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Thread: Gael Warnings in West Africa.

  1. #65
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    My residence and just family at Le Petit Baobab

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    The heat leads to drinking the most extraordinary things
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    I am well guarded in my hut
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  2. #66
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    The giant fromage tree (actually 5 joined together) at Abene
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    Day's end for this fishing boat

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    It was a real wrench to leave Senegal where I only had good experiences, and to leave the lush beauty of the Casamance.

    Entry to Gambia was straightforward but after half a day it feels to me to lack the romance of Senegal... Maybe it's just because I am no longer speaking French?

    Anyway I am now at the place where I shall be leaving my bike before I fly back to the UK - hoping to return soon for more Senegal adventures🤞🏼


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  3. #67
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    Great photos Simon and delighted you enjoyed Southern Senegal. Interesting that your reaction to Gambia was the same as mine 3 years ago. I felt I had not ridden 3,000 miles just to speak to people in English and have an English supermarket just by my flat. Gambia does have some charms but they are not as apparent as in Senegal.

    Anyway, back in Morocco(I wonder if there have been many RRs being updated simultaneously 2,000 miles apart).

    With the short day ahead it was a relaxed start in Marrakesh and I wandered up to the Jemma al Fana square for breakfast. It looks and feels very different in the morning. I went along to the famous Cafe de France but no one was eating breakfast, so I settled for Hotel Ali, where we stayed on the way down. The breakfast was excellent, more than I could eat, and very cheap, while providing a view of the square. After loading up I was on my way north east out of the city. Soon I was on a good road and making excellent progress. I was passing through a farming area and harvest was in full swing. Not sure what was being collected but it seemed to be some sort of animal fodder, some loose on trucks and donkeys, others baled and piled high on big trucks.


    To make the trip more interesting I had decided to go and look at a lake not far from the Auberge. This involved going over a pass, down to the lake and over another pass back down to the Auberge. After yesterday I had a taste for twisty roads and this one did not disappoint.

    The lake wasn't up to much as it was in fact a reservoir, but it's the most inland water I've seen in some weeks.



    Up and over the other pass led me to where the Auberge(Madison d'hotes Ait Bou Izryane) should be.

    It took a bit of searching to find the track which led about a kilometre off the road.

    I arrived and rode into the garden and parked under an orange tree.


    The description said it was quirky but I don't think quirky is strong enough. The garden and terrace is like being in a modern artist's studio. There are things hung up all around and he seems to have a thing about green beer bottles, there at a couple of thousand of them hung up around the garden and they were hanging more as I arrived.

    Once changed I was back at the bike as the perished petrol tube had split again and I wanted to replace with the new plastic tube from Tan Tan. It was fun doing the work on the bike under an orange tree, the only problem was getting bashed on the head by an orange when standing up too soon. It may be a while till I work on the bike in an orangery again. The new tube is fitted and we'll see how that goes. I wonder if the tubing it is rigid enough, now that I've fitted it I'm concerned it may be a little light for the task of sucking up the petrol to the main tank. It will get a test on the ride to Fes tomorrow. After the work on the bike, dinner was prepared. I was the only guest and it was a little strange to eat with the 2 chefs watching me, but the food was good. As dinner finished it started to spit rain and I went under cover. The rain got heavier, the first rain I'd seen in 3 weeks. I wondered how the sheep fleece on my bike seat would be in the morning.


    After breakfast I booked a riad in Fes and loaded it into the GPS. The riad advertised itself as being in the medina but accessible by car, so presumably I can get there by bike. The fleece on the seat was not too wet as the rain had eased during the night and it seemed to have dried out a bit.

    On the way out of the village I was fascinated by this mobile shop. When I was young, we used to have a mobile shop call to the house, but it was a van not horse drawn.

    The mountains I had come over the previous evening were shrouded in cloud which did not bode well.

    One of my first tasks was to visit a petrol station to fill up the auxiliary tank and see if the new hose would work. Now that I am in Morocco there is no anxiety about not finding service stations, I would bet this country has more per kilometre of road than many other countries. When filling up I got the first positive sign that the hose may work, as the auxiliary tank was nearly empty and I had put 3 litres in to it from one of my spares last night. The 3 litres were now in the main tank. I don't pretend to understand exactly how this happens but it did it suggests the hose may be up to the job on the road. The road started off pretty flat, I passed through a few towns which looked pretty prosperous. There were pretty modern cars, even the taxis were modern and in good condition. I did see a few Renault 12s, one in good condition outside a house, looked like the family car. I had 2 for these cars 40 years ago and was pondering the thought that someone was still getting good use of this model. I gave some thought to why I had replaced the car, it still worked well, had enough room and I believe it was to get a newer more fashionable model, maybe one with a better stereo. This belief in the redundancy of that car is a reflection on the consumer age to which I am party. The thoughts you have as you ride along.


    After a while the road climbed a little and more interesting to ride with pleasant curves.

    The bike was running well and I was monitoring the feed from the auxiliary tank which I could see through the transparent tubing. When I was going fast the flow was happening but when I slowed down the vacuum was not sufficient to move the petrol. I was not concerned about this as most of my riding now will be in Spain on the motorways and it seems this will work sufficiently well. The road climbed gradually and the cloud built up so there was no danger of getting too hot today, in fact the temperature had hardly got above 20C. Around the town of Ifran I noticed a sign warning of snow barriers, happily still open. This was quite a contrast to the heat of Moritania. The temperature was dropping further as I climbed and then I detected a few spots of rain. It would not be much I thought, it got a little heavier, it will pass I thought. Then I looked ahead and there was no mistaking heavy rain ahead. I pulled over and did something I had not wished to do and that was get the waterproofs out, and just in time too. I continued in the rain and falling temperatures, the gauge which had registered 49C in Nouakchott was now showing 10C. I was still wearing fingerless gloves and my hands got positively cold. The positive aspect of this is the UK weather may not be such a shock for me next week. As I approached Fes the road descended, the rain eased and the temperature rose a little.


    I came in through the new town, where I had stayed 7 years ago, and then descended to the medina. Riad Damia was just inside the city walls, up a side street and i was able to ride close to the door. A couple was in the alley before me and rang the bell, as it was answered i indicated i was coming too and followed them in. It was a stunning building and i felt scruffy in my muddy bike gear. I checked it was the right place and was sadly informed it was not and Damia was next door. I had a last look around and plodded out with my tail between my legs and rang the correct bell. The door was opened by a gentleman who, looked straight out of the Indian Raj. He showed me into an equally stunning, if smaller building. There was a central courtyard, ornately decorated, with 3 x 6 meter doors opening into ground floor rooms.


    I was sat down, mint tea was served and finally shown to the room. The only downside is there was no lift and it was 3 long flights of stairs, but this climbing became insignificance when I saw the "room". It was not a room, it was 3 opulently furnished rooms and a massive bathroom.


    The guy must have noticed my face and could not resist a smile. He said I could live like a king and I immediately asked if I could stay 2 nights, but he was not sure it was free. I realise this section will do nothing for my rusty tufty adventure biker image, such that it is, but if luck falls your way you got to take it. The sitting room alone was twice as big as most of the rooms I've stayed in on this trip. Anyway, once I'd got over the shock, had a shower, I had the dilemma of which of the 4 beds I would sleep in. I wondered go on but it is a stunning place which I would thoroughly recommend.

    That evening I ventured out into the town armed with a tiny map. Within 5 minutes I was totally lost. A few guys offered to guide me but I'm stubborn and prodded on and got to the Blue Gate after about 30 minutes, which is 10 minutes walk from the riad.

    For anyone who has not been to Fes it is the most confusing city I have ever walked around. You hardly see the sky, the roads are tiny and it is very easy to get lost.

    This guy was not worried about health and safety as he welded as people walked by.

    I got lost 3 or 4 times and needed help to get my bearings again. It is a good mix of shops for the locals and for tourists. There is some encouragement to browse but nothing too forceful and it is quite pleasant to walk around, once you have an idea of where you are going. Some people would ne happy lost but it does not work for me. The most challenging bit of navigating came on the way back to the riad when the area suffered a power cut and even with a headtorch i was not able to find the way and relied on a local to lead me back.




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  4. #68
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    Great write up Jim, looks like you're enjoying the trip

  5. #69
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    Whilst Jim is living the life of a Rajah or equivalent, I think I have landed in stalag luft something-or-other:

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    Hopefully this German-owned (you guessed?) Establishment will be equally rigourous in guarding my motorcycle🤞🏼


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    I realise in my hasty update I glossed over (ie missed) my visit to the Niokobo nature reserve in SE Senegal.

    This was an exploratory visit with a view to returning next month.

    The camp looked easy to get to now the rains were.ending
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    And then the road narrowed and got muddier
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    A few photos below which prove I am not the David Attenborough of the UKGSer world!

    Exploring the river for hippos
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    You can hardly see it but this guy has his bicycle in the pirogue with him
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  7. #71
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    I'm now on the Santander/Portsmouth ferry. I'll do a proper update when I get home, WiFi here is not up to it. Thanks for all the interest.

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  8. #72
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    And I am now back home and recovering from the shock of cooler temperatures .

    The GS is safely tucked away in the Gambia, under the supervision of this young man and his father

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    It is lodging with these impressive companions
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    My timing of departure was poor as the beer truck just arrived
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    I have been surprised by how very few travellers I met...Just one Slovenia motorcyclist and a French guy, since Morocco.

    However I met this UK couple who are travelling to S Africa...They live in Oz and have had this Landy 20 years and done a lot of desert travel.

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    It has water filtration system and 2 external showers and is definitely the real deal!

    They are heading on to Mali, BF and Ghana.... Possibly my route too in the New Year.🤞🏼

    And I am sure my safe return was helped by the prayers of this group at Banjul airport :



    I will add my thanks to Jim's for those following this 'accidentally twin-track' ride report.

    And I am sure Jim will soon be offering first hand accounts of his adventures in exchange for a cuppa at Loomies (biker haunt in Hampshire, for the uninitiated).




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  9. #73
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    What a nice feeling to wake up in Fes and not have to rush around and pack up before an early breakfast and load the bike. I make it sound like a chore but I've being doing one night stops for the last 2,000 miles and the reserves of adrenalin are depleted. So a leisurely breakfast and time to plan the extra day in Fes. The sound of the rain on the roof was not too encouraging but I was sure it would ease. Sure enough, it was dry as I set off, checking the bike was OK overnight, tucked in by the door of the riad.

    I took the main trail to the Blue Gate, where everything seems to begin, followed the map closely and found it without difficulty. I was heading for the tannery and had directions from the concierge. Fes has 2 main streets which both begin at the Blue Gate and I began to follow the one to the tannery. Despite the directions I failed to find it and in the end tagged on to an Italian tour group being guided in English and got there. I knew I was getting close by the smell and of course it was raining now. I put on my showerproof jacket expecting it to clear. The tannery wasn't the largest but according to the guide for the Italians it was a craft tannery. It showed the process of treating, cleaning and colouring the leather.



    Did I mention the smell, it is quite overpowering and I'm not sure if it was dampened or accentuated by the rain.

    After the tannery I rejoiced the main street and explored the souk a bit more. I enjoy the bargaining and if it works well the seller gets satisfaction too, and I think you gain their respect if you don't simply pay the first price they offer. My record bargain in the souk, was in Marrakesh and I agreed 25 dirhamas for something first offered for 80. Of course you have to be prepared to walk away if you and the seller do not agree, and this produced my other record in this area where a seller and I disagreed and I walked away only to have his runner catch me up 200 meters later, with the item gift wrapped for the price I had offered. This approach doesn't always work perfectly however and there is one item I wanted to buy but walked away and the seller did not waver, and despite coming back a couple of times I couldn't find him again and missed out. The other time my stubbornness caught me out, was over the cost of an umbrella. A few guys tried to sell me one but I wouldn't pay the price. It was a sellers market as the rain was pretty continuous now. In the end I did a deal with a guy, for approximately £2, but only after I was thoroughly soaked.

    I sought out a couple of the main mosques and in fact began to enter one, expecting to have to take my shoes off, as I had done in Iran and Turkey. I was however immediatly challenged as to whether I was a muslim or not and then asked to leave. This was disappointing as I've enjoyed the calm of a numner of mosques. I would have thought that having a non muslim wish to visit and appreciate the beauty of muslim religious buldings would be something to encourage. This seems a local attitude and it is not practiced in other muslim countries I have visited.

    The rain was a general damper on the day and I retired to my suite and rested only coming out in the evening. I went to the Blue Gate area as this seemed where the main restaurants were. There is a lot of touting to get you to stop at a particular restaurant and I was checking the menu when a French couple nodded approval and when I spoke to them the gentleman particularly praised the "tagine aux pruneaux". A recommendation on food from a Frenchman is not to be dismissed likely, so I took a seat and ordered soup and the tagine. It was excellent, not expensive and I was thankful to the couple. After a further wander around the souk it was time to check out my mansion again. I sat in the main reception for a while doing some writing. The table was low, so when the couple finished playing chess I moved over to the higher chess table.

    It was a very pleasant atmosphere with a number of groups sitting around, some eating some reading but all soaking up the ambience of this wonderful room. The couple came back for the chess board and I offered them the use of the table but they declined and took the chessboard away to start another game. Around this time one of the riad staff came over and offered a complementary mint tea and promptly delivered a tray. Sipping the tea just added to the pleasure.


    The next morning I returned to the souk but failed to find the guy selling the item I missed out on the day before, however found a few other things to be stowed in the already full panniers. I returned and had a last look around my apartment and kept finding reasons to linger. Finally, to paraphrase Shakespeare's description of the schoolboy " I crept like snail, unwilling to my bike..." and off to Chefchouan. The road was a good riding road and meandered through some mountains and along a plane before finally climbing to Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains. It seemed gourds were in season and this guy had a good display if initially they appeared like an assortment of body parts.

    The road was a nice selection of corners and good fun to navigate. The views were pretty good too.


    This is Chefchaouen tucked into the hills.

    I had picked out a Riad of booking.com but had not bothered to book it and was to regret that as soon as I arrived. I parked the bike and was immediately joined by a helper. I walked up to the Riad and the guy came with me, despite my discouragement. Sadly the Riad did not have rooms and the lady called another one but it was full too. The helper was delighted but I had one last hope, in the hotel Madrid right next to the bike. I had stayed in the Madrid about 7 years ago on my first visit to Morocco. The Madrid had a room and the helper was off my back. I parked the bike in an adjacent garage, not on the road as last time.

    We stayed in the Madrid on our return from a tour of Morocco in 2010 and parked on the street, assured they would be safe under the eye of the hotel guardian. GSEddie, of this parish, was very grateful to the guardian and gave him a generous tip. The bikes, 3 x 1200GSs, had an appropriate level of sand, dirt and dust at this stage from the Moroccan tour and looked the part. However when we came down in the morning the bikes were gleaming and the guardian was beaming, having felt he had earned his tip by cleaning the bikes. We thanked him through gritted teeth and hid our disappointment.

    Knowing my way around, I quickly went to the main square in Chefchouen. It was much busier than I remembered and more commercial. In 2010 it seemed a quiet hill town with some craft stalls but now it was full of souvenirs shops with a lot of tacky gifts. I did find one special gift but much of the items were tasteless and more expensive than Fes or Marrakesh. I suppose it is the closeness of Chefchaouen to the ferry that had caused the change, but it is a pity. I ate in the main square, picking out a restaurant frequented by locals and had an enjoyable soup, fresh orange juice and tagine. I was entertained by a musical group, playing good music and getting some of the tourists to dance along.


    I didn't linger, as tomorrow I must ride to Tangier Med for the departure from Morocco and back to Spain. Come of the fortifications, lit by the evening sun are very easy on the eye.

    Of course the famous blue buildings do look good.


    Again the ride to Tangier Med was enjoyable through the country with great views.

    However getting through Tetuan was a pain, as it seemed to go on for about 20km with speed limits and roundabouts. More roundabouts than Basingstoke I would suggest.

    Anyway I got to the port and had a look at the sailing and my usual caution was suspended and I was taken in hand by a guy selling tickets for the ferry. The price was OK but they were not with the company I wanted to use. The Moroccan exit formalities were a breeze and took about 5 minutes. I got on board the ferry in reasonable time but the boat seemed to take a couple of hours to complete loading and I believe they were waiting to fill it before leaving. This meant a late arrival in Spain of course.
    The view of Africa receding as we sailed to Spain.

    I was staying at Jerez, which seemed appropriate(my surname is Sherry) and a short motorway ride away and on arrival I rode up to the Pension and unloaded. The proprietor explained the bike needed to be parked with the other bikes on the main road. I removed map cases, GPS and anything I could think was of value. I didn't expect a problem as it hasn't been touched in 3 weeks in Africa. The proprietor gave me a map and recommended a restaurant. I arrived ordered a beer, a couple of tapas and a main course my first beer in 3 weeks.

    I was half way through the first tapas when I realized my wallet was safely in my biking jacket, back at the Pension. I called over the main waiter, he was fine, we agreed I'd eat the tapas, they'd hold the main course and I would return to the hotel and get my money. I offered my phone or watch as security but the declined. When I got back the main course arrived and I completed a great meal and was appreciative of their understanding. The tapas with anchovy and mackerel was the highlight. There was a real buzz around the town, it was Saturday night and it everyone seemed to be out. There was a wonderful light in the sky from the sunset.

    I love the evening atmosphere in a Spanish city. I wandered slowly back to the hotel, having a beer on the way and taking it all in.

    Next morning I went to get the bike prior to loading up. I immediately noticed the handle-bar bag had been tampered with and looking inside I saw my USB charger and cable had been taken. This was the first time the bike had been molested since leaving home and it had gone through 3 weeks of Africa with out a problem. Now immediately return to Europe, something gets stolen. I was annoyed and then thought about my evening at the restaurant, where a number if beggars had come up to the diners. From their appearance these were Spanish beggars, not migrants, and maybe the begging and the theft from the bike are a comment on the state of the Spanish economy and society. I reflected that the charger can be replaced and it is the only thing I have lost on the 4 week trip, so something I could tolerate.

    Once loaded up, I was off out of the city and heading north on the motorway. It wasn't warm but sunny and I was expecting things to heat up soon. This was the first time I was on good motorway since the front wheel tube had been changed in Nouackchott. This was a chance to fully appreciate how the smooth the bike was running and happy to cruise at 120km and above. I was enjoying this so much I had not realised that it had not warmed up and I was getting cold. I'd stupidly left Jerez with my Moroccan bike gear, fingerless gloves and no liner in my bike suit. I had to stop at the side of the road and put on warmer gloves as the temperature was still around 10C. In the field next to me when I stopped, there were a few birds, big birds, in fact Griffon vultures, these are quite common in the mountains in Spain but for me they were a reminder of Africa. My hands were still cold and a bit numb so I also stopped at a service station and put on a jacket liner and waterproof trousers. This helped a bit but it took some time to warm up properly. The run today was about 550km and for much of it I was cold and in the end I was glad to be approaching Salamanca. I drove into the street with the Pension, in a pedestrian area, unloaded and parked again in a bike park in the street, taking care to leave little to be stolen. I only know one place in Salamanca, the main square, and could not believe my luck when I stumbled upon it just 2 minutes after leaving the Pension, what a good location.

    I had a wander around getting a feel of the place and viewing some of the significant buildings.




    Just opposite the Pension was a busy bar and looking at the menu, a medium size beer was 0.80€ and tapas were very cheap which was a surprise so close to the main square, maybe another consequence of the troubled Spanish economy.
    I had a main meal later near the square and again retired early as I had a further 370km to go in the morning to Santander and planned to be there by 13.00.

    The bike was fine when I collected it and loaded up the next morning. Sadly my auxiliary tank has stopped working yesterday so I needed to manage my fuel stops today with some care. I was sure I could fix the fuel problem but as it was only a short day today, I would leave it till I got home and sort it properly. This time I put on my warm gloves, jacket liner and waterproof trousers but was still feeling cold. Then I glanced at the temperature and saw it was 5C. As I climbed out of the city this descended to 2.5C. At the next stop I put on my waterproof mittens to help keep my hands warm. I was thinking what a contrast this temperature was to that I had in Nouackchott, 2 weeks ago, where it had been 45C. On these longer trips I note the extremes of temperature and so far a spread of 42.5C is my record. As my auxiliary tank was still not working I had a few more stops on the way to Santander and this was also a chance to warm my hands. I got a text message at one of these stops which said the boat would leave 1 hour later due to bad weather, which gave me more time before check-in and I was able to take it easier for the rest of the journey. Arriving at Santander this time reminded me of my arrival 3 years ago, without a passport, but that's another story. This time I was checked in quickly and joined the rest of the bikers in the sunshine. The ferry ride was a bit bumpy but it didn't keep me awake and we arrived at Portsmouth to drizzle. It was mild enough and I was home in less than an hour.

    My route was not the one Simon and I had planned together over the last few months, but I was pleased Simon at least was able to follow our plan and it had resulted in a smooth entry into Senegal as we had hoped. Had I not got ill I'm sure I'd have accompanied Simon to Senegal. However these trips are not organised by Thomas Cook, and you have to alter the plan to suit the circumstances, as I had to do in Mauritania. Overall mine was a great trip, covering 5,300 miles, crossing over and back across the Sahara, seeing lots of camels and ending up exploring some new roads and old cities in Morocco.


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  10. #74
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    I used an InRange Explorer tracker on this trip and the map it generates shows our joint route south as far as Aleg in Mauritania, where Simon continued towards Mali, and I returned, with the tracker, to Nouackchott. I then re-cross the desert north to Morocco and took a different path via Taroudant, up to Marrakesh, Fes and Chefchaouen before returning to Tangier Med and back across Spain and the ferry home.


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  11. #75
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    Welcome home!


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  12. #76
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    Welcome home to the both of you.... that was a great trip and thanks for posting!

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    Thanks Barak for your support.

    I have been back since Sunday and am now in Chicago for a family wedding...So a good time to reflect on the trip.

    My key lessons learned:

    -Jim is a great guy to travel with... just a pity about the raw chicken that did him in

    -the Sahara is very hot and sandy (and you need to check your battery levels as I didn't )

    -bring a voltmeter

    -Bring less clothes (that's my lesson from every trip but in the W African heat you can wash your clothes and they are dry a couple of hours later so you really only need 2 of everything)

    -dont bring a heavy electric compressor, bring a bicycle pump

    -I didn't use my tent or silk sleeping bag (but maybe in stage 2?)

    -Bring connection cleaner spray.... the dust and vibration can play havoc with connectors

    -Africa is full of helpful bush mechanics who can help you out in a tight spot

    -Bring hundreds of fiches!

    -don't put a map showing Western Sahara on your bike when passing through Moroccan police controls!

    That's it for now but I am sure Jim will have some wry thoughts to add


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  14. #78
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    Great adventure for you both. What do you mean by “fiches”?

  15. #79
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    'Fiche civil' is the name in French for a form with all your details that the police need at the regular checkpoints throughout Morocco, Mauretania and Mali. Senegal was a lot more chilled.

    I just have given out at least 70 or 80, Jim more as he did the return trip.

    There is a useful pro forma on line somewhere, which I need to find as my other half is joining me in Senegal next month for the next stage of the trip and will need some also.


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  16. #80
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    For more details on the Fiche mentioned by Simon, here are the details from Tim Cullis and a link to a spreadsheet to create your own:-
    http://www.ukgser.com/forums/showthr...53#post1179453

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