
to bring any CD discs whatsoever. The benefit of this is that Tim no
longer has to fear the threat of 'Meatloaf' being played.
At 2.10pm we leave Dover for
Boulogne, France and continue progress
We come across a 'Banjul Challenge' car (The
Angel and the Fairy, T7212 destination Banjul in
the Gambia), two young ladies by the names of Laura and Katie, they
had broken down in their VW Golf. Ian immediately donned his suit of
armour and took the stricken car in tow as far as a service area
where we investigated in and around the engine compartment,
eventually decided that they were probably too low on fuel and the
carburettor took in some dirt from the tank. They fuelled up and all
seemed well. We form a small convoy for the rest of the day.
In case you didn't know, Nick & Tim successfully completed the
Banjul Challenge a year ago, raising thousands of pounds for local
By nightfall (a good time beyond in fact) we reach Alençon
[map] and check
into a Campanile Motel for the night. Too late to get anything from
the restaurant, so we heat up some soup and devour more corned beef
and mustard sandwiches before bed.
Day 2 Wed 27th Dec 291,650km - to Miranda de Ebro (Spain)
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Tim & Nick off at 9.45am after full continental breakfast. Ian and
Sam have a baguette 'on the move' because they got up late after
forgetting to alter their clocks last night.
Stop for sandwich.
Stop for night at
in the town of Miranda De Ebro [map]
Day 3 Thurs 28th
Dec 292,535km - to Tarifa
Very cold and frosty start to the day. Up at 6am for 6.30am getaway.
Jump start required to Ian's Trooper. Electrics not right, buzzing
relay and warning lights flashing up. We make it down the road a
little way before pulling into a motorway toll station (free
lighting) to investigate further.
Bad news, we now suspect that the alternator has packed in. Good
news, Ian brought a second hand spare. Bad news, it looks like a pig
to fit. Good news, time is not too much of a pressure. Bad news, you
can only get one pair of hands around the job for most of the time
so Ian does most of the work. Good news, Nick, Sam and Tim are able
to offer lots of encouragement. Bad news, it's still dark, well
below freezing & Ian's gammy leg doesn't like it. Good news, we've
got torches, stoves, food and lots of coffee.
2½ hours later it's fixed and we're off and on the move again.
Exhaust pipe on Escort is now blowing, just next to a previous
repair. Not serious, so we ignore it.
Somewhat more serious was an alarming amount of smoke pouring out
from our steering column. After hastily pulling over onto the hard
shoulder and turning off the ignition, a preliminary inspection
traced the fault to a short circuit in the wiper control switch. We
disconnected the cables and would try to fix it later.
At around 2pm near a place called Bejar [map], we find our friends in the
Golf again. Broken down again. We tow them off to a safer area where
Tim diagnoses a sticking valve in the carburettor throttle body.
Lashings of WD40 seem to sort the problem and we all progress
southwards to Tarifa [map],
getting there at 8.30pm.
Eat pizza for supper.
Day 4 Fri 29th Dec
293,530km - Ferry to Tangiers & on to Marrakech
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Up at 7.30am, drive through Tarifa
town to take our place in Ferry queue. Busier than we expected, we
just manage to get onto the first ferry to depart for Tangiers
at 9am. Spend most of the crossing in a queue for passport control.
Passport control is still taking place well after the ferry gets
into port and so ensues chaos with cars trying to get off while
other cars seemingly abandoned on the decks (good British
Reasonably pain-free exit through Moroccan
customs etc at
Tangiers. Continue south to Marrakech [map]
with Ian & Sam.
No problems en-route. Arrive at Hotel CTM
(very low budget place we used
We all eat at one of the barbeque stalls in the main square, the
Djemaa el Fna.
Also, as last year, the place is packed and buzzing, fantastic BBQ
food in square at night, incl. lamb, pork, fish, peppers, sheep
heads, brains & eyeballs. Entertainment provided by storytellers,
musicians, snake charmers & traders selling things as diverse as
fresh citrus juices, figs, nuts, false teeth, potions & elixirs.
BBQ dinner - Marrakech
Go with Ian & Sam on tour of the Souks. Tim buys scarf (ready for
desert), checks label, 'made in China'.
The Souks, Marrakech
Leave Marrakech early with Ian & Sam. Heading south, just for a
Take wrong road out of city, which results in our first 'off-road'
excursion for about an hour.
Had brunch, opened two of our canned 'all day breakfasts', ate them
cold and direct from the tin, mmmmm! A particular taste that we both
seem to have acquired.
Up into the Atlas Mountains, through the snowline and over the
n Test Pass at 2,100 metres (6,900 feet).
Atop the Tizi N Test Pass,
Driving today ends at
Hotel La Suerte Loca in
Sidi Ifni [map] on the
We meet up here with nearly all of the others in the group. George
and Eleanor are a couple of days behind us in a Mondeo & will try to
A meal at the hotel, a few drinks, live Moroccan music and fireworks
on the beach see us all into the New Year.
Spend the whole day at Sidi Ifni.
Most of the group spend time tinkering with cars, fitting air horns
etc (essential tackle to shift donkeys and camels out of the way).
The convoy will consist of the following (in alphabetical order so
as not to offend), Ford Escort - Tim & Nick, Ford Fiesta - Richard &
Anne-Maria, Isuzu Trooper - Ian & Sam, Land Rover - Ray & John,
Mercedes 190D - Paula & young Tim, Mercedes 240D - Nathan & Frankie,
UMM (Portuguese 4wd) - Anna & Philippe, Volvo 245 - Karl, Nicola &
Mark. There is also Toby, who will share rides with anyone who will
As our car was fairly well prepared before leaving the UK, Nick
retires to the hotel roof to read a book, while Tim goes for a long
walk along the beach & later some guitar practice on hotel roof (Tim
purchased a cheap Chinese-made guitar before setting off).
If the hat fits-----
Someone must have heard, as two of the locals asked if they could
come along that evening for a session in the bar. Turned out to be a
great evening, 2 guitars and a bongo, supported by Ian's voice and
Sam's tambourine. We joined in some of their local folk stuff and
they did likewise with our western pop & rock.