D Day

D Day
Waiting at Dover

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Love and attention

Next morning, just after leaving Dakhla, we stopped for petrol and Sean discovered a problem with his chain’s split link.  We had carried a spare but despite taking all our gear apart it wasn't to be found so he did a repair, held his breath and off we went.  Terrain began to change to white sand with flat top dunes.  Came over a crest to the stunning scene of a white sand beach with turquoise and aquamarine water that stretched out forever.  As we rode along I was busy pinching myself to believe the beauty of it all when I heard something slam under the bike and then a dragging sound. Pulled over to discover that unbelievably my fucking chain had snapped – problems with both chains in one day – WTF - it’s the middle of NOWHERE.

Rush hour!
We dragged everything out again but still couldn't find the god damn spare split link. Only option was to tow, we’d never done it before, had heard it was tricky and I was shitting it. Tied the cord from Sean’s right passenger peg to left foot rest of mine and gingerly took off - leaving a trail of bricks behind me……..  All went well for about 15km until Seanie changed gear causing his girl to temporarily slow, the incessant wind whipped by the tie around his wheel and into his chain, jerking me forward into him.  I had two choices, steer left and take us both out, or right and it'd be just me, so right I went and off I came.  The brain bounce was bloody painful, I felt a sharp pain in my left ankle (??went down on my right??) and sand went everywhere, up my nose, into my mouth, eyes, etc. Having being bounced forward from the impact of me hitting him Sean was fighting to control his bike and trying to stop in a panic to get to me - I was trying to shout over the howling wind I that I was ok but he could hear me. Thankfully he was ok, and apart from not being able to put weight on my left foot I was too. However my lovely tall screen was in bits. All the luggage was off but again luck was on our side as my girl was fine.

Given that we were a) in the middle of the desert and b) only a hand full of vehicles passed us each hour, our only option was to pick ourselves up and continue. This time however we put the rope on the right-hand grab of Seanie’s girl to the pull rope on my forks - far away from the wheels!  We came to learn that the trick is in the stopping, the front bike is the power but the back bike should do all the braking, very tricky though – we crawled in 3rd gear for the next VERY LONG 20km and finally reached a petrol station.

The magic garage
Most stations out here are lucky if they have a tiny shop and extra luckily if there’s a loo.  The gods must have liked us today as unbelievably this one had a hotel, hairdressers,tour op, garage and great shop as well as
 as petrol and a loo – what were the fucking odds?  Approached one of the (v. easy on the eye!!) mechanics to ask if he could fix it so he worked away on the chain for a bit then disappeared.  About an hour later he pulled up in a car (we hadn’t spotted him leave) with a very rust old chain of the
The wonderful mechanic
correct pitch and worked away until it was fixed.  We were beyond thrilled and he was happy to pose for a pic!  It was now well past 7pm and getting dusk so we needed to grab a spot to pitch up. Drove a couple of miles and then went off road for a bit near a place called Moualine El Ghaba (don't blink or you will miss it). We were knackered after the day's adventures but there was not a drop of beer in sight to toast the fact we crossed the Tropic of Cancer today, suppose you can't have everything!
Next morning went back to the same petrol station to spend the last of our Dirham before the border.  Having MD2.50 left after water and petrol I gave it to the young shop guy and asked for chocolate bars expecting 3 or 4 - I kid you not he filled half a plastic bag!!!  As I was finishing Sean came in to the shop with a sense of urgency.  The cop who’d tried to extract the bribe from us in Boujdour just turned up – we thought shit, if he wanted to he could have a go for something again and this time his colleagues weren’t around to stop him.  We had planned on sitting down and enjoying some
Not a bent cop in sight.
of the snacks before the ride but we got our arses to the bikes and got the fuck out of there sharpish.  Have to admit to nervously glancing in my mirrors for the first 20 mins to see if anyone was following us. Was having flashes of all those movies I've seen with people trapped in a vast wilderness with a bent cop chasing them and there’s nowhere to escape to!  Far too much time in the desert with nothing to distract me I think – your imagination goes a bit wild. Found out later the same thoughts were running through Sean's head - you can't make this shit up!
Snack break

Got to the border by midday, after completing police and customs paperwork we spoke with a guard who told me (in perfect English) ‘sorry I don’t speak English, I only speak French so won’t be able to help you’- a really nice guy, he gave us loads of useful info.  After the last passport control section you are free to enter ‘no man’s land’ about a mile of disputed land between the borders and is a mix of broken rock and very soft sand. WOW - we were all over the place, it was very very hard work on top of which it was baking hot.  The
Next stop Mauritania.
area is like a car graveyard – it’s full of abandoned ones.  Going through a really deep patch of soft sand my back wheel completely bogged down and the bike got stuck.  Sean was having the same problems so got off his and  ran her out of the sand.  Two guys in a car had pulled over when they saw us, they came over and offered to help me, when I said ‘ok’ they responded ‘You Pay’.  I thought you must think I’m an idiot, but curious as to their ‘fee’ I asked how much – MAD 100 (£10 to help pull the bike 15 foot, must be good shit they’re smoking).  I laughed and said no, to which one guy shouted at me ‘I am Mauritian’ (which I'm guessing was supposed to explain something but what that was was lost on me I'm afraid) he then said 'MAD 50', again I said no so he signalled his friend and both tried to pull the bike forward obviously thinking they could then force me to pay.  That’s the funny thing about a bike who’s back wheel is two feet deep in soft sand, no matter how much you pull she won’t move when her front brake is on!  When the bike didn’t shift he demanded ‘how much Dirham do you have’ – does that question ever actually elicit an answer?  At this point Sean returned and  got my girl out for me, leaving Tweedledum and Tweedledee behind looking a bit lost. 

Finally go to Mauritian border with the sweat pouring off of us in litres.  At the police office we were accosted by an army officer insisting that we had to get insurance from the guy accompanying him.  I said we’d talk about it later, he responded ‘No do it now', took Sean’s exit paper off of him and gave it to Mr Insurance, I thought bugger that so took it back. The army guy then demanded to know how many days we needed insurance for – we said we don’t know, and he got really pushy but as I wouldn’t budge he finally
skulked off.  When we went outside again I asked another officer if it was mandatory to get insurance here and he said no! Next step was to ride 20 foot to the customs office where we were descended upon by ‘helpers’, we were polite but firm in refusing assistance.  Despite this one ‘helper’ decided to take charge and ‘guide’ us, we thanked him and informed him that he wasn’t required. We went up to customs where the still present helper ushered us in.  The officer asked for our carnets and  a smartly dressed guy (not in uniform)  informed us that we should use the ‘helper’, we told him we were fine on our own, he then said ‘now you must pay the guard €20' suspicions raised I asked why and he replied ‘for the stamp on the carnet, it is the same for everyone’.  I had not seen money exchange hands and there no cash or cash box on the desk so we looked at each other and knew that unless the official directly requested money none would be offered. Our papers were finalised and we were told we were free to go, no request for cash was made - neat trick, I can imagine they get quite a bit of 'extra' cash with it.   Finally got out batting off more extremely dodgy looking bodies acting as ‘helpers’ and exited the border area leaving some very disappointed denziens behind us with pockets no fuller than before we arrived.

Out side the 'motel'
Rode for a bit through yet more desert. Saw the occasional tiny wooden shack and white Berber tent but bugger all else.  Our plan had been to head west then down through the centre to Nouckchott but after a bit we started to question this idea.  At our first police check point an extremely sweet officer (who offered to fill the empty water bottles we were carrying from the yard tap!) told us the nearest town was 17km and it had everything we’d need including nice restaurants.   We actually missed it the first time as we rode passed it thinking it was just a bunch of ruined shacks, there was NOTHING there that would help you to recognise it as a 'town'.  There was, however, a motel further up the road where we got insurance and changed money.

We needed fuel and found a ‘petrol station’ which only had 2 diesel pumps. Sean asked for gasoline, the young guy nodded and went to put fuel from one of the pumps in, stopping him Sean asked if it was gasoline
Second fill up.
and got ‘Oui’, I was dubious so Sean smelled it – diesel!!!   We shook our heads saying no ‘Essense’ (trying to find the right word for each country becomes confusing!), so the guy fetched a large orange drum, we asked ‘sans plomb’ and got the same 'Oui', at this stage we twigged that he didn’t understand us and ‘Oui’ was his default response.  Deciding it might be safer to try elsewhere we thanked him and went back to ‘town’.  An army guy in a 4x4 stopped so we asked for petrol - next garage 80km!!  Returned to the 'station' and this time a French speaking older guy was there who produced a blue barrel ......... and that’s when we made the fatal age old mistake of not agreeing a price beforehand.  He filled up both bikes (unmeasured from the barrel) and said OYG12,000 which worked out at €2.40 p/l for an approx 12 litres – we nearly choked – we argued but of course he wasn’t budging.  We were gutted at letting ourselves be had, but it was our own stupid fault - now repeat after me 'Always agree the price first, always agree the price first, always...........'.

Camel bones by night..
A willing model.
Decided to head straight for Nouchchott and 40km down the road we hit another little station (with a ‘Boutique’ - a shop) that sold petrol in fixed amounts of 10L for OYG5000, hoo hum, you live and learn.  Topped both girls up plus four 1.5L water bottles, again from a large plastic barrel but this time it was measured.  An elderly man came across the ‘forecourt’ in traditional robes and when I asked if I could take a photo he was surprised but delighted to pose.  Off again through hours of endless flat desert tundra. Eventually, knackered, we left the road, took off across the vast expanse of nothing but flat sand for half a mile
and in morning sun
and pitched up.  Whilst inside the tent setting up I heard Sean yell
Desert dawn
‘wow Logan come look at this, it’s an amazing pic’ got out of the tent but all I could see was sand and Sean said ‘I think it’s a sand storm’ – it hit us like a brick.  I had to wrap my scarf around my head over my cap and glasses to grab the rest of the gear from the bikes and then dashed into tent for protection. It turned really warm with the wind wailing and battering the tent.  Sand was pouring in from every conceivable angle, it was literally snowing the stuff. After an hour with no let-up we tried to do some food - I could only get half way through though as all I was eating was sand.  The storm raged on buckling the tent and flaying our skin as was too hot to wear
Morning after
anything.  Worryingly Seanie was feeling
Sunrise and wind still blowing
really unwell –this is the first time on the trip I actually felt scared - we were in the middle of a desert, in the middle of nowhere, no one knows we are here and a sand storm is howling – if we needed help we were fucked.  There was so much sand coming in on top of us we had to soak our scarves and wrap them around our faces just so we could breath.  
Next morning after a shit night’s sleep due the windstorm and its accompanying sand based exfoliating
Clean Up!!
treatment had continued through the night) we woke to discover that
Windswept and interesting?
EVERYTHING was coated or filled with sand - twas in our eyes, noses, ears, our skin was covered in it, and every time we closed our teeth it crunched, blaaaccchhh.   Packing up was a nightmare - had to try to clean all the gear before putting it away.  To add insult to injury the door zip of our lovely tent has given up the ghost – the constant wind for the last week had buggered it so its zip no longer closed.  
Sean had to give the bikes a check over and clean the air filters before we could set off, even that required having our scarves wrapped round our faces and nothing could be put down as it blew away instantly.  The flat scrub desert terrain remained unchanging for hours on end which meant no sneaky pee opportunities, was having to get my timing right behind my bike between passing cars - nettles are no longer a problem, the hazard now is desert thorns, shan’t complain about nettles again!! 

The Berber tents are everywhere, small white square structures with pointy tops.  The only other structures are small wooden shacks – bunches of which make up a township – though unless you’re told and start to look really closely you wouldn’t know – the give-away is the boxes of mineral water stacked up inside the entrance.  The stocks in the ‘shops’ are very basic, lots of water, juices and soft drinks, and bread, pasta, biscuits and sponge cakes, and very little else.  There are endless police stops and they take all your details each time but all very friendly.

Passed one township and the kids ran out to wave at us and run after the bikes, delighted with the game of chasing us.  At one check point the children came out of the shacks and waved at us for ages, then one brave little girl came across the road and said ‘caudex Madame’, we took out some fruity chews and suddenly the group shyness mysteriously disappeared -we were surrounded!!  It was brilliant, and when we headed off we got very enthusiastic waves goodbye.  

'City' centre
Hit Nouckchott and it had all the seeming madness and mayhem of a typical African town and the traffic system seemed like every person for themselves.  Being the capital we had expected some familiarity with shops and banks etc., we’d met a guy several days ago who said we’d be surprised by how modern the city is – HAH, how stupid are we, we idiotically took that to mean modern by our standards.  We didn’t understand at the time that what he was alluding to was ‘modern’ by comparison to the rest of Mauritania which is mostly tents and shacks.  We didn’t see banks, insurance companies, ATMs, etc. all of which are everywhere in Morocco.  We knew that ATMs were scarce in Africa but in a capital city??   The buildings were fairly roughly put together and most business took place from the multiple street stalls. 

Seanie  rode through the city for a bit but finally pulled up in front of a little store at a junction corner.  We got cokes and sat to decide what we’d do next.  We needed money but were exhausted and couldn’t really face the idea of trawling through the city for banks, food, a spot to camp, etc.  We had passed one camping sign coming into the city but had no idea if this would be fruitful as had passed several just over the border and they were an interesting take on the concept of camping, certainly not something we’d have paid money for. 

As we were chewing over these conundrums a woman and man started to set up a stall beside where we were sitting.  We asked the woman about an ATM, she called the man over and between them they (patiently, given our poor grasp of French) explained that as it was 5pm the bank was shut and it wouldn’t open tomorrow.  We asked about a Bureau de Change and after a discussion amongst themselves the woman said that the man would take us to one in a taxi if we wanted him to.  She said we could leave the bikes and she’d make sure they were ok.  With typical western thinking we immediately thought ‘shit will they be safe’ but our gut said the offer of help was genuine - so we said ok. The woman took our lids and again assured us she’d watch the girls. 

Mr & Ms S.
We took off through a maze of streets, carts, animals, countless hoards of people, stalls and chaos.  There was no way on this green (or sandy?) earth we’d have found our way through it, it’s questionable whether we’d have even survived with the style of driving!!!!  Arrived at a Western Union and our ‘saviour’ (hereafter dubbed Mr S) actually went to pay the taxi fare – we were gobsmacked.  I quickly showed him that I’d some cash, it had been at least a 10 -15 mins ride cost OYG300 (OYG360 is ~€1).  Queued in the WU office for a bit to be told B de C section was closed.   So Mr S took us through a labyrinth of market stalls and a guy came over offering exchange, there was much debate before Mr S indicated we speak with him. We were a bit dubious but decided we’d say no if we weren’t happy and told him we wanted to change €100 - his offer (via calculator) was 30000 a rubbish amount so said no way, handing us the calculator he asked how much. We indicated 40000 (got that yesterday though had forgotten it was for €120!!!) but he protested, we were insistent until he said his top offer was 36,000 – by now having twigged our mistake we realised this was a better deal than yesterday so agreed.  He went off to get the cash and we sat in a little market stall selling tee shirts and kids clothes.  The stall owner was lovely and a couple of guys came to talk to us and we’d a really nice time chatting to them, a
couple of them had some English which was great.  Mr Exchange returned and handed me cash but there
Baguettes from heaven.
was only 30000, I ask for the rest and he was hesitant but  I insisted until he finally gave me another bundle, handed him the euro and I counted the additional cash which was only 5,000.  He started giving out and it took some translation to establish that he wanted a single €100 note, we’d given five €20s.  We launched into a passionate debate until I took the euro back and gave back the 35,000.  At this stage the others realised that I wasn’t budging and some animated conversation took place, I think they told him to give me what was agreed as he stopped demanding a €100 note and reluctantly handed me 36,000 . When we got back we thanked Mr S and asked how much it was for his time, surprised, he said ‘For me, nothing, it’s free’.  The girls, of course, were right where we left them completely untouched.  Unfortunately we didn’t get Mr & Ms S’s names, we did get photos, Mr S seem amazed to be asked but was more than happy to pose. 

Ms S was selling huge baguettes, about 1.5 foot long, stuffed with some sort of meat stew, lettuce, egg, some fried thing and loads of mayo and tomato sauce and it smelled bloody delicious.  Sean was starving so we got one, it cost OGY300, feed both of us, and was fucking delicious.
Beautiful end to long day
Headed to the camp site which was on a beach and had a gorgeous bar/dining area that looked over the sea.  On enquiring were told it was OYG2000 for 2 people for a night with our own tent, showers extra!!  At €7.50 we said yes, suddenly there was another calculation and the price shot to OYG6000  – we debated but he obviously thought he was dealing with two idiots, so we left.   This has happened a couple of times, we’d be given a good price but once we say yes the price is suddenly upped – we really must get those idiot tattoos removed from our foreheads, they are becoming a bother.  Riding back down the track we noticed a route off to the left so took it,
The wildlife
spotted a large protected clearing and decided to set up there. It was only 5km to town so easy to get plenty of supplies (and water to have a good wash) and would cost us a hell of a lot less than €17 a night!  Apart from the campsite there was nothing but an abandoned building nearby and with at least a mile to the road we found ourselves a very peaceful spot to re-coup for a couple of nights.

Friday, 30 November 2012

My 'shower' spot
Visa queue in Rabat
 Sean, the delicate thistle, passed on washing as the campsite ‘shower’ was a hose attached to an outside sink.  However, the water was running and clean so I washed my hair ……the water was so cold I lost all feeling in my scalp then sounded like I was hyperventilating when I tried to ‘shower’ – how can the days be so hot and the tap water be so mind numbingly cold?  Pulling up to the visa office fully kitted up on the bikes certainly drew the attention of everyone on the street – was great!!  Met Stef and exchanged details - would be great to meet up and swop stories or to ride together for a bit.  Cars here get very bothered if a bike stays in front of them, they expect you to let them ahead even if they can’t keep up with you.  I really upset a guy on the highway through Casablanca when I wouldn’t move out of his way, with traffic on all sides unless I sprouted feathers out of my arse and flew there was nowhere to go – the obvious, however, wasn’t this guy’s strong point as he spent the entire time on his horn.

Nice sleeping spot
Tinned Ravioli showed promise but..........
Numerous road sellers here, six or seven of them will be lined up along the road selling the same thing, how do they make a living?    Pulled up a track in a forest to discover a whole series of abandoned buildings, looked like a scout or military camp.  A quick look around revealed that despite being in fair condition no one was living there so set up for evening.  Had tinned ravioli, it was bloody AWFUL but Twix for dessert so all was good.  Beautiful evening, the sunset was amazing, we amused ourselves by playing Uno, Sean won most of the games, he must have cheated!

Early morning start - cool, literally!
'Posing' Camels
Up at sunrise, a man and his sheep arrived, then a whole bunch of women and a boy with livestock, no one was in the slightest bit bothered at the sight of two foreigners, two bikes and a tent, all just saluted and carried on with their business, such a difference to the up-tight European attitude.

Today people seem even friendlier, we had bus drivers, truckers, moped guys, bicyclists, postal car drivers all saluting us.  Stopped to take pics of camels and guys travelling in a huge farm  machine pulled up so they didn’t spoil our photo! They then called for me to snap them as they passed by, which of course I did.  Even the camel herder got the camels to stand up so I could get a better shot.

 In the afternoon we grabbed the opportunity to stop under the shade of big tree at the side of the road and indulge in water and peanuts.  We waved to all and sundry as they passed - like we were the queen of England. A man and woman on a donkey and cart approached, stopped and invited us to their house for food - the gesture staggered us.  It was obvious they had very little but they were still offering food and hospitality to two strangers who clearly weren’t in need, the kindness defied description.  Stupidly though we were focused on the fact we had another 200km before hitting our planned destination so thanked them but declined.  They were incredibility gracious and suggested tea, when we declined again the man got down off the cart, shook our hands and then they waved good bye, we waved as we passed them later on.  Refusing their offer was a decision that we came to regret, one of those moments that you constantly look back on and always wish you’d done it differently.

Today the landscape changed from woodland to agricultural, to lunar to desert scape.  At one point we came over a hill and there was a huge valley spread out in front of us in swirling browns with the road winding through it and over the huge gorgeous bridge – superb sight.  Stopped for a pee and there was skeletal remains of an animal with a long pointed lower jaw and HUGE canines, the leg bones were short, about 1 foot, and really thick about 2-3 inches square, can’t figure out what the fuck it might have been – a really big boar maybe??  Told Seanie I thought it was some kind of dinosaur which set him off all afternoon – he’s so easy!!! 

Camels, camels, everywhere....
Since we arrived in Morocco I have repeatedly seen some of the men dressed in traditional Muslim robes walking around grabbing at their crotch, at first I thought it was like the rapper thing i.e. they have to hold on to ‘it’ in case it falls off, however I’ve finally realised that what they’re actually doing is holding their robes up so that they can walk easier and for relief from the heat……..duhhh!! Something else we’ve passed time and again is people walking their various livestock along the roads, I twigged that what they are doing is grazing the animals as they have no land of their own, gruelling to walk such distances in this heat every day. 

Completely knackered when we found a campsite called ‘La Calme’, disappointingly it turned out to be anything but.  All through the night into the morning packs of wild dogs roamed around the site and howled, yelped and fought – have never experienced anything like it, sleep was a luxury we certainly weren't afforded that night.

Next morning as we were going back the track to the main road we saw a small kid with animals waving like mad, thought he was signalling us to slow down but turns out he was just waving hello.  As I passed I gave him a high five which delighted him – he was only about 6 but was caring for a few goats on his own – nuts.  Rode through some amazing twisties and changing scenery, up over the mountains and down again -  think of images you've seen of the lunar landscape, add bigger hills, dot trees over it and you have the exact scene in front of you.  It’s astounding that we’re doing this, not watching someone else’s adventure – two months in and a sense of reality hasn't hit yet. 

Headed towards Agadir and hit the coast, stunning views so stopped for some photos. Whilst snapping all and sundry I noticed a man, who had been walking along the road, sitting on the wall watching us.  We said ‘Bonjour’, he signalled us to follow him and took us down about 20 feet to show us that you could see further along the coast to a peninsula and thus get better pics.  We asked if we could take a photo of him but he declined pointing out that there were holes in his clothes, it was obviously important to him - a pity as would have loved to have a photo, he was such a nice man.  He had some food in a bag which he offered to share with us but again stupidly we declined as we were in a hurry to get to a camp site – rude, we will not do that again, the man was so nice, helpful and hospitable, and we couldn’t take 10 minutes to sit with him, shame on us, bad manners and no excuse for it.  

Been at the happy pills again.
Got a nice site 20km north of Agadir and that evening decided to ‘chillax’ by sitting down with mugs of wine and playing UNO, Seanie trashed me –damn it!.  During the night Seanie had to put in ear plugs because “there was a really weird animal making noise – like a squelch”!  The mysterious animal making the ethereal squelch turned out to be the water hose running through the hedges!!
Shower room buddy
Just hanging around
The campsite was nice (had lots of puddy cats!) so we stayed for a couple of days.  Finally set off again and passed through Tiznit on towards Guelim ‘ the door to the Sahara’.  Every so often you are completely overwhelmed by the smell of rotting fish, we eventually figured out that it must be the trucks dumping their cargo along the route when they can’t sell it.   Very good looking people the Moroccan’s, very surprised how completely Arabic everyone is – we’ve seen very few black people which, given that we’re in Africa, has surprised us.  Morocco is quite well to do and in the big cities all the levels of society you’d find at home can be seen here also. 

Chilly desert
We finally hit the desert, and completely contrary to expectations it was fairly freaking cold and VERY windy!  Tried to take a photo whilst sitting on the bike but it proved absolutely impossible, the wind was so strong it kept trying to blow the bike over.  We passed the maddest thing I’ve seen on this trip to date - a sign that said ‘Attention Sables’ – well bugger me, and here was I thinking that the Sahara was full of fucking feathers!  

After a while we pulled over to check our location, suddenly I heard Sean shouting for help, we’d stopped on a soft verge and his bike had tipped to the right, he’d slid half way off with his left leg still  caught over the seat but his right leg was sliding down an incline causing him to do an impressive splits!  I couldn’t get off my girl as the side stand wouldn’t go down and she was also tipping, the only way I could have managed would have been to drop her.  Eventually Seanie just had to let his girl go which knocked off the top box, sent the tent, panniers, etc. flying.  However he was unhurt, the bike wasn’t  damaged and we got everything back together in 10 mins. 
Top tip: despite how they look desert roadsides are usually not solid!

Ride into Tantan
Desert and water??
Riding through Tantan we got pulled over by yet another police check where they claimed we’d run a stop sign. There was one in the MIDDLE of a roundabout we slowed but had a clear view of all roads which were completely devoid of traffic so carried on.  The fine was M700 - each – however  the cop said he’d only charge for one but until we paid we weren’t getting our passports – we didn’t have the cash so Sean had to go back to town for an ATM.  Oddly though, whilst waiting for Sean to return, not a single local who went through the stop sign got fined.  While the cop was writing the receipt for the fine numerous scoots passed up and down, way over the limit, no lids, no lights, no problem =  rules only apply to tourists.  Finally got to carry on into the stunning evening and got a campsite in El Quatia, was really run down but cheap and right on the beach so we got to watch the sun set over the sea.
Always Remember: rules will apply to you, the stupid tourist, that will never apply to the locals – that’s how it is, don’t lose sleep over it.

 Following morning headed off down the coast, very windy but the temp was in the low 20s so it was nice. Rode through some sand dunes like you’d expect from the movies, but mostly the terrain was hard caked terracotta coloured land covered in scrub and of course the constant wind.

Riding through the desert
Nothing as far as the eye can see.
On the middle of a nowhere got stopped at a check point by very friendly police, got the feeling they were doing it just to break the boredom as there was nothing around, they were really interested in  our trip and while they took our details we shared some sweets with them, it’s great how you get the same reactions from adults and kids alike when it comes to sweets.  At every check point I’m greeted with a ‘Bonjour Monsieur’ but at one stop when I lifted my lid the cop was so stunned you’d swear I’d slapped him!   

Every town has goats
Fuel is much cheaper here, it’s only M6.97 a litre now.  Stopped in a tiny run down town that had fuck all.  It always strikes me how friendly these places are, they are not tourist regions but it never seems to bother anyone that we’re there, no ‘guides’, no begging, just ‘welcome’ and ‘hello’.  In a little general store I’d a great time getting supplies from the lovely old man running it who showed great patience trying to figure out what I wanted with terrible French.  He seemed greatly amused by my pronunciation of ‘ouefs’.   Crossed over some fantastic rivers, was strange to see sand dunes surrounded by water, seemed like a bit of a contradiction.  We passed some shacks that served as houses, very difficult to see that some people have so absolutely nothing. 

Beware of camels - do they bite?
Gorgeous Laayoune
Entering the town of Laayoune is incredible, you cross a long bridge over superb green/blue water, there are sand dunes on the right at the end of the town with lush green grass and  palms , very pretty, and a very well-heeled place with tons of military.  Rode on to see lots of signs warning about camels – is there something we should know?  

Exotic sleep quarters
Luxury accommodation
'We were 'ere'!
There was nowhere that offered cover for camping, no trees, no dunes, no walls, so we just went the  half mile off the road to the cliff edge.  We overlooked the white sand coastline and the views were magnificent.  Whilst cooking a car pulled up and one of the guys greeted us in Arabic and gestured for water, he took less than half a cup, gave the same small amount to his friend and both thanked us profusely – it’s a bit of a slap in the face to realise just how important water is, we so completely take it for granted. 
Wonderful locals

New friends!
Panoramic views
Does it  get any better than this?
Later on another two guys approached and greeted us, this time (having learned from our mistakes) we offered them water and invited them to sit with us.  Through pigeon French and sign language we swopped information about each of our lives.   We shared roasted peanuts and choc chip cookies that we had and though one guy was in his 40’s, the other in his 50’s, they were clearly delighted.  When they took their leave and I offered them the rest of the peanuts which they were thrilled with.  Put the tent up - we’re wild camping in the fucking Sahara, how mad is that!  Later as we’d just settled down and we heard footsteps and ‘Bonjour Monsieur’.  Turned out it was Mohammad, the older guy from earlier, he had brought us a tray of Moroccan tea!  Unfortunately for me I hate the bloody stuff but there was no way you could refuse such a gesture, it was very strong and sweet. We drank it offering many thanks and he sat and chatted for ages.  He tried his best to convince us to stay and spend the next day with him to fish, swim and eat but we explained that our visas for Mauritania start then so that we had to go.  Mohammed said his goodbyes still trying to convince us to stay.
Couldn't be invented......
Survival of the fittest (& prettiest).
Morning of 28th took off along the only road which runs along the cliff edge which was fantastic as the sea was reflecting the most spectacular colour off of the water all morning.  Rode through miles of unchanging dessert scrub, endless miles of the same thing, hard to believe there is so much of nothing  There were isolated Berber tents dotted here and very occasionally there with several small ‘communities’ of them.  A few times we passed lone men walking to only the Gods know where.  We passed one in the middle of absolute nowhere – it was 70km from the last town and at least 100km to the next and the only sign of life random cars or trucks driving by, he was obviously a tramp and the lack of life in his eyes was harrowing, all hope was gone – the image of that man stayed with us for a very long time. 

Long way to nowhere.
Multiple police checks today, five in the first two hours, lost count after that.   Leaving Boujdour we were, yet again, stopped.  A cop, in plain clothes, struts up, asks where we’re from and, on hearing London, starts singing Pink Floyd’s ‘We don’t need no education’. He’d clearly seen far too many cop shows and thought he was Don Johnson out of Miami Vice.  He proceeded to tell us that we were going to be fined MAD700 for breaking a law, however since the last fine we’d been extra vigilant so knew he was full of shit.  The ‘law’ we’d apparently broken was that we didn't stop dead – (something we'd attempted at NUMEROUS checkpoints and it drove the police nuts, they’d wave you through madly, only ever wanting you to stop when they signalled you over) yet DJ was trying to tell us the opposite.

As far as the eye could see.
BUT dear Reader, take heart - all was not lost, he was not an unreasonable chappy - to avoid the fine we just had to ‘thank him’ by way of a 'present' ............. in cash!  The two cops with him were confirming that we should stop, but didn't join in on the bribe request.  I argued with them that we’d spent 3 weeks in the country and this was the first time we’d heard this rule, everywhere else was the exact opposite.  Meanwhile bullshit artist is haggling a bribe with Sean, he request M10 but when I handed a coin to Sean he shouted "no – paper money, paper money, like M100".  Sean said no way (though knowing we were between a rock and a hard place, a bribe of M100 or a fine of M700) so DJ said ‘ok give me M50’.  We thought fuck it, better €5 than €70 but we stuck to that well-heeled bit of traveller advice ALWAYS insist on a receipt before handing any money over to officials so Sean said he’d pay but he’d need a receipt first.  I took out M50 and DJ strides over sticks his hand in my face and shouts ‘give me the money’. I replied 'I need a receipt' he laughed and yelled ‘no you don’t give me the money’ but there was no way in fucking hell he was getting the cash until he provided an official receipt  so  I wouldn't budge.

At this stage the other two cops were getting uncomfortable and, I think ,were telling him to leave it go.  Again he demanded the money and I said ‘no, it’s not my money so I need a receipt’  Sean then takes out an old security pass and flashed it declaring ‘this is ridiculous I work for the police, I teach them English’ one of the other guys took the card and examined it.  DJ was back to arguing with Sean about giving him the money when the cop who’d taken the security card looked at me and said ‘we forgive you madame’, and made a sign that we could leave so I slid the money back into my pocket (oohhhhh the pure SATISFACTION!) and indicated to Sean that we were free to go, thanked the other two cops and left.  We have passed or spoken to at least a hundred cops in the past few weeks and  DJ was the first bent one.  Ten minutes down the road we stopped for a giggle about it all when two guys on an old battered moped stopped to say hello, ask where we were from etc. then offered some of their milk and then some of their prawns – wonderful country, such a place of extremes.

Rode on to get some miles under us, just can’t believe there’s so much nothingness – we’re starting to go a bit stir-crazy from the lack of any change, your brain goes a little do-lally from the absence of any kind of stimulation – I couldn’t stop signing ‘The Birdie Song’ and I don’t even like the bloody thing but it just kept playing over and over in my head! 

The Moroccans have the craziest road signs on earth – after about 100km of fuck all – not even another human - we say a ‘Beware of Cyclists’ sign ………WTF, I mean are they on fucking drugs….. cyclists????........ the fucking trucks were having trouble on these roads what kind of cyclist are they expecting in landscape that is a carbon copy of the moon????  Later, when we came to the peninsula that Dakhla is on, there was a ‘Beware of Kite Surfers’ sign – about a mile from the beach, the fuckers must have jet propulsion systems on their boards!
Trying to pee in the desert is a bit of a bother – there are no trees, it’s flat as far as the eye can see so there isn’t exactly many things to go behind.  We’d ridden for 30 mins without another vehicle so I stopped near a one foot high pile of rocks – the highest thing as far as the horizon, no sooner was I baring all to nature when two trucks and a car all turn up within 30 sec’s of each other – how the fuck does that work?  However, as they used to say on Mastermind ‘I’ve started so……………

In the afternoon the scenery finally changed – lots of chasms, sort of grand canyon like (on a miniature scale) and it was fabulous.  Riding along we saw a guy up ahead waving and signalling to a guy lying on the ground as if injured, my gut said something was wrong so held my breath that Sean didn't stop as I’d no intention of doing so, as we passed I saw that guy on ground was fine, obviously a trick to trap passing vehicles.  Only a hundred yards up the road there were two signalling they needed water, again it felt wrong, the movement of 3 or 4 other bodies attempting to hide out of sight behind a dune confirmed my suspicions - Sean hadn't seen the gits behind the dune but sensed it wasn't right so had carried on – scary that they try though, it obviously works on some poor stupid idiots – middle of nowhere, literally no town either way for a hundred km, no one to help you but obviously some around who will prey on you.  That evening we decided to treat ourselves to a campsite in Dakhla, was a bit over priced but we haggled him down and got to enjoy the pure joy of hot running water - bliss!