Dan on the piste between Tam & In Guezzam
We checked out of Tamanrasset with the police and jumped onto the back of the white Nissan pick-up. We headed down the tarmac south towards the piste on the back of the vehicle with two men from Mali. The pick-up was packed with sacks of grain and other goods for trading at the border.
As soon as we were off the tarmac, the hell started. The driver drove at speed over the sandy and rocky track we were following. Our bikes were packed at the sides of the pick-up and were battered with each bump.
On several occasions, we had to get out of the vehicle to push it out of the sand with the aid of sand ladders. It was shattering experience. After several hours of this pounding, we shouted at the driver to stop. We were 100 kms short of In Guezzam and had decided that we wanted no more of this pasting. We took off all of our kit, much to the amazement of the driver, paid him 200 dinars and took some water from him.
Dan and I sat down after the pick-up left and made some hot chocolate and then looked at the damage that had been done to our bikes and bags. My front rack was bent and distorted but not broken. Dan’s bike computer had stopped with all of its data lost. The pump on my fuel bottle for the stove was smashed. Our bags had holes in several places and our handlebars were out of line.
I was relieved to be off the back of the pick-up but now we were in the middle of nowhere. That’s was quite a feeling. We pushed off after straightening ourselves up and were soon bogged down in deep, soft sand.
Pushing, dragging and cursing became regular features of our lives for the next two days. We went into a routine of cycling a bit over firm, rocky ground until we got bogged down we bogged down and had to push and drag again.
Despite the physical slog, I managed to think about home and Penny for much of the time. I felt quite worried out in the desert. The rest of each day was spent grunting, shoving, and aching, swearing, thinking, worrying, and feeling homesick, sweating and drinking. Many different feelings were passing through my head.
At times, I admit it may have been little feeling of panic at being out in the desert with only our will and determination to get us through to In Guezzam. However, there was, fortunately, a regular amount of traffic along the piste if we should have ever had any problems. The problem would have been if we had strayed off the route across the desert.
We camped out after achieving 43 kms across the sand. Before we struck camp, we met a couple of shepherds whose goats were feeding off the sparse vegetation, some of which looked like melons in the sand. We gave them a couple of cigarettes each and moved up to some rocks overlooking the piste. Dan fetched some firewood which was a surprise. We lit a fire as it became dark and noticed other fires glowing in the dark in the near distance.
Will Hawkins lives in Lincolnshire with his family, works in a technology company in London and does as many micro-adventures as he can.
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