The Diama piste shortcut…

“150km south of Nouakchott, turn right after the water tower” said one man… it took us a while to find the shortcut but did so eventually. This was after a stop to refuel in a small market village on the way. The fuel pumps looked new but weren’t working. Thankfully the owner had some barrels at the back and we bought 10 litres of his finest “sans plomb”. It was comedy though when he asked me to hold the barrel high above the bike while he sucked the petrol out of a length of hosepipe; he wasn’t very competent at this as he did get a couple of mouthfuls. What wasn’t comedy is when he spilled petrol in Louise’s helmet which was hanging upside down from the handlebar… Schoolboy error. Louise had to stop a couple of km later as she felt her forehead burning and we proceeded to wash her helmet liner with shampoo by the side of the road. 24h later her hair still had a faint petroleum scent to it. Does this make her a ‘petrol-head’?

All this delayed us and we only made it to the shortcut around 11am when the sun started beating down on us. The track wasn’t as good as we’d been told. In fact there were two tracks. One was an old track made of dried mud and patches of soft sand, the other was a road under construction which was composed of packed gravel and white sand… We battled with the first track, then tried our luck with the road under construction but the further we went the softer the sand became. I was really impressed by Louise’s riding skills in soft sand, she was nimble and did good progress. I, on the other hand, was trying too hard and battling against the bike. I exhausted myself to a point at which I actually became quite worried about my health; I was out of breath and overheating, there was no way I would make it to the end if I continued like this; I was on the verge of a heat-stroke. We took a 20 minutes break under a tree, I stripped down to my undies and cooled down. The 6 litres of water we were carrying were now down to about 1.5L. Louise then did a recce and found that the mud track which was running parallel was now better so we crossed over to that one. It was indeed easier to ride on but still challenging.

All this was forgotten in the blink of an eye when, after a sharp turn 20km from the border we found ourselves in the delta of the Senegal river and its luxuriant tropical swamp. We cheered when we saw ponds with waterlilies and reeds and I nearly crashed when, through my helmet intercom came the screeching noise of Louise shouting “WARTHOGS!!”. She had spotted 3 of them running into the mangrove. We saw hundreds of cranes, pelicans, cormorants and an eagle. Then we reached the border…



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