Into The World - 2Up around Africa, 2 bikes along the Silk Road

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by mrwwwhite, Jul 27, 2011.

  1. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    644
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    Hello advriders!
    We are
    John (Ionut) and Ana, a Romanian couple, both architects. We love good design, exploring the countryside, experimenting with food, a good challenge and sharing a laugh or a tear with true friends. More about us on our website: www.intotheworld.eu

    [​IMG]

    I was born in a car, so I love everything about horse power :)

    [​IMG]

    Ana went for her first ride at 5 months old :)

    [​IMG]

    About our journey Into The World


    This is an on-going adventure. The first part was the tour of Africa: from June 2011 to August 2012 totalling 14 months and 55,000km across 29 countries. The gods of travel made it so that we became the first Romanians to tour Africa by a motorbike. We did it 2up on a 660 Tenere.

    [​IMG]

    Today we are riding on 2 bikes, along the Sill Road. I have became an off-road fanatic and Ana a rookie on two wheels. For us it's a new challenge.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    To help us process the intense experience of Africa, we have started writing a book. Please download from here a teaser - the first 120 pages with plenty of pics and vids.

    This is the route we followed in Africa:

    [​IMG]

    Here is the scoop of what you can find on our thread:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We hope that you'll find in our story a little inspiration for your own adventures, just like we did in many great threads of others (tsiklonaut aka From Estonia with love and metaljockey among them). Thank you all for taking this journey with us.

    The making of an expedition

    The beginning was not easy.
    First I get the idea while recovering from an an Achilles tendon rupture.

    [​IMG]

    Ana thinks it is a great plan, and she starts packing our previous life in cardboard boxes. But, as the expedition is primed to take off, in October 2010, on the very departure day, I am hit by a car, just a few yards from my house. The bike is destroyed and I have surgery, and our plans are postponed by 9 months. So I find a second Tenere and I start working in the garage all over again.
    On the 11th of June we finally load our Yamaha Tenere motorbike in a van and leave Bucharest. A car broken down and a two-day "cruise" by ferry from Livorno to Tanger later, we begin our trans-Africa biking adventure with a warm up month in Morocco. Fuelled by Sir David Attenborough's documentaries and past travels to Sri Lanka, Hong Kong and South-East Asia, here we are, daring ourselves to make a dream come true. We've been thinking about this trip for two years and preparing for it for one. Africa, which until now has been just a word, has become a reality.
    With over 6 years of riding under my belt, mostly on street bikes, this time I have chosen the Tenere for our 2-up RTW trip, knowing that there is no perfect bike, only the will do do something like this. The soul of my first totaled Tenere is alive in the current motorbike, after I did an engine swap to a newer, but with higher mileage 2010 machine.

    [​IMG]
    The first Tenere had just arrived.
    [​IMG]
    GPS mount and weather proof case.
    [​IMG]
    Kev Mod - from xt660.com
    [​IMG]
    First Tenere outside our garage. Custom Leo Cans just mounted.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Supersporx. Scottoiler injector. In the meantime the new bike has a touring Scottoiler and a custom dual-injector.
    [​IMG]
    Custom sidecase rack.
    [​IMG]
    Upgrading the suspension to Hyperpro Combo kit. Thanks to HYPERPRO
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Alu short brake and clutch lever.
    [​IMG]
    Unifilter foam filter.
    [​IMG]
    The CRASH.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    The second Tenere just arrived. The soul of the crashed Tenere in the back, days from being transplanted to the new one.
    [​IMG]

    The bike has the following mods/ upgrades:
    - front + rear steel braided brake hose
    - high Givi windshield
    - GPS mount + direct battery charger with backup system
    - custom-made radiator protection
    - G-IT aluminum engine shield + crashbar combo (from AdventureSpec)
    - MK3 pivot pegs
    - Unifilter foam air filter
    - Kev mod (from xt660.com)
    - Renthal Dakar fatbar with KTM plastic handguards, alu short brake and clutch lever and rallyride foam grips
    - Hein Greike tankbag
    - custom made dual Leo Vince SBK exhausts (with custom dB killer)
    - 14 tooth JT front sprocket
    - touring Scottoiler
    - custom rack for aluTech 41l cases
    - Hepko & Becker Gobi topcase
    - 150W inverter for gizmo charging
    - Hyperpro suspension upgrade (front progressive springs with 15W oil and rear progressive spring)
    Also we carry loads of tools and parts, along with a change of knobbies for later. Fitness preparation aside, we are geared up with these essentials and geeky things:
    - The North Face Roadrunner 3 seasons lightweight tent
    - The North Face Twin Peaks -7 degrees resistant 2 person sleeping bag + MSR silk liner + Mammoth self-inflating mats
    - MSR stove for cooking, stainless steel pot, knife, 2x petzl + extra torchlight, binoculars, machete, compass, MSR pactowels, compression + dry sacks, water filter + purifying tablets
    - foto: 5DMKII + 20D bodies, 24 f/1.4, 70-200 f/2.8, Sigma 10-20 F/4-5.6; Polaroid Pogo printer; 13" Macbook; GPS
    - first aid kit (sterile bandage, scissors, sterile needles + anesthetic, bethadine, Baneocin, Clartec antihistaminic, Malarone, diarrhea pills, calcium, rehydratable powder, antibacterial gel, Siddhaleppa ayurvedic balm for pains/flu/insect bites, thermometer, 50% DDET mosquito repellant, 50+ sunscreen, eye drops, antibiotics, aspirin, Ibuprofen, talc, medical tape); moto wear: Arai Tour X3 + Shoei XR1100 helmets, Rev'It Offtrack jacket + Sand pants and Turbine ladies combo with Gaerne boots; other stuff: 3 tshirts each, swimming suit, moto socks + gloves, cotton Thai pants, slippers, 1 pair shorts each, 3 pairs knickers each, scarf, 1 bed sheet (very useful for picnics and as sun/wind shield), sunglasses, spare of clear visor for rider, lots of GPS maps, PDF books and guides.
    In Mauritania we started carrying a 5l jerrycan with gas and a 5l raffia-insulated plastic can with water (hint from locals). Usually we bushcamp, or stay in campings when in cities, from time to time stopping for a refreshing night or two in a auberge. We eat where the locals do, in markets and street food stalls and restaurants, but we love to cook when fresh produce is available. 7000km into the trip, we had little maintenance and servicing to do: a change of oil, change of chain (freak thing, a fairly new one, it got stiffer and stiffer with o-rings falling off), replacing the chain safetypin (fish-pin fell possibly due to offroading).
    Some other details about how we travel.
    [​IMG]
    Bushcamping in Rabat.
    [​IMG]
    We miss our kitchen.
    [​IMG]
    Changing the oil.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Our mule heavily loaded.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Thank you all who supported us thru our African odyssey and who continue to do so. We couldn't be luckier. Enjoy browsing... :)
    #1
  2. HornyDac

    HornyDac Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    101
    Location:
    Galatzi,Ro
    Happy to see some of us got the bull by the horns and start doing what others just dream about!Hope you fullfill your journey and have the best time.Never been there but I read and heard enough about Africa to know that is a wonderfull destination and the mother of all conquests.Be cool, be tough and never leave the smile behind! I'll be watching you...every step you take, every move you make!Ride safe!
    #2
  3. vld86

    vld86 n00b

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2
    Location:
    Bucharest, Romania
    Multa bafta!!!
    #3
  4. TrevorHeath

    TrevorHeath Seattle to ??

    Joined:
    Aug 20, 2009
    Oddometer:
    78
    Location:
    Casa Grande, Arizona
    Wow....for many reasons. Good luck and safe travels
    #4
  5. kid_andres

    kid_andres Adventurer

    Joined:
    May 27, 2011
    Oddometer:
    61
    Location:
    Medellin, Colombia
    Te felicito, muy buenas fotos y muy buen viaje, esperamos mas fotos e historias. :clap:clap:lurk
    Congratulations, very nice pictures and very good trip, expect more photos and stories. :clap:clap:lurk
    #5
  6. The Blue Kazoo

    The Blue Kazoo Adventurer

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2009
    Oddometer:
    40
    Location:
    Melbourne
    :lurk
    Subscribed, looking forward to your journey.
    Are you travelling the West coastline of Africa all the way?
    Keep the pics coming.
    #6
  7. Parigi

    Parigi Hoinar

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2002
    Oddometer:
    289
    Location:
    Calgary, Canada
    That's a proper first post, and welcome to Asylum!
    Bafta!
    #7
  8. IronAdventurer

    IronAdventurer n00b

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    5
    Location:
    Earth
    Super
    Tot norocul din lume :freaky
    #8
  9. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    644
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    After loading our Tenere in a van that broke down 300 km from Livorno (where we were to catch the ferry to Morocco), we began our trans-Africa riding adventure with a bang. It's crazy how the 2008 VW Transporter timing belt gave up at merely 50K!

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    EU citizens are allowed a 90 days stay in Morocco without a visa. We entered via the newly launched Tanger Med port, where the border formalities are a breeze; its a one-stop-shop, you get your passport stamped, then checked by the gendarmerie, then the duane officer issues for free a Declaration d'admission temporaire de moyens de transport (temporary import permit).
    [​IMG]

    For the customs you can apply online, using this form. The International Motor Insurance Card (green card) from your country of origin may also cover Morocco, you want to check this with your insurer (that is the case for Romania). Otherwise you can purchase insurance at the border. The Moroccan infrastructure is quite developed, with over 1145km of autoroute and good tarred roads even in countryside. Morocco is an offroad paradise, with adrenaline-pumping pistes zig-zagging the ever changing landscape. The gas (essence) is about 1 Euro/liter and widely available at gas stations or at hole-in-the-walls in small villages. There are ATM machines everywhere, but obviously the food stalls are cash only.

    Morocco boasts a diverse landscape, ranging from wild Atlantic coasts to 4K High Atlas peaks, from sterile desert to lush oases, from Sahara dunes to mudbrick villages. We rode through the north (Tanger, Larache) which is feeling the crunch of the real estate bubble, with ghost towns and suburbs that nobody can afford built in the middle of nowhere. We stayed in and around Rabat for a week, waiting for the Mali and Mauritania visas, camping on beaches and getting to know the local way of life.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    While Rabat has an european feel, the shanty towns that line the coast and the lively fresh food markets are intensely moroccan, so is charming Mahommedia. East from Rabat we used Meknes as our base camp for a few days, visiting the Imperial cities (Fez, Meknes), the sacred town of Moulay Idriss and the ancient ruins of Volubilis.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The Medina, (the medieval centre of Fez) has not changed for centuries: a maze of narrow alleys housing hundreds of merchants and craftsmen, stalls with spices, dried fruits and nuts, fish, handmade copper items, carpets and musical instruments. A seat of Arab learning, a Holy City and a place of pilgrimage (when the route to Mecca was obstructed), Fez was a place of considerable importance until recently, being the depot for the caravan trade from the south and east of the African continent. A must see in Fez is the Leather Souq with the oldest leather tannery in the world, Chouwara.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Even if Fez has a more intricate architecture in the beautifully preserved UNESCO World Heritage Medina, we found that Meknes has a more authentic feel, with few to no tourists and touts and a Medina where people seem to actually live and work (not just for show). Moulay Idriss is a little gem, a fairytale town on top of a mountain among olive tree hills, where life has a slower pace.
    #9
  10. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    644
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    Later we rode through Casablanca, heading inland toward the High Atlas. After sleeping in a millet field and after a villager gave us fresh cow milk in the morning, we climbed to the 100m high Ouzoud falls (in full swing at this time of year). You can pass the touts and faux-guides and ride your bike close to the pools where you can take a cold plunge or enjoy the free spectacle of nature; just take the right gravel road before the bridge for 5-600m.
    [​IMG]

    In the afternoon we stopped again in Azilal for a tagine, then continued on a breathtaking route among peaks ranging from 2K to 4K. The landscape kept changing every hour, from lifeless valleys, to cactus infested walls, from reddish soil and rocky forests to fragrant cedars and green canyons punctuated by magenta wild flowers. When the road appeared to end, we suddenly found ourselves at 2750m altitude, from where 50km of tarmac interrupted by gravel brought in by spring floods led us to Imilchil.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    We slept a charmed night at the Gite d'etape run by a Berber family. Aziz has built the beautiful house himself and is a licensed guide. He also has a shop in the village, selling carpets hadmade by his wife, Fatma.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    After eating some freshly baked bread in the morning, we left behind the Bhutan-like atmosphere of beautifully camouflaged Imilchil behind, heading to Gorges Dades via Agoudal. Enter the most thrilling piste so far: after Agoudal the tarmac turns to gravel, then just traces in the dust. For 5 km we rode through a riverbed that had erased the piste during the recent floods. Offroading with a heavily loaded bike proved difficult and we took a few tumbles, managing to cover only 100km in more than 4 hours. Apart from the riverbed crossings, the piste is a fun ride, climbing to 2700m then going down in hairpins and thrilling turns, with alternating gravel, rocky patches, sand and dirt. The piste ends with a 30cm deep river crossing, from where the road is all tarmac, interrupted by landslides that are easy to manage. As if the whole day ride wasn't enough, we crossed the canyon of Dades back to another famous set of spaghetti-like road.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The public demonstrations cheering the king's peace oriented decision to promulgate a new constitution (giving more executive power to the elected government) arrived from Meknes where we last seen them in Boulmaine de Dades. We bushcamped outside the town, then left at sunrise to see the place where Sahara starts. You can see the mighty sand dunes in two places in Morocco: the golden ones of M'Hamid or the psychedelic pink Erg Chebbi in Merzouga, which is where we arrived in a blazing hot weather. A weird afternoon rain in the Sahara and a pool plunge later, we woke up to see the sun rising behind the glistening foot-trace swallowing mirage that is Erg Chebbi, a dune 160m high, bordered by the village of Hassi Labied.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    The beauty of the desert is magical, and we left the second day still reveling in it. As a technical problem that has been aggravating for a while become urgent, we rushed the 400km through desertificated Draa Valley from Merzouga to Ouarzazate, where after a few days and with the help of Peter at BikersHome, we managed to change our defective chain.
    [​IMG]

    Marrakech was like a punch in the face: crazy, hot, bursting with energy. It's instant love or hate, and we left our bike in the parking behind the Koutoubia mosque, then dove into the UNESCO World Heritage show that is Djemma el-Fna, with its storytellers, musicians, artisans and food stalls selling Michelin star worthy plates of tangia, sheep brain and seafood. The next day visit to Ali Ben Youssef medersa was followed by a protein load in Mechoui Alley, then a cool walk in the Jardin Majorelle.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    At 5pm when we exit town, the roadside thermometer read 53 degrees Celsius, but 200 km further, in Essaouira, the wind capital of Africa, we felt chilly at 22. We didn't stay long to enjoy the white and blue spanish influenced colonial architecture of the medina, as our GPS got stollen in the fish market, only to be retrieved later against a 30 Euro ransom. That's why we ate quickly our delicious sardines, fresh fish and squid grilled at the public grillades de poisson with possibly the best bread in Morocco, then camped some 200km later, near Agadir.
    #10
  11. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    644
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    South of this package tourism oriented town, we rode a 3 day marathon through Western Sahara, ending up in Dakhla. Along the almost featureless landscape we bushcamped on a nice beach near Sidi Ifni and on a golden dune near Tarfaya.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    We couldn't get to close to the soul of this country rich in natural resources (phosphate, fish abundant waters and oil) but with a difficult history, where the traditionally nomadic Saharawi herders are bribed with tout-compris homes to leave their identity behind (or are forced to live in refugee camps called ironically villages de peche), and where towns resemble M.A.S.H. movie sets, with their population of military personnel and UN workers.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    After a month in Morocco where we rode over 6000km, the motorbike is in great shape and we experienced no technical issues, except for the chain problem. We took a few low-speed falls due to deep sandy patches and rocky pistes, the battery was drained two times while charging our laptop with the engine off and we had to send home a few spares and personal stuff in order to lose some 6,5 kg off the bike (which do make a sizable difference). So our first advice (not that is a huge novelty) is pack light, cause every gram counts.

    People in Morocco are friendly, sometimes aggressively trying to sell you something or guide you, are not easy to trust, which is a shame, because up in the mountains you will meet genuinely sweet villagers and generous men. Moroccans nurture close family ties and friendships, and we witnessed how they warmly greet each other for minutes. The caffe culture is a big deal here, with solo men filling up terraces from morning to dawn, at a chat over coffee with friends. Women are harder to meet, but they are highly educated and almost all speak fluent French. Some Arab and Berber will come a long way here; in Merzouga area English is largely spoken and understood. We bought a Meditel modem for Internet, but discovered that IAM has a better 3G coverage, so we suggest you get that one instead.

    Food is a reason to be here in itself. Produce is mostly organic and very regional: in Fez you have the famous fassi cousine with treats like b'sara (a soup made of fava beans served with a fragrant garlic olive oil), pigeon pastilla (a pastry spiced with cinnamon) and very spicy and hot sausage made of mutton and offal; in Meknes you can eat the freshest figs and delicious flat bread with thin crust and cumin spiced crumble; pure eucalyptus, almond or cactus honey is produced high in the Atlas; in Erfoud you will eat the best dates with the extraordinary sweet and creamy Medjool reigning supreme; Marrakech is home to sheep meat and offal delicacies like tangia (mutton or beef cooked slowly with cumin, ras-el-hanout, preserved lemons and olives in a dough-sealed clay pot), sheep brains and tongue and mechoui (whole sheep baked with spices in a vertical clay oven); the freshest fish is in Essaouira and other coastal cities - here you can follow our example, and buy your fish from the fihermen, then have it cooked for 5Dh/plate at the public grill, next to the market; in the Banana Village just before Agadir you can taste the local varieties of banana and suculent cactus fruits. All over the country you can find tasty veggies, mutton and beef kafta, gorgeous watermelons and melons, dried fruits and nuts, along with top quality spices like saffron, paprika, cumin and ras-el-hanout. The breakfast is usually bread with the best local olive oil or served with honey sweetened leben (local yoghurt), or couscous with cold sourmilk from streetside vendors. Bread is sold freshly baked along moroccan pancakes, which in Fez have a sweet spongy texture. At lunch people usually eat a tagine (a typical stew of meat or fish, slowly cooked on charcoal in a signature clay pot). Dinner is protein based: kafta or harira (bean soup with aromatic herbs, which in Agadir is served with a local twist - with dates, a boiled egg and a piece of hard caramel). Other signature Morocco treats available countrywide are freshly squeezed orange juice and green/black tea perfumed with fresh mint (called whisky marocain). Tap water is safe to drink and wild camping is possible in most unmarked places, even if locals may try to discourage you from doing so.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Also, it will be difficult to leave the country without buying some good quality shit.
    #11
  12. guitarhack

    guitarhack Long timer

    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2009
    Oddometer:
    1,297
    Location:
    Columbia, SC
    Very nice ride report. Please post more. :clap
    #12
  13. gnuse

    gnuse Ride to Fly

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2006
    Oddometer:
    275
    Location:
    Dahlonega
    Amazing, thank you for sharing.
    #13
  14. Bendernz

    Bendernz Torrential

    Joined:
    Aug 26, 2009
    Oddometer:
    567
    Location:
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Simply outstanding.
    #14
  15. ethemhakan

    ethemhakan n00b

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2011
    Oddometer:
    2
    great report and great pics . Have a safe travel:clap
    #15
  16. asilindean

    asilindean Adrian

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2009
    Oddometer:
    133
    Location:
    Timisoara, Romania
    :clap:clap:clap

    Keep it coming!

    Asfalt uscat,
    Adrian
    #16
  17. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    644
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    Lonely Planet calls it "a place apart", "a Muslim country with a black African twist" and the new traveler's Shangri-la. With a population of only 3 million people (Moors of Arab descent ad black Africans) and with a surface exceeding 1 million sq. km, Mauritania is certainly a place we would return to sometime, well deserving more exploration.

    [​IMG]

    Only recently opened to tourism, the country is still largely rural and half deserted, with population concentrated in the capital of Nouakchott, the port of Nouadibou and a few more trade towns. The nomads with their camel herds and blue and black clothing unfortunately are history, but we caught glimpses of that past while riding the south roads. There the bobo (the mauritanian typical menswear: a cotton or silk robe, with huge folds and opened on both sides to ankle line) changes fashion, an indigo blue, reminding the blue men of the past, is preferred to the regular white or light blue. Also homes are rarely of brick and mortar and many people live or spend their day under an open or closed tent (which sometimes is actually a covered platform placed near the house).
    Entry to the country is not easy in any sense. The Mauritania visa is a bit of a hassle. We applied in Rabat and got ours 48 hours later, but be prepared to face unfriendly staff and long waiting hours. The one month visa/ one entry is 340 Dh (30 Euro), and you need 2 photos, a photocopy of your passport and the form given at the embassy. Applications are received M-F 9-11 a.m. and passports are picked up daily from 12 to 13. After the smooth exit from Morocco, we rode the no man's land that leads to the Mauritanian border, a dirt road with huge potholes and sandy patches, littered with car wreckage and exploded tires. A number of "helpers" assaulted us within minutes, offering to take care of the border formalities for us, to sell insurance or change money. We calmly refused or ignored them and walked straight to the police office on the left, cutting the line as everybody does, sure that we'll get noticed. The police officer introduced our passport data into the computer using a fiche, then we walked into the building on the right, which is the customs office. There we were issued against 100 Dirham the Autorisation de circuler de vehicule etranger valid for one week. After that we walked further to the left side of the road again, into another building, where we waited for our passports to be scanned and were asked to provide with a local address. Finally, at the barrier another officer will check the passport and visa. Mauritania is 1 hour behind Morocco, so little after 2pm we were off to Nouadibou. Try to make this border in time, it closes about 4pm.


    [​IMG]


    Nouadibou lies on a narrow peninsula, in the beautiful Baie of Levrier, where some of the most fish abundant coastal waters in the world have generated a big fishing and industry operation. The road to here is crossing a former minefield which has been largely cleared, you are advised though to stay on the tarmac. The tracks of the longest train in the world, that carries iron ore - a major income source here, run parallel to the motor road. The last carriage of the 2,5 km long get quickly filled with passengers and make quite the scene.
    Exhausted after the long ride through blazing hot desert and a little stressed by the definite change in pace and atmosphere, we rolled into the main street of Nouadibou, Le Medien, under the strong impression of shabby garages and shops, the piles of dirt lining the street and the inevitable heat stricken dead donkey.
    Confusion once dissipated, also did all sort of internet rumors. Contrary to all information we could find online, there is a working ATM at the Societe Generale bank on the main street. Roaming did not work, but cheap public phones are everywhere, and soon we were talking to our contact in the city, a Romanian family residing here for 20 years. During the following week, the Romanians proved instrumental for our initiation into the mellow, chillout life of Nouadibou. The main shops, banks and activities line the Medien which leads to the fishing and industrial ports situated in the south. East of Medien is the stadium and the artisan port (with traditional wood boats being repaired or built, fish being sun-dried and fishermen going about their daily work); to the west you'll find the fresh produce market, the mosques and the main chinese supermarket. Fishing industry and mining are the main business here, so most vegs and fruits are imported from Morocco, Spain and France. We found a mango bonanza here, savoring delicous fruits from Mali. We sampled on the fresh Mauritanian dates, just in season in Atar and the south. Not so sweet and less suitable for drying, these are fiberless and tasty.


    [​IMG]


    Busy to get know better our new friends, we enjoyed a relaxing week, filled with fishing trips, a swim in the turquoise waters of the golf and with gourmet dishes. Our host cooked the most amazing meals, a fusion of spanish, french, asia, romanian and african inspiration. We ate trout ceviche, octopus spanish salad with smoked pimento, grilled camel meat, Romanian polenta, garlic squid, Senegalese tchebu chien and countless types of fresh fish fried or curried.
    To the end of the peninsula we rode through Cansado, a small dormitory-town built in the seventies, housing the families of the port staff. Mauritanian women in vividly colored transparent scarves were walking the quiet streets and at corners tons of kids were playing football. Further to the south, the very tip is reached is an offroad piste. After a triangular intersection you take the first right turn, than keep right as tarmac becomes a bumpy ride, with big areas of sand and some rocky plateaus. We rode this piste without the alu boxes, but still took a small tumble and lost the safety pin of the new chain somehere along the way.
    The mirage of white sand further behind the deep red ore-colored landscape is Cap Blanc, our destination.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    A beautiful and tranquil place, the cape is both a magnetic field anomaly and an ecological wonder. Here sometimes birds get lost; also here the Canary current meets the golf current causing rich nutrients to infuse an extremely fish abundant water. The Satellite Reserve of Cap Blanc, with 4.2 km of coast and an area of 210 ha (including a fringe of 400 m sea water where fishing is prohibited), is one of the last 3 protected areas in the world that are home to the most endangered mammal in the world, the monk seal. The other 2 are the National Park of Banc d'Arguin and the Islas Desertas (Madeira). Our Romanian friend is one of the main people who work in the reserve. Here only about 180 monk seals live in a breeding colony that is isolated demographically and genetically. We weren't lucky to spot any seal during our 2 trips at the Cap Blanc, but we were rewarded with hoards of gulls and pelicans and privileged to see from 2 m a probably dissoriented Rupel's african vulture.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]

    Time flew by and soon we were saying goodbye, heading for the grueling ride through 500 km of scorching desert from Nouadibou to Nouakchott. The route is dotted by over 10 police checkpoints, ensuring safety after the past attacks and kidnappings that marred it. Everybody we met told us to never stop along the way, unless at a roadside tent that serves drinks and food or at police control. The most difficult part was indeed a 100km ride starting about 150km from Nouadibou. There the hot harmattan becomes unbelievably hotter and you can feel your own skin mummifying under the suit. At less than 1 Euro/l, gas is available in Nouadibou, 45 km outside the city, than 80 km further and finally at the 250km mark, where there is also the main pit stop, with a caffe and restaurant where we recuperated for an hour. The Fiche d'Etat Civil is essential in Mauritania, saving you time and hassle at the numerous police checkpoints.
    Looking like preserved lemons, we showed up in Nouakchott, where pools of water from the day before downpours were still rendering some street unpassable. The main streets are Kennedy and de Gaulle, with the market at the carrefour, where also many changers are to be found. The restaurant and street food scene disappointed us. Most places are westernized, selling fast food of fried chicken and fries, or shaworma and similar quick eats. The market is quite basic, with many imported fruits and a few vegetables on sale. Here we discovered that Guinea mango is superior to the Mali variety, with an orange and intensely flavoured flesh.


    [​IMG]


    Our meal of choice in Nouakchott was the diminutive restaurant Chez Astou, where Astou herself serves everyday from 2 to 4pm a spicy thcheb, the national dish of Senegal. To find this not so spotless but yummy and authentic place, take left from de Gaulle at the grand market, then again left.


    [​IMG]


    Tchebu chien is a rice and fish dish, with fish fried with spices, then curried with vegetables, while the rice is hydrated over the cooking vapor, then finished in the pot. We become friends with the family, discussing recipes and enjoying strong green tea prepared with great artistry by the Astou's father. According to the Mauritanian custom, one must accept the first 3 glasses of tea, but the subsequent ones may be refused.


    [​IMG]
    Hedi is 25 and she helps her sister at the restaurant
    [​IMG]
    Center image is Babs, one of the girls' brother, who runs a Senegalese shop and plans to go work in Burkina or Mali


    If you miss the 2-4pm tcheb interval, you can still pass by the restaurant, where in the evenings Astou serves sandwiches of baguettes with a beef stew, hot sauce, fries and salad for only 300 ouguiya. At the outskirts of the city we saw similar shops with senegalese food, but we didn't try them.


    [​IMG]


    In Nouakchott we bunked at Auberge Menata, where we placed our tent on the roof and spend the days walking the streets or riding around. The must see in the capital is the fishing port (port de peche). We arrived there after driving through a maze of decrepit shanty towns (bidon villes), some still flooded. The tarmac stops in front of a large covered area called etalage de poisson, where fishermen unload the days catch or where other men are cleaning the fish. The image of the wooden fishing boats riding the waves in the afternoon soft light is what captures your eyes. It's a spectacle from another time, animated and colorful. Women and children are sitting on the beautiful clean beach resting or watching the show. On the sides are already arrives boats, piles of nets and weights, fishermen in rubber boots, wooden cases filled with crushed eyes for the fish and lots of people. Too bad we were a bit paranoid about freely shooting photos.
    From Nouakchott we drove the 600 km to Kiffa in one day, an exhausting ride that left me weakened and dehydrated, so instead of leaving the next morning to Ayoun el-Atrouss, we had no choice but to spend 2 nights in Phar du Desert, a scruffy but very expensive auberge.


    [​IMG]
    Hitting the 20k mark.


    This part of the famous Route de l'Espoir is all tarmac, passing over 18 police checkpoints and the Pass de Djouk, where mountains interrupt the seemingly infinite dunes. In Kiffa gas is only available in one place and the next station is in Mali. 12 km outside Kiffa the tarmac stops and the road is a work in progress with multiple detours, which in some places are full of baking powder (so really challenging for our 2up fully loaded Tenere), but after 40-50km the road turns back to a potholed tar.


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    [​IMG]


    People in Mauritania are hard to get close to. We found the street vendors more friendly and honest in Nouadibou, whilst in some southern villages at every stop at gas stations hordes of kids surrounded us aggressively. Sometimes the begging becomes demanding, and sometimes they threw rocks at us. We were actually warned that kids can be more dangerous than adults. Many Senegalesa reside here, selling homeland articles; also Guinea and Burkina nationals are employed by Mauritanians or expats as servants or cooks. The society is strictly confined to a cast system and the two ethnic groups (black and white Mauritanians) rarely mix. Girls are not allowed to leave their home until they get married, around age 16, to a husband selected for them, and who seldom is a cousin. Outside big cities women dont go to school after age 12-13 and rely on men for food and housing. A men will offer his sister a room in their home and food to eat, and a married daughter can continue to live with her husband in her parental house. The bride's parents receive 2-3000 Euro for the wedding party. Men clothing is both functional and a social statement, the apparently simple bobo can cost hundreds of Euro. Women are draped in brightly colored clothing, that can be quite transparent, but do cover their hair. Mauritanian men greet each other with even more elaborate rituals than their neighbours in Morocco.
    Food in Mauritania is not a big event. Aside from senegalese women selling sandwiches, muffins, biscuits and small donuts, street food is nonexistent. In Nouadibou seafood is avalable, while in Nouakschott fast food are predominant. Snacks of peanuts and Adrar dates are offered everywhere. Fresh produce is imported, meat is available at scruffy butcher stalls. Bread in Mauritania is the french baguette.


    [​IMG]


    Bottled water is selled in epicerie shops at 200 Ouguiya/ 1.5 l bottle. The general level of cleanliness is not great, the Kiffa hotel being the worst of the bunch. After seeing the kitchen there we strongly advice you to source your own food. A local treat is camel meat and fat, delicious grilled. A strong green tea is served after a meal, with first 3 glasses obligatory. Coca Cola and Marlboro are huge stars here, and most people dispay serious tooth decay (they clean their teeth with a special twig, sold by street vendors).
    We never bushcamped, and heard that police doesn't allow tourists to drive at nightime. SIM cards are available countrywide at 2000 Ouguiya from Chinguitel or Mauritel. We haven't bought a modem for Internet, and in Menata Auberge we used the hotel wifi connection.
    #17
  18. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    644
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
  19. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    644
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    Sometimes borders are just lines on maps, but Mauritania - Mali frontier divides two very distinct worlds. The malian Sahel is vivid green and teeming with wildlife and cattle at watering ponds and instead of the bobo-wrapped touaregs and moors we meet ebony skinned people in Made in China footballers' thirst. Border control is smooth and fast, but we have to deal with the customs in the first malian town, Nioro de Sahel, where, because it's weekend (bad timing in Africa) the price for Laissez passes is double (10000 CFA)
    [​IMG]

    Later we save some money camping in the police station compound and of course using their backyard as toilet. Too bad our Morocco stash is already history.
    Overnight a very windy rainstorm shakes us dearly, filling our tent with dust. It merely cools the sticky hot air a bit, and in the morning we do our best to content our muddy misery and hit the road to Bamako.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We are rewarded with e wonderful ride throough a fertile hilly landscape, dotted with scenic villages and lush gardens. A group of Fulani people passes us by: the women are topless and have intricate hair braids and jewelry and huge moonshined packs of tree branches are tied to the donkeys. We are happy we have arrived here in wet season!
    Bamako is a sprawling metropolis, with scooters and cars entangled together in big traffic jams, with bridges thrown over the mighty Niger river which divides the capital in two. The shanty towns are on one side, immersed in a sleepy rural life, while on the other side of the water there are concrete and glass administrative buildings and offices and some expensive hotels (with good wifi connection). Here it rains almost daily and only some of the streets are tarred. Bamako is a welcomed pitstop: we rest, wash our pathetic scruffy riding gear, we go for a visa and ATM run and Skype our families. The Burkina visa breaks our bank: 80 euro/pers!, recently doubled cause of french propaganda.
    Bamako's heart beats in its colorful markets: near Place de la Liberte & Cinema Vox, in Grande Marche, in the fetish market we find innumerable stalls selling anything from fruit and vegs to clothing and plasticware made in Nigeria. Men are generally sporting generic Chinese designs, but the elegant women of Bamako wear traditionally inspired dresses and elaborate hairpieces and metes. People are warm and friendly, except for the usual guides, touts and beggars, with tricks that we are too familiar with from Romania. The sad thing is that they believe that "les blanc donnent des cadeaux", so who's to blame for that?

    [​IMG]
    A Malian lunchlady in a typical Bamako street restaurant: a wooden bench + many pots

    Bamako is famous for live music; as we are nearing Ramadan, women are celebrating and dancing in the streets.

    [​IMG]
    A Malian hipster: different continent, different vogue

    Great street food is a no brainer in Bamako: rice with sauce, chicken in lemon and ginger sauce, fried fish, grilled goat or mutton (brochetes), yam stews, cow heart and liver sauteed in a spicy onion sauce, frufru (mini rice or millet pancakes), mango, local melon (meh, but excellent as a salad with lime, fresh chili and olive oil), corn on a cob. Many favorite snacks are black eyed peas based: doughnuts served simple or in a millet congee fro breakfast. Boulageries with fresh baguettes are widely available, so are breakfast stalls with eggs and instant coffee with milk or tea. In the evening the streets are filled with stalls with bubbling pots: fish or meat stews, rice, chickpeas, fried potato/yam/plantain or even couscous.

    [​IMG]
    Rice with peanut & baobab sauce (rise arachide)

    [​IMG]
    Rice with fish sauce and African eggplant

    [​IMG]
    Favorite soft drinks: lime lemonade, hibiscus juice (red) & spicy ginger lemonade

    [​IMG]
    Our usual breakfast: bread with soft cheese and savannah flowers wild honey (with a smoky, sunny flavor) and tea-tree tea

    [​IMG]
    Africa is crazy about mobile phones

    [​IMG]
    The intricate Malian hello takes minutes

    [​IMG]
    Flowers in the inner yard of Mission Catolique where we bunked for a few nights

    Soon we had to leave the buzzing Bamako behind to head south-east to Sikasso, the vegetable garden of Mali.
    #19
  20. mrwwwhite

    mrwwwhite Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Oddometer:
    644
    Location:
    Bucharest or RTW
    [​IMG]
    My mom is venerated in this malian village :)

    [​IMG]
    We stopped over for an African lunch

    [​IMG]
    Beef with onion and fried beans with chili

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    A typical pirogue driven by less typical paddles

    [​IMG]
    Dragrace - 2 donkeypower vs. lots of diesel horses

    The first night in Sikasso we camp in the backyard of a local family. We quickly become the village attraction, every detail of our tent pitching and logistics being scrutinized, analyzed and discussed with load enthusiasm. Later at night we are invited to join the family (husband, wife, 3 boys and a toddler + uncle) for dinner: boiled yam with a dash of oil, eaten by hand from a big pot. We offer some almonds from Morocco and then enjoy the ritualic 3 glasses of African tea artfully brewed by the woman. Only Bambara is spoken so we cannot communicate easily, and under the star-covered sky the silence in this village where there is no electricity nor running water is broken by some music coming from an old radio.

    [​IMG]
    In the morning we eat a typical breakfast: millet congee with bean doughnuts

    [​IMG]
    We are the village freaks: we have fun with the kids eager to mount the bike and we teach them some Romanian childhood games

    [​IMG]
    Sikasso is the center of the 3rd Malian region; here are grown for local consumption and export: mango, bananas, nuts, millet, rice, tomatoes, cucumber, onion, pineapple, avocado. The market is bountiful so we enjoy a fabulous fruit and tea picnic later, near the Burkina border.

    [​IMG]

    The rear tyre is almost done and we have a nail in, so I m contemplating switching to the knubbies. Also rumors are that the roads to the north are not tarred so…We bushcamp in a cute little spot and rain falls the better part of the night and all morning, when I am happy that I haven't rushed into changing the tires, as the tarmac is excellent up to Koutiala and then to Djenne.

    [​IMG]
    Breakfast served in bed, under the cover of rain: avocado and tomatoes salad

    [​IMG]
    This baobab was home to a large bird colony

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    Morning dew in the field of our next day bush camping spot

    [​IMG]
    And on our tent

    [​IMG]
    Another memorable breakfast

    [​IMG]
    Critters

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
    #20