Separate names with a comma.
Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Chris S, Feb 7, 2018.
I thought it was the heat.............
Cool report. I've never been to the Sahara.
Mark me in the thoroughly entertained category!
What an entertaining report Chris. I love your turn of phrase. How does one enter the inner circle in order to join one of your trips?
Thanks H. Looks like you've done a few moto adventures yourself.
Though I've run similar in the past, this was not my trip. I just helped fill it.
No secret to joining my current trips, just put your fingers together and click ;-D
Next episode shortly.
As expected, it was a chilly night among the dunes.
But for SwissDan, born and raised in a cave halfway up the Matterhorn, it was all in a night’s work.
As you can see, he even skied down to his bivvy the night before.
SimonTTR patiently waits for his morning beverage of choice to enter the bloodstream.
As the sun creeps over the sands we pack up and warm-up the engines. We’re not out of the dunes just yet.
But in fact it’s easy going. After a bit of wiggling around, we follow the base of a 15-mile dune ridge, hook
over its tail end…
… and carry on southeast on firm sand just a couple of miles from the Djanet highway.
Just a few miles away but 30-years-ago when there was no road, I took a similar shot of my rugged XT600
Two masked Tuareg bandits creep up on an unsuspecting Dave.
Tuareg men are very appearance conscious - metrosexuals even, which in southern Algeria is illegal.
In the desert they’ll wear any old rags, but when they come back to towns they put on their best robes and
a clean cheche (turban).
We converge towards the highway and pump up our tyres. It takes a good 20 mins to do the truck.
Vanishing Point (great movie!).
I grab some shots for a road bike tour idea I have down here for next year.
The firm sands we just rode would be a doable and fun diversion on a road bike.
Within an hour we sidling up into the oasis town of Djanet, end of the road in southeast Algeria.
Beyond lies the legendary Tenere - le Terre des Hommes, as the French might say.
We install ourselves in the same old hotel that’s been here since giraffes learned to talk, only then it was
packed with plucky overlanders like IanXCh and Dieter.
I spent a morning here once trying to rebuild a stripped radiator fan out of coke cans. It didn't last 2 minutes.
I go for a wander up the hill to the old fort and, they say, the president’s desert hideaway.
This was Djanet, or Fort Charlet just after the WWII. Pic above is at the red arrow below the bordj.
Palm groves spread out either side of the oued. These and the distinctive geology and the great approach ride
are what makes Djanet such an agreeable travellers stopover compared to better-known and much bigger
Tamanrasset on the trans-Saharan Highway.
After nearly a week of tins, Rob has developed the unquenchable craving of a vegetarian vampire.
Forbidding Fruit; not sure I’d be putting that much weight on that balustrade, mate.
We chow-down on the classic Algie desert meal: baguette and salad followed by roast chicken and chips +
'Haaaaaallelujah, Hallelujah-Hallelujah...' our stomachs sing.
The pink background is my old FT2 camera flipping out from the vibration while sat on the XR’s bars.
In the end I had to put it down but found another on ebay for 30 quid. A great burner cam.
I’ll assemble a vid later – don’t expect Gone with the Wind on crack.
Some repose on palm-frond deckchairs and catch some rays.
Others attend to their air filters. I forgot a spare or even some sticky PJ1, so soak mine in engine oil.
Next up, a half-day liaison on down the highway which eventually hooks up north to the closed Libyan border.
It’s fun to be riding at the very extremities of southern Algeria.
More tourists have climbed Everest than have seen this road.
I’ve been looking forward to getting a photo at this elemental road sign.
I predict it will become as famous as the Mano del Desierto in the Atacama.
They just need to make it higher as it’s also prone to graffiti.
My road trip will turn around here
Some 50 miles before the Libyan border, we swing off the highway for the mouth of the In Djerane canyon.
It’s gnarly, dusty riding.
The famous canyon is a serpentine, kilometre-wide chasm famous for its rock art; I was last here in 2000.
But on a bike the riding’s a bit constrained. Dusty ruts, soft sand and wash-outs.
It’s a key back route into Libya and we miss an army checkpoint set up to discourage people-smugglers and
Dawn creeps across the canyonsides.
Coffee for the brain…
… and fuel for the tanks.
Like some Xena: Warrior Huntress, Dan creeps up on some of In Djerane’s famous giraffes.
How many bones in a giraffe’s neck, I hear you ask?
7 - same as you and me and most mammals. Anyone might think we’re all related.
Click the link for answers to more questions like 'Do giraffes vomit?' (Must be over 13 years old or over).
More vaches rouge.
Vache schmache. Tone attacks another dune.
Even taken at an angle, it’s the last bit as you lose momentum where lesser bikes bog down.
Would have been interesting to see a 690 take a swipe at the same slope, but even for a light bike it's still
nearly half as heavy as the Husky stroker.
Steely first-timer SwissDan carves out some moves in preparation for his Wall of Death roadshow.
Fossilised pond weed?
So I thought.
Actually manganese dendrite mineral concretions.
The wild gang assemble at the Tamed Giraffe.
Waxed cotton in the Sahara? Can only be a Brit!
Educationl engraving of bovid innards. Reminds me of similar bark paintings from Kakadu in the Northern Territory.
The canyon’s alluvial sediments have been pulverised by successive tourist visits. It’s chopped up and dusty.
I follow Dave into what becomes a deep rutted trench of fine bull dust and was about to catch that
overhanging branch and probably crash - but Josch beat me to it.
It’s worse than it looks; he caught hs foot in the dust and now can’t put any weight on his right leg.
George knows all about that: the ligaments have gone. Luckily he’s in no pain.
The XCh goes back in the pickup.
Once we find the truck the day’s program changes and we head for Moul N’Aga dunes.
We’ve all had our moments out here and know it could’ve been any one of us now hobbling on the crutches Thomas
had thoughtfully packed. He was just saying one trip last year was the first time in 30 years no bikes blew up
and no riders DNF’d through injury.
It was the same story on my tours out here covering longer distances with fewer riders.
Take a dozen riders riding a thousand miles over a fortnight and someone is bound to make a mistake.
Approaching Moul N’Aga, we traverse small dune bands.
My 34-hp XR hits a soft patch and sinks in.
With twice the poke, Dave's 690 ploughs on like a nuclear-powered Russian ice breaker.
But the sands fight back. There, but for the camera of Dan, go all of us.
Moul N’Aga - a sublime cirque of rococo outcrops swathed in luscious apricot dunes.
I should work for the Algie Tourist Board. Unfortunately there isn’t one so as you’d notice.
The wail of the TE300 echoes across the sands. Looks like fun but best on a v light bike you can drag around.
Meanwhile, back at the camp old men chop up live veggies and talk shit.
Evergreen Josch seems remarkably unfazed.
Whatever sangfroid is in German, he’s got it.
His undamaged BM gets loaded onto Mutti to keep the pickup available for the next drama.
Next morning we propose that we don’t mind heading back early to Djanet if it means Josch can catch an
earlier plane home. This we do – back west out of In Djerane.
The canyon’s rock art and landforms are amazing, but for me it was not the best riding on the trip.
When I was here in 2000, one of the drivers did this: hitting the dune crest flat-out in 3rd.
Look at those axles; the Defender lived up to its name. The car was going so fast it landed flat and so absorbed
the impact across the whole chassis.
Had it nose-dived it would not have been a happy ending.
The driver only suffered minor spinal compression, iirc and amazingly the Landrover drove on for a couple of
hours until the transmission gave out and it was abandoned.
These days there’s a lush carpet of blacktop running back to Djanet.
It sure was fun to ride alone for a bit, makes you feel like you’re on a proper adventure!
But they still seem to have problems understanding left and right on roadsigns.
In Ezzane is an off-limits army base close to the Niger border.
Citroën Kegresse P17 autochenils at In Ezzane spring in the 1930s.
These amazing half-tracks did some epic overland trips back then.
Over the Himalaya to Peking.
Back in Djanet we hang out at the town saloon waiting for Mutti to catch up.
The same place in 2003; we've arrived after a tough few days wrangling our XRLs over the Tassili plateau.
Don’t know what I was thinking using alloy boxes for a ride like that.
Now we have Adv Spec Magadans and the like.
Spotted this old American school bus when I was last in Djanet in 2013.
I was told a well-connected entrepreneur had somehow managed to import it from Potato Creek, South Dakota, and was
using it for the Tamanrasset run, offering special rates for illegals.
That would have been a Merry Prank - except foreigners can’t currently do this crossing.
Some local lads on their Chinese 125 eye-up our crusty desert sleds while Dan sneaks back with in an illegal
Yes, I’ve just discovered HDR-Toning in Photoshop.
Last episode shortly.
Some pics by Dan W, Robin W and Dave K.
Algeria has always fascinated me and I'm really enjoying your photographs of the remote desert. I'm a big fan of Tom Sheppard and have copies of most of his books. Great report for us armchair adventurers.
Our last day on the dirt saw us follow the band of sand which lies between the road and the maze of frayed
outliers of the Tassili escarpment to the north.
It often looks great on a sat image, but the reality is the usual preoccupation with negotiating the least hard
terrain, not getting stuck, not falling off and not losing the others.
We fuelled up and a few miles out of town pulled over, aired-down...
... and got straight onto the soft stuff.
I recognise that arch!
We came this way with camels in 2013, much of the time travelling further north along paths that cars at
least could not follow.
Where's that dune? Right here.
View from a crest; no sidestand needed.
We wind in and out of the sandstone columns or ‘tassils’ in the Tuaregspeak.
Tassili N’Ajjer means the ‘plateau (c/w sandstone columns) of the Ajjer' [the local Tuareg clan]
Another pre-Islamic keyhole tomb with the entrance corridor pointing east towards the riding sun, ie: ‘rebirth’.
These tombs tend to get looted within a couple of generations, so any treasure is long gone.
It’s another early cut at the tottering towers of Tikobaouine.
We spend the afternoon exploring, reading or chatting.
Sunrise at Tikobaouine.
Dan and our Tuareg crew - back in scruffy desert outfits - at brekkie.
We gather round the pickup for the final briefing.
Dan seems to be daydreaming… ‘I am THOR, Lord God of the Sands!’
It’s a short ride to the road where we air up for the last time.
We stop for a coffee in Bordj El Haouas village, formerly Zaouatallaz and Fort Gardel before that.
A cheeky young imp makes merry with my protective eyewear while others bring bread for the poor foreigners.
On the way up to Tin Taradjeli, the first ascent to the plateau, I search for traces of this famous old sign from
It’s probably long gone.
Riding up Tin Taradjeli onto the Tassili; a great viewpoint.
The same spot 30 years ago.
Whatever did happen to Lorus watches? They were like, space-age digital, you know!
On the plateau we swing off for a 10km deviation to the famous engravings at Dider.
Been wanting to see these for years but never knew exactly where they were.
I ride SteelyDan's 250: smoother engine, wider gearing, a bit heavier.
We're all surprised how well it did for a 250.
Decorated bull’s head. So many ancient cultures seem to venerate the bull.
An unnervingly attractive giraffe.
Perhaps I've been in the desert too long.
And the famous curled antelope.
It appears on the 1000-dinar note along with some tassilis.
Worth about a fiver, but you can buy them from numismatist ’collectors’ on ebay for up to $45!
Back on the road and up the Gara Kli Escarpment, a graveyard to trucks with dodgy brakes.
We pull off the highway in the Tassili Tasset area for our last desert camp.
Next day it’s again great to ride at our own pace, swinging free from bend to bend.
We lunch at a well-known roadside guelta or waterhole.
And back to Illizi, or Fort Polignac of old. No Fort Charlet or Gardel back when this sign was made.
Bilma is 1750km across the Tenere - the place I was heading for in 1988 on my Tenere.
Even with the jerry and another gallon can I'd never have made it.
Philippeville is today’s Skikda on the Med coast east of Algiers.
It’s time to untangle them tie-downs.
I notice Rob’s self-tappers did not eliminate tyre creep on his 690. Interesting.
On they go one by one. We make sure they’re more carefully tied-down than on the way down...
Being the last with the loading, Rob, Simon, Dan and I head into town, Taliban style.
Illizi town centre - as good as it gets but who knows, maybe a great place to live.
There’s a new hotel with rounded corners to mute the howling simoon of the desert.
In our room there’s luggage in the cupboard from a previous occupant, complete with ID.
We wonder if he’s in a shallow grave somewhere out in the desert.
Best not to ask.
Breakfast next morning is not bad at all. We’ll come back here on the Road Trip.
And so it’s time to fly to Algiers and home while Thomas takes the long drive back with the bikes to Bavaria.
And that’s us - the Wusten Fahristas or Desert Riders of 2018.
Left: me, Dave690, Dan350, Josch XCh, Two-Stroke Tone, Thomas, Dieter 640, Simon TTR, George CRF250L,
IanXCh, Rob690, Seb, Robin TTR and Steely Swiss Dan with his pet chainlube.
Our route is below, just a tiny fraction of what amazing Alg has to offer, were it all accessible.
Off to Mauritania for a fortnight. Minus 8 in London today; 42°C forecast next week!
Thanks for watching!
Some pics by Dan W, Robin W, Simon V and Dave K.
I just stumbled across this and put two and two together after reading your excellent ebook on my Kindle. Great stuff, and the pictures bring the book to life!!!!
Thanks JP. Yes the pre-1990 trips are covered in Desert Travels on kindle.
Now I think of it I'll try and upload an illustrated version when I get back.
The older adv thread on my 1982 XT500 trip is here.
Thanks Chris. Most informative. Liked the comparison with your previous trips.
Whom organized This trip. It looks great.
I have been to morocco and the alps mani times. This would be excellent on my Xchallenge.
Chris, been reading a book about the French role in the region, what a mess they made! No real orders, no good communication or maps, and staffed by the dregs of French society. Crazy colonization story - many of the travel guides list Algeria and cities in your books as now hotbeds of terrorism being used as training locations for various splinter groups - overall how "safe" did you find the Desert this trip compared to your previous experiences?
What a truly beautiful country.
Thank you Chris for this report. As always top-notch.
I am sorry for that guy on XCh. One can struggle in Oued in Djerane even on a light hard-enduro. Regardless of skill, a ligher bike is always safer. On the other hand it is hard to find people only with very light enduros for such a destination.
The desert landscape around Djanet and Tassili is stunning. Would love to go back and explore those routes you did on my KLX 250R (30 bhp/ 104 kg) - thanks for the great pictures and RR
Thanks for positive replies.
Just back from Mauritania trekking. Was so unusually hot we had to start pre-dawn and sit it out 11–5pm.
But augmented the Algie tan and lost 3kg, so that's something!
jpinreno: What you been reading? I remember Conquest of the Sahara being good.
Not sure French colonial history of Alg is significantlydifferent any of the other European ' we came, we saw we plundered with great efficiency' nations of that era.
Halfway through reading Silk Roads and this seems to be somewhat of a recurring pattern in human history.
As for maps: vintage or more recent, Cold-War era IGNs are still as good as anything you'll find printed on the Sahara, IMO.
I've broadly followed the security situation in the Sahara since 2003, with special interest in Alg and I can tell you it's a lot
better than it used to be because, if they don't mind me saying so, the most power terrorists/criminals are the government,
as is the case in many such places. The dodgiest outlaw areas are in the hills east of Algiers to the Tunisian border (and just over)
and it's been that way for decades, but baring the odd IED, the national security forces have pretty much crushed them.
The Grand Sud is now safer than it was: if the bad guys try and nip over the border from neighbouring Mali for example,
it tends to end like this:
Remains of TLC 79 pickups like Moh's, zapped by the Operation Barkane French air force out of Mali about a month ago, near Timiaouine, 800km SW of where we were.
Key commanders were killed; the attacks on Ouagadougou a fortnight back were their response to this.
Aside from that there seems to be more non-governmental crime than most would admit, chiefly based around smuggling the usual
commodities, but's that's the same RTW.
So I felt safe because:
With the help of Ahmed Z from the agency, Thomas knows all this stuff at least as well as I do.
The gendarmerie were closely aware of our locations
We flew directly in and out of the desert so little chance of being spotted on the highways on the way down.
Plus it wasn't my problem for once, but even then I tend to be pretty blasé. My 10 Alg visits between 2006-13 were all in riskier times.
MeinMotorrad: Correctomundo! Was just in Mori but what I saw doesn't compare with the best of wild Alg on a moto.
ridethedream: Josch was unlucky in that trench. I was seconds from coming off myself, but like you say, lighter is so much easier, less tiring and
Will Rogers: KLX 250R would lap it up.
As it is, knowing what I know, I think the area one can currently ride off-road in Alg (parts of Illizi wilaya) is just too small for the huge effort
/ expense involved. If Graveyard piste had been open may have been different. But if you've never been it will blow your mind
either way. Pic below just in from S.Dan.
As promised, T-ST's video of our ride.
Thanks to Tony for permission to upload on my channel.
If you don't like the sound of blue smoke, switch off now ;-)
Very good Ride Report, beautiful dessert pictures. The only problem is, sand is not my favorit underground.
Great trip report and photos! Do you have contact detail for your guide Ahmed please?
Ahmed seemed like a good guy but it was very hard to make- and then sustain contact with him.
I tried for months before this trip (for other stuff) and weeks after.
Could just be me. Hope you have better luck: