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Two Toyotas To Timbuktu (4Ts)

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Tim Lovatt. of Shap Ahoy fame, went off on another winter adventure to Africa. He and three friends acquired two Toyota Landcruisers, and drove them to Timbuktu in Mali, so the adventure was known as the Four Ts. This was not a fundraising event, but as with the T4 Challenge in 2007, both cars were sold at the end of the trip and the proceeds given to Pageant. We hosted this page in return and to say another thank you for Shap Ahoy raising 4572 for Saloum Nursery in the 2006 Plymouth-Banjul Challenge.

On this page

Updates etc.

The Route Outline of the route
The Cars Details of the Toyota Landcruisers
The Team Introducing Tim, Nolan, Ian & Geoff
Preparations 21 November 9 December
Itinerary Detailed itinerary
Progress Reports Daily updates during the journey
Thanks To those who have helped
Links Some interesting websites

Ian and Tim with the two cars

Ian and Tim with the two cars

The route

They planned to get to Timbuktu again, but this time taking some time to explore the southern side of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, and more of Mali, possibly including some of 'Dogon Country'. The theory being that progress would be quicker as a small group.

They left the UK on the 26th December sailing from Portsmouth direct to Bilbao in Spain. This was followed by a drive to Tarifa on Spain's south coast and then the next morning (29 December) over the Straits of Gibraltar to Tangier in Morocco. From there on their itinerary was very flexible. depending on the usual factors of checkpoints & borders, fuel supply, weather, breakdowns & punctures. The one fixed point was their flight home from Mali on 21 January.

The cars

As the name implies, these are two Toyota Landcruisers - the old short wheelbase type. Both were acquired off EBay! They are LJ70 models, each sporting a 2.4 litre turbo Diesel engine.

The team

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The team consists of Tim Lovatt (half of team 'Shap Ahoy'), Nolan Pretty, Ian Hunt (Half of team 'Bodge it & Scarper') and Geoff Todd. Ian was on the T4 Challenge last year with his 14 year old daughter Sam. Geoff is a friend of Ian. Nolan (from the south east) is a very late and welcome addition to the group, since one of the original members had to give up his place. Nolan spotted their advert on the 'Thorn Tree' web site, part of Lonely Planet. There was interest from many people, including some from Kenya, USA, Denmark and Finland.

Tim, Ian and Geoff (Don't ask!)

Nolan with Tim

Tim, Ian and Geoff (Don't ask!)

Nolan with Tim


21 November - Preparations are very much under way.

  • An initial planning meeting was held at Ian's business headquarters, Hunt4Kitchens in Darwen.

  • Nolan is organising his Mali visa.

  • Geoff is getting his inoculations sorted.

  • Camping gear has been sourced and distributed - mostly cast-offs, courtesy of Tim's campsite Park Cliffe on Lake Windermere.

  • The cars are currently being bodged, modified, and serviced. The latest rumour is that Ian is fitting an adjustable seat so that Geoff can see over the dashboard.

9 December - Preparations are still going well.

  • All camping gear has been checked, food bought, first aid packed, additional spares packed, tools polished.

  • Final servicing and modifications are being carried out to the Toyotas.

  • Amongst our supplies we have several tins of Stag Chilli, chicken & beef curries, casseroles, pasta, meatloaf and 48 pot noodles. Fortunately our medical kit contains items to correct any stomach disorders.

  • This weekend Nolan travelled 'up North' to introduce himself to the rest of the team and discuss our planned itinerary.

Progress Reports from the Journey  The full itinerary is shown on this page.

Friday 28 December

from Windermere UK to Tarifa in Spain

Saturday 29 December to Fez in Morocco
Monaday 31 December a day in Fez and on to Er Rachida
Tuesday 1 January Todra and Dades Gorges
Wednesday 2 January to Tata
Thursday 3 January to Laayoune
Friday 4 January to Dakhla
Saturday 5 January into Mauritania
Sunday 6 January to Nuouakchott
Monday 7 January Phone problems
Tuesday 8 January on way to Nema
Wednesday 9 January into Mali?
Thursday 10 January

from Lere en-route to Timbuktu

Friday 11 January reached Timbuktu
Saturday 12 January Festival of the Desert
Sunday 13 January back to Timbuktu
Monday 14 January Dogon country
Tuesday 15 January Dogon country & Mopti
Wednesday 16 January to Djenne
Thursday 17 January to Segou
Friday 18 January Boat trip on the Niger
Sunday 20 January coming home
Friday 28 December - From UK to Spain

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Tim left Windermere at 10.30am on Wed 26th, and rendezvoused with Ian and Geoff near Darwen. They met up with Nolan at Heathrow as planned, and arrived at Portsmouth at approx 1800. The crossing to Spain was relatively calm, and they arrived at Bilbao at 7am on Friday 28th.

Friday was spent driving through Spain, and at 18.00 they had about 2 hours to go to Tarifa [map], where they will catch the ferry. All well so far and on schedule.

Saturday 29 December - to Fez in Morocco

Tim reported that the group arrived in Fez [map] at 6pm. They stayed at the 'Hotel Splendid' (no word as to whether it lives up to its name!) [see review], and have eaten a traditional Moroccan meal. The day was warm and sunny,  but the evening was cool.

a view of Fez

tanneries at Fez

 a view of Fez

tanneries at Fez

Monday 31 December - a day in Fez and on to Er Rachida

Sunday 30 December was spent exploring the tanneries, souks and forts of Fez, before heading off early on Monday 31 December to Er-Rachida [map], via Midelt. They arrived at Er Rachida at 4pm after a drive through spectacular mountain scenery, similar to Arizona, and found lodgings at an auberge, complete with pool (too cold to use it though!) New year was celebrated with a sing song and fireworks (and a few drinks). Unfortunately, though the fireworks were OKd by the hotel staff to be let off from the roof, one was rather loud and upset the local police Fortunately, the hotel staff took the blame!

Tuesday 1 January 2008
from Er Rachida to the Todra and Dades Gorges

On 1st January 2008, they visited the Todra [map] and Dades gorges, with more fantastic scenery. They spent the night at a small hotel up the Dades gorge. All was well, but the suspension on Tim's car was causing concern.

the Todra Gorge Morocco  >>

the Todra Gorge Morocco


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Wednesday 2 January - to Tata

They travelled through the Anti Atlas mountains, through Quarzazate and then the fantastic Kasbah at Benhaddou. There were lots of armed police and military around as the King of Morocco was there. They  reached Tata [map] in the evening and stayed in the best hotel in town at 15 per head for dinner bed and breakfast - and it was clean too! The weather was hot.

Kasbah and camels at Benhaddou Morocco >>

Kasbah and camels at Benhaddou Morocco


Thursday 3 January - to Laayoune

They drove out of the Atlas Mountains towards the coast and the road south. They actually had some rain. Ian's car engine was losing compression, and had to be tow-started in the morning. They crossed into Western Sahara in the early evening, and camped near Laayoune [map] for the night.

Minefield - Western Sahara >>

Minefield - Western Sahara

Friday 4 January - to Dakhla

The guys arrived at Dakhla [map] at 4pm. Tim, Geoff and Nolan rented a room, but Ian braved the tent. They dined on a gourmet feast of tinned curry, mince pies and a chocolate Father Christmas. On closer inspection of the cars, they decided not to do anything about the suspension problem - a short term solution is just to drive a bit more carefully! Ian's car ideally needed new glow plugs, but again this was not essential so they decided to carry on as before.

Saturday 5 January - into Mauritania

They left Dakhla at 7.30am on the way to the Mauritanian border. At the camp site, they met up with a few cars doing the Bamako/Timbukto challenge which Tim and Ian did last year. The border crossing took 5 hours but they were in and on their way. They spent the night at Nouadhibou. [map]

Game of golf in possibly the world's biggest bunker
the Sahara - Mauritania

Game of golf in possibly the world's biggest bunker - the Sahara, Mauritania

Sunday 6 January - on to Nuouakchott

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The following day (Sun) brought 90 degree temperatures, and so the campsite at Nouakchott [map], on the beach, was very welcome.

Monday 7 January - Phone problems

Only one phone had a signal. Mobiles don't work very well through Mauritania, so the updates over the next few days were brief and sporadic. However, all was well, and it was hot and sunny.

Tuesday 8 January - on way to Nema

On Tuesday they journeyed through Timbedgha [map] on the way to Nema, reaching the Mali desert by nightfall. Daytime temperatures reached 100 degrees.

Wednesday 9 January - into Mali?

Wednesday saw them reaching about a third of the way to Timbuktu, camping overnight again. No further details as phone reception was very patchy, but they had probably crossed into Mali.

Note - Timbuktu spelling varies - Timbuctu, Tombouctou.

Thursday 10 January - from Lere en-route for Timbuktu

They left Lere [map] en route for Timbuktu, hoping to get there by the evening. Tim reported that he had had two punctures in two days! Another update said they were camped for the night at Niafunke [map], after 135 miles of desert driving. Timbuktu tomorrow! Other news was that Ian had broken the 'desert dumper' two days ago. This is their porta-loo (a camping chair with a hole cut out of the base, and a toilet seat attached) - it is now held together with gaffer tape, and so might see them through . There are probably lots of jokes about this.....

Friday 11 January - reached Timbuktu

They reached Timbuktu [map] at 11am, after travelling 4,500 miles! They toasted their success with a drop of Ian's malt whiskey and a cold beer. They bumped into a guy called Jimmy, who bought Tim's Escort last year, (see details) and he fixed them up with tickets for the Festival of the Desert. There were already a few people wanting to buy the cars.

Approaching Timbuktu

beer on reaching Timbuktu (twice!)

Approaching Timbuktu

beer on reaching Timbuktu (twice!)


Saturday 12 January - Festival of the Desert (see information)

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They set off early to the festival site, in the dunes a few hours north, They described it as 'bizarre'. They passed many 4 x 4s getting stuck in the sand, but enjoyed a good day at the festival, though apparently they missed the best day, which was Friday! Ah well!

Sunday 13 January - back to Timbuktu

They drove back to Timbuktu, where they spent the night.

Monday 14 January - Dogon country

After much negotiation, both cars were sold in Timbuktu, having made a payment to customs so it was all above board. This raised 500, which was donated to Pageant. They then hired a Landcruiser and driver for the remainder of the trip. At 1pm they caught the ferry to cross the Niger, heading to Dogon country (more information) via Douentza [map].

Tuesday 15 January - Dogon country - Mopti

They spent the day touring through Dogon country, which has beautiful scenery. They visited pigmy dwellings cut into the rocks and cliffs. They spent the night at Mopti [map], treating themselves to a night in a decent hotel.

Wednesday 16 January - to Djenne

The night of high living has taken its toll - Tim suffered from the dreaded 'Bamako Bum' ! He blamed the fish soup, or perhaps the heat, but then again maybe a dirty glass! They travelled on to Djenne [map], where they spent the night.

Thursday 17 January - to Segou

They spent a lazy morning in Djenne, and then travelled to Segou. They stayed at the hotel Independance, where they also stayed last year. The hotel pool was very welcome.

Bozo fisherman on Niger river near Segou, Mali >>


Friday 18 January - Boat trip on the Niger

They went on a pinnase boat trip on the Niger in the morning, They all enjoyed the chance to relax after the long driving days.

Before leaving the UK Tim had bought a 'cheapie' guitar (bright pink!) for a bit of fun and amusement on the way. They decided to try and sell it before flying home and give the money to Pageant. A buyer was found, a drummer in Bamako by the name of Oumar, but when he came to collect and pay, it turned out he didn't have enough cash for the agreed price. He offered his large drum as an exchange which after much deliberation Tim accepted. Tim plans to auction or sell the drum at one of the fun events this year at Park Cliffe camp site which he helps to run. (It actually raised 70 for Pageant - far more than the guitar was worth.)

Tim & Oumar, guitar & drum swap >>

Bozo fisherman on Niger river near Segou, Mali


Tim & Oumar, guitar & drum swap

Sunday 20 January - coming home

They spent the day relaxing and doing touristy things in Bamako before catching the plane late in the evening. They flew Bamako-Casablanca, Casablanca- Heathrow, where they said goodbye to Nolan, and then the shuttle to Manchester. The end of another adventure........Where will they go next year?

They all arrived back safely, albeit slightly delayed, on Monday 21 January. As you may expect, there are a few stories to tell. Both Ian and Tim kept diaries and they intend to write up an account of the adventure, which will appear on this page with many more pictures.

Some thank-yous

The team would like to thank the following for their valued help:

  • Chris Hewgill, thanks for all the gear Chris (a customer of Tim's)

  • A1 4x4 auto breakers in Rossendale, for various parts from a dead Landcruiser at reasonable cost.

  • Milner off Road at Matlock, discounted service parts & spares.

  • Brian, at Park Cliffe, for the 12 cans of 'all day breakfasts' & other miscellaneous goodies.


Shap Ahoy - Plymouth-Banjul Challenge 2006 - Team Shap Ahoy, Nick Capron and Tim Lovatt drove a 1996 Toyota Starlet from Cumbria to the Gambia.

Shap Ahoy - T4 Challenge 2007 - The T4 Challenge was a preliminary expedition to reconnoitre the route for the first Bamako Run.

Images and sights of Mali - Melissa Enderle wrote this fascinating description of Mali, with lots of photos and a wealth of background information.

Plymouth-Banjul Challenge 2008 - the official website.

2008 Challenge Teams - Information about teams helping Pageant in the above.

Pageant is a UK Charity - Registered No 1093963

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