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Old 08-20-2012, 02:12 PM   #1
BLANKS OP
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Location: Lagos, Nigeria.
Oddometer: 94
Lagos, Europe, Lagos....in arrears

Day 1 and 2 are here

Now the story continues.

Day 3. Bobo to Bamako,
Temps: 24 low 32high

Done 602

I wake up to another cloudy day and set off early after having the hotel's complimentary breakfast. So much noise was made about this breakfast during check in. Turns out it’s just a couple of slices of bread some jam and butter and a coffee. Ok. But since I need to make tracks there is no time for any supplements.

I find my way out of Bobo and am on the road to the "frontier", as the border is called in the Francophone countries. I seem to be the only one on the road to the border this morning and some discomfort begins to creep into my heart! Could the problems in Mali be much worse than I imagine or was made to believe? I don't know but I continue riding on! I begin to also contemplate a plan B. supposing.....just supposing I can't get in? Actually I don't have any feasible plan B. I need a visa from Bamako. The words of the immigration "police" reassure me as I remember them. What did he say? Ah yes! "The Islamist have the north and in the south there is no problem." Ok!


I pass a sign and stop. Make a u-turn and go back for a picture! What do I call this!? Is there a factory in the bush somewhere here!? Picture taken and I am on my way again.







Incredible! Some vehicles! At last! Looks like they must have set out quite early. And buses at that! Filled up with pass angers! And with Malian number plates! Then it means they are border bound.....and hopefully know more than I do! Caml settles in my mind and I continue making progress towards the border.

I pass the vehicles and come upon another bus soon after! But there seems to be a problem. Why is he moving so slowly!? He has the whole road to himself and he is moving so slowly! Alarm bells start going off in my head! I am now about 200meters behind and slowing down too. Looking past the bus, I can't find anything further up the road that would be causing him to slow down. I also slow down further! I overtake cautiously doing about 30km/h and when I am almost abreast the driver, I see what he had seen before me! A baby in the middle of the road!


I look around and see a compound about 50meters from the road! Unbelievable! The baby can't be more than a year and a half. Oblivious of the dangers the road poses, he had probably walked/crawled his was to the road and was now standing and waving his hands and generally having a nice time! His smile was so full! Like he had achieved a personal goal! I stop and lean on my horn till I see someone running towards us from the compound. Then am off just as I see the driver getting out of the bus! I assume he has to words to give the baby’s mum. Meanwhile,
at no time did his smile fade.


As I ride on, I contemplate the innocence of a child! Jesus had said this! A child is so trusting! So "brave"! But in this case, his mum is so careless! I wonder and hope he is allowed to grow!


The border comes up faster than I anticipate and as always, I go through the formalities. And basically they run like this. First Burkina Faso “Police” stamp me out and the “Douane” cancel my Laissez Passer. Next I cross from Burkina Faso into Mali…in this case….the distance is about 50meters of well tarred road. In Mali, I show myself to the “Gendarmerie” who write my details in a book, the the “Police” who stamp my passport and finally onto the “Douane” who issue me with a Laissez Passer. In Mali, this costs 5000CFA. Also, apparently, I need to take my Laissez Passer back to the Police to have them endorse it. Then I am good to go.



But not so fast!!! While waiting for the Douane to write the Laissez Passer, I leaf through my passport. Oh oh!!! This can’t be right! They have put a “SORTIE” stamp on my passport! This cant be right! It should read "ENTREE". So as I take Laissez Passer for endorsement, I also point this out to them. With apologies, the wrong stamp is canceled and the right one put. As I drive away from the border on my way to Bamako, I contemplate what the “small” mistake would have cost me!!! Probably at the border out I would have found this out! Then I would have had to ride all the way BACK, across the whole country, to have it sorted. Not a pleasant thought. I say a silent Thank You to God and find my way to Sikasso. Fill up with fuel and am Bamako bound.


At the outskirts of Bamako and find this beautiful sign and stop for a picture!







Then its off to locate the Mauritanian embassy. I have the co-ordinated on my GPS, thanks to Inyang who passed this route in March but its still tough going through the city centre. There is traffic everywhere and this certainly doesn’t look like a country in “trouble” where my life might be in danger.


I fill out the form for the visa and pay for it. I am told I can have it in about an hour if I wait so I go to the waiting room to pass the time. My phone locates a nearby free wifi and pretty soon, I am catching up on my email. In the waiting room is another young man, Michele, a Cameroonian who lives in Morocco. We chat and I tell him my plan, to go to Morocco, but first through Senegal. He explains to me that this route I have chosen is longer and I should consider the alternative route (which would mean I will by-pass Senegal and go directly into Mauritania through Mali’s northern border.) With this knowledge, I begin to consider the alternative. Hmmmmmm


He is called and give his passport and shortly later I am called also. The officials are extremely apologetic as they tell me the particular official with the authenticating stamp has closed for the day and I have to come back tomorrow. No problem. First thing, I will be back. So its off to find a hotel.


I find Mande Hotel, which is relatively close to the embassy and after settling in, order lunch. The Hotel is a four star affair situated on an island in the middle of the river Niger. Blanks witht he Niger in the background......looking good!







Lunch........










Ahhhhhh....lunch is great and I sit in the restaurant chatting with the receptionist.


View from my table.....with the Niger river gentle passing by...






I run my plan by him expressing my concern of passing into Mauritania from the northern border; concerns based on the availability of petrol. Mauritania has extremely few PETROL stations. There is diesel everywhere but for petrol, that’s another matter. After some consideration we agree that I will need a jerry can for petrol. He calls a young man out, who tries, without success, to sell me some Malian art. I give him some money and soon enough he is back with 2 can for me to choose from. I choose my “auxiliary tank” carefully, retiring to my room to hatch the new plan.






I see my target for the next day as being Ayoun, a town about 150km into Mauritania. OK! I am good to go. Calm settles over me as I consider and reconsider my plan. All is well and I like it. Ayoun it is then. Sleep comes quickly when things are going your way!!!
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Old 08-21-2012, 03:00 AM   #2
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Good stuff and progress

A few questions:

- Did you stock up on CFA before your departure or you had another currency you were changing as you entered each country?
-Can you please post a map snapshot of progress to date indicating your route from Lagos?
-What was your average speed on the motorways?

Would be interesting to see how you adapted that "extra tank"

Cheers
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Old 08-21-2012, 10:06 AM   #3
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July the 17th. Day 4, Bamako, Mali to Mauritania.
Temps: 26 low 34 high

Done 438km

There is no hurry in starting out today. I have a 9am appointment to pick up my passport and I can't leave Bamako before that. Strap on my “auxiliary tank” and find out that its not a bad fit at all. Settle my bills at the reception and ride out to the embassy.



I am at the embassy at a few minutes past 8am and spend the time waiting for the officials to arrive. Eventually get my passport at about 930am and am off. Stop at a filling station on my way out of Bamako and have my “tanks” filled. Almost 40 liters of fuel!!! That’s quite some endurance! I am ready for Mauritania!!!


As I ride past Kati, I decide that I MUST not miss my breakfast this morning so I make a stop at the next “mai tea”. The egg sandwich and coffee is just what I need to get started. Breakfast over and I am back on track again! Next stop is for fuel.










As I ride, I observe the vegetation is beginning to thin out. No more the thick forests of the past couple of days. Now it’s just bushes and trees. I also begin to see carcasses of cows! The first one is ok but then I see another. I reason that this must be road kill or else, why would they be so close to the road.






The frequency is about a cow every 50km. probably got hit by a driver in the night. Here the animals share the roads with the cars and trucks and there is a price to pay for that.



Interesting road side art demands a mention.






I see patches of farmland too. Different cash crops having been planted. I stop at a plot where a horse and plough are being used.







The young boys run to me and we talk. They are in school but as its their holidays, they are helping out their parents with the farm work. Interesting. Groundnuts are being planted today! And they are all so happy to have their picture taken.





I arrive at Diema junction and again a flood of memories comes over me. We had stopped here to have some roasted meat during our Senegal trip! We had also refueled before riding on to Kayes (Pronounced Kai) for the night. So I refuel too but my destination today is Mauritania. So the first exit at the roundabout is for m and I am on my way to Nioro du Sahel…the last town in Mali before the border.

I have been lazying around all day with my frequent fuel stop and all but I figure I still have time to get to Ayoun in Mauritania. I ride into Nioro and see a hotel in the distance. I figure that I still have a lot of day light and can easily get to my target so I aim for the border. Border formalities on the Mali side are over briskly and I am ready for Mauritania. But again, I refuel…and the bike takes about 4 liters more! Also I quick change of money….$100 get me 26000 Ouguiyas and I am good to go.

Mauritania is surprisingly "modern". I notice solar panels and battery banks on almost all the buildings at the border post. The Police take me into their office to stamp my passport and verify my visa. The official put on his computer (which, along with all the usual immigration passport control equipment, looks like abandoned property) and I am surprised to see that it all works. My passport is scanned and I am processed quite quickly…all in less than 10 minutes. Then it’s off to have my bike sorted. I need insurance and the local store offers that.







The Gendarmerie process and prepare the temporary vehicle license and I am set to go.

Now Mauritania requires all foreigners to have a “fiche” which they must have prepared and which contains all the Biodata and vehicle info on a sheet of paper. Inyang had sent me a template and I had prepared mine. Only thing was that this small piece of paper looked so insufficientto me that I could not believe that it would be sufficient. Soon enough, I was stopped and produced the “fiche”. The police looked at it and waved me on!!! Really!!! Wow!!! It works like a charm!!! However, in less than 10 kilometers I have been stoped like 3 times! At this rate I begin to wonder if I have enough of the fiche to pass through! Oh well, I will have to produce more. As I approach the next check point the police wave me off the road. I pull over and switch off my engine as I get off the bike. After an enchange of gestures and a couple of words it begins to sink in what they are trying to convey to me…..it’s about 18minutes to 7pm and foreigners are not allowed to move from 7pm to 7am. So whats going to happen to me? Ayoun is about 1 hour away? I am going to spend the night with the police!

The senior officer at the post is on the phone and soon enough the local commissioner arrives the post. He explains to me, in fairly good English, that I will be escorted to the police station and I must remain there till 7 am. He also takes my passport from me in the rare case that I decide that I don’t want to follow his “advice”. All this is done in a very courteous and polite manner. It is surprising to me that they would take so much care not to “offend” me. So its off to the Station where I am shown a spot to park my bike and a mat for my use. Wow…such luxurious accommodation!



I ask and am escorted to the local “fast food” joint for chicken and chips.







My escort is a young police officer but he is packing a pistol! I offer him food as I order and he politely refuses. Supper done, we walk to have a drink at a nearby store and he tells me he learnt English in school. He is from Ayoun and will be traveling there the next day too!


Supper done and its back to the station and my mat. Meanwhile, my mat is on the floor in front of the station as are the bunks of the 3 policemen who are at the station with me. I get out my rain gear to use as a pillow and get comfortable.

I lie on my back and for the first time in a long time, I look at the sky! It’s a clear night and I see the stars! Its amazing that I have been so occupied with life that I have not even stopped to look around me and see the wonders that God has placed before us. I felt a calm settle over me as the fear of not being in control melted away. Surprisingly, I find that sleep comes quickly! And I welcome it!
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Old 08-21-2012, 12:21 PM   #4
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Location: Lagos, Nigeria.
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July the 18th. Day 5, Moribougou, to Nouakchott, Mauritania
Temps: 24 low 37 high

Done 998k

Wake up with first light after having ignored the call to prayer from the Mosque close by. Arrange myself and start the wait till 7am. The police men also stand up and do their cleaning…no bath for me today it seems!




In the picture, you can see my rain gear which is my makeshift pillow on the mat!



Around 630ish they begin the ritual of tea making and soon enough a cup is in my hand. Along with bread, what more could I ask for. At 7am, the commissioner, who had come around earlier, hands over my passport to me, bids me “Bonne Route” and I am off.







As I ride, the frequency of the Police check reduces to a check every 30 or so kilometers. I get to Ayoun and find out that I didn’t really miss much by sleeping with the police…its quite a small town. I would have been surprised to see a hotel there. That being said, I do find fuel. At the service station. But it is sold by the bottle and all that I get is 6 liters…which just fills my tank. OK. So I am off to Kiffa, where I expect to get more fuel.


The road to Kiffa deteriorates and soon enough I am riding in dirt! I hate riding in dirt!










Apparently there are some road works going on and I am soon and am having dust for breakfast, being served by the big construction trucks.


I find this water pump amongst the desert sand and I wonder, did it ever produce water?







The road kill frequency has increased in frequency and now I am seeing a dead cow every kilometer…some times 2 or 3 at a time. And from time to time, I pass the herd. The cows are painfully think and in the hot desert, I wonder what exactly they eat! It is a sad sad situation I see.



The road works and bad section last less than 50 km and I am back on good newly laid asphalt. I arrive Kiffa and sure enough, there is no fuel here in this town. Hmmmm! Next target is Aleg! Hopefully there will be fuel there.



Approaching Aleg, I need to call on my “auxiliary tank” and make a refill.






I still have about 4 or 5 liters lets to spare and as I arrive Aleg, I find fuel here. I buy just enough to ensure I can hit Nouakchott and start to head out. At the city outskirts I decide that I need to stop for food but I haven’t seen any restaurants or similar things so I make do with the corner store. Take some biscuits and some drinks and wolf them all down even as the bike draws all the children in the vicinity!!!

Food break done and I am on the road again. An interesting thing I notice is how some cars have their roofs painted white. As I ride I ponder this. Are they taxis or what? Later I find out that its done to reduce the amount of heat absorbed by the car’s body! Wow! It gets that hot!
The landscape gets more and more “empty” as the vegetation reduces more and more.







But the road kills do not reduce. Eventually, Nouakchott is on the horizon and with fuel to spare.






As I drive into the city, I look out for an opportunity to change money. Find a shop that changes money and I change another $100. The money changer speaks very good English and points me to a budget “hostel” and where I can get dinner.
I wash my clothes, have a much deserved shower and go off to eat at the “Syrian” restaurant I was pointed to. Dinner done, I head back to my bed and after outlining my plan for the next day I tuck in and am asleep in no time.
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Old 08-21-2012, 01:08 PM   #5
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Location: Lagos, Nigeria.
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July the 19th. Day 6 Nouakchott, Mauritania to Dakhla, Morocco.
Temp 22low and 26high.

Done 909km

Woke up around 730 and start getting ready. Stock up on water and juice and I am out before 830! Work my way out of the city in the direction; Noudibou! The mile marker says 460km to go and I brace up.




The loneliness I felt in the begin is now a thing of the past and today I have Duane Sheriff keeping me company. With the lack of any visual stimulus there is so much concentration available to learn new things. And new things I learn!

The kilometres are passing by and its clear that things have changed! No people for one, no towns any more. No nothing! Not even dead animals by the road side!



Then, like an oasis, a Total fuel station! Gare de Nord its called and I am delighted to see it.



And its so conveniently located just about half way to Noudibou! Fill up on petrol and I know I am good to go to reach NDB!

About 100km to NDB I see what looks like an oasis of sorts....vegetation and power lines all around..yet this doesnt look like a town and the GPS does not see anything there either. As I pas it I notice a rail line now running beside the road. I ponder on this...a rail line from nowhere to NDB. Must be some exporting going on, I conclude. Later I find out that there is a mine and the line serves to take ore to NDB for export.





30km to NDB, I come across my turn which would take me to the border but i cant take it just yet! I need some more cash and some more fuel so ride into the town!

First stop at the bank and the ATM is out of service! Next stop and the ATM swallows my card!!! Ok, cash is king so walk into the bank and change €50 to 18000. Fill up with petrol and it's 30km back to my turn and the border!
But enroute I happen to see the longest train ever....being drawn by two engines!!



All is good and I exit Mauritania without much ado! The road ends about 5meters past the border post gate and there are several track that are options to follow. I pick the darkest colored one.....dark from tire wear so I figure it must be the right one. The tracks are on stone and sand. The landscape reminds me on no mans land in the movies with abandoned and cannibalized cars and all sorts of stuff. I even begin wondering if I haven't made a mistake!

Then on the horizon, I see a communications tower and I figure that must be my destination. A couple of minutes later and I see a car heading towards me and I know I am on the right track!


Joy!! as I see the border and people just outside of it! I ride up the the barrier and the officer there motions me to park on the right! So I park the bike and walk to him. We exchange some words and it dawns on me that he is telling me that the border is closed! He says that they close at 6 and it's 615pm! But I look at my watch (set to Mauritanian time) and I see that its 515pm. But smiling he lets me know that Moroccan time and Mauritanian time are not the same!


Crap! I begin to look around for a soft place amongst all the rocks surrounding the post as I consider it might be another wonderful night under the skies! Can't see anything comfortable! Try to talk to him to allow me, perhaps i can talk to his boss but he points to the cameras and says there is nothing he can do!


Apparently, I am not the only one in this predicament! There is a Senegalese stuck out here too! So I am standing there, pondering my situation and I see 2 men walking toward the barrier from inside. They come to the barrier, talk with the sentry and on the radio and miraculously we are allowed in!

My opinion about this people is already beginning to change and I am finding that they can be compassionate to travelers! Well I will find out in time! I am processed in about 30minutes and am out of the border post. Its interesting that every time i am processed, and the officials ask for my number and i say it is BLANKS, they stare at me like they didn't hear me. This border was no exception. One of the customs guys insists on coming to see it for himself And gives me a big handshake and smile. Obviously he likes it!


And just out the border what do I see? A fuel station. Which means all the time I spent in NDB was unnecessary. Oh well, better safe! My destination is El Argoub which is about 300km away so off I go!




About 100km from the border I come across another oasis! Hotel Barnas! but I figure, if this hotel is here then there must be one at my destination so I push on as dusk settles in.

The landscape changes and again I am struck by the emptiness and wonder of my surroundings.


As Dusk comes it brings along the cold! Very light traffic as I am now used to and I arrive my destination! Stop at a filling station on the outskirts of the town and talk to the sale person.



He assures me that there are no hotels in town....and that my best bet is to head to Dakhla. A town I can see by its bright lights to my left. But its across the lagoon and I have 80km to ride to get to it!!!

OK. Change of plan. Soldier on to Dakhla! Ride in about 80km later and I am at once amazed at beauty of this town.



Going down the mainstreet and I stop at the first hotel I see! The hotel Doumss!



A night is 371DM! I pay and walk up to my luxurious room for the night! But not before I am asked to park my bike beside the hotel entrance up the curb. Bikers appear to get a special treatment here!!! I deserve this I think to myself considering it's almost 11pm. Wifi is up! Write my report for the day and I am off to sleep!
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Old 08-21-2012, 01:45 PM   #6
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lovely report.. cant wait for next instalment, keep it coming

nice one Foto... I may be following your steps, this is something I have dreamt all my adult life to ride from Nigeria to Croatia, and have my Croatian cousin meet me somewhere in Europe! ah the African conquest of Europe!!! Go ahead bro!
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Old 08-21-2012, 10:49 PM   #7
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July the 20th. Day 7, Dakhla to Tan-Tan, Morocco.
Temps: 22low 36high


Done 850km
Woke up rather late. Guess from the late ride from the day before! Light complimentary breakfast and I am set to leave! I find the man who serves my breakfast standing by the bike as I step out of the lobby door! Again we exchange smiles and words.....his are French and mine are English! I put my case on and he points to my auxiliary tank with a questioning look. I explain it for "essence" and he tells me not to worry because morocco is not Mauritania and there is petrol here! Really? Yes! I decide to ditch my faithful keg which has served me so well! But from my experience, I would do just as well with a 10liter can, which is what I intend to get for my return trip! He tells me that the next fuel station is about 175km from Dakhla and after that, about every 120km. No problem I say, explaining that I can do 320km on full tank, easily! I take some pictures and am off!


Fill up at the last station on the road out of Dakhla and am off! At the station, though, I get an answer to a question thats been on my mind since i got into Morocco....how do they kep the sand at bay? I am feeling very nice today, even though I am starting so late.....it's almost 11am!



The usual landscape continues....which I still haven't gotten used to....emptiness! It is so devoid of life that I have noticed that my helmet visor doesn't need cleaning during the day. There are no insects splattering on it.....it is that empty!

Temperature is a cool 22 as I travel on but I remember the man at the hotel had told me that the forecast for today was with temperatures in the high 40s. Non of that yet. I guess the winds from the ocean are winning the temperature battle. Then I take a turn and all of a sudden the temperature begins to rise! I have never experienced such a rise in temperature. I look at the reading on the dash and it shows a higher figure every 5 to 10 seconds....sometimes jumping some figures as it climbs to the high of the day; 36! This is like a thermal shock to my body and mind as I can't understand what has just happened!

As I think about it I figure that the western bound winds blowing from the desert must have overcome the eastern winds! This sudden change in temperature allows me to evaluate the two situations! Yes! I prefer riding in the cold!


Well, I soldier on and just as suddenly as before, the temperature drops! But this time it drops to 26 and all else is more or less fairly "normal". The head winds inclusive! And these headwinds today are phenomenal! I noticed my tank bag had moved and I was wondering when it had happened as I straightened it. But a short while later I found it bent over again! So I straighten it and begin to observe! Apparently, the winds are so strong, they are pushing my tank bag! And the funny thing is that there is absolutely nothing (like bent over vegetation or the like) along the road to even give a hint of how strong the winds are.


But that's just the tip of the ice berg! I have noticed, since I left Nouakchott that my range has reduced! From 320 to 250ish, and that, at a speed of about 110km/h. So I continue watching this figures as I go along! Now I have been having considerable hesitation from the bike since I left Nouakchott and when I got WOT, the engine even attempts to stall. I wonder if my fuel filter is blocked or what! Also I have lost the GS911 app on my BB on my first day when the phone was acting up so have no way to check what is going on.


I reach and pass the fuel station at the 175km mark. I am looking at the range figure, the consumption figure and the mile markers on the side of the road. Pretty soon I begin to realize I am 60km short on petrol! How could I have passed that station! And now I am going to run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere! And I don't even my can anymore! What to do!

I drop my speed to 80km/h and watch my figures! Nothing really changes! So I begin to device a plan! I will ride till the bike comes to a stop! Then I will hitch a ride with any of the truckers on the road to the next town, fill up a can, hitch a ride back and it's done. In my mind, the goal now is to get as close as possible to the town so that I will reduce the distance that i would need to run back and forth!


Because I am going much slower than the limit (100km/h) I am constantly looking in my mirrors to see what's happening behind me! Soon enough I see a big shadow closing in on me. A truck is about to pass me. And I think about it for a while as the truck looms larger and larger in my mirrors. If my increase in consumption is on account of the cross/head winds, then if I have someone in front of me, then I should not have any problems! Ok! So the plan is hatched! As the truck passes, I will slip in behind it and see what happens!


I motion the truck to pass as i put on with my
right blinker and he passes. I immediately tuck in behind him with about 1 or 2 meters between us and check my performance figures! Wow! My consumption figures now reads 31km/l....and that was from a figure of between 9 and 10 km/l. I ride this way for the next 40km to the next stop.....a police check! By this time I have no bars left on my fuel gauge. Which means my range is 0km. The police motion the truck on and ask for my passport. I watch as the truck moves away with my hope of reaching the next town while the police leaf through the passport. He is done and wishes me "Bon voyage". I start the bike and wonder if I can catch up with the truck. It's a battle but eventually I catch him and again my consumption figures improve!

One draw back of this my solution for the bike was an increase in temperature. I guess I was so well shielded by the truck that there was even not enough air to cool the engine! Oh well! Small price to pay! I keep my eyes on the temperature gauge though!


Furthermore! I have also observed that I am quite tense. And why shouldn't I be! 2 meters behind a truck moving at 100km/h! And with my brake lever covered by my throttle hand! But I realize that I have not seen a single pothole on the road since I got into morocco and I relax a bit!

We go like this and I guess I am now riding on vapors as the truck starts slowing down! Are we there yet? No we are not! Another check point but this time I can see the town in the distance! I come off the bike as my details are filled into this "register"! The police man is very friendly! So friendly that he offers me a cigarette and tea before he asks for a gift! I give him 20DH for the Ramadan and ask where the next petrol station is! He points and I can even see the sign board in the distance. So I am getting ready to leave and the other police man at the post, the one who actually stopped me, comes over and says some stuff to my "friend," who then turns to me and tells me that the minimum following distance is 30m and that I was too close to the truck!

Wow! These guys are on top of their game! Anyway, all is well and I am off to buy fuel! The bike didn't start until the fourth attempt and I take it easy to the fuel station! Fill up with 18.3 liters! Means I had 0.2 liters more or so! Never again! New rule! Fill up every 100 to 150 km. period!


The riding conditions and the landscape doesn't change much....more and more of emptiness and head/cross winds. I do observe that some cars have covers over their head lamps. I can imagine that with the winds picking up sand, the drive can simulate the sand blasting process!



I arrive at Layoune, which is a town even bigger than Dakhla. Its 4ish and the town is begin to stir. Its the Ramadan now and there is virtually no activity till about 10/11am. As I ride through the town, I figure I should find something to eat so I stop at a cafe. There appears to be some food ready so I order lunch. A salad, some fish and a soup. Its good and I wolf it down!

I don't really have a target for today as I decide to ride for as long as possible to get to big town. carry on out of Layoune and fill up on the outskirts. At the fuel station I meet an older man who speaks English. He tells me of a time when the Paris-Dakar race ran through. He used to be a mechanic and the best bike for teh race then was Honda's African Twin. He also confirms the "wind situation" but tells me that when I am coming back, the wind will be working for me and not against me as it is doing now. I have another drink while he fills me with stories of a different time. Interesting.

He tells me to be patient on the road as he bids me farewell and I am off again. I have noticed that here the road runs by the coast as it has been doing since Mauritania but the elevation is about 30 meters or so. Once in a while I see some folks close to the edge. I can imagine it looks awesome. But somehow, I just cant get out of my mind the thoughts of slipping off and with no one knowing I had slipped. And my solitary bike standing on the road for God knows how long! No I am not the curious!

But I stop at this place. A hole in the ground. Its been created by the sea having eaten away the earth beneath. Its amazing!



As dusk approaches I fix my target for today on Tan-Tan. A small town a couple more kilometers ahead. Its soon night and I am riding with head lights on. There has been considerably some traffic since Layoune and it is a comforting feeling, not to be the only one for miles around. I ride round a corner and see Tan-tan laid out! Its quite a sight!



As I ride into town, I find a lot of shops still open! I stop at the first store selling car things and ask for Fuel Injector cleaner.....perhaps this will help with the hesitation I am experiencing. I am offered tea and wait while its gotten from a neighbor's store. We talk a while and I find outthere is a hotel on the next street and also during the Ramadan, there is more happening at night than during the day. We take a picture together, with me holding my prize and I am off to the hotel.



Hotel located, I pay and am shown my room. I have seen better but I am tired and didn't really see any better options as I rode into town. It will do! Have a bath, a look at my maps and its lights out for me!!!

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Old 08-22-2012, 01:43 PM   #8
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July the 21st. Day 8, Tan-Tan to Rabat, Morocco
Temps: 26 low 48 high

Done 877km
Set out really early today, leaving Tan-tan's best behind. The night before I had been asked to park the bike in a more secure manner.

I want to avoid riding at night even though it is much cooler and the risk of running into an animal in the middle of the desert is next to nil. My thinking is that I need to get to Rabat early enough to rest enough.

Pass through the city gates and I am on my way.



It's all quite uneventful and I make my first stop for fuel at a shell fuel station. Have been meaning to clean the windshield and headlamp so now is a good a time as any. Water from the station and I am wetting the screen to soften the insects from Bamako. 2 young boys appear from nowhere and offer to help. I politely decline but they insist. One gets a napkin and the other gets more water and they start washing with me. I like their spirit so after all their efforts, I give them 5 DH each mount up and am off.


I am feeling quiet this morning so a calm 100km/h with the sound of the passing air as my companion I proceed.The rising sun sets the mood and I follow....its so beautiful. Pictures are just not good enough!




Very soon I come upon an accident. A truck has over turned. I must say that this is the first I am seeing any and I can understand why! Already there are two Royal Gendarmerie officers at the spot taking pictures and measurements. They do this while also coordinating the traffic! The tow truck to take the wreck away is also waiting for them to finish documenting the situation and I guess in an hour, there will probably be no sign that anything had ever happened here! As I pass the wreck I see that they came to the scene to motorcycles an BMW R1200 and a Honda ST1300 or something like that! Neat!

Now we enter the mountain range going to Tiznit! The road has been carved out of the side of the mountain and as is typical with such roads, it twists and turns as it changes elevation.



Some turns are so tight that I have to drop my speed to 40km/h! However, the tar is perfect and there is almost no debris on the road. Nevertheless, I reason that I would rather take it slow than risk ending my trip so as to enjoy the corners. The view is breathtaking and I struggle to keep my eyes on the road, remembering the number 1 riding rule; you will go where you look! Lol

I pass several truck, even though the continuous white line in the middle of the road says passing is forbidden, as they labour down the mountain in 1st gear and constant brakes! Funny sight at the exit of the pass......a truck garage!

Passing through a Tiznit I notice its about 9 am and no one is about yet! This is a big town and I spot several nice looking hotels along the main road. It's a potential stop on my return trip!

It's the Ramadan and today is a non working day so I guess that explains it! I have also been very particular about obeying the speed limit signs! There are also signs warning road users of radar checks! I have decided not to pay for any speeding ticket but we will see!

So I am moving along behind a truck doing 30km/h in a 60km/h zone and I am wondering why? The cameras on the road are not on my mind as I decide I have had enough and I pull out to overtake. The good thing is that I waited for the white line to become broken before I pulled out! My speed was approaching 60 when I sighted the radar gun aimed at me! I looked again at my speedo, just to check that I was good and keep at it. As I approached the police post, an officer motioned me to pull over! No problem! He walks to me as I come to a stop and ask the usual question; "Nationality!?" I reply with the usual answer and he motions me to proceed. So I am off.

The road turns into a dual carriage pretty soon and I am heading into Agadir! The weather has been quite cool and I have been thanking God for the seemingly cloudy skies! But all that is about to change as I get on to the highway to Marrakesh. Make a stop for petrol, some snacks and a drink! Fill up and offer my card! Sorry boss, we accept only cash! And I am fresh out of cash! Ok what do we do? Can you guys hold on while I go to an ATM? No problem! Really? Really! Ok! So to the ATM I go draw some cash and am back to pay my debt. Fill up with chips, yoghurt and sprite. Temperature is now about 36 and I have a brain storm! Whats wrong with dousing myself with water? So I go to the car wash and ask the guys washing a payloader to use the hose on me! They are surprised at my request but oblige me and we all have a laugh! I am now well soaked and I jump on the bike!

It feels so good to be cool again! The temperature keeps on rising on the tolled dual carriage and eventually I see 48C as I approach Marrakesh. But that's ok. In Tan-Tan the day before, I was informed that the temps had reached 54C!

In about 30 to 40 minutes, I am dry again and it's time for another car wash stop! This becomes my routine and I am wondering why I have never thought of it before. I promise to make this a habit, even when I get back to Nigeria. Riding in the low and high temps have different effects on me, I observe! Hot makes me drowsy! Cold keeps me alert! So this is how I proceed to Rabat and my night stop for the day!



I follow the road into the town and stop at the first hotel I see...Oscar Hotel. I am received so warmly by the staff that its simply impossible to walk away in search of an alternative. The promise of a good meal and accomodation is more than I can resist and I am checking in immediately.








Fantastic Moroccan meal and tea.











Along with a 4 star accommodation soothes me and I am in bed pretty early for the night. Tomorrow is going to be a slow push to Tangiers so it's all good!
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Old 08-22-2012, 02:00 PM   #9
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July the 21st. Day 8, Rabat to Tangier, Morocco
Temps: 26low 37high

Done 277km

I just don't get it! Breakfast consisting of just a bun or two and some jam or butter along with a cup of coffee. This is certainly not the kind of breakfast I need but what to do.....apparently its the French style. I have mine, smile and go out of the hotel for a walk in the city!

I might have been walking in the middle of the night for all the activity I saw! It was unbelievable. Almost everything was closed. And that is at 930am! The Ramadan has serious implications to the socio-economic life here and I can imagine that more or less, everything stands still during this month of fasting!


As there is nothing to see I find my way back to the hotel and get ready to leave! My goal is to get to Barcelona by ferry. However my search on the Internet has shown me that there is no service today and the next ferry goes out tomorrow! So no hurry at all!


I get on the road and follow the main flow of traffic keeping my heading in a north-easternly direction!


I don't want to go on the expressway today (it being tolled has nothing to do with my decision
) so I will avoid it as much as possible. As I make my way through Rabat, following the signs, I can see that this is a very modern city, complete with a very new tram system.

I continue to follow the signs and pretty soon I am at the city limits and on the the road to Tangier! However, it becomes pretty clear that I will need to get off as soon as possible! The speed limit is set at 60 or 80 in most sections of the road and even though I am in no hurry, this speed is a bit too slow for me. And the police checks! Wow! Almost every 10km. And the radar traps? On this short stretch of road, there were two! So I bid my time and ponder on the reason why I should be on the expressway. It is completely fenced in, so there is very low possibility of anything going across your path. It winds it's way through the country side and avoids towns, so there are no distractions. The speed limit there is set to 120km/h so you can actually just pin it and forget about it. Nothing is going to cause you to need to slow down except you decide to. All good reasons to get on it. Only down side is that it's tolled!


At Kinitra, I join the expressway and immediately remember WHY i didn't want to be on it........there is absolutely nothing to stimulate one........except the road itself! And try as I might, I just couldnt find anything stimulating about the asphalt!


Approaching Tangier, the road takes quite an engaging twist as it winds between railway bridges and over deep ravines. I wanted to stop for some pictures but I just knew that I mustn't. One interesting thing was all the farming that's going on. On one side there was the desert and on the otherwise was a lush farm complete with its sprinkler system and all!


On and on I go and pretty soon I am in Tangier but I need to be at the new port so I follow the signs to Tangier Med. oO the last stretch of road before the port itself there is a long building, almost built into the hillside. their are agencies who are almost all selling tickets for the ferries. I drive past until i get to the end and I figure I have time might as well stop and ask some questions and see whats up.


I come to a stop at the last agency and walk into the office! Mohamed greets me and we start discussing pricing and routes! I find this young man very amiable and explain my plan to him. He makes the suggestion of taking a ferry to Sete instead of Barcelona! This was also an option for me except that I could not find any ferry that was going there from Tangeir. He got on his computer and pretty soon showed me the options. The ferry to Sete would leave 2hours earlier than the one to Barcelona and the price difference wasn't so great.


I considered the options and decided for Sete! What would I miss in Spain? I had been told that everyone there spoke only Spanish and Mohamed had said the same thing too.....without my even asking! So Sete it is and my ticket is ready! I ask for a hotel to spend the night in and he tells me there is one just 100meters back. No problem there either! Fantastic!


I stay with him and we chat a bit! Eventually our conversation comes back to ferries and travel and he ask about my return. I explain that I have no set plans but I might be taking a ferry from Genova. So again we get on the computer and pick a date and see the costing. It's quite a sum but it's 2 days on the ferry and I have the cheapest ticket possible! Wow! What other options are there I ask and we look again! He shows me the prices from another Italian port, Livorno and seeing that this is $100 cheaper, I take it. So now I have a set return date! All is well!


Mohamed invites me to come back to the office at 730pm so I can eat with him as he breaks his fast. I promise to do just that and I head to the hotel! Very nice clean room I have. Take a shower and go for a very late lunch over looking the Spanish coast! It's really nice!


I laze around and soon it's 730pm and I am at Mohamed's. He explains to me that he is open for 24hours a day because there are always ferries and potential ticket sales.


We eat together and spend a lot of time talking. This, for me, is the first time I have been able to chat with anyone since I left Nigeria and I am enjoying myself in our conversation! Its 10pm very quickly and I prepare to go back to my hotel but not before we make the plan for tomorrow. He lets me know that we have to confirm the ticket so I should come around 10am as he closes at this time. I will then have to go to the port proper and confirm all the tickets and I will be good to go! I bid him farewell, and go back to my hotel, my room and my bed! Thank you Jesus for a great day!

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Old 08-22-2012, 02:51 PM   #10
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July the 22nd. Day 9

The Crossing to
Today I cross into Europe! My ferry leaves at 8pm and I feel I have so much time on my hands! I have some "to-dos" for the day and since I have so much time, I lie in bed till 830am! Go to the restaurant and have the usual complimentary breakfast and its of to the port for my ticket's confirmation! Pass by Mohamed's and spend some time chatting! They show me a shrub growing my the side of the container office......turns out its marijuana!

Lol! Apparently, it grows wild here! I stay and watch the container (which is the second office) moved to a better position for "better publicity" then bid them farewell!






Am at the port and my ticket is confirmed. Also I am told to come early as everything closes earlier than usual on account of the Ramadan! So item one, done! Now fill up with fuel!


At the hotel, I have been told where to find the fuel station so I drive there like I own the place. Pass several "lavage" points and make a mental note to help with my 3rd to-do! The fuel station is just as described and I have full tank to hit Europe with!


Now item 3...."lavage".....which means "wash" and in my case, its bike wash! Stop at the place which I had marked earlier and 3 guys pounce on BLANKS a I look on.

When they are done, I realize that my boys back home do a much better job. Its much more difficult to wash a bike than a car is it has so many nooks and crannies where dirt can get to and which then becomes almost impossible to reach to clean! But they have done the best they can and I pay the bill like its a car that was washed.....20DH!


As I get back to the hotel, I am amazed at the extend to which this lady is taking her job of cleaning windows. I take a picture to show folks back home. And all for a monthly wage of less than 1500DH (I am told).


A final check on my emails and stuff and I am ready. I pack my bags load up and head to the port! Bikes are given priority here because the rider is exposed to the elements and so the security officials motion me to come to the head of the immigration queue where my passport is stamped out! Then its up to customs and very quickly, they are done with me! Shock of shocks! A temporary Moroccan license didn't cost me a dime! I had thought that I will be billed on exit but nothing like that! So I am out of the control points and ride to pier 8 where my ferry, The Fantastic, sits! Now we wait to board! And off course, I have ridden to the head of the queue!






Boarding starts at about 3 hours to departure and the ferry doors are not shut till about 3 minutes to departure. We wait another 15 minutes as a ferry has entered the harbour and is berthing! Shortly we start to move....painstakingly slowly at first (so there is no chance of hitting the pier) and once we are cleared of the harbour mouth, its full speed ahead! I check with the GPS and find that we are doing 45km/h.


Nothing more to see as it dark already and I go to look for something to eat!


Sorry but no Nigerian food in any of the 3 restaurants on board and I have to settle for a kebab.....which turns out fairly ok! Dinner done, try to buy some wifi credit but when that fails, I go off sleep! In the "pullman" seats!


Sleep could be better as it gets pretty cold during the night, but I manage to get about 5 hours before its 7am and the activities around me make it impossible to continue. So off for some breakfast and to see what the day will bring! I feel I have about 8 hours of riding to get to Paris from Sete but I have to check with the map! I would love to see my girls tonight! That thought has me smiling already!

July 23rd

But I have miscalculated and we arrive Sete tomorrow and not today! Oh well!! What to do! Spend the day loafing around and capturing the view. A chat with one of the crew tell me that the ferry is lest than 30% full! Really!



Soon enough night time comes and its back to my Pullman accommodation. Try to get some sleep with minimal success and can hardly wait for the next day when we arrive Sete.

July 24th.
Its so good to see the harbor that is Sete!


Formalities only consist of a stamp in my passport and I am riding in Europe.

The GPS plots the fastest way to Roissy and I am off!


I must confess that I do end up having my photo taken once...but that's not important!!!



Evening find me in Paris and with my Family and the start of my Rest days!




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Old 08-22-2012, 06:09 PM   #11
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O I am thoroughly enjoying this travelogue!
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Old 08-24-2012, 10:42 AM   #12
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All is well, i got glued to your reportage, it made for compulsive reading and a sure inspiration to up comers. Cant wait for your next posts.
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Old 08-24-2012, 12:25 PM   #13
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excellent, thanks for sharing. You sure travel light !!
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Old 08-24-2012, 01:07 PM   #14
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July the 25th.

FIX THE HESITATION
Blanks had been acting up all the way from Mauritania. The hesitation has not gone away! So my first goal for today is to get this sorted. I spend some time on the internet and found the closest dealer to Roissy where my family has hired an apartment. BM Bymycar Noisy, on Rue de Paris. Great! Put in the address on the GPS and about 15 minutes later I am there!

To be it mildly....I have never been so well catered for by any dealer....ever!

The head mechanic, Rudy got on my bike and didnt let go till about 130pm...well after his lunch break had started!


He plugged Blanks the diagnostic equipment and did everything that the GS911 would have done but no joy. Recall was done, fuel pump controller, fuel pump, throttle body sync....we even put new plugs...but nothing would solve the problem.




After a brain storming session, the workshop manager, Cedric, goes to the showroom and brings a brand spanking new GS and proceeds to take out the fuel tank. Changing the tanks solved the problem and we realized that even though the fuel pump as running, it obviously was not delivering the right pressure. New fuel pump installed and all it well.



I also ask Cedric to reprogram the bike and remove the RDC (TPMS) from the CAN! The wheel sensors had failed a long time ago and I had since changed to an after-market system from Orange.

Rudy explained that the new system goes through Munich for re-programming as he hooks Blanks up again!

Reprogramming done, and I am good to go! I am so impressed and satisfied with the service I have gotten. These guys not only made me a priority but didnt give up until the problem had been solved....not even a tea break!

I ride back and park in the underground garage where Blanks will be for the next couple of days why I and my girls tour Euro Disney!!!
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Old 08-24-2012, 01:31 PM   #15
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July the 30th. Day 1, Euro Tour!

Paris - Strasbourg
A lazy start as I am reluctant to leave my girls...and its been drizzling over night but its time to go. Load Blanks up and bid farewell to my girls! My goal for today is Strasbourg. The GPS plots my route and I am off. About 20 minutes into my trip and I discover that I am feeling uncomfortable. Whats not right? Whats happening? The it hit me....I have left my Airhawk in the apartment!

Well I figure that since I have survived all this while, albeit with it, it wont make much difference without it. Why loose the time to go back just for the Airhawk. I get on the highway and make tracks. its a relatively cold day with slight showers here and there but over all, I make progress and arrive Strasbourg without incident! Locate a hotel close to the central train station, park the bike, go for dinner and its an early night for me. I have to get to Malta tomorrow which would mean quite a few kilometers....so the earlier I start the better.
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