Itinerary 2005

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Portsmouth  Day 1 - 30 November 2005

170 miles

Usual tiresome UK roads, superbly engineered, but painfully congested.  Almost missed ferry!

Accommodation

Ferry from Portsmouth to St Malo.  Civilised dinner, tacky cabaret and a good nights sleep.

Other information

Ferry route selected on basis of distance into France as well as quality of onward roads (all dual carriageway).

www.brittanyferries.co.uk

 

Lerma 

N42 1.231' W3 45.236'

Day 2 - 01 December 2005

682 miles

Long day through France and N. Spain.  Lousy signposting in Spain, particularly  round Bilbao with silly bi-lingual signs usually after the junction!

Accommodation

Fabulous self-indulgent hotel; Parador de Lerma, just off motorwayTel.: +34 947 177 110

www.parador.es 

150

Other information

Diesel about 10% cheaper in Spain than France.

Spanish motorway tolls are a pain as they have toll booths at ridiculously short intervals; use credit cards.

Ceuta

Day 3 - 02 December 2005

551 miles

Another long day and the rain continues.  Slow going round Madrid, otherwise nice European motorways, but still ridiculously short toll intervals on Costa del Sol.

Accommodation

Parador de Ceuta with good car security..  

Tel.: +34 956 514940

www.parador.es

105

Other information

Diesel is not tax free in Ceuta regardless of what the guide books say.  Ferry tickets available everywhere so best wait until you arrive at Algeciras so you get the ticket for the next crossing.

Marrakech 

N 31 37.778', W 8 1.098 '

Day 4 - 03 December 2005

395 miles

Slow but interesting route over mountains via Tetouan, then motorway until Settat.  Worth leaving early to avoid last hour or so in dark as roads become slow and dangerous (suicidal pedestrians!).

Accommodation

Ibis hotel next to railway station. 

50

www.accorhotels.com

Other information

Crossing into Morocco is fairly straightforward if you know what you are doing.  No visa required.  Do not be hassled by "guides".  Go to police, get form ("fiche"), fill in.  If you do not have Moroccan car  insurance, go to nearby (50m) office and buy (40 for 14 days) and return to police queue.  They stamp your passport and you then go to customs (Douane) to complete form in triplicate of which you keep top two copies, one of which you hand to douane on departure from Morocco.  Allow 45 minutes to an hour.

Sidi Ifni 

N 29 22.891', W 10 10.614'

Day 5 - 04 December 2005

251 miles

Leisurely start and an easy day with last 50 miles or so through pretty mountain scenery.

Accommodation

Hotel Bellevue.  Cheap and pleasant with good restaurant and wine...

20

 

 

Laayoune  

N 27 9.61 ', W 13 12.249'

Day 6 - 05 December 2005

Laayoune (5).jpg (2562350 bytes)

307 miles

Despite getting lost in Guelmim, another relatively easy day on reasonable roads.

Accommodation

Hotel Parador.  Ignore the guide books; it is open to the general public (not just UN personnel) and discounts for the asking.  Still fairly pricey for Africa.   Rather run down, but everything still works (hot water, towels, wine). 

Tel.: +212 48 89 2814

140 reduced to 98.

Other information

Diesel starts to get cheap as this is Western Sahara

Dakhla  

N 23 42.467', W 15 55.573'

Day 7 - 06 December 2005

331 miles

Roads still good and almost no traffic so stress-free.  Some might find it boring, but there is some spectacular scenery and some of the best beaches I have ever seen.

Accommodation

Doumss Hotel.  According to Rough Guide, "best hotel in town".  If your taste is for brothels, this may be true.  No lock on door, restaurant closed as chef is off sick (permanently) and bar is windowless room 3 metres square with TV on wall, chairs around edge and no booze.  Keep driving 200 metres and you arrive at Hotel Sahara Regency (see return journey).

Tel.: +212 48 89 80 46

20.

Alternatively camp on beaches with perfect views.

Other information

We filled up at start of each day, but diesel available everywhere.  Police checkpoints start to become a pain at start and end of every town.  Smile and say "bonjour, ca va...".  Print out dozens of "fiches" with personal details to hand out and save time.

Nouadibhou 

N 20 55.341', W 17 2.511 '

 

Day 8 - 07 December 2005

270 miles

Roads still good; tarmac and little traffic.

Accommodation

Hotel Sahel.  No bar or restaurant, but nearby Spanish restaurant  (Hogar Canario +222 574 6849) had both, albeit only for foreigners.  Clean, air-conditioned with secure parking, internet and photocopier (another 20 fiches!!)

Tel.: +222 574 3857

70 inc. tax

Other information

Border crossing involves oodles of paperwork with reverse of entry into Morocco, plus the same all over again to get into Mauritania.  We copped out and paid a guide (10) to jump queues and take us through minefield, through 3 police check points and into Nouadibhou to change money, buy insurance, find hotel and restaurant. Visa available at border; no extra charge for double entry.

Nouakchott  

N 18 5.228 ', W 15 58.392'

 

Day 9 - 08 December 2005

Nouakchott 1.jpg (60085 bytes)

302 miles

Lovely new road with smooth surface, no pot-holes and signposts!!

Accommodation

Hotel Mercure Marhaba, supposedly best hotel in the country.  Clean, everything works and a swimming pool.  Booze available to foreigners at outrageous, almost Norwegian prices (30 for bottle of rubbish wine and 7 for 330ml can of Heinecken).

www.mercure.com

tel.: +222 529 5050

110 but only 89 on internet.

Nouakchott

Day 10 - 09 December 2005

Other information

Stayed two nights so we would have time to get Mali visa from embassy (N 18 6.48 ', W 15 58.689' ).  In fact embassy opens at 09.00 and it only takes 20 minutes if you have photocopy of passport, two photos and 30.

Plage des pecheurs (N 18 6.158 ', W 16 1.578 ') makes an interesting outing to watch the boats come in.

Kiffa 

N 16 38.956', W 11 26.805'

 

Day 11 - 11 December 2005

Kiffa.jpg (38142 bytes)

373 miles

Route d'espoir runs due East from Nouakchott into interior.  Suicidal sheep, goats, camels, donkeys, children, adults as evidenced by astonishing number of corpses strewn along both sides of the road.  Drive carefully, particularly near towns.  Good asphalt except for town centres which are sand/rubbish...

Accommodation

Hotel El Emel.  Bungalow style accomodation with en-suite shower, but no towels.  Steak and chips with coke is sole offering from restaurant.  No booze, indeed this is beginning of AA hell.

tel.: +222 563 26 38

30 plus 10 for dinner for two

Other information

Diesel still cheap and everywhere.  Police checkpoints actually have their uses as, arriving in Kiffa in total darkness, the local gendarme showed us the way to the hotel and even advised on other hotel options.

Oualata 

N 17 17.901', W 7 1.529 '

 

Day 12 - 11 December 2005

Oualata (11).jpg (52023 bytes)

380 miles

Route d'espoir deteriorates dramatically after Kiffa with some lethal potholes and dodgy edges.  Arriving at Nema, the road just ends and the piste to Oualata (or anywhere else) begins.  Almost 4 hours to do the last 90 km.

Accommodation

Hotel de la Ville.  Charming  townhouse with basic facilities: shared shower and long-drop.  Electricity from 19.30-20.30...sometimes.  Dinner (couscous and indeterminate meat with tea) outside by moonlight.  Beautiful, peaceful.

30 including dinner and breakfast.

There are other auberges/hotels including Ksar which claims to have en-suite and a/c for 60 but was not open.

Other information

No diesel.  No nothing except souvenirs and mandatory visit to register with gendarme, plus, of course, the intriguing town.

Niout 

N 16 7.07 ', W 6 49.098'

 

Day 13 - 12 December 2005

Nema-Nampala (3).jpg (2813985 bytes)

129 miles

All day on unmarked rocky/sandy pistes.  Very slow, very tiring.  Begin to wonder if this was such a good idea.

Accommodation

First and only use of tent.  1 hour of tedium to put it up in failing light, and another 40 minutes to take it down in a sandstorm.

200.

Other information

Foreign Office web site says we will be shot in this area at night...mmm!  We park behind rocks and pray.  They also say you need a guide to get from Nouadibhou to Nouakchott through the sand dunes...which is certainly an interesting alternative to driving on shiny new asphalt.

Nampala 

N 15 16.707', W 5 33.025'

Day 14 - 13 December 2005

Nampala, Mali (6).jpg (41254 bytes)

137 miles

Another tough day on unmarked pistes and we enter Mali without passing border guards.

Accommodation

Parked at army post as they advise it is dangerous to travel at night...for navigational not bandit reasons.  Very friendly and helpful, even explaining toilet etiquette for the communal long-drop.

Other information

Border formalities at Lere about 50 miles further on.

Niafounke 

N 15 46.911', W 4 25.331'

 

Day 15 - 14 December 2005

Sambani-Niafounke (6).jpg (50305 bytes)

161 miles

More unmarked pistes to Lere.  IGN maps hopelessly out of date and we spend 6 hours going round in circles looking for piste which has been re-routed South of town.  Red piste from Lere when we eventually find it.

Accommodation

By the road and no need for tent.  No mosquitoes, pleasant temperature.

Other information

Even though you may feel stupid it is worth asking several people for the whereabouts of pistes, particularly when leaving towns/villages as there is usually a maze of tracks, some of which end at a single hut!  Mark waypoints regularly so you can go back to last known point.

Tombouctou (Timbuktu)

N 16 46.556', W 3 0.86 '

Day 16- 15 December 2005

Tombouctou, Mali (4).jpg (40486 bytes)

155 miles

At last, marked pistes and it is almost an anticlimax to hit smooth, signposted red piste all the way from Goundam to Tombouctou.

Accommodation

Hotel Azalai.  After 4 nights with no shower, the run down ex-Sofitel is a luxury.  Cold beer, showers and a basic restaurant.  Chosen on the basis of car security and location just off centre of town.

Tel.: +223 92 11 63

38

Other information

Diesel is available to anyone with cash.  "Guides" and "Touareg friends" are a pain, but we managed to ignore them and see the limited sights unaided.  In fact it is difficult to get lost in this tiny place and the only significant sights, mosques and old town are impossible to miss.

Tombouctou

Day 17 - 16 December 2005

Accommodation

Lunch and dinner at Hotel Colombe (N 16 46.554', W 3 0.858 ')  which has roof terrace and view of the street below, not to mention good food and reasonable wine.

Some of Rough Guide's recommendations are a joke and most of the restaurants are either squalid or no longer exist.  For those with an interest in sub-Saharan flies and insect-borne disease transmission, Restaurant du Nord is a must.

Mopti 

N 14 30.343', W 4 11.755'

Day 18 - 17 December 2005

Mopti (2).jpg (72142 bytes)

249 miles

Tarmac from Tombouctou to ferry which then takes relatively long crossing to Korioume.  Then red piste, mainly in reasonable condition, although some corrugated sections.  From Douentza, good asphalt all the way, although suspension shattering speed bumps usually un-signposted at arbitrary points, vaguely related to villages along the way.

Accommodation

Hotel Kanaga by the river.  Clean, comfortable with outdoor and indoor bar, restaurant as well as pool and gardens.

Tel. +223 243 0500

kanaga@bambara.com

76

Other information

Mopti was not the tourist trap we expected from the guide books, certainly not compared with Tombouctou.

Bandiagara 

N 14 21.112', W 3 36.926'

 

Day19 - 18 December 2005

45 miles

Easiest day of all on tarmac and with signposts...not that navigation was difficult anyway.

Accommodation

Hotel la Falaise.  Fairly new courtyard hotel funded by Swiss girlfriend of "Papa".  Clean, air-conditioned rooms with basic en-suite

Simple restaurant, but with good fresh food cooked to order.  Good bar and they even had drinkable wine, Cotes du Rhone at 10.

Tel.: +223  244 2128

40 a/c room.

Other information

Guides can be arranged through the hotel at apparently the same price as doing the work yourself. Our guide was  Barou:

Bandiagara

Day 20 - 19 December 2005

46 miles

Appalling pistes from Bandiagara to Djigouibombo, with concrete sections down the escarpment, but in terrible condition; like driving over kerbstones so very slow progress.  Once in valley, sand, grass and gravel pistes.

Accommodation

Long lunch break at Teli ostensibly to avoid heat of day, but not really that hot!  Lunch served on shaded roof of auberge with fantastic view of cliff dwellings, best BBQ chicken ever (killed and cooked to order) and, quite amazingly, cold beer!

Other information

Guides:  You probably could freelance it, but a guide is useful to oil the wheels at each village, keep begging children away and  avoid (or find) handicrafts.  Ours was also essential for negotiating photo shoots with photogenic individuals for the price of a cola nut.  As relatively rich Western tourists, we also felt inclined to support local employment and enjoy the company of a Dogon guide for a couple of days.

Bandiagara

Day21 - 20 December 2005

65 miles

Unbelievably, the pistes were even worse, but spectacular views and environment so worth the pain.

Accommodation

Another auberge lunch included in the guide price.  Again fresh food and cold beer (extra, but only 1.50 for large bottle).

Other information

You will notice that all the roads, schools, wells, dams and other infrastructure is funded by EU, UN, charities or well-meaning individuals.  Probably why tourists are so welcome!

Djenne 

N 13 54.442', W 4 33.342'

Day 22 - 21 December 2005

109 miles

Short day on good roads with ferry across river to Djenne (5 return).

Accommodation

Hotel le Campement in centre of (very small) town.  Proper hotel in spite of its name with restaurant and bar.  Our room in annex, but wide range depending on budget and availability.

Tel.: +223 242 0497

campdjenne@afribone.net.ml

21

Other information

Guides available at hotel if you want excursions around town.  Not really necessary if you just want to see town itself.

Bamako 

N 12 38.022', W 7 58.45 '

Day 23 - 22 December 2005

355 miles

Reasonable tarmac all the way, but navigating Bamako in the dark was interesting as they close one of the main bridges during evening rush hour.

Accommodation

Hotel Mande by the river (ile du Cite) with very nice gardens, pool, rooms and restaurant on stilts.  Although open air it seemed not to suffer from mosquitoes.

Tel.: +223 221 19 93

61

Other information

GPS proves invaluable getting out of town, partly by same as entry route.  Despite FCO warnings, driving no worse in Bamako than anywhere else in Mali or RIM.

Nioro du Sahel

N 15 13.957', W 9 35.409'

 

Day 24 - 23 December 2005

283 miles

Definitely the worst day so far.  After 100 miles of deceptively good tarmac as far as Didiema, the road becomes corrugated piste for the next 100 miles.  It is brain, bone and Land Cruiser shattering and you feel really ill after several hours of it.  At Djema they are starting work on a new piste with bridges and level surface, but in the meantime a temporary piste meandering either side of the construction site.

Accommodation

Campement Wanda is every bit as bad as I had feared Africa might be.  Windowless, mosquito infested hut with corrugated iron door and communal outdoor stenching long-drop and shower.

Admittedly cheap at 10 for dinner and room.  Rumour has it that there is a proper hotel (Jimana) but nobody knew where it was, possibly out of town on the Kayes road.

Tel.: +223 254 0270 (not that you will want it!)

Other information

In theory you need to get your passport stamped at police station prior to leaving town...or you can make an arrangement at the police check point if in a hurry!

Nouakchott

Day 25 - 24 December 2005

622 miles

Tarmac starts at Nioro and goes all the way...bliss!  Very early start and arrive in dark, but saves a day compared with outward journey.

Accommodation

Hotel Mercure, this time booked by mobile phone!

Other information

Although rather expensive for overseas visitors, mobile coverage seems to extend to around 20-30 miles around each town in Mauritania.  In fact the radio masts are also a useful navigational aid as they are visible, even in bush from around 10 miles.  For some inexplicable reason, O2 does not have agreements in Mali so we could not use their network at all.

Nouakchott

Day 26- 25 December 2005

0 miles

Car refused to start; I feel the same!

Accommodation

Spent all day enjoying enforced Christmas by the pool.  Glad car started in Nioro!

Other information

We almost expected to have to abandon car and fly home.  Astonishingly Mr Fixit (Ibrahim) arranged for mechanics to come out, remove starter motor, replace relay and return and refit all within 2 hours.  Total cost, parts and labour about 50!

Dakhla

Day 27 - 26 December 2005

509 miles

Another early start so we can get through border before 13.00 when they close for lunch until 14.30.

Accommodation

Hotel Sahara Regency in preference to the brothel recommended by Rough Guide.  Rooftop pool, bar, restaurant, air-conditioning, balcony, towels, hot water...

Tel.: +212 48 93 1555

www.sahararegency.com

80 reduced to 60 just for asking the price!

Other information

If ever there was a place to camp on the beach, this is it.

Laayoune

Day 28 - 27 December 2005

332 miles

Asphalt, as before.

Accommodation

Hotel Parador as last time, just asked for discount and no argument.

Other information

Last place to buy tax-free diesel.

Essaouira

N 31 30.633', W 9 46.119'

 

Day 29 - 28 December 2005

502 miles

Road washed away by overnight rain just North of Laayoune.  Slow convoy through flood meant 40 minute delay.  Reasonable road, but increasingly heavy traffic.  Beautiful, but difficult coast road from Agadir to Essaouira.

Accommodation

Hotel des Iles just outside Medina with secure car parking adjacent bungalow.  Rather forlorn place, which has seen better days, but still has 1940's character.

Tel.: +212 44 78 3636

73

Other information

You do need to book Riads in old town in advance as they have very few rooms and even at this time of year tend to be fully booked.

Essaouira

Day 30 - 29 December 2005

0 miles

 

Accommodation

Choice of excellent restaurants and despite name, we go for Chez Sam in the port area, with balcony overlooking the sea.  Fantastic fish and excellent wine.  Not cheap, 120!

Tel.: +212 44 47 6138

Other information

Surprisingly hassle free for such a beautiful town.

Sotogrande 

N 36 17.558', W 5 17.898'

 

Day 31 - 30 December 2005

448 miles

Long day through Morocco and much promised motorway still not finished until well North of Al Jadida.  However, once we reach motorway it is excellent with virtually no traffic and only the occasional suicidal pedestrian.  Decide to take ferry from Tanger as it is already getting dark and we face mega guide hassles and 3 hour wait for "express" ferry (150 but worth the small extra over Ceuta as it saves two hour drive through mountains in dark).

Accommodation

NH Hotel Sotogrande.  Arrive 02.00 and frankly don't care what it will cost.  Beautiful new luxury hotel where bar is still open, followed by room service including excellent Rioja and jamon...I love Spain!

Tel.: +34 956 69 5444

www.sotogrande.com

129 including breakfast.  They laugh when I ask for discount!

Other information

Tanger port is a complete shambles and it is probably best to buy ticket inside the port and check first which ferry is actually going next.  Very aggressive "guides", but do not pay them a cent, as they cannot actually make anything happen faster and, by now, you will have got the hang of the system!

Segovia

Day 32 - 31 December 2005

462 miles

Mostly good dual carriageway and we opt to pay for toll motorway round Madrid...fantastic both for speed, lack of traffic and the fact that they actually have road signs before the respective junction!!

Accommodation

Parador de Segovia with the best view in the world.  Beginning to show its (1970's) age but still very comfortable.

Tel.: +34 921 443737

www.parador.es

Rip-off New Year rate of 514 including fiesta; normal rate 129.

Other information

Segovia is full of amazing sights, good hotels and restaurants.  Parador has great view but is out of town so you need taxi (or don't drink, which defeats the point of eating out in Spain).

Segovia

Day 33 - 01 January 2006

0 miles

Dead car so we decide to wait until garage is open.

Accommodation

Drinks and tapas in old town, followed by modest dinner in parador with roast baby lamb and the view to die for.

 

On the road

Day 34 - 02 January 2006

0 miles (included in continuous day 35)

Car starts so we decide to drive non-stop to UK, rather than waste a day or so in garage.

Accommodation

Car!  Strange how you can just keep going if you need to.  Slept for half an hour on Eurotunnel.

 

Home

Day35 - 03 January 2006

1174 miles

Arrived at tunnel around 03.30 then got train at around 05.00.  Welcome to the UK road system with an overturned lorry at 06.00 on the M25.

Accommodation

Home.

Other information

The house was warm, unburgled, no floods...sleep.

 

 

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Jeremy Harrison 2005-2013