Sunday, October 29, 2006

A Saharan Piste

Piste is French for track and it was a word used alot latley, (Moroccons speak French also), the phrase ¨Piste se ou?¨ or in Aussie slang ¨wheres the bloody track mate?¨

We teamed up with two German lads Andy and Axel riding KTM 640s to ride a piste accross one corner of the Sahara. It was late one afternoon when we loaded our ikes up with all the fuel we could carry and about 10 litres of water each and food enough for a few days atleast, the plan was to take two days and two nights to complete this leg from Merzouga to Touagnite, about 260 kilometres. We set off as the sun was low and the wind blowing up a nasty sand storm but only wanted to ride about 10 ks out of the last village and find a camp and hopefully by the morning the wind will have died away. When we entered the last village all the locals could do was shack there heads and wave a finger at us, gesturing that we will not make it and our bike were to heavy, which all were except Amys, but still it was very heavy for her, mine probably weighing it at over 300 kilos with all the extra fuel and water and myself sitting on its back, this was no XR 600 in the back paddock!!

So which way is it lads??

We set off regardless still with the locals shaking their heads in the thick dusted air, hmmm things went from bad to worse, the track we thought was right was not and it took us straight into an Oued(river) dry of course but the sand was deep, we all wrestled our bikes for about half an hour getting no where, the wind and sand picked up, I was in lead thinking what the hell am I leading the others into, what are they thinking, the others dropped their bikes in the sand so we all ran back and helped pick them up , at different times, this wore us out quicker and the sun was almost set, higher ground we needed and fast, a place to camp also. We got out of the Oued and onto a rocky plateu where we followed my GPS in the direction of where the correct track was supposed to be, it came to a dead end but was sheltered behind a small mountain, ¨thats it lets camp here¨ So after about an hour we had gone nowhere, burnt up valuable fuel and acheived nothing, I asked myself ¨is this how disasters start?¨

With the sun rising came a new day and to our delight no bloody wind but Andy had decided this was not for him as a few days prior he had had a fall and damaged his ribs quite bad so would be wise for him to go back and take the highway all the way round. Shame for Andy and us as well as Andy was a doctor so kinda gave us some confidence about the whole thing, well he could have done a McGyver with a leatherman or something!! So that left Axel, an oven builder, Amy an Occupational Therapist and me, a underwater construction diver, not much water out here!!

Off we went, this time the going alot better as we had the correct track, if only we found it first thing last night, but the going was good and the scenery just amazing and to imagine where we were gave a great feeling.....until we came to a little village, these people a from another world, once again shaking their heads, in french saying 5 kilometres very bad, you not make it.....right then lets go see what the fuss is about, my GPS and map said a large Oued crossing about 6 kilometres wide, oh shit if its like the last we are in for some fun! Sure enough there it lay infront of us, not just a wide sandy river but one with gullies and canons within and yes alot of sand as well with the main track winding through it. Away I went and down I went, hitting the deck for the first time, was like hanging onto a wild camel, luckly there where some kids around from the nearby village waiting for the stupid westerners to try their luck accross the Oued, I gestured for them to get around and pick up the mothership, like 10 puppies jostling for position to get milk from the mother, un dux trois(1 2 3) we got it up, and away I went spraying my little helpers in sand, ha....the going was tough, Amy and Axel dropping their bikes as well, this was hard, maybe the locals were right again! We rested for lunch about 2 kilometres in and drank alot of water, joined by the kids earlier who just run along beside in the growth. We give up, but not completely but to allow a kid to show us a better direction out on some higher and harder ground, for a small fee of course, this time it was easier but not great, after a time we emerged from the other side farewelled our guide who seemed to lead us straight into sand dunes!! And to top it off our old friend wind was back along with his mate the dust storm, with our guide gone who gestured the track was just over there, which our GPS also said we now had to tackle sand dunes, of course I steered the mothership straight into one and bogged immediatley! Plus could ony see a few metres in front from the sand, I walked over a few dunes and sure enough there was the piste but to get there was no easy feet, unbogged and alot of throttle we all got through onto some harder surfaces, thank goodness.

Wheres the bloody piste???

Houston we have a problem!

From here the going was good, we road accross huge open plains from waypoint to waypoint following no real track, I really thought this was adventuring, the whole three bikes strung out making their own track, their own dust. It was a beautiful wild place. We camped the night with 70 ks to go the next day, still the wind howled all night, we had tuna pasta with sand for dinner.

Hilton Sahara

The Next day was easy going and we reached Touagnite by 10am and what a sense of acheivement, we made it......and Andy rocked up about an hour later covering the 500 odd ks in much the same time as we did 260 but he did stay in a nice hotel for the night.

What a feeling!

Could not have done it without you Axel, cheers mate.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

We Finally Made It!

I swear when we crossed the straight of Gibralter we actually flew to another planet, boy did things change dramatically, from the landscape to the people, we entered an Arab world which for some of you may no what that equals, yep squat toilets and no bog roll.

I will say straight away that this place is very beuatiful before I mention what its actualy like incase it sounds horrible, but to us we are loving it. I thought the Mallee back home was dry, this part off the world is so harsh and the people have very little especially on the roads we are taking. We headed across the Riff mountains where some of the best hashish is grown in the world and was that clear, about every 500 meters we had someone trying with such desperation to stop us and buy a sample, a pot smokers heavan this place. And if it was not the dealers which ranged from 15 year olds to 50 year olds it was the tiny little kids standing on the roads throwing rocks at us, I sure hope they realize I can throw alot harder than they can! ha

Scotty Munros Butcher eat your heart out, and I wonder why we fell ill!!

¨Hey I saw your friend before¨

We headed south towards the Sahara where it became even dryer an dustier where I had yet another problem with my honda, a seized in choke that took me a few days to discover and quite a bit of worry went with it as well. We eventually made it to the dunes on the edge of the Sahara that reach 300 foot into the air, quite amazing, a motorbikers Mecca. As we checked into some luxary, a place with a pool things took a turn fo the worst and not motorbike problems this time but I guess you could say a similar symptom to a bike by the way of valve chattering, yep the fine Moroccon food had got us, we both fell very ill very quickly, so some R and R was needed with the loo at a handy distance. Four days on and we have moved on from both the luxary pool and the stomach cramps, oh the joys of travelling!

The dunes are big out here

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Our view...whats yours?

A week on and we have not really made it far at all. We made it down to Gibralter, back to some English life for a night and boy was the Surf n`turf we ordered a real treat, reason been was that we thought that it would be our last night in Europe and the frontier of Africa was awaiting us the following day after picking up some new tires for the trusty steeds.

Yep thats Gibralter, "The Rock of Gibralter"

Well a week later and we are still in Spain, the "trusty" steeds was not so, well one Africa Twin to be exact, as I was taking the rims off for the tyres to be fitted I dicoverved a broken fork seal, so after the new tyres were fitted, which to all fellow bikers gives a warm fuzzy feeling inside....which Amy did not quite understand. We then decided to head back into Spain to seek a honda shop of sorts to get some fork seals. Off to Algerceris we went and sure enough found a bike shop or should I say bike mechanic that could help, but been Spain it was 2pm and of course Siesta, shops close for a few hours.....come back at 4........Africa was slipping away every minute, so close but so far!!!! With the help of a chap called Frank who was able to talk a little English and take us to a superb Spainish bar for some real good food we drove all over town in search of Honda Africa Twin fork seals. After exhausting most places the only option was to order them in, ok sounded good to me....Tuesday 4pm....aaarrrgggghhhh, and to make it all the more worse you can see Africa across the straight of Gibralter, only about 20 kilometers away!!! So Frank recommended to head around the coast a little to a place on the beach called Tarifa where we could find a camp ground, did not sound like a bad option as the weather is a fine 36 degrees.

Well that was 4 days ago now and I tell you its been fantastic, we met a dutch couple travelling around, Marcel and Monique, oh and Woody there beautiful dog, staying where we were and for the past 4 days the beer has flowed, the muscles relaxed and a great time had by all, going to be hard to leave this part of the world, but once again everytime we sit up in our tent all we see is Africa, sometimes I think its calling me, Robbo, Robbo...or that could be something to be with all the over indulgence of a certain drink, Amy can´t hear it!!!

Amy and her new pal Woody

Our view from our camp, that is Africa in the distance(and I can hear it calling me!)

But as I sit and type the Honda is getting fixed, Amy´s bike is ready to go, gave it an oil change and check over as with mine so tomorrow Africa. Touch wood!

Adios Amigos