Desert WC -> Gas station, 87 km N of border
Distance (km) : 67
Time on bike : 5h 02m
Brutto time: 08.00 – 14.30
Avg : 13.4 km/h
Total (km) : 56.943
Altitude: 50 m
Difficulty: 4 of 5
10 hours of sleep, with lots of clothes under my defect mattress, the ground was like a hard stone floor, but altogether a peaceful and undisturbed night, as expected in landmine country. Cool morning, 19 degrees Celsius, excluding the chill factor.
It another hellish wind day. It’s all empty and desolate around me, only 1 car overtakes me in the first hour of pedalpushing. The idea of the next 800 km through this wind to Laayoune hurts.
I make really slow progress and make frequent breaks. The last approx. 10 km towards the village, I can see in the distance, takes me 1 ½ hour. Progress is depressing.
I make all the algebra in my head to find a little encouragement, to find a little good-hearted reality in this heartless Hell, but no matter how I look at the figures and calculations, the statistics are depressing: Provided that the wind (and hence my progress) are constant (which there is no doubt it will be), it will take me around 14 days to reach Laayoune, from where I still have some 4-500 km of windswept, stony desert before I reach Anti-Atlas mountains near Bouizakarne and Tiznit, which hopefully (though my hope has dwindled severely in this department) will provide little shelter from the wind.
I’m frustrated and badly demoralized when I – after a mere 67 km – reach the first settlement since the border yesterday. I find the gas station complex Barbas, order a tajine, a coke and a coffee. I feel devastated, or at least mighty frayed inside.
I know I’m not in the proper constitution for any big decisions, but I also know that I have fought a very unfair fight against the headwind over the last approx. 6 weeks (since Bamako), and the idea of yet another some three weeks into the morally depleting headwinds slowly begin to occur to me as stupid, unrealistic, and with the risk of sending me straight into a mental offside. The situation requires consideration, so that I give it, order an extra cup of coffee, sit and stare out into the wind that screams back at me. Thou ugly, invisible friend.
Contrary to my expectation, it is not possible to change my USD in the village. They accept only Euros. Bummer. I have approx. 30 USD in local dirhams, which in no way could get me to either Laayoune (750 km) or Dakhla (250 km) which the locals tell me is the next place with ATM banks and exchange possibilities. Shitty situation, huh…
The idea of catching a ride up to Dakhla or Laayoune and then cycling back to the south, with the tailwind in my back, pops up and is rapidly maturing in my internal decision processes. This would mean that my cycle route through Africa still remains intact, my respect for WT expedition still intact.
Later Charley (Belgium) and Youssef (Morocco) rock up. They are both artists and have been on a trip down to Mali in Charley’s Renault Kangoo, to paint and get inspired. I have a long and pleasant conversation with them, and I tell them about my situation. When I tell them about my plan to get a ride north and then cycle south, Charley looks at me as if I’m not quite right in my head, and ask if my trip is not about feeling good and enjoying my time. I must agree with him on that one, but I’m still trapped in my own dilemma. Their Renault is full of djembe drums, and they are sorry for not being able to help me.
I decide to stay here for the night and go out to find a spot for the tent. Back at the gas station a Mercedes van arrives, and I have a little chat with driver Pape from Senegal. I tell him about my (new) plan, and then Pape smiles at me and says: Get your bike and put it on the roof!
I can not believe my luck, and before I know of it, we have put the Koga (my bike) and my gear into the back of the wagon, I take a seat in the open cabin behind the driver’s seat, and soon we roll off to the north. Unreal.
In the open cabin behind the driver’s seat we are 3 men and 1 woman, and another 3 men in front, the majority from Senegal, one from Mauritania. It is a disturbing fact that only one hour here in the Mercedes would take me 1-1 ½ cycling day (and an indescribable amount of frustration) to cover.
While we roar off into the empty night in the stone desert, a lot of thoughts race through my mind. Would it be worth it at all, cycling back where this ride started, and then find some transport to get back and continue cycling north. If, the for whom would I do it: myself, my pride, for WT, for the sake of madness?
As we approach Dakhla I realize that Pape & Co. will continue north all the way to Casablanca. I ask if it’s possible to continue to Laayoune, and Pape is all green lights. Unreal.
October becomes November while I sit inside the car and race through the wind with a speed cyclists (going north through The Sahara) can only dream of. The front light illuminates a 90 degrees slice of the naked, stark, and monotonous stony desert around us.
See you next month!