December 17, 2019
Steven and I left Agadir on the same day, only 2 different paths. According to plan, I leave south towards the Sahara desert and Steven goes back to Belgium. It is with mixed feelings because it’s fun cycling with friends but the desert is calling…
Tiznit what you think e!
Guelmin is seen as the gateway to the Sahara desert and I can’t wait to get there. I imagine great sand dunes, long stretches of road and perfect tailwinds. The road from Agadir takes me to Tiznit (in Flemish this would mean “it’s not”). A very long boring road with a calm headwind, but it seems like going on forever. After a while I start looking at my data and see it’s slightly going uphill, we call that vals plat (false flat), or tiznit wa ge denkt e!
After a couple of days I arrive in Guelmin, where I expected all the dunes and burning sun! Not at all, it was cold, windy and raining… I couldn’t believe it but while cycling on I had to wear a full rain suit and that lasted about 2 days which drained quite some energy, especially because I was too stubborn to stop and wait for the wind to change. I pushed against the wind like a mad man and found the wind slightly changing directing after 2 – 3 days. What a relief!
…blowing in the wind
With the wind changing direction I could enjoy the desert to its fullest! The never ending landscapes are incredibly beautiful and with the wind in the right direction I make great progress. I sleep in all kinds of places from roadside hotels, to abandoned buildings and off course, the favourite my tent. One of the issues a bit deeper in the desert is that by entering the Western Sahara territory, more and more army and police checkpoints are coming. It’s not that bad and all for my safety, but when you decide to wild camp and they see you, they’re too concerned and ask you to camp at their station. One time I had to and there was a French couple in their van. I could join them eating French (it’s actually Belgian) fries, life’s good!
When I got closer to the border I see an abandoned village and an army vehicle. I ask if I could sleep somewhere and they show me a nice house (at least it was one day). I can take my mattress and sleep on the floor, but that’s great because I don’t have to pitch my tent which gets very humid at night. The army is there because they’re de-mining the area. Good to know because they tell me there are quite some in certain areas, that’s a reminder of not going off tracks too far when looking for a spot to camp.
The real des(s)ert
In general, cycling the Sahara is not that physical demanding. There is a maximum of 100km without finding anything in this area. The real challenge is the mental game. From previous experiences (and I was looking forward to that) I knew that I had to go until I get sick of it. Then you have to go on! Push it further, that’s the real des(s)ert. You are mentally tired and just want to get out of there. And then I entered Mauritania…
The beautiful desert
Mauritania has been really kind (the people, like everywhere) but has been very hard on me as well. When I just entered I had a very hard headwind and was able to finish off my last 20km in 2hrs. There I stayed in at an “auberge” (not really) who gave me shelter and food. The next day I thought the wind would be from a better direction but it stayed an extremely annoying side/headwind which took lots of energy.
I was able to cover 90km for 10hrs of cycling! But suffered quite hard. Because of the high winds I had to cover my entire face and still got sand everywhere and was sick of it all! I didn’t think I could go on for long until the first car stops and asks if I’m alright (the wind had pushed me in the side several times). I said I’m fine and they gave me water. Just that gesture of a bottle of water gave me the mental strength and energy to continue for another couple of hours! The next days the winds dropped again and I could find the energy of cycling to Nouakchott (the capital). Oh yeah, and I had some diarrhoea which weakened me more on those extra windy days (the irony..).
The first stop
The plan is to head down towards Senegal tomorrow and continue another 750km to Tambacounda (Senegal). There I’ll take a break. I will go to Dakar and arrange the visas for the next countries. Visit my friend Luca to spend the holidays with some other Belgian friends and my girlfriend will come over for new year as well. Looking forward to that!!
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and thanks for the great support!