And the Amsterdam-Dakar Challenge is over.. We tackled almost 7,500 kilometers in our shiny '96 Volvo 850 estate. Through the snowy mountains near Madrid, over a foggy and cold pass to Fes, from there over the High Atlas to the beautiful dunes of Merzouga. In the South of Morocco we had the first opportunities to bushcamp, like this great location along a rocky path on the way to Zagora. During this part of the trip we might not see other participants for days in a row.
It is fair to say that my co-driver Gerard Reddingius hardly prepared for this trip. Around us we saw vehicles on which people had been working for years, literally. All we did was organising a few tires, 10 litres of motoroil and a roof rack with jerry cans for our Volvo. This is a barrel race after all and we were supposed to stay within a 500 Euro budget! I hoped that Murphy's Law would drag us through it and that too many preparations might only backfire.
Well: that appears to be true! While other participants left a trail of broken rear axles, blown
head gaskets, flat tires and worn CV joints Gerard and I happily
continued without major problems. At one stage we were even two days ahead of the rest!
After Morocco followed endless roads through the Western Sahara. Then the real excitement came, because in Mauritania we had to cross a region where Al Qaeda occasionally beheads the odd tourist - to make this world a better place. No worries, the government provided us with a few pick ups full of local rambo's. Nice guys, we kept them quiet with cola and cigarettes (which were remarkably easy to find herel!).
Dakar and Gambia: relaxed
After Mauritania came Senegal. Another grueling beach stage and then the finish in Dakar followed by a final stage to The Gambia, because our cars could not be sold in Senegal. In Gambia's capital Banjul all vehicles were sold at an auction: 40,000 euros for charity!
And then we had a few days on the beach. With a cocktail in hand I let the whole story again pass in my mind. The conclusion: the landscapes were beautiful, the sunsets priceless, the food delicious. But the fishrunners of Nouakchott, the donkey shepherd in Zagora, the fishermen along the beach in Senegal and all those happy children along the way: they made this trip really memorable. Africa showed its best side and we enjoyed every single minute of it. Thanks!
O yes, if you feel inspired by this story, why not participate yourself? The only thing you need is time, a bit of courage and a good sense of humour! The next challenge starts November 2nd! More info (in Dutch) at www.amsterdamdakar.com