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.
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.