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Shap Ahoy - the T4 Challenge

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Challenge Diary - Page A - Cumbria to Sidi Ifni


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Day 1 Tues 26th Dec 290,722km - Cumbria to Alençon (France) .


At 7am, Tim, Arlene, Nick & Jenny meet up at the Crooklands [map] lay-by 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

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 southwards. 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 Gambian charities. 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.

Drive south. Stop for sandwich. Drive south. Stop for night at Hotel Tudanca in the town of Miranda De Ebro [map] in Spain.

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.

Sub-zero alternator change

Sub-zero alternator change

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 organisation required).

BBQ dinner - Marrakech

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 last year) before dark.

We all eat at one of the barbeque stalls in the main square, the famous 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

Day 5 Sat 30th Dec 294,100km - Rest day in Marrakech

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Go with Ian & Sam on tour of the Souks. Tim buys scarf (ready for desert), checks label, 'made in China'.

The Souks, Marrakech (1)

The Souks, Marrakech (2)

The Souks, Marrakech

Day 6 Sun 31st Dec 294,100km - Marrakech to Sidi Ifni

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Leave Marrakech early with Ian & Sam. Heading south, just for a change.

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 Tizi n Test Pass at 2,100 metres (6,900 feet).

Atop the Tizi N Test Pass, southern Atlas

Atop the Tizi N Test Pass, southern Atlas

Driving today ends at Hotel La Suerte Loca in Sidi Ifni [map] on the coast.

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 catch up.

A meal at the hotel, a few drinks, live Moroccan music and fireworks on the beach see us all into the New Year.

Day 7 Mon 1st Jan 294,570km - Day in Sidi Ifni

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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).

If the hat fits------

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 have him.

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.

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