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Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/9/23 12:46 p.m.

So there I was.  Drinking tea in a fishing tent with the locals, using Spanish I haven't spoken on over 10 years...  and one of the fishermen keeps trying to pose in pictures like he knows Katka (dude, you're not foolin anyone)...

 

 

Ok so today is considered a 2-day marathon.  We can do the whole route in one jump (13-hours) or we can stop half-way and rest in Laayoune, and complete the journey tomorrow.  Now, this is a section that's heavily mined on the off-road side of the house.  When I said I wanted to hit "every off-road section", this was the exception to that rule.  PLUS there were some ship wrecks you could see (along with some beach driving) if you stayed on the touring side, so that was that. 

I figured that since we were thinking we'd do the whole jump in one shot, that the team would get up early but naturally I was the first one out of my tent (no sleep, remember?)

 

I tried to not make too much noise, so I was kinda stuck in my tent until 4am when I finally decided it was normal enough for me to be moving around.  Everyone knows that a tent zipper is the single loudest thing in the whole campsite, so I was really trying to not use it until I had to.

Once out though, I did my usual:  Made coffee, made oatmeal for breakfast, charged my phone in the truck, signed a few of the "fiches" we had printed out (more on this later) and eventually I wandered back down to my spot in the exterior corner of the bar to pirate the wifi a bit.  It worked, and soon I had new stuff in my facebook feed to scroll through. 

I'm not sure if you knew this, but your phone will have a bit of "facebook" always stored on it.  So if you don't have data like I didn't, you can still scroll and read and "like" things.  I seriously must have scrolled through the same 20 or so posts about 100 times last night, reading every word just to kill time until I could leave my tent.  It was awful...  Later I'd complain about my lack of sleep to Mrs. Hungary and she quipped "well, time to read that paperback!"

So much for Mensa-Engineering...  The whole night I was dying of boredom and desperate for something to do and it never ever even so much as remotely dawned on me that I should grab the book that was sitting in the top of my backpack waiting for me.  I guess that's a testament to just how over-tired and over-worked my brain was.

anyhoo, eventually it's daylight:


Except my team still isn't up yet...  I'm getting that anxiety where I really want to get moving.  The listed drive time for this section is 13-hours if we want to do it all at once, and by now we KNOW that estimate does not include stops...  I'm really beginning to feel like the only adult on this trip.

Except I have to stop myself there and remind my brain that if I hadn't lost my temper last night, I 100% would have stayed up until 1:30am just like all the rest of them.  So I knocked that crap off, and calmed down a bit.  Just before the briefing was held, the gang started wandering out of their tents.

Up to now, I had mostly attended these myself (being the only one that was usually up), but Katka wants to check this one out so we do:

 

That's us there under the arrow.  I have no idea who took this picture but it made it on to the B2B facebook page so I saved it, drew the arrow, and sent it to Katka on my phone with the text "There's some important info being shared in there somewhere".  It's a joke because we really didn't get ANYTHING from the briefing today.  Chock it up to a combination of us being late, lack of sleep, or whatever, but we just weren't into it.

When I get the race sheet, I always ask for the english version but the lady who hands them out is Hungarian.  When I say thank you in Hungarian, it throws her for a loop and now she's confused as to whether she handed me the correct one or not.  I explain that I speak a little Hungarian, and we have a laugh.

Here's what we're looking at for today (remember, this can be chopped in half at Laayoune as there is no off-roading allowed south of there):

 

Honestly, the shipwreck is the only thing on there that we're really interested in seeing. 

Back at camp we're wrapping up by 8:30am and no one is in the mood.  Our fuel is at 1/4 tank so we have to stop at the first fuel station we come to.  Other than that, it's just a slow drive south-west.

I mentioned that taking pictures of the team sleeping is one of the running jokes.  Well, I may not have gotten any sleep last night, but I'm not hungover so guess what?  I take the opportunity and go for the "impossible shot" (Both passengers sleeping at once)

 

It's insanely difficult because (well, aside from driving while this is happening) the phone is in its holder and I have to use the timer.  That means I have to adjust the holder the best I can, set the timer, fire it off, watch the road as it counts down, and hope I got the shot.

In the end, I decide that none of the above are worth bragging about.  Ah well... next time.

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/9/23 1:51 p.m.

We crossed into Western Sahara around 10:30, and got lunch in one of the coastal towns.

 

See those green stripes on the curb?  We're learning!

Ok, but this one kind of irked me a bit.  This whole time we've been in Africa I've eaten one of two things:  Tajine or half a chicken (both in about equal quantities).

We sat down at this restaurant but the waiter was busy and couldn't get to us right away.  There was an ATM just a few stalls down, so I excused myself and went to use it.  When I got back everyone had placed their order, but Lukas said they didn't place mine because they didn't know what I wanted to eat.

"Dude.  I've been eating the same two things you have this whole trip..."

meh.  I flag the waiter and order half a chicken.  I'll be eating a little after the other two but that's not a problem.  It's just the lack of consideration still has me bothered. 

 

Somewhere along the coast we run into Misha from Team Slow-Vakia.  We all discuss things a bit and decide that we'll just do half the marathon today and stop at a hotel in Laayoune.  Honestly, this has me a bit relieved as it's already later than it should be if we're going to make it to Dakhla (plus, with everyone drinking late last night I'm thinking it's looking like I might be pulling most of the driving duty).

On the chat, we can see that lots of other teams are doing the same thing with the stopping half way.  There's a bunch of people looking for camps sites, but all the responses say the same thing "They're either absolute crap, or completely non-existent".

But Lukas does take the next leg, and we're off down the coast

 


Oh man.  Seeing the wind in these pictures reminds me how bad my lips were chapped by this point.  It started on the boat, but I couldn't find the chap-stick I had packed to take with me.  Naturally, I never found any for sale either.  By this point, my lips were like alligator skin...

On one of our stops, we notice that one of the pieces of rear bumper trim has come loose.

I stick it back in place with a zip tie laugh

 

On another stop, we just went for a kick along the beach.

We all dipped our feet in, but none of us went for a swim

 

There was a lot of trash washed up on this beach.  People suck.

 

 

This is a game that Lukas had.  He told me the name of it, but I didn't write it down right away so now I don't remember.  Anyhoo, you get 3 rocks (all of the same color) and you try to knock over the stack by tossing them underhand into the circle.  Super easy.

Except for some reason I can not underhand toss these things to save my life!  As soon as my hand passes anywhere near my leg I get worried that it's going to hit it and knock my throw off that everything goes cattywampus, and I look like a complete goofball trying to toss these things.

Anyhoo.  Enough beach.  Time to head back up to the truck.

On the way down, and now on the way back up we pass about 50-yards away from a big tent that's been pitched on the beach.  We're not sure if someone lives there, but the guy just outside of it shouts at us "Assalamu alaykum"

to which we all shout back "wa-alaikum asalam"

and he invites us in

 

It's actually three guys in the tent (Mohammed, Mustava, and I can't remember the youn guy's name), and they're out here fishing for the weekend.  They're from Laayoune and this is how they spend their free time.  One of them works in finance, and I can't remember what the other two do but they insist on having us stay for Sahara tea (so we do)

 

Man, I tell ya.  The making of the tea is a whole process.  It's heated once in that round kettle, and then it's heated again in the arabic looking kettle, and the guy pours it in your cup three times.  Each time he pours the liquid back into the kettle but leaves the foam in your cup.  On the third one you're treated to some tasty frothy tea.  It was good.

Obviously this takes a lot of time to prepare so in between they're feeding us dates, grapes, pomegranates... the whole works.

Lukas saw one guy start to pull out a bag of sweets but another guy gave a quick "no" nod, and he put it back.  We got a good laugh out of that later.

None of us speak the same language though, so we kind of crash through a couple in an attempt to communicate.  Spanish, English, Frech, Slovak, and Arabic are all being spoken, with Spanish being the go-to in the end.  The problem is, I'm the only one in our team with any Spanish, and I haven't so much as even THOUGHT about the language in.... 15 years???

Damn.  It's been a while!

In the intro, and in this post, I made mention of a young guy trying to pose with Katka.  I guess I never got a picture with him.  He was easily in his 40's and joined us just before our first cup of tea.  Well, you can see how Katka is sitting and how she's nearly always watching the tea being made (it's fun to watch).  Well this guy was sitting half way between her and the right side of the photos.  Plenty of room between them.  And then he hands his camera to the guy sitting to my right and starts leaning back like he's lounging and Katka is somehow a part of all that.  It was painful to watch.

Out of the tent flap we can see that team Slow-Vakia has caught up to our truck and parked next to it.  I excuse myself and head out to greet them.  I give Misha and Linda the passdown as to what's going on in the tent, and they come and join us.  We've been in the tent now for about an hour and all of us have been looking for an escape route.  This is it.

"Well guys!  Lukas's fiance is here, and we've gotta get going.  Thank you so much!" laugh

It was definitely good times, but it was getting late.  We get them some coffee cups and pens from the truck as gifts, and head out on our way.  It's about 5pm at this point.

 

We hit Laayoune in the late evening and team Slow-Vakia used their internet connection to line up a hotel for all of us.

And again, originally I said I wanted to hit every 4x4 trail (but this one leg was an exception) and I wanted to only stay in camps...  But I gotta admit, this was a nice stop.  There was a washing machine in the kitchen for me to do my laundry.  Well, boxers and socks actually, and I had to hang them to dry, so both teams got to see my underwear.

Lukas and I also popped our heads under the truck to see what was making that "grunch" sound every time we articulated the driver's tire up. 

 

Check out that swaybar end-link bolt!  I guess we ripped that apart on that bumpy-ass road we went down...  Lukas and Katka ask if it's important and I explain I had been planning on disconnecting those anyways when we finally got around to hitting a 4x4 section.  I'm not sure if they quite understood, but they were good.  For now, we're just going to have to live with the grunching as neither Lukas or I could get that bolt undone and off of that swaybar...  It was stuck on there good.

Also out in the parking lot was a Toyota Landcruiser that the Hungarlings saw back at the start ceremony.  They said it was my "arch enemy".  Take a look at the lights and you'll see why:

Anyhoo, the hotel was a two-bedroom joint with a comfy couch so Misha and Lukas took one bed, Katka and Linda the other, and I played bachelor and slept in the living room.  Before all that though, we hung out and enjoyed having wifi.  Since everyone was on their phones, I got on mine too.

On the chat, there is some banter going.  That Bananas team got stuck on the beach as did another team.  Bananas couldn't get out and the tide was coming in.  Eventually they buried a tire in the sand and connected their winch to that to get out.  They say they spent 10-hours on the beach...

Dang.

Some of the teams are hitting camp sites.  One slovakian team in a Mercedes van is staying in a bed and breakfast that looks super fancy.  Others are abandoning their hopes of a half-way stop and punching south as almost all the hotels here are full by now.

Team Slow-Vakia has some complaints about what's going on with the documentary and the organizers, and they fill us in on some of the details we were hereto unaware of.  Basically, Slow-Vakia feels like the whole organization has moved on to another all-female team, and that they've been cast aside.

In between chat updates, I'm taking the opportunity to send Mrs. Hungary some messages.  Gotta take advantage of this wifi while we got it, yo!

And I'm also taking advantage of a bottle of Slovakian liquor we (well, Katka) brought with us.  It's DELICIOUS!!!  I can't remember if it was borovicka, or something else but I pour myself more than just a couple cups, and I FINALLY get to tie on on. 

Man, it feels good to relax for once...

When all is said and done, I'm the last one out.

 

The Slovakian word for today is "Dobrou noc"

Good night.

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/10/23 1:00 p.m.

There I was.  Running down the beach in West Sahara in cargo pants that zipped into shorts.  Through the wet sand and into the water and  OW!  OW OW OW!! oh, what the heck???

 

 

Here we go.  Verse 2 of the marathon.  We're starting in Laayoune and headed to Dakhla.  No race sheets today, no morning briefing, just plans to get some groceries and make some breakfast.

It's 7:30 and for the first time, there's someone else up with me.  Misha is walking around and I make coffee (same coffee maker.  Pronounced "koe-choh-go" in Slovakian).  She tells me that Linda's boyfriend is going to be flying in, and they're leaving early to go pick him up from the airport.  I guess this means that the documentary really is done....  dang.

After coffee, I head out in search of groceries.  With Wifi I can see that there are a couple "grocery stores" down on the street and to the left, but when I get to each one they're nothing more than stalls with dry goods.  I was looking for eggs, and pancake makings (bread, oil, flour, egg, and baking powder).  I take a few pictures at street level just for giggles

 

Nothin special, but really I've walked further than I was expecting and should turn around.  Of the three or four "grocery stores" I had on my hit list, none had what I needed.  I returned empty handed.

When I get back, Misha and Linda are loading up their Pajero but want to check their air filter and their oil.  I help them with both, and it turns out they were a quart low.

I go to top them up, and cant belive what I'm seeing.  One of the quarts (well, "liters" really) of oil I grabbed from my garage to take with us on this trip was a quart of USED oil!  (when I do an oil change, I put the old oil in the empty quarts to take to the recycling place.  I guess I missed one).  This just means we have no oil for ourselves when I top up the Pajero as I only brought 2-liters with me.  No worries, as we haven't consumed any yet.

That being done, I head back up to the room and Lukas is making breakfast!

 

Apparently he went in the opposite direction in search of a grocery store and had far better luck than I did.  He found baguettes, butter, eggs, and avocados for breakfast.  It's delicious and gives us a nice slow morning to talk about the terrain ahead.

 

oh man.  See?  I told you this was a good stop.  Holy smokes, why can't every morning start this way???

You can see from our hotel room window that there is yet another team or two staying at the same place:

I make mention of this because we're one of the last to leave.  As I'm down at the truck by myself, I get whistled at by a guy standing at the entry of the hotel.  When I look up, he points to a bag of plastic tied to the hand-rail of the hotel and waves his finger at me.

This doesn't register, so I go back to what I was doing in the drivers seat.

Again he whistles and it repeats.  This time I get it.  Someone tied their bag of trash to the hotel's stair rails...  I resort to hand gestures to tell him it wasn't me.  I guess that was good enough because he carried on.

Anyhoo, back up in the room we're all packed up and the room is cleaned up.  I send one last batch of messages while we have wifi (the sim card we bought back in Tangier has all but completely quit at this point.  None of us even bother with it anymore...).  And we're off!

Lukas takes the first leg:

 

Note the speed limit signs to the right of the road in that last picture.  That's how you know you're about to hand over a fiche.

Now I mentioned that I spent a little time signing some of these on that sleepless night, but I didn't go into too much detail about what they were then.  I have to do that now.

This is a fiche:

This paper is seriously something we just printed out and hand wrote our CIN number on.  You csn print 6ea to an A4 paper, and we just cut them out with scissors from there.  That's what I meant about "signing" them.  Anyhoo, we were all asked to print 50-copies each before the rallye started, but there was a mixup and Katka thought we were asking her to print 50 copies for all of us.  I'm actually not sure if Lukas was able to print any, but either way we each have at LEAST 50-copies each.  This is the checkpoint where we handed over our first.

Nothing to it.  We're waved through right away.

Back on the road and it's business as usual:

Me to the attendant:  "Sans plomb"

Lukas (waving):  "no no, just go"

I'm sorry.  But that building said "Special Tacos" and looked seedy as heck.  I don't even want to begin to speculate...

Anyhoo.  We stop in this town for coffee and we're able to get a new Moroccan Telecom sim card at one of these places.  Unfortunately nowhere we look has any oil for sale (no, not even the gas stations).  I don't want to get too far along without a spare liter or two, but it doesn't look like there's much we can do now.

With the new sim card, we're getting caught up on the chat.  A Slovakian team is towing a local in a Mercedes?  No idea the story behind that one...

Sometime around noon, we hit the beach.  Actually, now that I think back this is why Lukas took the first leg.  He lives in Dubai and has a Jeep.  I have little sand experience (and generally don't like driving in it)
so we're counting on Lukas to 4-wheel us safely to the ship wrecks we were talking about yesterday.  And that he does:


 

 

We have the truck in high-range, but it really doesn't seem to like it.  The low power of the engine is better suited to the lower gears in low-range, but since we're already in the soft stuff, we leave it the way it is.

Down on the beach:
 

 

 

We seem to keep running into these guys (Team Mud Dogs).  We never chat much, or at all really, but still laugh

The beach is a hoot, and since I'm wearing cargo pants that can be zipped into shorts, I take off my shirt and run into the water.

Now, this isn't my first rodeo when it comes to diving into the ocean.  I know the waves can conceal rocks, and shells, and all sorts of stuff that can slice up your feet.  But this is the first time I've EVER run into the water from the soft sandy beach, and have it turn into what felt like jagged concrete bedrock!   As SOON as my first foot splashes down it hits that crap, and of course the next one follows (I've got entirely too much momentum, and that bedrock or whatever it is is entirely too jagged and painful for me to put on the brakes)

OW!  OOH!  EEH!!! Aw, what the heck????

When I'm about knee deep (about the 4th or 5th step), I try to lay into a flat swim to get some relief but there's no getting around it.  if I want to get back to the beach, I've gotta go over that jagged hellscape.

Like I said.  I've been in the ocean plenty, but that was the first time I've ever had the ground do THAT!

Anyhoo, Lukas drives us back out of the sand and the truck definitely prefers low range in the soft stuff.

My turn in the seat and there's not much to take pictures of anymore between here and camp. 

 


Learning from yesterday, I did a better job with the camera today.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you "The Impossible Shot"

 

And you can bet your sweet butt that I sent that to the team chat cheeky

 

The chat is starting to fire up as some people did make it all the way last night and are now wondering if they have the right location.  Someone in the area is trying to run a scam and get people to come to their camp sites instead, but the participants are on to their game.

We get in wtih plenty of daylight left, and again find ourselves setting our tents up before dark (second time this trip!!!!!)

 

We're going to pause here for a minute because when I got the original road book, this was something I was kind of excited about.

This camp site boasts a "shower fed by a spring", and here is the picture of how that was advertised:

 

 

I would just like to go on record and say that that photo was shot in a very specific way, because the view I had of it was way less flattering. cheeky

PLUS, you gotta remember that there are multiple hundreds of us and that just happens to be the only shower.  Needless to say, it got a big skip from everyone in our group.

Anyhoo, back on subject.  We're at camp, it's daylight, Team Slow-Vakia went and picked up Linda's boyfriend (Martin) and now they're here, Team Bananas is joining us for this camp... everything is looking good.

 

My lips are still chapped as heck, but we have our vehicles positioned to block the wind and they're doing a pretty good job (especially with the tents lined up against them).

The mechanics from Aziz's garage are still following the group so I head over to them to see about buying some oil.  They sell me 4-liters for 50-euro and we're both happy (well, I mean I wasn't finding oil anywhere else so...).  Back at the truck I check my oil level, and I'm about a liter low.  Weird...  The guy from the garage followed me and asked if he can put his garage's stickers on my truck.  I tell him it's cool as long as I can give him two of my "Dnipro Express" stickers too.  We agree, and it's done.

Team India is pitching their tents nearby and it's not long before I hear them shouting my name "Bill!!!!!!!!"

I head over to see whats up.

"Bill, you're an engineer.  Can you look at this?  We were drunk the first night we tried to set up our tent and..."  (it's just a floppy mess)

I poke my head in and it's one of those "sets up in 10-seconds" tents with all sorts of linkages.  Luckily for me everything is symmetrical.  I can use the right side to see what the left side is supposed to look like.  Some of the supports are pulled out, and some of the plastic clips have come undone, but nothing's broken.  I push this, and pull that, and eventually I get it.  There was much celebrating.

I'm not sure if I mentioned but one of the Team India members was in the Indian Air Force, and I was a member of the team that delivered the 2nd and 3rd C-17 to the IAF.  We never met, but it gives us commong ground.

Anhoo.  Back at the camp I take an empty water bottle and fill it with sand.  It's the first time I've done this and I want to make souveniers for our team later.  Just after I finish, a smiling brit shows up in a Hawaiian shirt

JACK!!!

He plops down in our circle and is followed shortly after by two more english speakers (Liam and Jessica)

I forgot to mention that earlier in the day, just after we bought our new sim card, I was on social media while finishing coffee.  Someone on the whatsapp chat had found a bag, and someone on the facebook group had lost a bag.  Using screen shots, I put the two in touch with each other.  That turned out to be Jessica and Liam who lost the bag.

They plop down in our circle and soon enough we're passing bottles.

 

Jessica and Liam didn't bring cups, so we're pouring what we got (borovicka, mostly) into their bowls and that's what they're drinking from.  It's certainly good times.

We find out that Jess and Liam are co-workers (not in a relationship) and bought a Mercedes sedan from Ireland.  They put a winch on the front bumper and sand tracks in the roof rack.  Definitely my kind of people.

The Slovakian word for the day is "Na zdravie!" and it means "cheers"!

This gets toasted a couple of times before alcohol induced laughter has us absolutely butchering it.

All in all it's a good night, and a good way to kill our stash of liquor.  I think we went through 2 and a half bottles that night and I was good and tuned up.  It's a good thing too because tomorrow is Mauritania's border crossing and alcohol isn't allowed into the country.

As it's getting late the English speakers decide to call it quits.  With our last half a bottle between us, Katka suggest we make a round around camp and see who we meet.  We do, and eventually we run into a Hungarian man who's having a bit of an issue as he's got leaking fluids and no hose clamp. 

PFFT, I got ya!

I head back to the truck, grab what he needs and now we're drinking HIS palinka! (so much for draining our bottle).  Apparently Jack knows this person because he appears out of nowhere and now we've got a new circle going.  Instead of "Na zdravie" we're now toasting "egeszsegedre"!  (egg-ess-sheg-eh-dre)

Eventually I gotta call it quits.  I think it was midnight when I finally laid down, but when I did Jack was still drinking palinka with the Hungarian. 

Now that was some good times.  I swear, if every night ended up like the last two days, then I would be in hawg heaven!

Dobrou noc, y'all.

VikkiDp
VikkiDp Reader
2/10/23 5:01 p.m.

That's exciting!!! i have something to read at night - amazing stories yes

NOHOME
NOHOME MegaDork
2/10/23 10:00 p.m.

"Not all 'good times' were all that 'good' when you're going through them"

 

Spoken like a true Hobit!

Pretty sure I know that I am having an adventure whenever I feel like I want to be anywhere but where I am at the time. But it makes for good campfire stories later in life.

Asphalt_Gundam
Asphalt_Gundam HalfDork
2/23/23 9:51 a.m.

Alright...I made this far and pretty much NEED to know how the rest of the story goes

imgon
imgon HalfDork
2/24/23 3:29 p.m.

Excellent write up, what an experience and journey. Looking forward to.... The rest of the story

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/27/23 12:49 p.m.
VikkiDp said:

That's exciting!!! i have something to read at night - amazing stories yes

Thanks Vikki, I'm glad you like it!  I'll be honest, I was incredibly sad being away from Ukraine for so long.

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/27/23 12:50 p.m.
NOHOME said:

"Not all 'good times' were all that 'good' when you're going through them"

 

Spoken like a true Hobit!

Pretty sure I know that I am having an adventure whenever I feel like I want to be anywhere but where I am at the time. But it makes for good campfire stories later in life.

You 100% nailed that one!   My sentiments exactly.

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/27/23 12:52 p.m.
imgon said:

Excellent write up, what an experience and journey. Looking forward to.... The rest of the story

Thanks man, sorry for the long delay.  Last week was a butt kicker!  Hopefully I'll get a few entries in this week

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/27/23 1:28 p.m.
Asphalt_Gundam said:

Alright...I made this far and pretty much NEED to know how the rest of the story goes

Hahaha, we'll keep it going then!  Here ya go:

So there I was... Up at 7:30am and by god, I think the entire camp had packed up and punched out while we slept...


When we looked around, it was just our teams, The Flying Bananas, Team India, and maybe 1 or 2 vehicles still hanging around...

This wasn't entirely unexpected, we'd been thoroughly warned about Mauritania and that included its border crossing.

Instead of a morning meeting, and instead of race notes, we only have our road book to fall back on.  Here's what it said:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Take some time to read those last warnings carefully.  Because we're going to break almost all of them before we get outta here.

Now obviously, waking up to a deserted camp and having all those warnings fresh in our heads put us all in an eerie mood, but I wasn't about to let it put a damper on things.  If we're all doomed, then we'll go down partying.  Last night in a fit of alcohol fueled inspiration, we managed to get enough of a data connection to find a liquor store further down the peninsula.  Apparently it's an unmarked door next to a hotel that caters to western folk.  I ask if we're still up to swing by there and stash some liquor before we head into "no-mans land" and the answer was a resounding "NO!" laugh

Ah well.  Nothing to do now but to finish our first covid tests.

We actually took the tests the night before.  All we had to do today was pick up the results.  Luckily we all tested negative.

From there we joined up in a convoy with Slow-Vakia, Team India, and Flying Bananas and we were off!  I had Hal Ketchum blaring full blast, as I sang along to "Small Town, Saturday Night" when we pulled into our first gas station.

WATCHOUT Y'ALL!  The 'Murikans are comin' through!  (the Slovakians thought this was hilarious, I tell you what).

Man, I tell you though.  There was a whole lotta nothin from here on...  The only stop between camp and the border was the Tropic of Cancer sign.

Of course everyone had to get out and take pictures.  Katka took a few of me infront of the sign, and the Slovakians got a good group photo together, but otherwise there wasn't much to say about this part of the country.  It's all pretty dry, flat, and sandy wink

 

This sticker caught me off guard, because I know for a fact that there is only one place where these are made.  And the guy that prints them works at the same place I do.  This can only mean that someone from where I work has been here before and smacked a sticker on the Tropic of Cancer sign!

Well, not one to be outdone, I pull a "Dnipro Express" sticker out of the truck and add my touch of flare

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
2/27/23 2:28 p.m.

I really wasn't kidding about there being nothing out here though.  The sand kind of changes color a little bit, but that's about it cheeky

 

 

 

 

 

If there was one reassuring thing that happened during all this, it was that we started passing other teams before long.  I guess the camp didn't clear out THAT much before we got up.

With all the nothing around us, we got to chatting among ourselves again.  I'm at the wheel and we talk about future plans.

Katka mentions her TIG welding class again.  She has a cottage under construction somewhere in Slovakia and wants to turn all the rusty crap on her property into something useful or something artistic.  We talk a bit about house building since I too have a house under construction.  Lukas tells us a bit about an opportunity he has in Dubai working at a Slovakian bread business.  Fellow forum member "Mezzanine" and I once talked a bit about bread back in Tacoma (ancient grains, sour dough, etc), and I can say that Lukas and Mezzanine could probably have a good long discussion about bread.  It's all way over my head, but he says it has the possibility of being quite the lucrative endeavor though. 

Around 1pm, we finally hit the Moroccan side of the border:

 

The whole process is pretty straight forward.  I imagine that after so many participants they just want to make sure we have our papers in order, and then they let us through.

No-man's land turns out to be not much of anything.  It's about 500-yards of broken road, with trash on the side.  I think we were all to high on alert to take any pictures, but it turned out to be uneventful. 

The Mauritanian side was pretty easy as well.  Stamp here, check there, the bathroom is there, and we were through.  Everyone was very nice.

Out the other side, and it was more sand and bad roads cheeky

 

I don't think I could ever tell you how much "nothing" there was around...  I mean, I saw more "somethin" in west Texas!

It's so weird because you would see a smattering of one-room houses, and there would be absolutely nothin around them.  No food source, no discernable well, no nothin....  I really got to wondering how people could live there, but somehow they do!

It really boggled my mind.

This while time we're following team Slow-Vakia with Misha at the wheel.  We're tracking our route on GPS and can tell we're minutes from our turnoff when she swerves off the road.

The whole place is flat, so it's not like she was going to hit anything but we were still surprised.  But there, off in the distance, we could just BARELY make out a sand dune that looked like there might be a camp near it.  Off the road we went, and Bananas followed!

The truck's hubs weren't locked but I figured I wouldn't need 4wd if I kept momentum up, so I put my foot down and threw her in third gear to take the lead.  We were clippin along at a pretty good pace.

Surprisingly, the sand was mostly hard packed, with only the occasional soft spot.  Those soft sections would slow us some, but weren't enough to worry about.  The further we went, the closer camp got.  And eventually we found the place:

 

It's early, and the whole place is a party.  Unfortunately, the place we chose to park ended up being very noisy due to a generator that was running to provide power to the immigration tents (more on this in a sec).  We were approached by a man who said he had already consumed 9 cans of cooking gas, and was asking if we could give him a spare.  We rummaged through and decided that we could probably do without 2 of our cans (we hadn't consumed more than one can so far) and instead of payment, we would trade him for a cold coke or bottled water (Katka is having trouble with the heat, and there's no AC in the truck). He agrees and Katka goes with him to fetch said beverage.  We'll later find out that the guy paid 5-euro to the food vendor in camp for that cold soda...  ouch.

Anyhoo, we didn't want to listen to the generator run all night, so we ended up moving and when we did I heard the distinct sound of an exhaust leak coming from my header...  Bleh.  I could keep it quiet if I kept my foot out of it, but if I laid into the gas pedal then it made its presence known (it sounded awful.  It must have been a big leak...).

 

Our next parking spot was next to the Flying Bananas.  When we got there, they were untying a sled from their roof and were going to scoot down the dune.  It didn't work, the sand was too soft or something because the sled just ground itself to a hault.

Our little camp site was in a crescent shaped recess in the dune and the Slovakians in the big Mercedes van joined us so we parked our cars in such a way that we had a nice circle going.  It really helped with the wind.

 

The entire place was alive with activity.  Motorcycles, wind surfers, 4wds....

First things first, we all had to do the immigration dance in the tent with the generator.  The border process was just a "checkpoint", but here we have to have our fingerprints taken, pay for the visa, and the whole works.  There's also one car parked near the tent, and that's where you change money and get a sim card.  The line is insanely long and slow, and it's really hard to stand in it when everyone else is having fun off road...

I make it through the money exchange line, but it took so long that I don't bother with the sim card.  Instead I tell Katka and Lukas I want to take the Toyota over the dunes.  Two other (expensive) 4wd vehicles were playing up there and got stuck, but I recon I can drop the hammer and show these guys how it's done.  I tell them I'll air down the tires and hit the damn thing as hard as I can.  We'll keep momentum up by simply being crazier than everyone else.

Unfortunately we get back to the truck and I decide against it, and I'm really bummed I do so.  But I've been parked-in by the Slow-Vakia vehicle, and they're still over at the money changer and wont be back any time soon.  Even if they were here, I don't think I'd make everyone re-arrange camp just so I can play.  Ultimately I decide that this wont be the last off-road opportunity to pass (it certainly wasn't the first) so I'll chill for now and play with the 4wd later.

When I sit down in the circle, one of the Bananas hands me a bottle.  I take a swig and it's not bad.  I'm later told that it's made from "Beetroot", but that's how we spend the evening, and then the night.

 

Eventually a couple more bottles make an appearance.  One wine, and one something else (I think "Borovicska"), but I like passing bottles with these guys.  It's chill.

This isn't like back in high-school, or like last night.  We're not trying to tie one on or get rowdy, we're not drinking with any purpose.  We're just kicking back under the stars in our own private corner of the world.  Just far enough away from the rest of the camp that they don't bother us.  The bottle comes around, and if you want to take a swig then you take one.  If you don't, then you pass it to the guy to your right.  Easy money.

I do try to make a phone call with the satellite phone (that's when I took the second picture there in the dark).  I can get reception, but Mrs. Hungary is still in the Czech Republic on her vacation with the Hungarlings, and none of their phones work on that network...  Bleh.

Back in camp, I learn a bit more about the other Slovakians.  The van team has two members I get to talking to and one I don't really get to chat with much.  Miroslav, and Lukas are the two I talk to and they've got this van completely kitted out.  it has EVERYTHING!  Shower, beds, AC, 4wd....  it cost them like 90,000euro and I guess the Mercedes dealership sponsored them with a little cash so they would attend and make a video.  I ask them what they do for a living and they report that they're all farmers.  I promptly decide that i am in the wrong business.

The Flying Bananas have two guys that speak English, Patrick and Julius.  We don't chat a whole bunch, but they seem like nice guys.  One of their teammates "Roman" doesn't speak English, but we're sitting next to each other in the bottle circle so we're sure to say "cheers" and the f-word in Hungarian.  It works.

As the night goes on, the Mercedes team invites our truck to join them in the off-road section.  Having just missed the opportunity to play on the dunes, I'm on it like a thing that's on stuff.  "go fast and break stuff?" I ask ('cept I used the "s-word").

"Heck yeah!" replies Miroslav.

oh man, it is on!!!  Ok.  I tell him I'll wake up early and prep the truck for the stage.  I'll have to batten things down a bit, and I'll definitely have to air down the tires, but we'll follow them and then...

and then Katka gets my attention and utters the one word that puts a stop to it all.  She uses our "secret code word". surprise

Here's the thing about our secret code word:  You put three strangers in a truck together and they're going to be too polite to say "no" or "I'm uncomfortable" or so on until its too late.  Then things tend to explode (and that's not good).  We decided early on that we needed a secret code word that any one of us can say, and the others have to agree to everything they want without judgment or protest.  And Katka just used it to stay on pavement tomorrow...

The Mercedes team does try to get me to change my mind, but the code word is the code word and if I don't honor it now, then who's going to honor it when it's my turn to say "no"?  So no off-road stage tomorrow, and no need to wake up early (except to look at that exhaust leak...  I should probably see if I need to do something about that).

The bottles make their way 'round and soon all is forgotten.  The Mercedes team will traverse the off-road stage, and we'll hit the pavement with the Bananas.

All good times.

11GTCS
11GTCS Dork
3/2/23 1:54 p.m.

Wow Bill, this is a great write up.  Somehow I missed it until yesterday but following now.  Thanks!

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/6/23 2:40 p.m.

In reply to 11GTCS :

Hey, glad to see ya on here!  Admittedly I feel bad as it takes me a while to comb over all my notes to make a post.  I try to do one or two a week, so there will be PLENTY more (it's just going to take a bit cheeky )

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/6/23 4:07 p.m.

So there I was…  Blinded by the lights headed at me, hard on the brakes because the guy in front of me had all four of his locked solid, and swerving hard right for all it was worth when the pavement completely disappeared under us...

 

 

 

I'm not sure if you've been reading the clips from the roadbook I've been attaching to these, but I would really like it if you would read yesterday's and today's.  Look how many times we were warned not to drive at night.

Should be no problem though.  We're not taking the offroad section (which I am kinda bummed about, but seriously we had decided way before the trip that this one would probably be life threatening) so it's 5-hours down pavement.  How hard could THAT be?

Up at 5:30 am, I'm just in time to catch the Slovakians in the Van.  They're headed off road and are concerned about the weight of their vehicle.  They estimate that today is going to be on of their harder days.  It's no big deal to me though as we can go off-road tomorrow in less "life threatening" conditions.  Maybe I'll finally get to put the hubs in!

Anyhoo, the van guys depart while I'm making coffee (they left a wheel chock behind, which I throw in the truck).  There's a Hungarian team airing down their tires and that makes me more than a bit jealous.  To take my mind off things, I climb up the dune to enjoy the morning air

 

Man, that is not a bad way to start the morning...

I do need to look under the hood of my truck since we have time to kill.  There's that exhaust leak from yesterday, and I should track down where it's at.  It doesn't take me long (I kind of figured I knew where it would be at)

 

 

See it there in the circle?  yeah, about that.

So my original manifold was cracked when I bought the truck.  It's fairly typical, and the previous owner had tried to weld it more than once, yet the leak persisted.  To fix this issue, I bought a set of Doug Thorley Tri-Y headers as a replacement, and when asked if I wanted to keep the exhaust air injection I figured I'd do the responsible thing and check the "yes" box.  After all, my air injection system was 100% intact at the time and I'm an adult, so why not?

well, the answer came in what you see above.  I'm no expert, but the three 22R series engines I've owned have NEVER come with ANYTHING that would bolt to what was on those headers...  I was a bit stuck.

To get around things, I got some quick-steel, plugged the hole with it, and stuffed a bolt in place while the stuff was still wet.

Done!

It's worked for years like that cheeky

Well, it looks like the truck decided to spit one out yesterday.  It 100% goes on my "f-it" list.  I'll get to it later.

The gang is up now, and it's time to get movin.  We pack up, and turn north to head back to Bon Lanuar for some much needed fuel.

 

Unfortunately, we 100% bought the last gasoline (sans plomb) at the station surprise

We're able to get all we need.  Same with Bananas and Slow-Vakia.  Both will be with us in a convoy today.  We all take the opportunity to top up our water and snack supplies, but there isn't much.  Plus our comfort level is kind-of low with the girls around.  We make it a point to make sure each one is accompanied by a male team member.  With all the warnings we got about this country, we really cant wait to be through it...

We head out, and I notice two B2B vehicles pulled to the side of the road at the edge of town.  It's a Lada Niva and another vehicle I didn't identify.  Lukas is at the wheel, and we didn't stop but it looked like they had things handled (hoods weren't up, and no vehicles were in the air). 

 

 

15 minutes later, Bananas (our lead vehicle) pulls to the side of the road with a wheel bearing issue.

The sound is coming from the back-left wheel, and they say it sounds bad.  We talk for a bit but there is 100% nothing around us so we decide to press on to Noukachott.  When I'm asked for my opinion I say "I had a buddy run a bad wheel bearing for months in his XJ.  We can run it as long as we feel comfortable, and stop if we need to to cool things down, etc."

We're having comm issues too.  Our mounted CB radio will transmit but not receive.  I brought a Cobra hand held unit but reception is weak in the cab of the truck.  To get around this, I also brought a magnetic antenna for the cobra.  We use that, and now our truck looks like a spaghetti bowl of cords running everywhere...

Back on the road, and maybe 50-meters later, Bananas pulls back over.  It's bad.  They don't  think they can press on...  Time for a group meeting.

 

So there we were...middle of nowhere Mauritania and the truck is in the air.  Diff oil on the tire...

There's not much we can do, as we can't flat tow this thing.  It either needs to be put on a flat bed, or we need to find the parts to fix it.  Nothing in-between...  We also need to juggle who's staying with the vehicle and who's going.  We've been warned not to stop on the side of the road, yet here we are.

Another B2B team stops and we fill them in with what's going on.  They're going to head 34kms back to town to pick up data reception and send the SOS out to the whatsapp chat.

After that we decide that Lukas and I will head back north with one of the Bananas.  He's a young guy, probably in his 30's.  The three of us will look for a tow-truck and while we do that, the rest will see if they can do anything with the vehicle.

Between us and Bon Lanuar was a truck-stop looking place with a cafe attached.  We decide to stop there first.

The station attendant greets us and we show him the problem with photos from my camera.  He takes us to a shed out back where we meet "The mechanic".  he's got a generator apart at the moment, and we show him what's going on.  It's not looking like he can help...

We all get an espresso from the cafe and watch the road.  We're hoping we'll get luck with someone stopping in, eventually a LandRover Disco does and it has Hungarian plates (YASS!).  I ask them if they have any spares and they report that they do.  I ask if they have a wheel bearing and they 100% do not...

damn.

We wait just a bit longer before we decide to head back to town.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is town:

 

There is not much to this place at all, but there's a garage on the left side of the road.  We're going to stop there and work our magic with our pictures.  Maybe these guys got something laying around that might do us some good.

They dont.

But one of the guys wants us to follow him to another place in town.  Which we do.  When we get there, it's nothing more than a shed with a few broken vehicles around it (one a Toyota LandCruiser)

 

It's the gentleman in the black wrap that's helping us out.  He doesn't get the answer he wanted from the guy in the shed who basically said "there's nowhere in town that's going to have that piece.  You've gotta be towed".  So that's where our search focus is on next.  On the bright side, we did get a phone number for a mechanic in Noukachott.

Our guy takes us to a spot in town that has several big rigs

 

But here too, we cant get what we need.  All these rigs have dump beds, or something on the back and none of them can haul a vehicle.  There was a conversation on cell phones, and eventually a third guy appears and tries to help.  We're off to some sort of factory in town that has a guard shack out front...

 

 

Our guy talks to the guard in French for a bit.  The guard knows where a flat bed is, AND he knows where a driver is.  We're pretty pumped.  We get a pen and a coffee cup out of the truck and give it to the guy.

Back on the road again, Dua Lipa's "Physical" blaring through the speakers, and we find the trailer right where he said it would be.

 

 

Ok.  That is way bigger than we need, but that will 100% do!

Word must be getting around town by now, because a truck pull up and the driver is offering us a tow.

 

 

You can see that Lukas (sitting in the truck at the last stop, and again sitting in the truck at this stop) is not amused through all of this.  "This is such a waste of time man.  What are we even doing?  These guys can't help us.  This is just a waste of time" he'll say.

"Dude.  This isn't Europe, it's Africa.  We're not going to find a tow truck or a service station.  We're going to find something that we can make do with and it'll have to work.  Besides, what else are we going to do?", I'll reply.

"This is a waste of time... " he'll continue.

Back at the truck, there was a bit of a communication issue.  We can't explain to the truck driver that he can't just pull (tow) the vehicle.  It has to be lifted.  We move on, and eventually find ourselves at a tire shop.  Lukas and Bananas will use the opportunity to get some smokes


I try to use the sat phone while we're waiting, but it doesn't work.

Eventually a white 4-door sedan pulls up and our helper wants us to hop in. 

Lukas is in our truck, and Bananas is invited to sit in the front seat of the sedan.  I was headed to the truck when Bananas got in, but when I saw our helper sit behind him in the passenger-side back seat I changed direction.  Again, I'm thinking of all the warnings we got from the road-book, and I know Bananas is 100% defenseless in that position if crap goes down in that car.  I change course and take the seat behind the driver in the sedan before they pull away.  If crap goes shady, then we're at least on even ground with our company again (and I can get hands on the driver).

it doesn't though, and we stop at some guys house and knock on the door.  It looks like we just woke him up.

There's talk and it's sounding like this guy is our truck driver, unfortunately he explains that he's got nothing that can pull the trailer (or that the trailer cant be pulled) and we've gotta call the battle lost.  It was a good fight but there's just nothing we can do in a place with such limited resources.  We thank everyone and give our helper pens and a coffee cup as a gift.  He's happy, and we appreciate all he did.

After dropping him off back at his garage, we head south down the road a bit, and pull over just out of sight.  Lukas has reception on his phone here and learns that Linda  has service out in the desert (how does everyone seem to have a sim card that works right now, but me???).  He sends an update to the situation and we're off.

Before we head out of town we stopped at the gas station again for some bottles of water (as a bonus, we found a freezer FULL of frozen bottles).  Bananas explains to me that their team name may be "Flying Bananas" but sometimes it's "F-king Bananas".  We have a good laugh.

Lukas gets a report back that Misha is in Noukachott.  That's good news as we now have boots on the ground in the big city to try to find us parts or a tow, or both!  Time for us to head south and re-join the gang and the Discovery.

At the city limits, we're asked for a Fische.  Not having one for Bananas, we just hand the guard one from Katka and he doesn't notice.

Easy money.

Even better, we notice that the Niva and the other car were gone as well.  It's good to know that whatever had them stopped must have been fixed (or "fixed enough").

Back at the truck, there's nothing we can do but make the best of things.  Time to settle in, and start the long wait.

 

Of course, I had to update the Skoda sticker cheeky

I don't understand much of what's going on at this point as everyone is speaking Slovakian.  The things I remember most was the game they were playing (the Slovakians kind of circled up under the tarp we made, whereas I was wandering around a bit.  They would draw things in the sand and take turns guessing what it is.  One of the bananas drew something that no one could guess.  It looked like () ()

"T'ava", I said (T'ava = camel)

I got a shocked stare from the artist who was smiling when he handed me the stick for my turn.  Katka asked how I knew (in English) and I explained that he drew the footprint of a camel (sorry, my Slovakian still has limits at this point).  I use the stick to draw the head of a ninja turtle (a Hungary Bill classic) and it was guessed pretty quick.

The other part I remember is Katka would keep asking for my opinion when there were group discussions.  Basically I was being asked to influence decisions (or vote) as to what we should do next.  Except, as I mentioned, everyone is talking in Slovakian so eventually I tell her I'm getting pretty irritated that I'm being asked to make decisions when I don't know what's going on.  Either give me all the details in English, or stop asking the guy who doesn't speak Slovakian.

(sorry it was hot, and we were all a bit irritated)

As if on cue Linda gets a message from Misha.  She has the part!

 

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/7/23 12:23 p.m.

The question gets asked now "Can I change this part" and honestly I have no idea.  When I did my buddy's XJ, we had to pull the axle out of the diff and that was a pain!  We also dont have any grease or a slide hammer...   We go over things and I'm corrected on a few things:  The part is an entire hub, not just the wheel bearing.  We wont need to take the axle out, just shove this on the end.  (and so on).

Well, I mean what other choice do we have.  We're going to try it!  I will say though, that I'm not comfortable playing "lead mechanic" for a bunch of people I don't know.  With the language barrier, and well the entire situation, I don't really feel like I have the freedom I do on my home turf to bodge the heck out of something just to make it "good enough".  Are these guys going to get squeamish if I start looking for a log to wedge under this thing a-la Worlds Fastest Indian style?

But I digress because there's no time to be uncomfortable.  We need to start figuring out how we're going to do this.  Misha now reports that she has a tow-truck on the way, and that means we need to maximize people in the good cars, and minimize passengers in the bad one.  Of course sending people to a Nouakchott hotel, we're favoring the girls going first.  That's Katka and Linda.  Linda's boyfriend will go with, and Lukas will stay here with most of the Bananas and myself.  I think 5-guys stayed in total (Lukas, myself, and three Bananas.  I don't yet know their names at this point).

I'm asked if I'm sure I want to stay and my response is "I'm here with all my tools and my truck.  There's nothing I CAN'T do to help in this situation, so that must mean I'm exactly where I should be"

My answer is accepted, and the Slow-Vakian team vehicle is loaded up and sent down the highway.

Here we are again.  Hours to kill...

With only the skeleton crew left behind, there's not much to do...  I'm the proud first user of the poop bucket, and when I get back to camp I tell everyone "Whelp!  I think I showed this place what I think about it!"

I've been lucky so far with bathroom visits.  They always seemed to coordinate with hotel stays and that's been nice (I think a big part of this is the lack of food I'm eating.  I'm a big eater despite my small frame, and I am definitely NOT getting enough food...).  But the bucket idea worked WAY better than it had any right to (hoo-rah, Mensa Engineering!).

We also have a few visitors.  The driver of a Caterpillar 950H stopped by and asked for some water.  We gave him some. 

You know how snowy places have snow drifts that need to be removed from the highway?  Well Mauritania has sand drifts that need the same treatment.  And that's what this guy was out doing when he spotted our lot.

Another trucker stopped by and he was driving a beefy old Mercedes tanker truck.  He actually passed us by about 300-yards, and backed his butt up to visit.  Again, just someone asking for water and we gave him some.

Another rallye must have been running through the country at the same time, because a stickered up vehicle that wasn't in the B2B stopped by.  We were happy to report this time that we had help on the way.

Obviously it's getting late at this point, and I'm getting worried.  You don't have to be the head accountant at the firm to realize that if it's taking 3 or more hours for the tow-truck to get here, then it's going to take at least that long for the return trip.  And boy is that sun starting to get low...

Each day's sheet in the road book has the time the sun will set.  It's 17:45 now, and we're just taking down our sun shelter (with the sun so low, it's really no longer needed).  The race sheet says that big ball of fire will disappear behind the horizon in 1 hour...

oof.

We do get a little bored

 

I do get a call out on the satellite phone, but Mrs. Hungary and the boys are still in Czech Republic.  I can't get a call through and need to let her know we're alright.  It's been a couple days at this point.

I go through my emergency contacts list.  These are people we're close to, and all have Mrs. Hungary's number.  None of them pick up.

Not knowing what else to do, I get my cell phone out and start at the top with the "A's".  I enter the numbers in the satphone one by one...

It's not surprising really.  This day in age, if you don't recognize the number (and if you're not expecting the call), then you don't answer!

A's turn to B's, and B's eventually turn to the end of the list...

I do omit a few people as we have neighbors and whatnot that I wouldn't be able to communicate with as well as I'd need to (in Hungarian) but for the most part, I've just dialed 100% of my friends in the area and no one's picked up.

And then I get to the last one "Williams" (last name).  Pete's an adventurer so I believe there's a chance he'll answer.  And he does!!!  I tell him it's me, and I'm calling from the sat phone.  Can he get a message out over FB messenger to Mrs. Hungary to let her know I'm ok?  We're staying with a team that broke in the desert and should be in Nouakchott tonight.  We'll be back with the rallye in the next day or so.

He's happy to help, and we have a good (but brief) chat.

Eventually enough time passes and we spot a tow truck headed our way on the highway (it's pretty flat, we can see a good way off).  It's a flat bed, and Misha is standing between the driver and passenger in the cab!  She's waving at us and we all wave back! laugh

As they get closer, we can see there's another man standing in the back (on the flat bed).

 

Ok, we're calming down now and plans are being made, and we're introduced to a man named "Alva" (the guy who's responsible for this tow, AND for finding us a room in Nouakchott tonight).   This is how it's going to play out:

One of the Bananas is going to ride in the truck.  The other 5 of us (Misha, Lukas, myself, and two of the Bananas) will ride in my Toyota.  We're going to have to re-arrange cargo in my truck to fit the extra person, but we can do it.

But here's the catch:  To maximize usable interior space, I took out the seat cushion for the driver's side passenger seat.  Whoever is sitting there, is sitting on nothing but metal underneath as is the person sitting in the center position.  In the event of a crash, I don't think either can really count on a seatbelt working the way it usually does to save them.

No time to think about that now though, we gotta cover as much ground as possible before darkness falls.

Honestly, this part is kind of a blur.  As the sun starts to set we get to that time of evening where it's too bright for your headlights still, but the shadows are long enough to conceal a lot of crap, and this highway is ROUGH.

The sand is eating at the sides, which are chipping away, forcing you to the center line.  Oncoming vehicles are usually GIGANTIC old Mercedes semi-trucks and they wait until they're almost on you to fire off their high beams and every last on of their spot lights.

The covers are off of my KC lights and we respond in kind.  Again, I'm super happy about my decision to point the outboard lights to the side slightly as that left one blasts right into their cab.

I really cant explain why they do this and my only thought is that they're trying to blind you in an effort to push you out to your side some (to make room on the eroded road?).  it sucks and it scares the hell out of me.

In addition to the gigantic semis trying to blind you, is the absolutely unpredictable road we're traveling on.  We've gotta keep speed up or we're a rolling hazard.  I've got my glasses on (I wear glasses at night to help see better.  My vision isn't bad but I got in a fight once that permanently damaged my left eye.  It's a little better than 20/70 vision and the glasses help with the glare) but still can't see clearly far enough ahead to feel safe.  the road is pock marked, eaten away, and the pot holes will sometimes go on long enough for you to drop all four tires into it before bouncing back out.

It's full concentration and I don't remember anyone even attempting to have a conversation as we went through it.  Aside from being sun-fried and exhausted already from today's events, just staying on the road is requiring every bit of concentration.

man... and then I got to thinking about that broken sway-bar bolt...  If I need to yank the wheel, will the truck respond?

Full on darkness now and nothing's let up.  I finally got a good pair of tail lights in front of me that I'm using to map the road ahead.  When they bounce erratically, I slow down for the pot-holes.  When they turn, I can judge the radius and adjust speed as necessary.   It's some sort of cab-over pickup with a covered bed.  Nothing big, and looks to be pretty much to be what I'm used to seeing in Europe (just much older, and in crappier condition).  But more importantly, where did all these cars come from???  We didn't see but a handful of vehicles all day, but this traffic is non stop!

Bouncing though pot-holes, blinded by oncoming trucks, returning fire with the daylighters, slipping off the side of the road sometimes, watching those tail lights in front of us....

And then it happens.

We were on a straight stretch of road and I was closer than normal to the taillights but didn't think anything of it.  I saw them wag side to side and they started getting closer really fast.  My brain told me this could only mean that our lead vehicle has locked up his brakes and that means he might be coming to an abrupt and unexpected halt here very soon (I'm expecting a collision and want distance between us before that happens). 

He's got the focus of my attention, and I am hard on my brake pedal.  Even on the sand dusted road, I've got 4ea 265-series tires on the pavement, and some seriously good rubber from those BFG KO2's.  I'm easily able to immediately reign in our speed and am dropping gears on the fly.  Fifth into fourth, and I just drag those back wheels for a split second before jamming it down into third to REALLY put them to work.  This happens in a split second and I can tell I'm JUST about to see the results of the effort (we've matched his rate of decel, and are on track to exceed it with only about half a car-length between us) when my eyes pick up on something from my left peripheral vision.

The image that flashes in my head is one of a ghost-grey full front of one of those Mercedes Semi-trucks painted on a complete black canvas.  Neither headlight is working and it's pointed at our truck ta 45-degree angle.  So close, it completely fills my passenger window and still has plenty of body to spare. 

Its straight trajectory and rate of speed tells me it's going to hit us almost exactly on our driver's side door. 

The world has now slowed itself to a crawl.

There's nothing to lose now, so with the front end already loaded by the emergency braking I keep the brakes on just hard enough to make sure our balance doesn't shift excessively aft.  Both hands were already on the wheel after the last downshift, and I yell "SH*T" as they throw the wheel to the right.  If my calculations are correct, this should point us off completely off the road at a pretty good angle.

The weight of the vehicle transfers on to that driver's side front tire, and I feel it plant itself firmly into the pavement.  Sand coated pavement or not, the tire bites and the truck responds by diving right on top of it and we start shooting off in the intended direction.  The cycle is almost complete, and my foot is nearly completely off the brake pedal (my mind is preparing for the counter steer that's going to come next) when...

It just ended. surprise

The pavement, in one crisp sharp shelf, just ENDED!!!! 

...and my intended maneuver wasn't anywhere near close to being done.  I have no idea where that Mercedes is right now, and I've got no front wheels on the ground.

My mind is racing and time is still slow so I use this to my advantage and figure that if I stay pointed right then our back end may still be at risk of a collision.  It's a long shot, but I think when those front wheels land that maybe I can present a smaller target by whipping the truck left and throwing the ass out of the way (thus becoming parallel to the oncomming hazard)

We hit the ground with the front left tire first,  and it digs it's inboard edge into the gravelly sand underneath.  The passenger tire hits immediately afterwards and is instantly loaded.  Off the brakes now I'm hard on the gas, but the RPM's are low and we're well out of anything resembling a powerband.  Still though, I gotta get this thing to MOVE.  Throttle wide open, the truck responds and that back end whips right and (I'm assuming) out of the way of any potential collision.  I'm able to correct back right as we hit the next shelf and are back on to the pavement, and time speeds back up.

"holy E36 M3, did you guys see that???  He was pointed right at us!!!" I yell.

(Excited-Man Slovakian is shouted in response)

"What, are you guys alright back there?"

(I'm getting patted on the back by one of the bananas, who now sounds happy and still very Slovakian)

"He says if you hadn't turned just then, we'd all be dead!" Misha shouts in response.

Crap.  What the hell are we doing out here.  This is insane...

We carry on to Nouakchott and traffic doesn't let up just because we survived the incident.  Off of the adrenaline rush now, and back to being fully exhausted, we're still fighting off center hugging, spot light blinding, semi trucks and all the other hazards...

It wasn't a long time, or at least it didn't FEEL like a long time before road conditions started to improve.  The pavement got smoother, we ended up with two lanes in either direction, the road was long and super straight, we were even coming up on street lights!!!

I was busy taking it all in, when I realized there was an unlit police check point RIGHT in front of us.  Again hard on the brakes, and we got the truck reigned in for the stop.  Obviously the officer had something to say about or performance.

"no warning, boss!" Lukas said from the passenger seat.

"No warning!" I parroted, handing him a stack of fiches (no idea whos fiches I handed him at this point.  I just pinched a stack that looked like it might be 5 pieces and away we went).

He let us through and eventually we get to the hotel...

 

No hot water.

No towels.

The water here is brown...

A text comes in from the Banana that's still on the tow truck.  He's riding center seat, and there's a guy still standing on the flat bed as they drive:

Banana to Tow truck driver:  "I think your man out there fell off the truck two villages ago!"

Tow truck driver: "Not possible!  If he did that, he'd be in Morocco!"

(This gets a good, but exhausted, laugh from all of us)

We have 3-beds for 8 people (I don't remember seeing Linda or Martin here, but it's Misha, our team, and all 4 Bananas)...

The beds are in three separate rooms that all face each other from a shared hall.  In the last picture above, you can see our bags.  One of the Bananas will make a bed in the hall, and will surround himself with these bags (security measure, maybe).

The part for the Disco and the tow truck arrives around 2300, and Bananas paid 550 euro to get it.  Most importantly, we're all back together again.  To celebrate, Katka had purchased children's champagne, bread, and lunch meat earlier in the day for dinner.  We talk a bit about "Burning man" (I've never been, but some of the Bananas have), and on one or two occasions the entire crowd goes outside without me knowing they were going (back to that Slovakian language thing) to have a smoke while I sat by myself.

This is seriously getting annoying not knowing what's going on, and it's definitely not helped by me being overtired.  I don't smoke, but someone could have told me the entire room was going to clear and I would have joined you instead of picking my nose in here all by myself...

Before crashing, I see that the oldest Banana is still using his phone.  We don't have wifi here, and everyone else's phone seems to be dead so I ask Katka if he minds slinging a mobile hot spot so I can send a message to my wife.

He doesn't mind, but I immediately feel terrible as two-days worth of updates fly into my phone on whatevers left of his data.  Facebook, messenger, whatsapp, the b2b group chat.... it all comes flying in and my phone is chiming and vibrating out of control while I try to type out a message to Mrs. Hungary.

"We made it to the hotel.  We've got the part.  We'll fix the truck in the morning.  I love you.  Goodnight"

With that done, we really need to get to sleep.

 

 

What was 3 beds and 8 people, is now 2-beds and 6 people since Misha and Lukas just called it a night (makes sense, they're a couple).

The rest of us decide how best to divvy things up.  It'll be me and one of the Bananas tomorrow working on the truck tomorrow, so it's probably best that the two of us share a bed since we'll be waking up at the same time (we settle for 7am).  Katka initially doesn't want to sleep on that couch in that last picture (it's the only one in any of the rooms) as it's pretty damn dirty, but she says she doesn't mind taking one for the team since she's the odd man (er... woman?) out.  That leaves 2 bananas for the other bed, and one who will sleep in the hallway.

We're about to call it a night when Katka tries to go in the bathroom to take a shower before she crashes.  Someone's closed the bathroom door and it's locked...

seriously...  I feel like if we caught half a break at this point then we could give the rest away.

Luckily it takes me 2-seconds to open the door with my Swiss army knife, but my Bed-Banana and I decide we oughta call it a night before anything else happens. 

Alarm is set, and the lights go out.

 

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/7/23 1:51 p.m.

I need to add a "post script" here.  Something that I couldn't work into the story without it getting (more) jumbled.  When the tow truck arrived, the driver was NOT happy about how far out the Bananas truck was.  When we went out to meet them, the first thing he said to Misha was something to the effect of "that was way further than you said it would be"

I cant remember how it all went, but I watched it play out and kind of got the story.  Here's what I learned:

Apparently no one was going to drive all the way out to where we were for the tow.  Not for any amount of money.  I guess no one wanted to risk running the gauntlet, especially in a vehicle like a tow truck.  I guess Misha told these guys that it was only 200km to where we were, and after having weighed the risks they decided to go for it.

Along the drive, they kept asking her "where is the truck???" to which she'd always respond "oh, it's just a little further", and so on they went.

Now being back, and having been paid, they were sure to tell her that that wasn't no 200kms.  To which she replied "I know, I'm sorry!  I got confused because of MILES!"

Which they accepted. 

The 550 euro that I thought was paid for the tow truck and the part (which is what I wrote in my notes) I'm pretty sure was just paid to the tow truck (as the part, as we all know now, came from another team in the chat).  I don't think anyone in the B2B would ever charge anyone for any part if they could avoid it, and so I'm thinking that those guys did pretty good for themselves making 550 euro in one night.

Good times.

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/10/23 3:13 p.m.

There I was... At the border of Senegal, absolutely done with the entire day.  Watchin' my teammate get hauled into the police station for a 10-Euro fee...

 

 

 

We're all-pavement today so the daily sheets don't really apply to us, and I wanted to zoom out a bit on the maps at this point to show exactly how FAR we've drivin down the coast of Africa at this point.  It really sneaks up on ya.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Before we can do anything, we gotta fix that Discovery...

The alarm was set for 7:30, but of course I was up at 6:30.  I guess 5-hours of sleep is going to have to do me.

Not wanting to wake anyone else up, I head to the bathroom to take care of "The 3-S's (sit, shower, and shave).  I still have concerns about this bearing/hub swap.  We don't have any grease, we don't have a puller, it's not my vehicle, and for a capitol city this place does not have but NOTHING in the way of anything that I can see is going to help us...  We really are hung on the hope that swapping in the whole hub assembly will help us skip all that noise.

Leaving the room before my Bed-Banana woke up, I head down to the truck and run into Team India.  They're loading up, and tell me that one of the event busses has a flat battery.  Is there any way we can jump a 24v system?

Not that I can think of.

I won't start working on the truck without my Bed-Banana (hereafter known as Julius), but I do unpack my tools while I wait.  I also adjusted my KC lights a bit.  Eventually he joins me, and I have everything laid out.

 

This is where we're workin, and what we're workin with...

 

 

 

About here we get stuck...

Those brake caliper bolts are stuck and corroded on there somethin' fierce!  We have our 1/2" breaker bar, but the heads of the bolts start to strip when we crank on them.  Luckily the two of us are smart enough to stop before that happens...

First we try soaking them in WD40, but that doesn't really work.

Then I get the idea to get Katka's Jet-Boil out of the truck and use that like a torch...  That doesn't work either.

At this point I'm really thinking about using a saw and vice grips on this thing.  I do jokingly hand Julius my hacksaw, but I was really testing the waters.  He doesn't bite, but I am 100% serious about cutting this caliper off this damn thing and pinching the brake line closed if it comes down to it.  I've driven vehicles with 3-brakes before, you hardly notice.

ok.  So my less than serious (but serious) offer has been shot down, what now?

I brought a big C-clamp (or G-clamp, if you're British) with me, and have the idea to use it to apply pressure to the socket while Julius turns the breaker bar.  I show him my idea, and he's all for it.

So the C-clamp goes on and I get good purchase.  I crank it down pretty tight, but then Julius can't get it to turn.  He grabs my ball-peen hammer and goes to town on the end of the breaker bar.  I back pressure on the clamp off just a little and THE BOLT BREAKS LOOSE!!!!!!

Awesome!  From there we switch to a socket wrench and remove it completely.

Ok!  We have proof of concept!

The second mounting bolt is a little tougher, but we go about it the same way.  I adjust pressure on the clamp while he beats the ever-loving hell out of the breaker bar and for a second it almost looks like it's going to round the head but just before it does, THE BOLT BREAKS LOOSE!!!

Done, and high-fives all around!!!!

 

 

Ok next problem:  The axle nut...

Dead center on the axle is the axle nut, and we cant keep it from spinning...  I brought a small length of chain with me in case we ran into a rotational assembly with exactly this issue, but it's too small to fit over the lug studs...

Ok, no problem.  Here's what I do:

I take that same ball-peen hammer and bring it over to the brake disc that we removed.  I line one link of the chain up over one of the lug holes in the disc and use it like an anvil.  I brought an extra head-bolt with me for my 22re (no idea why, but it seemed like a good idea) and I center it on the link and pound it through with the ball-peen.  In doing so, I round out the oval-shaped link enough that it now fits over the lug!

Done!

 

Of course, I'm not the only one taking pictures of all this.  We've all gotta have these on hand for beer stories later!  That's Roman's arm you see in the picture.  He's not the oldest Banana, but the second-oldest.  Peter is the oldest, and I learn that the other Banana is Patrick (The one I sat with in the sedan yesterday).

 

Anyhoo, we get the axle out, we get it cleaned up, and there's an o-ring we're going to have to transfer over (it's in Julius's hand there), but seriously.  Right now, it's time for coffee and it turns out that Misha had ordered some from the hotel to be delivered.

 

 

Shortly after coffee, we have everything assembled and back on the ground.  But here's the kick.  I have a tattoo on my forearm of a torque wrench dial.  Just as Julius is about to crank down on that axle nut, I say "excuse me" and move him out of the way.  I twist the adjuster a bit at my elbow like I'm setting the torque, and lean into that breaker bar for all it's worth.  When all was said and done, I had that lock tab almost all the way dead-nuts back to where it was before we broke everything loose (mind you, I can't see where it's at with the socket on it so this is a legit Kentucky windage torque we got going on here).  Julius got a huge kick out of it, and from then on the two of us were mechanic buddies (he's a good guy to work with).

Katka and Patrick (standing to Katka's left) came down with sandwiches for breakfast.  There's a BUNCH of them!  I'm guessing these must have been left over from the night before, but I was hungry and ate two of them

 

When I grab the second, I hear Patrick and Katka start talking in Slovakian.  They tell me I might have got the "special sandwich" (and I did).  Apparently there was a communication error and Patrick put strawberry jelly on one of the tomato and cheese sandwiches.  I had already noticed, and my stomach 100000000% didn't care.  Food was food at this point, and man did it hit the spot!!!

Done and done now, all we have to do is pack up the trucks

 

 

Julius went back into his truck and brought me out a sticker.  Your boy "Bill" here is an honorary "Banana"!

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/10/23 3:34 p.m.

Unfortunately, guys.  This is where I gotta leave you hangin for today.  We're headed out of town tomorrow and won't be back until Monday for the next update.  Hope you all have a great weekend, and apologies for the cliff-hanger (I really did think I'd be able to get through this one, but the second part of the day is soooo long...).

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/16/23 4:59 p.m.

Oh man.  how bad was this day?  well when I went to write about it, I got 70% of the way through and the browser window closed and killed the entire entry.  Let's try this again (wish me luck).  Here goes:
 

Wrapping up the repair, we need to sort out our cargo situation.  Misha will be riding with us today and we need to lay down some blankets and other soft stuff so she'll have something to sit on back there.  Bananas are loading their vehicle, and three trinket salesmen spot us and start pushing their wares.

I'm not much for these genuine authentic souvenirs on the best of days, but I'm a little bit irritable today because of the lack of sleep and late coffee.  To avoid things I just hang out in the driver's seat of the truck.  The Slovakians however, are very interested and pretty soon there are three blankets picked out and people are buying beaded bracelets, and other small stuff.  Katka buys a wooden camel statue and puts it on the dash.  She's organizing things on the passenger seat when a pushy elderly gentleman starts trying to sell her more stuff.

She politely declines, then declines again.  Tries to wave him off, but she's kinda cornered there in the door pocket, and he's starting to get in her personal space.  I decide to say something from where I'm sitting

"Habibi, halas" (Habibi literally translates to "my dear" but I've seen it used when you want to get someones attention but don't know their name.  "Halas" simply means "stop" or "that's enough")

He pauses for a second and looks at me.  I look back at him, and he immediately goes back into his pushy sales.

"Halas!" I say, much more stern (and much louder).  He's starting to make me mad.  She's already said no in English.  She's already said no with body language.  Now I'm saying no in a language I KNOW he understands.  Plus, we're supposed to be getting on the road!

Again, it's enough to make him pause but again he's back at it.  I'm about to get out of my seat and walk around the truck when Katka gives in and buys a beaded bracelet from him.  Let me tell you... The "I win" grin he gave me afterwards was enough to make me want to.... (you get the point).  But Katka giving in after I stepped in, probably had me even more irritated.  I decide at this point two things:

1) I'm extra irritated because I'm extra tired

2) Next time, Katka's on her own.  I barely have enough energy for myself.

We had a couple good days going there for a while, but I guess it doesn't take much now to beat you back down.  heck, I remember one day I think I only ate a half-bag of peanut M&M's the entire day...  oof.

Anyhoo, eventually we're all in the truck and Bananas is in the lead.  They've got GPS goin, and we'll follow. It's just 50-yards down a dirt alley and then a right hand turn on to the main drag.  When they get there, Banana's stomps on it to hit a hole in traffic.  Naturally, I step on it a bit to stay on their tail.  Shouts from the back began immediately

Misha: "Bill what are you doing?"

Lukas: "Bill why are you driving like a mad man???"

"Hey hey hey HEY!!!!" I interrupt.  "I'm not setting the pace, they are.  And we've gotta stay on their tail because they have the GPS, not us"

That quieted them down, but I think it still stung.  Luckily it looked like it would be all boring roads today.  Google tells us the whole trip will be 4.5 hours so hopefully we'll get there before we kill each other today.

We did make a stop once a few hours in.  I have no idea when they joined us but Linda and Martin were with us at this point.  It was just some random buildings on the side of the road, but we needed a leg stretcher:

 

(Spot saved for video)

 

 

There wasn't much to do at our leg stretching point.  Katka is picking up some little white rocks (the first rocks I think we've seen in Mauritania!  Mostly it's just small sea shells everywhere...).  She puts them in a tissue and stashes them on the passenger floor.  She explains that her doctor had asked her to pick up a few rocks from each country and bring them back, so that's what she's doing.

Back on the road and it's more pavement.  Eventually we come to a national park that we'll be driving through today.  The road-book mentioned that there would be a fee when we arrived, but there was no one there at the entrance to take it.  Ah well, in we went.

 

There really wasn't much to the place.  The road (singular) wasn't bad, and we were able to keep a pretty decent pace through it.  50kph or so...  We saw a warthog (and later a warthog family!) and an alligator (or crocodile?  I can never remember...).  All was good until we reached the "bad section".

and it was BAD...

It's pretty obvious that the road had been wet recently, and when it was wet a lot of people drove on it.  Ruts, washboard, bumps, and just giant potholes.  It was everywhere, and there was no getting around it.

Our pace slowed to a crawl...

At one point we got stuck behind one of the event busses.  It was moving slower than I could walk, but still bouncing all over the place.  I couldn't help but think of Wally and how much fun he'd be having in that thing right now...  But we got to a semi-wide section and it let us by.

In order to pass it, we had to drive faster than we were comfortable with (and by that I mean 10kph).

The Banana's Land Rover with its heavy body and squishy suspension is able to move along quicker than we are.  Our truck is lighter and bouncier... in fact, I think our tires are the only part of our suspension giving any "squish" right now, but even that's better than the Slow-Vakia Pajero.  Those guys are barely moving and we have to stop multiple times to let it catch up.

This goes on for EVER...  The bouncing and bouncing and vibrations and bouncing...

At our next leg stretcher I don't even bother to take any pictures.  Instead I drop off the right side of the road and make my way to a water hole I see by some trees (and by "water hole" I mean a "mud puddle").  My "Water2Go" bottle is empty and I fill it up there.  I take a big sip and spit it out.

It's salt water...

bugger.

Legs sufficiently stretched and back in the truck and it's back to bouncing.  and bouncing  and vibrating.  Along with all this, we're introduced to a new problem.  The phone is overheating...

With it's dash mount, and our low speed (so no air coming in the windows) the phone is getting direct sunlight all the darn time.  When it does, it stops charging and stops you from using certain apps (phone, music, and navigation all included).  The solution to this is to lay it in the compartment under the radio and let it cool down over the course of what feels like hours.

"You know, I've been making a list of requirements for the next vehicle we do this in" Katka says.

"oh yeah?" I respond.

"The first is a roof rack"

"and the second?"

"Air conditioning" she deadpans, staring right at me.

Now at this point in time I have to tell you that we all kind of have a laugh we give each other.  It "heh" and it means exactly what it sounds like it means.  Katka gets a "heh" for that last comment.

More bouncing, more vibrating, more stopping for Slow-Vakia, more heat...

How bad is this road?  Well, we're up on a bit of a causeway and the water to our right dries up from time to time leaving flat dirt in its absence.  When it does, our truck and the Bananas truck drive down off the causeway and onto the dirt for any break we can get.  It's sometimes a quick drop, but sometimes getting back up means climbing a steep grade.  I'm still not using 4wd at this point, so I just hit it hard and throttle up the side to get back on the road.

rinse, repeat.

I don't know how long we were in the park, but it felt like forever.  I think the highlight was this one sight that we saw:

 

It's a Defender in it's natural habitat (man, this park has EVERYTHING!)

Yup, a broken defender and people were already crawling on it and working under it.  Again, we're all in this adventure together so out I go.

The owner reports that he was down on power after that bumpy darn road and was in the middle of changing his oil filter and diesel pump when he dropped a bolt into his engine bay.  Unfortunately he couldn't reach it to get it out, AND when he DID try to install the diesel pump, a gasket would fall off complicating the whole thing.  Could I help?

I absolutely could!  I brought a magnet on a telescopic stick and one of those extend-o claw tool grabbers for exactly this occasion.  In 2-minutes flat, we had that bolt back in our hands and were putting RTV on his diesel pump to hold the gasket in place.  Once set he said he had it from there, and we parted ways.

2 vehicles in one day.  Not bad. wink

Also at the stop was a guy from Cyprus in a green Toyota sedan.  I had talked to this guy onthe B2B chat before the race as a potential teammate.  We've seen each other a few times, but I've just learned that this guy bough a motorcycle from Lukas when Lukas lived in Cyprus!

Small world.

We share that piece of trivia and all have a good laugh.  But eventually it's back on the road, and back on the bumps, and vibrations, and bumps, and this whole thing is just absolutely beating my brain to death.  My head is going to split open if this doesn't let up soon...

Bumps, vibrations, and heat.  Oh my!

We do come to a T in the road though, and a guard approaches us.  He wants a fiche, and we give him ours (subbing in a Lukas for Misha).

Also present is a guy with a receipt book, and he wants 10-euro

"Why pay, boss?" Lukas asks from the back seat

"Yeah, why do we have to pay?" Misha asks.

I don't hear his reply because Lukas talks over him (again asking why we needed to pay 10-eruo) but I've already got the money out and am paying the man.  I figure it's probably for the park entry but don't really care.  I get a receipt, and put it in my sun visor.

"Bill.  If you pay everyone 10-euro, you're not going to have any money left!" Misha will say afterward.

"Man, I am not at all worried about 10-stinking-euro" I say back.

50 meters later and its another man wanting a fiche.  I hand him 1ea for each of us, and we're on our way.

The road is still up to its antics, but these stops do provide a nice break.

half a kilometer later, it's another guard station.  We must be getting close to the border or something.  Before we get to the guard Misha tells me not to give him a fiche.

"If you give all these guys our fiches, we wont have any left!"

Now that makes me ponder a few things.

1) We have HUNDREDS of these, and have handed out maybe 10...  Are we expecting 90 more guards today?

2) These are crap scraps of paper that we cut with scissors.  Who cares if we run out?

3) If we DO stop giving these out, how are we going to get through the check-points?

Well, whatever.  I really don't have the energy to argue about scrap pieces of paper.  We're at the guard now and he asks for a fiche.

"Oh, sorry.  We gave it to the last guy", I tell him.

"no fiche?" He asks

"no, sorry.  The last guy..."

"Petit kadoo?" he asks looking into the truck  (this means "small gift" and we've been told that lighters and pens are the items of choice for such things.  I have a few stashed in the center console and glove box).

"oh certainly!" I respond handing him a bic lighter and a pen. 

The guard is happy, and lets us through.  Which answers my point #3 (above), but now I feel I have to add a point #4...

4) How is handing out lighters and pens better than giving out a fiche?

You know what?  f-it.  Trying to argue that with someone who's worried about running out of scrap paper is a battle that's lost before it even began.  Off we go

bump bump bump.....

We were near the border because now we're AT the border.  It's a dam of some sort and we're approached by a man with a receipt book before we get there

"10-euro" he says.

This is met with the usual "Why pay boss" except this time "Bill don't pay him" is pointed at me as well.  Ok, you know what?  This is their ball, let's see where it rolls.

I decide I'm goin to play "the dumb driver" for the two rich looking people in back.  They talk to the guy through the back window and any time I'm approached I simply politely say "I'm sorry, but you do have to talk to them".

The man eventually gets REALLY irritated and storms off.  I drive on and am immediately in a traffic line with a bunch of other participants...  Our truck is parked right in front of a police station on the Mauritania side (along with another building) and everyone but me gets out of the truck.  I stay behind in case traffic moves.

There are a few vendors set up but it's the same "genuine fake souvenirs" you see everywhere.  Some people come up looking for handouts, but I don't have any to give at the moment.  I simply place my hand over my heart and apologize and they move on.  Angry man comes back looking for Lukas though.  He again tries to talk to me, but I simply point to Lukas in the crowd and off he goes.

A while later Katka comes back and tells me that a police officer has taken Lukas into the station.  Should we go and help?

"You know what?  I know Lukas has 10-euro on him.  I think he needs to see this one through because he was damn adamant about me not paying when we had the chance" I reply.

Sure enough, about 10 minutes later Lukas emerges from the police station.  He does NOT look happy.  Luckily he's not interested in the truck and goes off and into the crowd.

lownslow
lownslow GRM+ Memberand New Reader
3/16/23 10:52 p.m.

You are much braver than I am.

Your story is very engaging.

VikkiDp
VikkiDp Reader
3/17/23 4:26 p.m.

Wowww!!! Continuation is here! Love your stories man smiley

It seems like Bill was already very tired and exhausted. What day of the trip it was?

A couple of teams are definitely lucky to have you around yes

What's next?

VikkiDp
VikkiDp Reader
3/17/23 4:53 p.m.

Let me recommend you something - watch this video - you like it - i'm sure yes

an important note - turn on subtitles!!!

This Youtube channel created our Ukrainian guy - he travels around the world by himself - he makes and edits all videos by himself. 

He has traveled all over Europe and more by Mercedes Smart yes

Love all what he doing!!! It's really very interesting, beautiful and exciting - so much incredibly beautiful places - love it!!!

He inspires me and you and your stories inspire me too yes

So highly recommended !!!

 

Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter)
Hungary Bill (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
3/17/23 5:00 p.m.

We get through the Mauritanian side with little fuss.  On the Senegal side there's a parking lot and all sorts of vendors set up.  Someone approaches us on our drive in and asks for our COVID test results...

Remember when we were at the hotel this morning fixing cars and definitely NOT getting our covid tests?  yeah...

"Oh, we gave them to the last guy" I say, pointing behind the truck with my thumb.

"Oh, ok.  thanks!" the nice lady says, and we're off to the parking lot.

Once parked we discover that there's food for sale, cold drinks, beer... BEER!!!!  Beer is legal again! (yay).  And there's a tent with a HUGE line coming out of it.

 

 

All sorts of stuff is happening here.  It's madness

The people workin at the table have all our team info.  Before the rallye started we paid a certain amount to have all our visas paid for.  Now these guys are saying we need to pay more (per head, per vehicle).  Naturally this upsets the crowd.  Add in the fact that the line is definitely NOT organized and definitely NOT moving and you have... well... this!

The well dressed bald man you see with the ear piece in?  He shouts an explanation that can be summed up "we didn't know how many people were going to be in each vehicle when the rallye applied for entry, that is why you have to pay more money now".

I satisfies the people that were yelling, but for a minute there "crowd fever" looked like it was a bout to get out of control...

We end up waiting for EVER to get to the front of the line, and when we do we're kind of crowded to the left as others try to push in.  Also in the line are HUNDREDS of money changers and SIM card salesmen.  I change what little money I had left from Mauritania (our last ATM stop was in Morocco, and I was down to almost nothing by the time we got here) and Katka is purchasing a SIM card from a woman.  I follow suit and we're both set up with mobile Data. 

Eventually we're basically pushed out of the way to the left and are now trying to nudge our way back right to get back to where we were.  Misha and Linda are in front of us and are 100% not having the same problems.  I lean down to whisper to Katka

"If I stand to the right of you and block, can you crowd in with Misha and Linda like you were always there?"

She can, and she does.

Once there, there's only one person in front of them.  We listen and we're going to need our passports and 50-euro.  The passports I run off and collect, but the money is going to be a small problem.  More on that in a second though because i return with the passports first.

After those are delivered, I battle back out of the crowd and run to the truck.  There's a hidden compartment I have in the passenger back seat, and I need to access it now to get my money stash out.  In the compartment is an envelope that I've been collecting money in.  It's basically empty at this point, but I have 50euro.  I bring it back to Katka just in time.

For our efforts we get a stack of papers we cant read, and Katka is desperate for a cold beverage.  We head over to the food vendors and she snags a beer from the ice pit and drinks it on the spot.

We all get loaded back in the trucks and it's time to cross the border.  We started our day with a 7am work session and a 4.5 hour drive.  There were no stops for food or fuel and it is now 1900, getting dark, and hot as hell...  What the absolute heck, over?  Why do all our "lite days" end up like this?  (it's almost as if the organizers planned these short drives so they'd work with long border delays, huh?)

Once across, we need to follow our GPS to where we're staying in St. Louis.  I also need to find an ATM because I am now flat out of cash (I think we all are.  How in the world can a cash based economy be so utterly devoid of cash dispensing devices???). 
 

As we drive through St. Louis, I notice we're not stopping.  It's stressful in the darkness with African traffic, but we still have an hour to go!

Oh boy...  See, I was expecting a stay like that first night in Morocco where we were staying in a camp in a big city.  I was counting on it actually.  If we're not stopping here for the night, how in the heck are we going to get to an ATM in the morning???

An hour ticks by, and we're now out of the city.

Crap...

Half an hour later and we're in the middle of nowhere.  The only thing different about this place are the tall trees.  Otherwise it's just as sandy and as dark as all the other places we've been to so far.

Bananas turns off on to a sand road.  I pass them by about 20 yards, and turn back through the sand to follow when they get stuck going forward.

I'm not in 4wd, but I stop in a section that seems "less deep" than what they're in.  They put theirs in 4wd and are able to back out.  I select low-range for the gearing, but my hubs are otherwise unlocked.  We get ourselves out too.

Wrong turn.  Luckily the Slow-Vakia Pajero didn't follow.

Up ahead a bit further is our real turn and when we get there of course there's a line of cars...  "Park to the side and lets go on foot" Lukas says from the back (Misha agrees)

"and do what with the truck" I ask.  I really don't like the parking options I'm seeing.  This is a sandy area and we're going to have to really work it if we want to park this thing anywhere that's not going to block the road...  There are trees, fences... all sorts of things you cant park on.

They persist and I say "how bout you guys get out and investigate and I'll catch up".

They do, and I sit.

It turns out that a landcruiser got to the entrance and got stuck.  The attendants working here told him to gun it across the deep sand section that is the entrance, but he waited until he had all four wheels sunk to stab the gas pedal. They were digging him out.

Eventually some other attendants tell us that there's more parking up the road, and it's 2wd safe.  We all drive up (no passengers with me.  and no idea where they've gone).

In that parking lot I park on gravel and walk into the first building I see.  It's attempting to be a bar, and it doesn't look like it's doing a very good job of it.  Either way, my team isn't here.  I check my phone and my sim card's decided to stop working (makes sense, we're not in a population area at all...)

I head on through and out the other side is some landscaping followed by a lot of sand.  There's a stage set up by some water that's playing music, but again no team.

I can see the landcruiser still stuck at the first entrance, and it's making good progress now.  The way it's rocking it'll be through in just a minute or two.  I start walking back to the truck and sure enough, it's through!!!

I'm exhausted but running now.  I gotta get to the truck before that entrance gets clogged.  Gotta find my team so we can set up camp and be done with this day!

I get to the truck and put in the hubs.  No chances this time.  I don't want to be "that guy".  I start moving JUST as the other teams are starting their cars up and make it out of the parking lot right before it's completely grid locked.

thank god!

down hill, I'm back at the entrance.

"Oh sir, you have a good truck!  You can make it.  Very fast"!

In 4-low, I'm on it in 3rd gear.  Through the deep stuff and into less deep stuff.  I'm trying to drive through the increasing darkness, while also trying not to get stuck, while also looking for my team.

I can't see a damn thing...

I park by a tree and get out of the truck.  I start walking around again.  I can see a lake and there are some tents there, but no Bananas truck...  They gotta be around here somewhere, don't they?

"Bill!" I hear Katka yell.

I look and there they are.  Parked by the waterfront, they're with the Slovakian van team.  I get back to the truck and park.  Again we use our vehicles to make a horse-shoe shape and start setting up accordingly.  We got our tents pitched when some Hungarians came up and started complaining that we were too close.

We set up anyway, and compromise by moving the Slovakian van and the tents over slightly.  We explore a bit and there are showers with no walls (like the kind you'd use before getting in a pool) but the girls are uncomfortable because there are locals hanging around and watching.  The bar has beer, but we don't really have any money.  Plus there's nowhere to sit or anything.  Definitely no ATM's and the bar wont take a card (the card part was expected, but we did have to ask).  Heading back to the truck, I wander away from the others and the camp and fall backwards against my driver's side tire.  Butt in the sand and back to the tire, I had a full mental breakdown.

I've been borrowing too much for too long on this trip, and there never seems to be a point where we can refill what we're draining.  Every day we say "tomorrow should be better because..." and tomorrow never is "because we didn't know about X, Y, and Z".  I just need a day where we can rest.  I just need a day where everything is normal.  I just need a day where we all get along, it's not hot, I'm not exhausted by driving 90% of it, and more than anything I very very very much need a hug from my wife.  It is 100% the only thing I want right now.

No time for that either though.  I gotta pick myself back up before someone notices I'm gone.  I send Jack a message (texts randomly go through with the SIM, I've discovered as the group chat sometimes goes through).  "Yo man, how you doing"

Jack:  "The suspension on the bike's collapsed.  I'm absolutely dead.  Thinking about turning back"

Me:  "You know what.  I'm dead too, and I still have to drive back up to Hungary.  If you go north, I'll follow".

I lock up the truck after that and head to camp.  Julius wants to look at that exhaust leak with me and together we stuff a new bolt in and JB weld it (cleaned it with brake clean first, of course).  When I do sit down I try to shoot off a message to Mrs. Hungary.  The usual "we're here, we're safe."  I cant call, so this is going to have to hold me over.

Katka's dug out all the money she has and asks me go run up and buy as many beers as possible.  I figure it's enough for about 6 and there are about 10 of us.

This is where I need to tell you that we had a conversation back in one of the hotels about Slovakian versus American habits.  As a Slovakian, if you get a beer you're supposed to ask the room if anyone needs one.  Otherwise it's rude.

In the US, I'm used to announcing "I'm gonna get a refill" and people will say "oh, grab me one too!".

Apparently EVERYONE noticed that night that I did not offer anyone a drink...  (they weren't mad, but we all got a good laugh out of our different cultures).

With this in mind, I ask Katka (who isn't faring any better than I am right now) "If I buy you the beers and there's not enough for everyone.  How will you divvy them up?"

(I'm genuinely curious, but this is a bad time to be asking such things)

Katka glares back "then I will decide who gets one and who doesn't."
yikes

I used to bar-tend so carrying 6-open beers is no problem for me.  When I get to the bar, team India is there trying to explain to the woman working the counter that he's already given her a ticket for a beer, and wants 3 more.  I don't think she speaks English and this is going to make it very difficult to say "I need as many beers as this money will buy".

We're there together long enough that I tell team India what I'm up against.  They take the reigns and the cash and handle it from there.  Bill was right, 6-beers and I'm off.  And man do you have to love Team India.  I swear I've never seen a single one of them in a bad mood.

Back at camp, Katka's not there.  I put the beers on the ground and under the arm rest of her chair and sit back.  My head is fried and I know there is going to be NO getting any sleep tonight.  It's like my brain has TONS of energy, but the rest of my body is completely dead.  My whole head is buzzing, and it just wont stop...

Katka gets back and almost kicks over a beer.  "Watch your beer" I say, and she moves around them.

She explains that she had asked the Slovakian van guys if she could use their shower that they have in their van (given the public audience at the public ones).  They declined even though she offered to bring her own water, and we agree it's pretty messed up and they could have made an exception.

We basically remain collapsed in our chairs, sitting on our phones (hopelessly checking for messages) until 1:00 am when I finally saunter off to bed.  I remind Katka about her beers and she says "Why didn't you tell me???"

"Yo, you almost knocked one over, remember!  I DID tell you!"

I continue to the tent and think I was asleep before i hit the pillow...

 

VikkiDp
VikkiDp Reader
3/17/23 5:04 p.m.

Ohhh it's so quickly laugh

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