|23 December 2004||39.6 miles (63.7 kms)||drive from San Jose to San Francisco International Airport|
|5,865 miles (9,437 kms)||flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt, Germany|
|Total Ron Miles||5,905 miles (9,501 kms)|
|24 December 2004||396 miles (637 kms)||flight from Frankfurt to London Heathrow International Airport|
|89 miles (143 kms)||drive from London to Barton-On-Sea, southern England|
|Total Ron Miles||6,390 miles (10,282 kms)|
|25 December 2004||Christmas Day||spent in Barton-on-Sea|
|26 December 2004||50 miles (80 kms)||drive from Barton-on-Sea to Portsmouth via EastLeigh|
|100 miles (161 kms)||overnight ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg, France|
|Total Ron Miles||6,440 miles (10,362 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||150 miles (241 kms)|
Spent most of the day birding Keyhaven Marsh outside New Milton. Figured I’d try and pick up some birds before I left England. It was a decent day out despite the freezing temps. My trip list appears at the bottom of this page.|
About 8 PM we made out official start and had a fairly short drive to the Portsmouth ferry terminal. At Portsmouth there was one Telefonica Dakar Rally boarding the ferry to France. The rally car itself was something of a toy car sitting prettily on its trailer. What was truly impressive, however, were its two gigantic support vehicles. They were these immense vehicles and it was like each was designed to support the other. The tires were easily 6 feet tall and ample spares were attached to rear of each. If I were about to embark on a journey to another planet I would certainly try and find one of those.
|27 December 2004||740 miles (1,191 kms)||drive from Cherbourg to Burgos, Spain|
|Total Ron Miles||7,180 miles (11,553 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||890 miles (1,432 kms)|
The drive from the French port at Cherbourg to Burgos, Spain took us through St-Lo, Rennes, Nantes, Nort, Bordeaux Bayonne, Biarritz, San Sebastian, and Bilbao. It was a long, crazy day and I was suffering a bit from little to no sleep over the past 3-4 days. Being jet-lagged I was not able to sleep through the nights so only a few hours of shuteye have been had over the past several days.|
Last night crossing the English Channel was fine except that is was below freezing in the lounges. I should have returned to the car and grabbed the sleeping bag, but somehow endured. Before debarking we met up with two other PDC05 teams: Team Dingbat and Wombat and Fathers for Justice. We caravanned for part of the day, but at some point or another we managed to lose both teams. We also briefly crossed paths with the team "No Sleep 'til Dakar" somewhere along the way.
Did I say this was a crazy day? Okay, the ferry arrived in France at 4:30/5:30 AM English/French time so we pushed on from Cherbourg straight away. Jim drove up until around 7:30 and then we switched off. I was fine for about the first five minutes and after just having negotiated a roundabout and beginning to accelerate onto the motorway, it appeared that the rear tire had gone flat. A flat tire might have been a plus as what we found were 5-of-the-6 lug nuts that were, quite literally, hanging on by a thread. We started dealing with that tire maybe an hour before daylight and were plagued by it for the rest of the day until it was apparent we couldn't drive another mile. We took down one of the five spares from the roof and swapped it out right as it went dark.
Today I began my personal war with technology. First, the bank machine at a gas station claimed my ATM card was invalid which was not good, as I didn’t have single Euro. No major problem, I'll just use my credit card to pay for a meal... sorry, sir, this does not work. Aaaarrrrgghh!
Fortunately, most of the day was nice despite the freezing temperatures so whenever we had problems it was not pissing down rain or snowing. That was more-or-less true until we got some rain in the Pyrenees and the driver’s side windshield wiper suddenly flew off the arm and disappeared into the darkness. As quickly as we could pull off the road we transferred the one remaining wiper, but with the fear of losing that one too, for the next half an hour clearing the windscreen consisted of single wipes: either the up-swing of the arm or the down-swing.
One thing I can now say about the French is that they know how to drive. Not only were the miles through the countryside of northwestern France beautiful, they were absolutely painless. A welcome change from driving in the States. My first experience with the peage was getting a ticket out of your standard automated ticket machine. It seemed simple enough, but at first glance it didn't dispense a ticket. Upon further reflection I noticed it was hanging out the machine about 8' off the ground. I guess that due to the height of the gear on top of our vehicle must have registered us as a lorry or 18-wheeler.
|28 December 2004||588 miles (946 kms)||drive from Borgus to Sotogrande|
|Total Ron Miles||7,768 miles (12,499 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||1,478 miles (2,378 kms)|
The route from Borgus to Sotogrande took us through the towns of Aranjuez, Valepenas, Jaen, Grenada, and Malaga.|
We started out of Borgus in a steady snowfall, but the Spanish roads are fairly good. The only exception is that the rear wheel we replaced last evening is slightly smaller in diameter than the others so going around right-hand curves is somewhat dodgy and tries to run you off the road. The only other problem I faced driving is that the highways are two lanes in the direction of travel and for some reason the fast lane is significantly cambered towards the inside barrier or guardrail. When passing other vehicles you can't simply drift over to pass, as it's a battle to keep from going straight into the median or the opposing lane of traffic. Moving over is more of an exercise of gradual side-steps: move over a few feet, then steady, okay, over a little more now, okay more, fight for the high ground, okay, now almost there, steady, okay hold, stay straight in the lane, alright now boomerang back into the slow lane. Whew! I don't know what the deal is, but a road with a flat surface or crown in the middle didn't catch on in Spain.
The northern parts around Borgus seemed to be a high plateau. When we first dropped off the plateau we went through a fairly spectacular, but very short canyon. As we dropped down a bit we got into our first smattering of cactus. Somewhere around midday we got into olive country. Olives! Miles and miles of olives - we've been driving for hours now with olive trees as far as the eye can see.
We skirted the Sierra Nevada in the neighborhood of Grenada and got into Sotogrande before dark where we met the other teams in group 2.
|29 December 2004||Rest day in Sotogrande|
|30 December 2004||18 miles (29 kms)||drive from Sotogrande to port in Algeciras|
|18 miles (29 kms)||ferry from Algeciras to Ceuta, Spain ("Morocco")|
|249 miles (401 kms)||crossed into Morocco at Ceuta; drive to Casablanca|
|Total Ron Miles||8,053 miles (12,957 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||1,761 miles (2,833 kms)|
|31 December 2004||139 miles (224 kms)||drive from Casablanca to Marrakech|
|Total Ron Miles||8,192 miles (13,181 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||1,900 miles (3,057 kms)|
|1 January 2005||327 miles (526 kms)||drive from Marrakech to Sidi Ifni|
|Total Ron Miles||8,519 miles (13,707 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||2,227 miles (3,583 kms)|
|2 January 2005||314 miles (505 kms)||drive from Sidi Ifni to Laayoune, Western Sahara|
|Total Ron Miles||8,833 miles (14,212 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||2,541 miles (4,088 kms)|
|3 January 2005||319 miles (513 kms)||drive from Laayoune to Dakhla|
|Total Ron Miles||9,151 miles (14,724 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||2,860 miles (4,602 kms)|
|4 January 2005||Rest day in Dakhla|
|5 January 2005||283 miles (455 kms)||drive from Dakhla to 20 59.064 N, 016 33.158 W|
|Total Ron Miles||9,434 miles (15,179 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||3,143 miles (5,057 kms)|
An early morning start out of Dakhla to meet up with the others at the camping site right outside town. We then left at 7 AM in convoy to the Mauritanian border.|
The Western Sahara/Moroccan border is a model of inefficiency. Think nightmare and you've got it. Not wholly impossible, just your standard chaos. I’m sure there was a system behind the madness, but to understand it might take several lifetimes.
Other teams had arrived hours earlier and were stacked up at the border waiting for the Moroccans to sort them out. Granted, things were busy with the Paris-Dakar folk passing through as well, but rather than make things easier on all involved, the border and customs officials seemed to relish in their slow, random process of processing the traffic. I cannot recall how long we were at the border, but it was several hours at least. Maybe an hour or so to hand over your passport, then another hour or so to get your exit stamp, then another hour to have the security guy to inspect the car….
After the sit down and wait, we set off across no-mans-land and into Mauritania. The Mauritanians were surprisingly efficient. I don’t know why I was surprised, as I had never been to Mauritania before, but the border officials were quick and polite and that was a much welcomed change. Sure, we had to go through several control points, and I’m not sure anyone knows what they are for, but I guess after you talk with the customs and immigration folk, the military and police personnel, and a dozen or so hangers-on-ers, then at some point you must have covered all your bases.
When we arrived at the Western Sahara border, the morning and PDC05 plan was to head into Nouadhibou and make it a relatively short day. However, for some inexplicable reason our group opted to rush off into the Sahara.
We’d found a guide that supposedly knew the route, but after turning around several times less than 200 meters off the main road it was difficult to develop much confidence in him.
I guess there is some comfort in hiring and having a guide, and while there are numerous tracks crisscrossing the desert in every direction, it seems as though any competent individual could find ones way. Certainly the tracks our guide took us through did not decrease the difficulty of a desert crossing. And, quite possibly, it was advantageous for our guide to make it as hard on the vehicles as possible. (He did end up with the one car and nearly a second!)
In any event, we headed off into the rocky, bumpy, sandy Sahara. As so much of this trip is a blur, all I really remember is that it was a long day of driving, getting stuck, pushing and pulling, driving, getting stuck some more, etc. until we finally stopped.
The idea seemed to be that we were going to make camp that night at the mythical “big dune.” Maybe it’s the born cynic, but there were countless big dunes and one seemed as relevant as the next. Where we ended up in relation to the “big dune” never became clear. What was clear is that we drove late into the evening and only stopped sometime after 8 PM when Chris (team 5220) put a hole in his Thunderbirds oil pan, or what everyone else insists on calling a sump. An unfortunate incident and one possibly avoided had we not driven those last couple of hours across serious 4WD terrain, in the dark.
Finally we towed Chris and a couple of other vehicles to the top of a dune, found a relatively flat spot, and bedded down for our first night in the desert.
|6 January 2005||96 miles (154 kms)||from 20 59.064 N, 016 33.16 W to 19 47.44 N, 016 11.931 W|
|Total Ron Miles||9,530 miles (15,334 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||3,239 miles (5,212 kms)|
A long, weary day and we didn’t even manage 100 miles. The morning started off with the Strangely Brown boys (team 5229) attempting to fix the T-bird. After patching the sump the night before and then finishing the job this morning, they discovered another problem in that the battery had shifted at some point and rubbed against the fan belt shearing a hole in its side. Another battery was installed, but the car refused to start. It was then determined that the starter motor was not engaging so that was summarily removed. The starter must have filled with sand, which did not agree with the moving parts inside it. When it was finally unbolted from the engine most of the inside fell into pieces onto the ground. If anyone could have fixed a starter from scratch my money would be on “the Daves,” but even they deemed it beyond repair. “The Daves” had a spare starter for their Ford Sierra, but while it would bolt-up to the T-bird motor, it was sufficiently different to make it inoperable. The T-bird was resigned to the Sahara and would later be reclaimed by our guide.|
After removing as much gear as possible from the T-bird and packing that into the other vehicles, we again set off with Chris in the Shogun and Richard in the Desert Quest Golf (team 5218). We soon got out of the low, rocky hills we’d been driving through and the terrain got much flatter; quite like a playa. As far as I’m concerned it was playa; dead flat playa. It was the kind of surface you could rapidly build up serious speed, but all too quickly you’d hit some washboard surface that threatened to tear the wheels off the car. Interspersed sand dunes complemented the playa.
It wasn’t much to look at really because of all the sand and dust in the air. It took me about a day, but I finally realized that this was the harmattan. It was difficult to tell whether you awoke before or after sunrise because it was near dark and it never really got light. The little daylight was this diffuse and gray throughout most of the day. Everything had a flat look to it. The scrubby plant life was gray, the dunes were gray, the sky was gray, and we forever drove in a cloud of gray dust.
This day progressed as had the one before with the odd car getting stuck in soft sand and Jim or myself pulling them out with the Shogun. With the frequency of the cars getting mired, it wasn’t long before we had towropes permanently affixed to each car. Generally a car would get stuck and we could pull the Shogun around in front and quickly pull them out. Then again, all too frequently two or more cars would be stuck which would require several tows, often, for a significant distance until we could find a hard enough surface for the 2WD’s to get going again. Anyway, that was more-or-less to be expected.
What was less expected was for the Saab (team 5224) to rapidly disintegrate. The first sign of trouble seemed to be when the right-front suspension, “wishbone,” went and the car collapsed onto the right-front tire. Apparently, the right shock had been broken for some time and the stress had finally cracked the metal wishbone.
And speaking of stress, I can’t stress enough how “The Daves” have been absolutely invaluable. With every sign of trouble, with every little blowout, they leapt into action with a speed that would put “The Incredibles” to shame. Ford certainly is lucky to have these lads designing cars for them.
In any event, the Saab was taking a fair amount of punishment. To repair the damage, “The Daves,” with the assistance of the other gearheads in the group, removed the left-front shock to replace the right. They filled the left spring full of solid rubber spongy “superball” things to act as a pseudo-shock. On this fix the Saab was back in the game. Albeit the right-front wheel of the Saab was angled about 25 degrees less than vertical due to the bent wishbone, but we could carry on.
And carry on we did, as we pretty much tore along at a frantic pace until it was clear that there would be nothing left of the cars if we didn’t slow down. We stopped to make our second Sahara camp after two of the cars got stuck, we’d buried the Shogun a couple of times attempting to pull them free, and Strangely Brown caught air off a dune. With the amount of soft sand meant we were making such little progress there was not much point in continuing. Despite all attempts to stop before dark, we still wouldn’t do so this night.
|7 January 2005||248 miles (399 kms)||drive from 19 47.437 N, 016 11.931 W to Nouakchott|
|Total Ron Miles||9,778 miles (15,733 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||3,487 miles (5,611 kms)|
What a day, what a day, what a day. I thought the plan was to fix the Northern Geezers Saab before we set off, but I guess the prevailing thought was to get it to a town and some welding gear so as to make a real difference. We limped along through some scrubby, undulating desert with magnificent sand dunes. I don’t know if the harmattan can be bolstered by a sandstorm or not, or if this is just straight-up harmattan, but the sun has been blocked out by the amount of fine, airborne sand particles.|
I think what I’ll remember most about Mauritania was the pervasive taste of sandy alkaloid dust in my mouth. It just never went away.
Most of the day we passed along single file beginning with either the mixed terrain or dead flat playa until we met up with the coast north of Nouamaghar. There, we hit the beach, which is the traditional road south to Naukachott. After a fun run along the beach we again cut inland which would catch us up to Route No. 4. However, about a 100 km north of Nouakchott, the tire and spring on the Saab finally gave out. Again, “The Daves” from the team Strangely Brown sprung into action to find a solution to an un-fixable problem. Having thought they’d tried the “last resort” a couple of “resorts” back, I was in for another piece of magic. The solution this time entailed chucking the right-front strut or spring and replacing it with an 18” piece of 1 ¼” metal pipe to in effect allow the car to drive, but without any sort of right-front suspension. As easy as that may sound, it required removing the spring, cutting the pipe to length, wrapping and strapping it in place with 10 ton webbing, wire, rope, and more webbing which in the end did not allow the wheel and tire to rotate. To gain tire clearance, they took some 8”X1/16” brackets and fit them over the wheel lugs as spacers. That actually worked to get the car the remaining 2 ½ hours to Nouakchott. Still, upon arrival it was discovered that the right-front tire had worn through the break lines during the drive.
|8 January 2005||Rest day in Nouakchott|
|9 January 2005||Rest day in Nouakchott|
|10 January 2005||211 miles (339 kms)||drive from Nouakchott to St. Louis, Senegal|
|Total Ron Miles||9,989 miles (16,072 kms)||camped at Zebrabar 15 51.85 N, 016 30.71 W|
|Total PDC05 Miles||3,698 miles (5,950 kms)|
|11 January 2005||Rest day at Zebrabar|
|12 January 2005||Rest day at Zebrabar|
|13 January 2005||Rest day at Zebrabar|
After seeing off my desert team, I spent the day in the bush. I had pretty much exhausted birding right there along the coastal parts so I headed straight inland. I had no real plan other than to wander off on a track to the east.|
The terrain was fantastic. To begin with it was mostly a stunted Acacia thornveld something. That produced a number of brilliant birds like Beautiful and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds.
It was so nice to simply be out and on the ground. I ended up walking all day and only returned to the camp well after it had gotten dark. People were few and far between, but every now and again I would wander across some small village. At one such place I was fairly tired and thirsty so I went over to where a group of people were sitting under a tree. I don’t know what language the people were speaking, but after it was obvious I couldn’t understand them they sent for a translator. However, the first few translators only spoke French and when it was clear I spoke English another person was sent for. I spent a good hour or so there. Surrounded by people from this village, we went through my bird field guide and they pointed out all the birds “they were having.” I mention that because it took me a few minutes to realize they didn’t mean it literally. I mean, the one guy said it when we were looking at the pigeons I initially believe he owned some wild pigeons…. Anyway, it was great fun and I was given some water and tea before I again set off.
After a time I knew I should turn south and essentially walk a rough square to end up back at Zebrabar, but the “problem” was that the bush was getting wilder and wilder. I couldn’t stop myself from venturing further into the vastness of the bush. Well after I should have turned around I found myself on the top of a giant sand dune. To the east was an expanse that showed no sign of humans. The best I could manage was east-south east for the longest time. All about were great sand dunes. Dunes with little to no vegetation, ones with vegetation in pockets within the dune, or ones with large, widely spaced, gnarly, old trees set in all sorts of odd places. Other times the vegetation was quite thick. Everywhere though it was sharp and spiky.
At dusk, I was still a mile or so from the road I knew paralleled the ocean. I did hit the road a couple miles further south than I’d originally planned, but it was a nice, albeit long, walk home in the dark. Just me and the Long-tailed Nightjars that flew up off the road every minute or two.
|14 January 2005||158 miles (255 kms)||drive from Zebrabar to N'Gor (Dakar)|
|Total Ron Miles||10,147 miles (16,327 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||3,856 miles (6,204 kms)|
Up and out early at Zebrabar. It was only 9 AM, but the police or customs escort arrived four hours earlier than the day before. That took us by surprise and I thought they would be operating on Senegalese time. The two groups of cars leaving in convoy for The Gambia the two previous days waited until 1 PM for their 8 AM escort to arrive.|
I’m not sure if we were caught out or the escort left in haste, but the group of cars I ended up riding with fell quickly behind. The reality is that I never saw the escort or other groups of cars after they drove across the inlet to Zebrabar. Maybe that was fate as our group had gotten the idea to somehow lose the guide and head into Dakar. We figured that if we could reach Dakar then we could watch the finish of the Telefonica Paris-Dakar Rally which we’d been paralleling for a couple of weeks now. Many PDC05 teams have had race vehicles overtake them somewhere en route. Likewise, many of the Paris Rally vehicles and teams have turned up at our camping sites or hotels at the end of the day.
Most of the day I was riding with Dan and John in Creamy Treats (team 5201); also known as ICV, short for Ice Cream Van. I had a great seat on a cooler box, which was quite nice, but we were on paved roads most of the day making it a comfortable ride. Still, there is limited braking in the ICV and the continual stream of goats, donkeys, cattle, dogs, and horses crossing the road at inopportune times, not to mention people and cars moving into our path as well, made it an interesting ride into Dakar. The best thing about riding in the ICV are the giant windows which make you feel as though you are out in the open as you watch the countryside pass by.
We’d been told somewhat forcefully back at Zebrabar that any ideas to try and make a run for Dakar were impossible at best. Some of us were somewhat doubtful as to the veracity of that claim, but none of us had any way to know for sure. The theory was that without a carnets de passage we could not get through the endless police checkpoints. We would not make it 5 km out of Zebrabar without being stopped and turned back. Maybe we were just lucky, but the simplest way to deal with the checkpoints was to not stop in the first place. I believe we only got stopped once and we were so far behind in the ICV at that point that the cars in front said we were part of a humanitarian convoy and they let us go on our way.
Actually, you could say we had to go to Dakar. Our real plan was to head for the Banjul border and then about 75 km east of Dakar, at the turning of the main Banjul route, we would make the decision on whether or not we could realistically make it here. However, after a good 150 km of driving with no trouble, we just opted to head into town. It wasn’t all smooth sailing though as traffic began to pile up well outside Dakar and the ICV threatened to overheat. Also, at one point we got impatient and decided to drive off the tarmac and onto the shoulder to get around the wall of cars. First, “For Fi,” the little red Ford Fiesta (team 5256) got stuck in the sand. That was easy enough to push out, but the ICV had sank in behind it. It’s not like the traffic was going anywhere anyway, but we had to do a quick tow move using the “The Fathers” Nissan Patrol (team 5242) which was up on the road and it still took about eight of us pushing to get it going again. That’s the great thing about Third World traffic. You can stop in the middle of the street for no good reason, causing havoc in your wake, and no one thinks that strange. They simply try and drive around the blockage by any means possible.
Once in Dakar, we drove around in circles a bit looking for lodging, then stopped at the fantastically expensive Hotel N’Gor Diarama to have a beer and to get our bearings. Despite the cost we were tempted to stay at the hotel, but while the parking lot was empty and the place seemingly deserted, we were told that the hotel was fully booked. Good thing for us as we drove around the corner into some dusty dead-end street, walked through a short maze between a few houses, ducking under cloth lines in side yards, through a plaster factory, and emerged at Surf Camp Cole run by the Vivacious Mrs. Cole. I’m not even sure how many rooms or apartments we occupied, but the place is wonderful and a marked change from the places I’ve typically stayed in whilst on this journey.
After quickly settling in, one of “The Fathers”, Cory, and I found a beachfront bar and became quite enamoured with it over the course of several beers. We later met up with the others for some fine food and then went back to the same bar. Other than the wonderful atmosphere, there was an outstanding local musician named Dudu Mah playing guitar backed by percussionists. He finished up soon after we arrived, but he was absolutely amazing. Unfortunately, he was followed by some less than stellar drumming, but it was time to call it a night anyway.
|15 January 2005||Rest day in Dakar|
Wow, what day is it? Things have been rather anticlimactic rally-wise since we came out of the desert and hit Nouakchott, but the time has continued to fly by and the days to run together. In any event, we made a detour to Dakar and here I am. I was a bit doubtful about coming into the big city, but initiative behind the decision was brilliant.|
Today some of the others decided to go to Goree Island. I’d wanted to go and see the place, but certainly would not have motivated to do so on my own so I was keen got tag along. After negotiating a taxi we set off for the Goree ferry.
The boat ride out to the island only took 15-20 minutes. I’m not sure what I expected, but not a miniature city. Still not sure how I feel about that. Anyway, walked fairly quickly away from the teaming hordes and the guides by the dock and made the first stop at the only restored slave house. There we hired an old man to tell us a bit about the place. It is certainly a place of historical significance and is of interest to see, but one tiny little place that is dwarfed by all the other buildings and activity on a rather small island made me feel like it was all but insignificant testament to the slave trade.
I just thought it was weird. It only takes a few minutes to thoroughly look through the slave quarters and then you’re back on the relatively busy streets of Goree. The island is like any other African town with one huge exception, everyone in Goree is an artiste. The entire island is one crazy art market. And crazy is an understatement. There are all these coves and small alleyways and every single one is filled with arts and crafts. Also, there are historical underground battlements, parts of a fort or something, and there are shops and studios and more crafts literally everywhere above and below ground. It is fair to say that the place was littered with art. Again, not what I expected when I initially set out for Goree.
Back in N’Gor, I had opted out of eating at the fancy restaurant and had a small meal at a local beach place. While I was eating the guitarist from the night before yelled at me through the open window to let me know he’d be playing the same bar as the night before. As always, it seems like whenever I make plans to do one thing then they quickly change. Oh well, this travelogue should finish itself someday. The writing part seems to be hung-up on African time as well.
|16 January 2005||217 miles (349 kms)||drive from N'Gor to Barra, The Gambia|
|Total Ron Miles||10,364 miles (16,676 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||4,073 miles (6,553 kms)|
The time seemed to be right to hit the road and finish off this rally thing. It took some time, but we finally got all saddled up, squared our bill with the Vivacious Mrs. Cole, and set off for Banjul.|
We still had the police checkpoint issue to worry about, but the ice cream van camouflage must have done the trick. We managed to pass undetected as we drove the remaining miles through Senegal. When we were finally stopped and it started to look like we might be in trouble, it turned out to be the border and by all accounts the Senegalese were glad to be rid of us. I found it quite bizarre since it was in stark contrast to our entry into the country. When we all piled out of our vehicles and into the customs building, the officer in charge simply grabbed our fisches or information sheets, threw them over his shoulder, and with lightening fast speed forcefully stamped our passports. No complaints here and I enjoy that fact that the surprises just keep coming.
Entering into The Gambia went fairly quickly and smoothly. The bureaucratic nonsense is quite humorous, but hell, I guess they have to have their fun too.
As The Gambia is only about 20 miles wide, we were soon in Barra where we would catch the ferry across the Gambia River to Banjul.
Barra is not a place you’d want to hang out in for long. Unfortunately for us we practically became citizens.
We pulled up to the ferry terminal at around 5:30-6 PM and watched the ferry come and go several times. We did manage to move up in the cue and it looked like we might actually cross. However, sometime after midnight were told we would have to wait until the following day. We slept in the walled off slip to the ferry, but did cross on the first ferry the next morning. Long story short, we sat in Barra for around 14 hours before we caught the 30 minute ferry ride into Banjul.
|17 January 2005||3.4 miles (5.5 kms)||ferry from Barra to Banjul|
|15 miles (24 kms)||drove from Banjul to Fajara|
|Total Ron Miles||10,382 miles (16,705 kms)|
|Total PDC05 Miles||4,091 miles (6,583 kms)|
Crossed on the first ferry to Banjul and then drove a half hour west to a beach town called Fajara. Pulled in to the Safari Garden Hotel where I believe I can now say that my rally is officially completed.