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Shap Ahoy Challenge Diary - Western Sahara

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.

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Wed 28 Dec Laayoune to Dakhla, through the desert but near the coast
Thu 29 Dec Day in Dakhla, preparing for off-road across the desert
Fri 30 Dec Dakhla across the desert to Nouadhibou in Mauritania

Day 12 - Wed 28th Dec (99,395km)

No nearby mosques or minarets, so we sleep in a little.

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!

Day 13 - Thurs 29th Dec

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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 3 days.

Many spend much time tinkering & repairing cars. Tim treats Bill to a wash, checks oil & water, nothing required.


Day 14 - Fri 30th Dec

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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 the car.

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

Plymouth-Banjul Challenge 2006 website gives a great deal of interesting information about the Challenge, and there is a Shap Ahoy Team Page on this website, and an archive of SMS messages sent during the Challenge.

The 2005/6 Challenge Page gives more information about other teams who took part in the Plymouth-Banjul 2006 and Amsterdam-Dakar 2005 Challenges, and the Saloum Nursery Page tells more about how Shap Ahoy and Pageant are helping Saloum Nursery in The Gambia.

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