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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.

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Sat 31 Dec Nouadhibou through the desert to campsite at the 'Big Dune'
Sun 1 Jan 'Big Dune' through more desert to campsite near Nouamghar
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 day ends at a huge sand dune called........ Big Dune. We make this by late afternoon after a spectacular high speed run on smooth desert plain. Our convoy set up camp in a semi-circle formation against the base of the dune.

We then decide to pool our food resources, led by Phil (VW camper van), head chef nominee. We end up with a veritable banquet which includes couscous, bean & lentil casserole, salad, dhal with garlic, mutton dumpling and frankfurter curry, rice and other dishes which we cannot remember, save to say that it was all washed down with an abundance of fluids.



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?

Day 16 - Sun 1st Jan 2006 (100,510km)

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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.



Day 17 - Mon 2nd Jan (100,768km)

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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 learn).


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 his group!

Arrived Nouakchott 7pm. Nice hotel with air conditioning & reliable shower.

Day 18 - Tues 3rd Jan (100,945km)

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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 avail.

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 into view.

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 escort.

It's after midnight when we arrive at the campsite at Zebrabar, in a nature reserve a few miles from St Louis. Hot food and cold beer is available to those who want it, we felt it would be rude to decline! Fortunately we both took the precaution of erecting our tents (even Nick on this occasion) before consumption of alcohol.

We are instructed to keep our vehicles at the camp till Friday, when we will be escorted to the Gambian border.

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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