Day 220, 15557 km
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Hello and happy new year everybody!
2014 is up and running and I have cycled more than 15 000 km on the roads of Europe and Africa. Todays news is about one highlight that I have passed with excellence, if I can grade it myself:). To cycle the 3000 km between Guelmim, the port of West Sahara, and Nouackchott, capital of Mauritania and the biggest town in the desert) was preheand an exciting challenge. How was the bike able to face the weather elements wind/sand, would it hold physically and how would the guy on top of it cope mentally with just sand, flies and camels as company along the road? That was my spinning thoughts before and it was correct up to a point but sahara was much more than that (and I was not lonely). A great experience added to my list of conqueers:P
My new mastercard that I waited for in Tan-tan did not have the same speed as me on the roads from neutral point of view. When it hadn´t arrived on the thursday that week and the postoffice were closed until Monday, something had to be done. So I left Youness and his family ( which I wrote about in the last post) and ordered a new card adressed to the swedish consulate in Dakar. My days were also running out for my visa to enter Mauritania so beeing back on the road was a wise decision. The wind was with me as scheduled in the area and although I had a late start on friday I still did 150 km. That was when the funny thought of making 200 km in one day popped up. Was it possible? the truth was…yes but not only in ONE day, I did it TWO days in a row:) Since the landscape wasn´t changing very much the speed was more a proof when locking down on the cycle computer rather than looking around myself. But it was certainly not lying showing average speedes of 27-30 km/h. During these days I was very happy of cycling during the cold season with daily temperatures of 20-25 degress. Compare that to the hottest season which peaks up to 50 degrees! My nights were comfortable, evenings and mornings was borderline of having shortsleeves and legs. So, perfect I guess:)
The landscape was more rocky than the great sanddunes I had min mind, but they still were around. And with the wind I was glad it was more rocky because the sand was all in my face when the rocky part was hidden. The first days did not have so much camels neither but a few loooneys were around:) And to their honor I tried some of their milk from a roadstand. It tasted.,.,.,awful! “The locals” told me is good for you and make you strong, well, yeahh I guess it has proteins and such but the smell was sour. Luckily my pee was rapid after that, I hope..:P
During day 3 or 4 (can not remember, blaiming the camelmilk) the road turned a bit more south which ment sidewind and some headwind back and fourth. The flying feeling previous days was “blown away” (haha) so I had to enlighten my fighting spirit instead. I was sttruggling hard and to seek windprotection was impossible. I tried this during lunch in some kind of stone building with holes in it. The food that day was more crusty than it should:) My Windfree ( the windsound reducing gadget I have) was helping me get throught the day but the big saviour was my own miscalculation to my advantage. During these kind of days I put up small targets in front of me to keep the moral up. Today I said to myself only to drink water every 5 km and when I was at the next shop I buy something sweet. I thought I knew the distance to the shop so when it arrived almost 20 km before that point I was overwhelmed of happiness:) Happier beardguy was not to be found on that continent:P
In my guide to Westsahara (which is to be found in last post) one can read about a guy named Marfoud, a cyclehost and only inhabitant oin the rural area called Bir Anzarane. As I was approaching this area and it was getting late I asked by the military checkpoint if they knew this guy. They so did and told me to keep on going and they catch up with me. Wow! My moral after that windy start was now mile high and it took only 10 minutes for a car coming up behind me and stay there for 30 minutes. That was a little stressful though:) He then overtook and pointed to a communicationpole in front of us. No Marfoud was found here but yet Mohammed and Mustafa. This night was really a memory for life! Mostafa first showed me a prefect tentspot inside the walls of the communicationpole, windproof! But then changed his mind and told me to sleep next to Mohammed in his little stonecabin, then changed his mind again and I could sleep in there all by my own:) In a bed, well Africa bed which is a woodcrate covered with a mat, but still:)
Mohammed and Mustafa lived hera and was guarding the pole. They were on eachother about everything in a very comical way, just like 2 cartoons and I have never laughed that hard with someone not knowing a single word of what we are talking about:) I understood quickly that they did not have company that iften. We shared a meal of omelett, vegetables and bread which was rinsed down with sweet mint tea. The night became late and I fell asleep nicely in he quite, windfree hut.
This night, as all nights in Sahara, was very starry and positively a good thing about having go out at night for a pee:) A magical feeling appeared when standing there looking around. Also before that when the sun is going down, the surrroundings presented itself with beautiful colors and made the bearded cyclist a happy faced dude:) So a breakfast of tea, milk and bread with “the cartoons” and I was back on the road again.
My guide was very handy for knowing when I had water and food to pick up. I got water from barrels, taps and bottles from stores and military who gladly handed them out to me:) On a certain point I was running low and found a bottle beside the road. Luckily I had my water purification in Xinix Aquacare to use. If the water turns a bit yellow (yes, suiting color) it is ok to drink and to my advantage this was perfectly fine to drink when treated. The food was off course a bit more expensive than Morocko but still very cheap. Restaurant food for just under 2 euros for example. My internet on my cellphone worked on and off, which was sad when I tried to contact my family during xmas holiday. But we talked a little and that made my day a little better anyhow.
This xmas eve I spent with broking another spoke and discovered tht my pannierholder back was broken. The spokes was a common problem also for my french cycling friend here and about the pannierholder, that could be fixed with a screw and 2 small “flat things”. I have also played a bit with the breaks which were offtuned for a while. And with the breakdown of my solar charger, Brunton Ember, that sums up the bad happenings. Could have been worse I must say:) My tires are still good and I am replacing Ember with a china/ebay alternative later on.
That was the geeky material part, now back to the real fun:) Westsahara was swapped for Mauretania with an exciting 5 km in between, No Mans Land. No one owns this part and from what i learned business are going on and it is surrounded by landmines that has been around since Elvis had diapers, sort of. So the reciepe is to stay on the road until the other side,.,.road,.,.it was like going on a mountain covered in sand surrounded by car wrecks and broken tv´s (!). But I made it to the other side and they surpricingly let me in. I changed a very small amount of money at the boarder due to the bad exchange rate, though I wait to Nouckachott to make the big deal. The money here is like monopaly where 1 euro is about 900 mauri-money. It was more normal in Morocko where 11 dirham were 1 euro. So 3 days to go to Nouackchott and then the desert was transforming to something else. I passed a sign the warned me about landmines so I stuck to the road like an unsweaped roadkill. The wind was with me in the beginning but then the road changed a bit to east and left me struggling again. The temperature here was a lot higher and on the evening I felt my arms and nose were fried. Because of the wind I did not feel this during the day so sunscreen was a routine from now on, as the start of malaria precaution pills. I was staying with the military checkpoints these days who gave me food and water and were more nice than the military up in the north. Not at all they were rude or anything in Morocco, they just cared a little bit more here in Mauritania. But the people were more closed and communication did not wrok at all. Neither signlanguage or my google translate app was any good and this was also confirmed to me by a german tourist. He had droved down to his holidayplace in Senegal every year since a while back. he said the Mauritania is just a passing point and I agreed. Even the town of Nouackchott was not nice in any way. The dust, overcroudness and people everywhere can be a a charming chaos sometimes, but not here. Mauritania was not for Sven. one good thing was though that I was invited to Mohammed, one of the military, in his house in Nouckachott. I have a pitcure with him in the gallery where I look so exhausted, and no questions, the roads were sandy and I was struggling hard that day with 190 km:) The Senegal embassy here gave me my visa and after some internet catching up with the world I was heading for new adventures, leaving the desert.
As I reached Diawling National Park just before the river and boarder to Senegal, this was a fact. The desert was crossed and I entered black Africa with all its excitement:) Here in Senegal it is much more trees and villages. Children everywhere screaming for gifts. But more about that in my next post…
So summed up I am very happy I choosed to add Africa to my around the world cycling adventure. Even though Mauritania was something of a passthrough I have felt safe all the time and has loads of new experiences in my backpack. The nicest people, except “the cartoons” was all the truckdrivers who sounded their horn for me and some even thought I should go with them for a while to rest my legs. I told them I wanted to cycle but they could happily ride next to me to protect me from the wind:) Most of them did not get that..
Senegal has started really well and I am bout to stay with a couple from Holland soon just outside Dakar in the town of Thies. In Dakar I will be going back to Visa hunt to Guinea, Ivorycoast and Ghana so I think a week is honest to say I will be around.
2014 has started excitingly and Linda has booked a flight to meet me in Florida, and as mentioned in last post, I will reappear in Sweden a couple of times.
How is your 2014 going to be like?