Right, that’s it we’ve made it !DSCF0737.JPG

For the latest update on Team Mad’s progress read on. Please note this page has been redesigned so the most current information is at the top.

 

Saturday 3rd November Les has finally made it home, incredibly happy that at last he can get back to normal life. Royal Maroc Airline phoned him this morning to say that they have found his lost bags and they should be arriving in Glasgow tomorrow, no luck on my baggage yet.

What can we say, to all of you back here and all the other teams on the challenge whether at home or still abroad- Thank you. Without all of your support we would never have started the journey.  Without the help from Andreas & Peter (Pommes Express) we would still be at “a border somewhere in Africa” and without the loan of diesel by Cheryl & Andrew (Village People) we would have had to walk the last 80km to Bamako.

Les & I are so proud of the support we have been given that we can not express our gratitude in words. This trip has been one of the hardest and most satisfying things we have ever done. Over the next few days, after some rest, we will be correcting any inaccuracies in our reports and we will be updating this site with pictures and previously unpublished accounts of our travels. Foranyone looking for info on other teams… be proud of them. All of our group made it to Bamako with their vehicles. The Grease Monkeys should be home by now, as should Andreas from the Pommes-Express. Last seen Desert Cruise had hired a car to go to Timbuctu and all of the others were at The University in Bamako. Tired & Dirty but all in good health.

Thanks again,

Dave & Les

ExTurbo.jpgAlong side is a picture of the ex-turbo unit complete with chemical metal welding and yes that is a rock in the middle of the picture held in place by some battery strapping.

Wednesday 31st October – Homeward bound at last – Yippee!!!!

Dave & Les called at 1pm (French time) to confirm that they had made both flights and were now in Nantes, France. They had tried to get on a flight from there to the UK today but, unfortunately, there were no seats available until at least tomorrow – familiar story! So the support team, who had spent most of yesterday evening looking into their options, suggested a taxi to Nantes train station so that they could catch the 2pm main line train to Paris. On arrival in Paris (at 4:15pm) we suggested they take a taxi to Paris Nord station to catch the Eurostar back to London Waterloo International. We had checked the timetables and there was a suitable connection leaving Paris at 6:15pm and arriving in London at 8pm (UK time). The support team would be there to meet them & drive the guys home to Watford.

Dave and Les succeeded in getting to Paris Nord station and called us to say that, unfortunately, there were no seats available on any Eurostar train from Paris Nord this evening. There were, however, seats available on Eurostar trains leaving from Lille this evening and there was also a suitable main line train to get them from Paris Nord to Lille. So Dave & Les had eagerly bought all the tickets they needed and were about to set off.

The guys have called to confirm that they have made the Eurostar connection at Lille successfully and are, as we type this, speeding back to Blighty! Dave & Les are expected to arrive at Waterloo at 10pm this evening and the support team will be there to greet them.

Late News Flash: During this last phone call Dave & Les admitted that they have now had enough – they are travelling back much lighter than expected (hand luggage only) as ALL their checked-in luggage has gone missing! They are not sure whether it is still in the airport in Bamako or whether it did not get onto the plane at Casablanca, but either way they don’t have any of it.

The guys are both extremely tired as they have not slept for almost 40 hours and have said that they now desperately just want to reach home, see family & friends and get some sleep!

Late Late News Flash: THEY’RE HOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday 30th October – Well it looks like it is up, up and away – eventually. Dave & Les called this afternoon to say that it had been a chaotic day.

First and most importantly – Early this morning Dave & Les went to the Royal Air Maroc counter at Bamako airport and managed to secure 2 seats on a flight departing Bamako tonight – yippee! The flight leaves at 3am and takes them to Casablanca (arriving at 7am), they will then have a 1 hour stop-over before a second flight takes them from Casablanca to Nantes, France (where they will arrive at lunchtime). Once they arrive in Nantes they will have to make further travel arrangements as Royal Air Maroc could not assist them with connecting flights to the UK. Dave & Les called again at 7:30pm and said that the airport staff had advised them to arrive early for the flight from Bamako tonight as it is heavily over-booked (a practice apparently common in Africa) so the guys intend to be at the airport by 11pm tonight to check-in and ensure that they get seats. The support team suggested that they have dinner (they had just done that), buy provisions for the journey & get themselves straight to the airport & check-in to make sure that they get on the flight – they told us that 11pm would be fine so woe betide them if they are wrong!

The support team are currently investigating all the onward travel options for Dave & Les so that by the time they reach Nantes can advise them of all the alternatives (should they not be able to secure flights back to the UK). The aim is to have the guys safely back home by the end of play tomorrow.

Now for the really good bit – Dave & Les told us that by the time they reached the airport this morning the PR man who Sunny had spoken to yesterday evening had discovered that the airport is indeed about to shut! You can just imagine that conversation can’t you – he arrives at his office, tells his staff about the ridiculous story Sunny had told him the previous evening and everyone in the room looks very sheepish, a little something they had forgotten to tell the boss – whoops. The airport is in fact shutting for 2 blocks of 2 days starting November 2nd. As a result of the backlog this closure will cause there is not a seat to be had on any flight for the next 2 weeks.

The really bad news is that some of the teams had already booked and paid for their flights home & have now found that they won’t be going anywhere as the runway will be closed. Other teams, like Dave & Les, had not booked return flights home as they were unsure of their arrival date in Bamako and are now really struggling to get flights and may have to make alternative travel plans (that will be the bus or train to Dakar then).

Andreas from the Pommes Express team needs to be back in Germany on November 4th and did have a flight booked for November 3rd – he is now flying to Casablanca tonight with Dave & Les and will be getting a connecting flight back to Germany from there. Peter (the other half of the Pommes Express team) was expecting his girlfriend to fly into Bamako, on the plane that was going to take Andreas away, so that they could make the trip to Timbuctu together – he is now going to wait for her to arrive once the airport re-opens and her flight is re-scheduled.

Dave & Les met up with the Grease Monkeys at lunchtime who were frantic as they had not been able to secure flights home. Dave & Les told them about the travel agent with 2 tickets for the 4 plane marathon via Tripoli and the Grease Monkeys managed to secure those and so have left Bamako earlier this evening. We have no news on how any of the other teams are faring.

We will update you as soon as we can tomorrow on Les & Dave’s progress and hope (once again) to be able to inform you that they are either home or well on the way.

Monday 29th October – Attempt to book flights back to the UK. Well we should have known by now that nothing to do with this Challenge was ever going to be easy.

Dave & Les called at 4pm to ask the support team to check whether they needed visas to enter Senegal – they had not been able to secure a flight back to the UK and so were going to head for Dakar. We checked on this immediately and informed them that luckily, as UK passport holders, they didn’t need visas ….and then we asked what was going on.

Dave & Les said that it was important that they get a flight out of Bamako tomorrow as they had been told by the local travel agencies that the airport authorities were going to close the airport in a day or so to allow them to re-surface the runway! They had been told that the airport would be closed for 4 blocks of 2 days over an almost 2 week period.

So far the guys had tried (and failed) to get 2 seats on ANY flight out from Bamako, including almost securing seats on a 4 plane marathon back to the UK via Tripoli of all places! – this plan had fallen through at the last minute as after changing the appropriate amount of Sterling into local currency the travel agent had tried to hike the price 50%. When we spoke to them the guys were hopeful that tomorrow they would be able to get on a flight to either Dakar or Casablanca and said that from there they would be able to get a flight back to the UK. Les said that they thought they had secured 2 seats on a flight to Dakar but would not know for sure until 8am tomorrow morning.

Dave said that he hoped to get a flight as the only other options to get to Dakar (and a plane home) were either to take the train (a 40 hour journey) or a bus, which whilst it would be quicker than the train would still mean a very long journey in very cramped conditions and would be a less than comfortable ride.

Dave & Les called again at 8:30pm to say that they and the other teams were having dinner at the University this evening with Sunny – the rally’s local contact. On hearing about their flight problems Sunny had immediately telephoned several people in the know including the head of public relations at the airport, who knew nothing of the “planned” closure. The P.R. man’s reaction to the news that the airport was shutting down for over a week was “are you mad this is an international airport we couldn’t shut it down for a day let alone a week or more!!” So Sunny has arranged with Dave & Les that first thing in the morning they will go to the Royal Air Maroc counter at the airport where they will be assisted with the booking of flights to the UK (via either Dakar, Casablanca or possibly Morocco).

Dave said that whilst Mali is a lovely country and the people are generally very friendly and helpful (travel agents excepted) both he and Les are now really ready to come home – aahh.

Sunday 28th October – Drive from Kita to Bamako- distance 115 miles (185 Kms).

Well everything went to plan and the guys called us at 10amthis morning to say that they were NOW IN BAMAKOat the student accommodation compound – the official finish line. It has taken them only 2 weeks, 5 days and 12 hours (19 days and 12 hours if you prefer) which means they have arrived several days ahead of the original schedule.

Dave can not get an O2 connection in Mali at all (we have now established that Mali is not covered by O2 – whoops!) and Les’s network connection is not the best. However, this is what we do know following their second brief call of the day.

They guys arrived in Bamako this morning. The accommodation is designed for visiting international students and so, of course, is very basic – no electricity or running water from what we could make out. Dave & Les are extremely tired, but elated and have found the only bank in Bamako where they can exchange Sterling for local currency which has allowed them to “settle their debts” with Andreas and book into a “nice” hotel for the night – you know the sort with power & running hot & cold water.

Dave & Les have spent the afternoon relaxing and exploring the city and intend to seek out the airport and attempt to book their flights back to the UK tomorrow. They have established that there are daily flights from Bamako. The preferred route is to fly to Casablanca and then on to Europe and the UK as it will be much cheaper to do this than to fly from Bamako to London (via Paris). It will probably be a day or so before they can get a flight so we will let you know their expected arrival date later.

Our thanks again to Peter & Andreas (the Pommes Express team) who have been subbing the guys for the few days and to The Village People who lent Dave & Les 20 Litres of fuel yesterday to get them the rest of the way into Bamako – Yes Dave & Les ran out of diesel somewhat before they ran out of road.

Saturday 27th October – Drive from Hamoud to Kayes – distance 175 miles (280 Kms) and then Kayes to Kita – distance 205 miles (330 Kms). Next stop Bamako and the finish line.

There has been no communication with Dave or Les today and so the support team will assume that all is well and they are running to schedule.

Friday 26th October – Drive from Sangrafa to Kiffa – distance 125 miles (200 Kms) and then from Kiffa to Hamoud, Mali – distance 110 miles (180 Kms).

Dave & Les called this morning to tell us that they had stopped for the night at a hotel in Sangrafa and had only about 125 miles (200 Kms) left to drive in order to reach Kiffa. They are still travelling with The Village People and Pommes Express teams and said that they are all getting on really well and that they are a very happy little group. As a result of covering so much extra ground yesterday the group are going to head first to Kiffa (the original destination for today) and then, all things being equal, they are going to head for the Mauritania – Mali border just north at Hamoud with the aim of reaching Hamoud tonight.

This morning the guys revealed for the first time that they have something of a currency crisis. Before leaving on this challenge Dave & Les read the road books put together by those who had gone before them. The road books suggested that it was a good idea to take both Euros and Sterling as Euros are accepted in most places along the route and can also be easily exchanged for local currency, but that they would get a better exchange rate for Sterling and that it would not be difficult to find places to exchange Sterling. So Dave & Les took some Euros and plenty of Sterling – whoops!

They have now discovered that almost nowhere wants to change Sterling. It was not an issue in Morocco, but since entering Mauritania they have only been able to change currency once, at a bank in Nouakchott, and that was a struggle. They managed to exchange Sterling for Euros, but at an exchange rate of only 1.20 Euros to the Pound (ouch!). To add to their problems both the road books and the tourist guides they have purchased along the way also suggested that most of the hotels would take credit cards – wrong again!

So Dave & Les would like to express their grateful thanks to Peter and Andreas (their new best friends) who are “absolute diamonds”, not only for stepping in when they have run short of usable funds but also for helping to fix Tinkerbell over the last couple of days. As we spoke to Dave & Les this morning Peter was apparently just finishing fixing Tinkerbell’s oil leak!

When Dave & Les had dismantled the turbo in Spain (you can remember that far back we hope) they had to seal off the oil feed to the turbo unit. They did this by cutting the pipe and welding it shut with (yes you’ve guessed it) the now famous chemical metal – no home should be without it! This pipe connects to a banjo bolt on the engine. However, that was over 2,500 miles (over 4,000 Kms) ago and with all the vibration of driving such a distance on less than smooth roads the pipe had finally split up near the banjo bolt. The remedy, which was being administered by Peter, was to simply remove the banjo bolt and screw in a normal bolt in its place. This has sealed the oil leak nicely and so the guys can get underway again.

Dave & Les said that there is a grass like plant called Paper Thorn which grows all over the desert. It is rather like Cooch Grass except that it is razor sharp and the dry thorns get everywhere, including inside the engine bay. These thorns cut straight through the skin whenever you touch them so it took longer to clean them from the engine than it did to undertake the actual repair. 

Dave & Les also said that it was getting even hotter – it was 7am local time when they called us this morning and the temperature was a mere 27 degrees centigrade. We only spoke to them for a few minutes, but by the time we finished the conversation Dave said that the temperature had already hit 29 degrees and was rising fast.

Finally Dave & Les said that they are really proud of Tinkerbell as, after giving them such a torrid time in Spain at the start of this adventure, she has performed really, really well. They have, as of this morning, covered over 3,100 miles (5,000 Kms) in her since setting out 2 1/2 weeks ago which for an 18 year old vehicle is going it some!

We have not been able to contact Dave & Les this evening as they are either in another African mobile phone blackspot or it has been so hot today that their phones have not cooled down enough to work yet! So for now we will assume that they are running to schedule and update you further when we can next make contact with them.

Thursday 25th October – Drive from Nouakchott to Sangrafa – distance 285 miles (460 Kms). The guys got 100 miles (160 Kms) further than they thought they would despite disaster striking.

Thursday was very hot the temperature being 48 degrees centigrade whilst the car was moving and off the scale when they stayed still. So they kept moving.

Unfortunately disaster struck when the prop shaft broke – this being a 4 wheel drive vehicle it was rather important that it had a prop shaft to power the rear wheels. Luckily the prop shaft decided to give out right at the front where it joins the gear box so, with the help of Peter and Andreas (the Pommes Express team), Dave & Les managed to disconnect it from the rear axle (they front having already disconnected itself from the gear box) and pull it out from under the car. hey presto Tinkerbell was back on the road even if she had become a 2 wheel drive car. The last job was to stow the broken prop shaft inside Tinkerbell so that whoever buys the car when it is auctioned in Bamako can repair it and turn Tinkerbell back into a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

Now Dave & Les have asked us to point out that when they started this Challenge they did so in a Daihatsu Fourtrak Turbo Diesel, but that Tinkerbell has now evolved into a Daihatsu Diesel (or Daihatsu Twotrak Diesel if you want to be picky)!

As a result of this “development” Dave & Les have said that their intended drive from Bamako to Timbuctu and back again will now be impossible to undertake and so they will finish the Challenge when they reach Bamako in a few days. 

For the benefit of those of you who have not read “The Challenge” page it is worth us pointing out that although this is called the Timbuctu Challenge the rally never actually goes to Timbuctu itself – the official ending point is for the challenge is in fact Bamako (Mali’s capital). When the cars reach Bamako they and auctioned off by the local Rotary organisation with all the proceeds going to local charities. Also all the equipment the teams are not bringing home on the plane such as tools, spares…. will also  either be distributed to local organisations or sold with the proceeds going to local good causes.

Wednesday 24th October – Rest day in Nouakchott. Well that was the idea.

Dave & Les called this evening and as you will know, if you have been checking up on their progress over the last few days, this is the first time we have spoken to them properly since Saturday. They have given us a lengthy update on their activities over the last few days and as they have had such a great deal to report, and to avoid confusing you, we have decided to insert the relevant information into the appropriate day’s entries below. 

Today’s news: As they are now running 3 days ahead of schedule Dave & Les, the Village People and the Pommes Express teams all agreed that it would be a great idea to extend their visas for Mauritania by 3 days to allow them to undertake their camel trek and desert camping trip. Nouakchott, being the capital, is the only place in Mauritania where you can get visa extensions so off they all went…..and after a day spent queuing and waiting for the required paperwork to be approved they found that you don’t get 3 extra days in addition to 2 you already have, the Mauritanian authorities simply give you a new 3 day visa starting that day!

Dave said that the teams had all agreed that the desert camping trip would now no longer be possible as they needed at least 2 days to reach the border with Mali and so tomorrow they would all leave for Kiffa. The Desert Cruise team left for Kiffa this morning and have called to say that they are about half way having stopped for the night at a place called Aleg. Dave & Les are sure that, as before, their group will meet up with the Desert Cruise team again in a couple of days.

As an aside Dave & Les have said that the heat is really starting to get to them. Apparently it is not normally too bad when they are moving or at night when it is a comfortable 30 to 33 degrees centigrade, but when they are stationary during the day it is unbearably hot. Today the gauge in the car which measures the ambient air temperature went on the fritz when it hit 56 degrees centigrade, the LCD display went blank, and they had to remove its batteries and wait for the temperature to drop this evening before it started working again. It was so hot that even the mobile phones would not charge from the cigarette lighter power sockets and so Dave & Les are leaving the phones on charge overnight.

Tuesday 23rd October – Rest day in Nouadhibou. Not on your life said Dave & Les! So they left at 7am and drove through to Nouakchott – distance 325 miles (520 Kms).

Dave & Les called at a little after 11:30pm to say that they had now arrived safely in the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott. They are now travelling as a group with the Village People and Pommes Express teams and have tonight finally caught up with the Desert Cruise team in the ambulance. Tomorrow they all intend to have a well deserved rest day in Nouakchott as they are now 3 days ahead of schedule and are planning a trip into the desert, probably by camel, where they hope to camp overnight Bedouin style – providing that they can get their visas extended.

Updated news:It had been a very long day’s drive (again) and was late into the evening by the time that Dave & Les and the 2 other teams had arrived in Nouakchott. The Desert Cruise team were staying in the Auberge Sahara Hotel and recommended that the others join them, but it was full by the time they arrived so Dave & Les and the others are sleeping in tents on the roof. All 4 teams met up for dinner – they went for a Pizza (it’s nice to know that they are eating all the local cuisine!).

The Auberge Sahara Hotel costs the princely sum of £3.00 per person per night and Dave said that he would utterly and totally recommend it to all visitors to Nouakchott as it has everything the foreign visitor needs including hot and cold running water all the time. Apparently the hotel in Nouadhibou did have hot and cold running water, but if you wanted hot water for a shower or the like you had to ask them to turn it on! Once you had finished your shower the hotel would then turn the hot water off again. Also Dave said that the inhabitants of Nouakchott are very friendly and helpful, unlike those he & Les encountered in Nouadhibou. Dave & Les’s considered opinion is that “compared to Nouadhibou, Nouakchott is a different country” and that “the 2 cities might as well be on separate planets as they are worlds apart”.

Earlier in the day: At 7am Dave & Les started examining what was up with the brakes as the other group departed. They discovered that the seal on 1 of the rear brake drums was leaking and, as they could not stop the leak, decided to cut the pipe supplying brake fluid to the drum and seal it off. This means that they will now undertake the rest of the rally with brakes on only 3 wheels but assure us that “having seen the state of many of the road worthy vehicles out here” this should not present them with a problem.

Upon leaving Nouadhibou, the 3 teams drove down through the Mauritanian National Park as planned, leaving it at Nouamghar and heading towards the beach. However, the route they chose to take to the beach is only suitable for 4 wheel drive vehicles like Tinkerbell and both the Village People and Pommes Express teams have normal 2 wheel drive cars which got bogged down before long and had to be towed out (by Tinkerbell). After this had happened a few times the collective decision was made to abandon the planned drive down the beach as they had only managed to cover 6 out of the 32 Kms to the beach in 2 1/2 hours. However the teams made up for their disappointment at not being able to undertake the beach run by doing some “off-roading” through the Sahara as they got closer to Nouakchott. 

The guys in the desert 2.jpgMonday 22nd October – Drive from Dakhla to Nouadhibou – distance 290 miles (465 Kms). Exit the Western Sahara and hello Mauritania.

We have not heard from Dave & Les as communication by mobile phone has not been possible so we can only assume that the rally is running to schedule. We have now worked out how to upload the 2 pictures Dave & Les emailed from Agadir showing what the “roads” through the Atlas Mountains were like! – we know they are not in quite the right place, but hey does it matter?

Updated news: Dave & Les told us that the “hotel” in Nouadhibou was a flea pit. There were 5 rooms available with 4 bunk beds in each, but the teams could only use 4 of the rooms as the fifth one was already playing host to a large family of cockroaches!

The road from Dakhla to the Moroccan border (the Western Sahara is officially part of Morocco) was where the rally had to pass through the mine fields – 260 miles (420 Kms) of them to be precise. You need a local guide to be sure of making it through the mine fields safely and this was the reason for stopping in Dakhla – to employ the services of a suitable guide. Said guide was located and employed. It was a wise decision as there were many burnt out and wrecked vehicles littering both sides of the road all the way down to the border.Actually this is a little innacurate, there is a tarmac road all through this area and rather than take any stupid risks we did no hire a guide we just drove the tarmac route.

When they reached the border they had a few problems getting through customs! The Moroccan customs officials discovered that one of the other teams was carrying enough alcohol to openb a bar. At this point Dave and Les were the lead vehicle and Dave was “team leader” as far as the Moroccan customs officials were concerned so he found himself being escorted away. He was taken to into a room where 3 customs men emptied his pockets for him, patted him down and asked lots of questions, all the time there were others sat down with AK-47s- (I think we can all agree) not a pleasant experience. Eventually, the customs officials satisfied, they returned all his belongings to him and let Dave return to Les & Tinkerbell. Vehicles searched, papers checked and contra-band redistributed the teams were finally allowed to pass through. Unofficially foreigners are allowed to bring 2 bottles of alcohol each into the country.

Then came the next little challenge – the drive through “no man’s land” between Morocco and Mauritania. Guess what it’s full of mines! This time the teams spotted a lorry about to undertake the journey so rather than employ another guide to see them safely across to the Mauritanian border they decided to simply follow the lorry. Now the lorry driver must have had a sense of humour and realising that he had picked up a convoy of 7 UK registered cars decided to have some fun. The driver obviously knows the mine field well and so led the rally on a merry dance by choosing to take the “scenic route” for 5 miles (8 Kms). The mine field was apparently littered with wrecked cars and everyone was relieved when they finally reached the Mauritanian border and had their 3 day visa approved.

Unfortunately by this time Tinkerbell had developed a slight problem – Dave & Les had no brakes anymore. So the 25 mile (40 Km) drive from the border to Nouadhibou was undertaken with no brakes!

Upon arrival in Nouadhibou the teams had a discussion and as a result decided to split into 2 groups. The Village People and Pommes Express teams are both running to a tight schedule (just like Dave & Les) as they need to return home by early November even if this means curtailing from of the planned excursions such as the drive down the beach. These 2 teams decided to stay with our guys whilst they sorted out their lack of brakes and then continue the rally together as 1 group. The other 4 teams decided to set off first thing in the morning so that they could undertake the rest of the rally at their own pace as they do not have the same time restrictions.

The guys in the desert 1.JPG

Sunday 21st October – Drive from Laayoune to Dakhla – distance 340 miles (545 Kms). Onwards through the Western Sahara they go!

Neither Dave nor Les were able to get a mobile phone signal this evening, but have managed to get us a message via another rally member’s phone. They have spent the day driving down through the Western Sahara with the other teams they camped with last night and have now reached Dakhla.

Updated news: It was a very long day’s drive and the rally arrived in Dakhla late in the evening. Like many of the “camp sites” in this part of the world the one in Dakhla consists of a walled compound with gates. Unlike anything the rally have experienced thus far this one’s walls were topped with barbed wire and broken glass – not a good sign! Dave likened it to a graveyard with several burnt out wrecks inside and a relatively new BMW which had been stripped and which had what looked like bullet hole in the windscreen, right where the driver would have been – even worse sign! Unsurprisingly the teams decided to leave first thing in the morning.

Saturday 20th October– Drive from Agadir to Laayoune – distance 435 miles (700 Kms). That will be a long day driving, but the reward is entering the Western Sahara.

Dave & Les called at 11pm to say that they are now at a camp site about 25 miles (40 Kms) from Laayoune, which means that they have just left Morocco and entered the Western Sahara. They have been stopped at Police checkpoints 4 times today, but each time have been allowed to pass once they have answered a few questions and had their papers thoroughly checked.  Dave says that they have been able to cover such a long distance today as the roads are “sort of tarmac-ed”, but they are not tarmac roads as you or I would recognise them. Other news for the day is that the guys saw their first camel (it was in the distance but they did see one) and they decided to remove the front section of Tinkerbell’s roof (it is supposed to come off) for the first time. As a result Dave says that this forehead looks very pink even though he applied liberal amounts of sun cream.

Our guys have spent the day travelling with the Pommes Express team and decided to stop when they spotted a camp site sign at about 10:30pm. They turned off the main road and followed the dirt track for a couple of miles before they found the camp site. To their great surprise 5 of the other teams were already there and it turned out that the text message Dave & Les received yesterday had been sent a couple of days ago. The is no news  as to the whereabouts of the other 3 teams, but it is presumed that Desert Cruise have pushed on towards Dakhla, they know that the Grease Monkeys were planning to spend the day in Marrakesh and that only leaves 1 team (the Hair-bare Bunch) unaccounted for.

Dave, Les and the Pommes Express team are now sitting down for a desert dinner party. Dave & Les are supplying the food, vacuum packed home reared beef with Maris Piper potatoes in velvet porter served with rice, whilst their German friends are supplying the wine and the table to eat on – it’s bring your own chairs so Dave and Les will be kneeling! Laayoune is on the coast and there is a lovely cooling breeze blowing so it should be an enjoyable soiree.

Friday 19th October – Drive from Marrakesh to Agadir – distance 175 miles (280 Kms).

Dave & Les arrived in Marrakesh late yesterday evening to find that all the hotels and camp sites they tried were full including the one that the Desert Cruise team were staying in. Dave said that Marrakesh is not somewhere he would recommend anyone to drive whilst the local inhabitants are awake as to do such a thing is suicidal! As they could not find a hotel the guys decided to drive out of the city, parked up in a lay-by and spent the night sleeping in the car.

This morning they took a look at the exhaust and discovered that all that had happened was that, due to the very rough terrain they had passed through yesterday, the welds holding the plates in place over the hole in the turbo unit had begun to fail. They used the chemical metal to re-weld them and all is now well again. The guys then drove down to Agadir which is on the Moroccan coast arriving at lunchtime and spent the afternoon seeing the sights and visiting the market.

Dave & Les have found a nice, cheap hotel with Internet access to stay in tonight and seem, from what they have said, to be eating an awful lot of kebabs (which are sold by weight in Morocco).  The Pommes Express (a team from Germanywho are driving a car powered by used chip fat!) are staying in the same hotel as Dave & Les tonight. The Desert Cruise have already pushed on past Agadir, the Grease Monkeys are still in Marrakesh and Dave & Les have received a text message from the rest of the rally teams to say that they are together, but won’t reach Marrakesh until tomorrow.

As they currently have Internet access Dave has sent the following email:

“Hi Folks, The Grease Monkeys are not leaving Marrakesh until tomorrow. If we wait for them we will be a long way behind schedule. I think Les & I will abandon the fuel that they are carrying for us and replace it as soon as possible. We are in very good spirits and Tinkerbell is behaving brilliantly. We have adjusted the weight distribution and her handling has improved a hundred fold. We are now able to hold 55-60 mph on the flat and downhill straights, but bends & uphill can be a bit slow. We have had 2 run-ins with the law so far – I’ll explain… there are police roadblocks all over the place here. Usually when you enter a larger village or town there are some signs that say slow down to 60 kph, then 40 kph, then 20 kph and then there is a sign in Arabic and French that says Caution Royal Police. This changed slightly just south of Marrakesh, the sign saying Caution Police was further back and instead there was a sign that said Halt Royal Police. We should have stopped at this Halt sign but drove up to the policeman as we had down when we were further north. The policeman muttered something about 5??? Dirham (the local currency) but we just looked apologetic and didn’t understand. He then let us go past…phew. The second incident was today, here in Agadir, I made a left turn when the light was green and nearly went the wrong way down a dual carriageway. The policeman stopped me and as usual we played dumb and not understanding French… this bloke spoke very good English and explained that I should have waited for the other cars to go first. All the time he had his hand out rubbing his fingers together (asking for a bribe) but luckily he had a call on his radio so let us go. There will be more roadblocks from now on (the Sahara being disputed territory etc…) so we had better be good. The Pommes Express team are intending to drive to Tiznit tomorrow and we will likely go together.”

Thursday 18th October– Drive from Fez to Marrakesh– 280 miles (450 Kms).

Dave & Les called at 6:40pm to say that they would reach Marrakesh later this evening. They are currently in a time zone 1 hour ahead of us in the UK and have about 75 miles (120 Kms) still to drive. Dave said that they had just finished what he described as a very interesting dinner – a meat terrine served with a fruit sauce of prunes, sultanas and the like served with rice. They had chosen to stop and eat as the exhaust had started to blow a bit and they had wanted to let the car cool down for a while before looking at it. Having done so, they had now decided to carry on to Marrakesh and give it a proper examination in the morning.

When they broke camp this morning the plan had been for the convoy to stick together, but it had not taken long for the others to disappear into the distance leaving our guys plodding on behind. Dave and Les said that they had taken a couple of wrong turnings, each time realising they were going the wrong way and doubling back to pick up the right route. The second time this had happened they spotted the rest of the Rally in this distance as they rejoined the right road, unfortunately for the others they were disappearing down the first wrong turning that Dave & Les had taken!

By the time they called us Dave & Les had phoned the Desert Cruise team (driving the ambulance) and confirmed that they were already in Marrakesh. They had also spoken to The Grease Monkeys, who having realised that they were going the wrong way, had turned round and were now on the same road to Marrakesh as Dave & Les although they were some way behind them as they were still crossing the Atlas Mountains.

Dave said that the high Atlas Mountains had been amazing to drive through with their spectacular scenery and wonderful views. The mountains now stood behind them and what lay in front was a vast flat featureless reddish-brown plain with the road running on through it as far as they could see and that this would make the drive down to Marrakesh much easier for them. The guys have had a very long day, but have decided that they will fix the exhaust in the morning and then push on to Agadir as they are currently running a day behind schedule.

Wednesday 17th October – Destination Fez, Morocco. Dave and Les called this evening to say that they have had a great day.

As no-one knew how easy it would be to get fuel in Moroccothey all filled up their Jerry cans before leaving Tangier. This meant driving Tinkerbell with 2 of the full cans strapped down on the roof rack, which apparently made cornering very interesting. One of the other teams, The Grease Monkeys (mechanics of course), have a much larger vehicle and so offered to carry these 2 fuel canisters for Dave & Les. As a result of this kind gesture Tinkerbell now handles properly again and has behaved impeccably all day.

After breaking camp this morning the Dutch lead the extended convoy to Fez and after a while came to a stop. They had decided to take the “scenic route” over the mountains. Dave & Les and another team called The Village People decided that they had had quite enough of going slowly up hills, so took the more direct and flatter route to Fez and unsurprisingly reached the city a long time before the others.

Upon reaching Fez they found a suitable camp site, left the cars and went site seeing. Dave & Les tell us that Fez is a fantastic old city, a veritable warren of over 9,000 narrow streets and alleyways. They got an English speaking guide and were shown all the sites – the Great Mosque, the Tannery….. and the markets where the “hard sell” was king. Dave says that the carpets were beautiful and very inexpensive compared to UK prices, but he still wasn’t going to buy one and try and get it home in the plane. Eventually the guys decided to head back to the camp site by taxi which by all accounts was not their wisest decision of the day. Even Les was several shades paler and had white knuckles from clinging on to the seat when they arrived at the camp site and he is not known to scare easily. Dave said that it was like being driven by the worst driver you have ever encountered, at speed and at times against the traffic flow in a Fiat Panda! With no sign of hesitation (or observation) nothing scared this taxi driver and nothing made him stop either, not red lights, oncoming traffic….. you get the picture. Apparently it was all Dave & Les could do not to fall to the ground and kiss it as they got out at the camp site.

As we were talking to Dave he said that an amazing thunder storm had started with no sign of any rain, but that the lightening was producing a stunning light show which he likened to footage he had seen of London during the Blitz – we’re not envious really we’re not!,

Tuesday 16th October – set sail for Morocco!!! Finally it is all going to plan.

Dave & Les called this evening to say that all 10 cars had decided to travel together rather than splitting into 2 groups of 5 as was originally planned. Yesterday evening the port officials had come to the hotel armed with their laptop, checked everyone’s paperwork, passports, etc. and issued the tickets for today’s ferry crossing. The team driving the ambulance had left for Tangier yesterday morning as they felt they had a slow vehicle and needed to get a head start on the other teams.

As the other 9 teams disembarked from the ferry they discovered the ambulance was still at the port – Moroccan customs had not let it in as they don’t like to let drugs into the country! The Moroccan customs officials realised that the 10 cars were together and said that they wanted to deal with a single leader / spokesperson so Dave offered to take on this role. He immediately employed the services of the local “fixer” who helped him to negotiate his way through the various customs and immigration checks. Some 3 hours or so later they were all through customs, including the ambulance and the fixer was paid his fee – 20 euros. The team driving the ambulance then decided, as before, that they would strike out on their own whilst the other 9 teams all agreed to continue on together. Also there was a Dutch group undertaking a very similar Challenge on the ferry and from what Dave & Les have said they are following a similar route so they will have plenty of company along the way.

The drive through Tangier city was very hot as the teams had been advised to keep the windows wound up and the doors locked for their own security. Now it’s hot out there, about 40 degrees centigrade at the moment, so you can imagine that it was not very pleasant inside the car. The passenger compartment temperature gauge reached 44 degrees; they know it got hotter than that but that is as far as the gauge goes!

Once out of the city