Although this hasn't stopped our early morning jigs
Sometimes it is remarked to us, generally by passing travelers in their four wheel drives, that the coastal road through Western Sahara and Mauritania is a long and boring route through a barren, featureless landscape. However, none of us have felt this way about the journey. While the early risings, long hours in the saddle, and the evening chores of building our houses and cooking food, take their toll, there has rarely been, if ever, a dull moment traveling through Western Sahara.
Three days out from Laayoune and Sven rolled in with his heavily laden bicycle and trailer, to a petrol station where we were savouring the shade and some cool drinks. Sven left Germany eleven months ago and had been trying to catch up with us over the past week as he was told of our pedal-powered convoy at police checkpoints and by passing motorists.
Encounters with locals have normally been limited to those who have come from Morocco to live here, encouraged by a government offering tax breaks and subsidised food. Along the road, newly built villages stand uninhabited, waiting for more people from the north to arrive. Police and military checkpoints have also continued, along with a preoccupation about our jobs. They are friendly encounters, however, with the state's apparatus for maintaining tight control on the territory.
Nearing the Mauritanian border, the traffic thins out and military jeeps and camoflaged oil tankers predominate, rushing between Dakhla and military bases along the heavily fortified border. We stop to rest up at a hotel, 85 km before the border. After a week of living in the sand, everything needs washing and de-sanding. The shower basin looks like a small sand pit after we've all finished hosing ourselves down. Clothes, bodies, and cooking pots greatly appreciate the first splashings of soapy water in a week. Unfortunately Daren injures his foot in a fall during the dark, the evening before we were due to depart to cross the Mauritanian border, and we have to leave our bikes at the hotel whilst we hitch 300 km back up the coast to Dakhla, where the nearest hospital and pharmacy are located, and where this posting is coming from. The good news is that he has been given the all clear and loaded up with anti-inflamatories and painkillers, we'll head back down to the bikes in a day or two before continuing on.Nearing the end of another day
Dakhla, Western Sahara
Trip distance: 7430 km