Itinerary 2008

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This time we decided to be a bit more adventurous and venture deeper into the Sahara.  Despite that, the majority of driving is always going to be on asphalt roads, so hopefully this itinerary will give an impression of what you are in for, assuming you want to do it as comfortably as possible...which was our primary goal!

Click on image to go to location (some links still under construction)

Portsmouth  Day 1 - 06 December 2008

198 miles

Usual tiresome UK roads, superbly engineered, and for a change, no hold-ups.  Left Nottingham at a reasonable hour in the morning, relaxed lunch with my brother in Oxford, then leisurely drive to Portsmouth...arrived to find ferry delayed by 10 hours!!


Slept on and off in car (freezing) whilst waiting for ferry to arrive.  Finally boarded 06:00 next morning.

Other information

Chose ferry on basis of avoiding tedious drive through France.  Very reasonable fare (227) and saved hotel bills, diesel, tolls, but two nights on ferry, so arrive 08:30 on Monday morning (in theory).  Due to bad weather, actually dock around 12:30; of course that means we end up driving in dark after arriving in Spain!


Day 2 - 07 December 2008

0 miles

Chill out on ferry and avoid all the stress of French motorways.....


Ferry (

Other information

Ignore all that stuff about "expensive meals"  on ferry.  It is actually quite reasonable and decent food, even booze is not too bad.  The two night crossing with P&O is a lot cheaper than Brittany Ferries from Plymouth, much more convenient and arrives early morning (if on time!) so you can get much further into Spain on day 1.  I would never do the drive through France again by choice!


Day 3 - 08 December 2008

384 miles

Relatively easy day, but pain that it gets dark around Madrid due to late ferry arrival.  Arrive very late (just in time for wonderful dinner 23:00)


Parador de Jaen, fabulous fantasy medieval castle and only 60 at this time of year.

Other information

Diesel cheaper than UK; get an up to date map for motorways around Madrid, otherwise navigation is idiot-proof...just head South (signposted Cordoba)!


Day 4 - 19 December 2085

145 miles

Bit of a cop-out as we flew home for a few days, then back again on 19th.  I have to work sometimes!


Parador de Malaga (  Free with my Amigos Paradores points, otherwise very expensive, although they do special deals in winter!  Just like home: right under airport flight path and adjacent motorway intersection.  Very pretty and great overnight, but why on earth would anyone go here for a holiday?

Other information

Rather difficult to find from Malaga airport; usual useless Spanish signposting after the junction, in this case about a mile after!  Parked at Easy Parking at airport for 8 per day for security, but free parking available if you want.


Day 5 - 20 December 2008

244 miles

Apart from the inevitable hassle of the frontier at Tangier, the roads were easy motorways.


Ibis sadly fully booked, but redirected to Hotel Oumlil, not bad and obviously a hot spot for locals' night out in the cosy bar.

700 Dhr (~60); don't pay for breakfast which is very expensive and poor!

Other information

Crossing into Morocco is fairly straightforward if you know what you are doing.  No visa or payments required.  Do not be hassled by "guides", even if they wear official-looking "porters" jackets. Go to police, get form ("fiche"), fill in.  (Unlike Ceuta, you get insurance after you have cleared customs, police etc.) 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.  We were first off ferry, but it still took two hours!


N 31 30.633', W 9 46.119'

Day 6 - 21 December 2008

291 miles

Late start after sightseeing tour of Rabat.  Roads easy motorway, then reasonable and very beautiful coast road.


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.  This time even more forlorn and cold and damp with inadequate heating.

Tel.: +212 44 78 3636

This time negotiable Dhr1200, became 800 (~70)

Other information

Not a good choice for overnight; the brand new Ibis on edge of town is much cheaper and probably has functional heating.

Sidi Ifni 

N 29 22.891', W 10 10.614'

Day 7 - 22 December 2008

231 miles

Took the coast road through beautiful scenery and a leisurely day altogether.


Hotel Bellevue.  Cheap and pleasant, though sadly restaurant and bar closed until Christmas for refurbishment!

Dhr184 (~18)

Other information

Morocco has obviously just invested in speed cameras and they are lurking in the gutter at every town to catch you; easy money.  We got done for Dhr400!

There is a bar on the beach which sells for takeaways, but some restaurants do not allow BYOB!


N 27 9.61 ', W 13 12.249'

Day 8 - 23 December 2008

Laayoune (5).jpg (2562350 bytes)

307 miles

Managed to avoid getting lost in Guelmim, despite bizarre road signs pointing in wrong direction!  Reasonable roads.


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 80.

Other information

Diesel starts to get cheap as this is tax-free Western Sahara.  On the downside, police start getting rather uppity either because this is Western Sahara or because they are sad, inadequate such police guy, having failed to find anything wrong with my documentation, vehicle or anything, insisted I delete photos of entry to Tan Tan as it appeared that images of concrete camels constitute a security threat to the civilised world.


N 23 42.467', W 15 55.573'

Day 9 - 24 December 2008

332 miles

Easy roads but annoyingly lots of police checkpoints to slow you down.


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

Dhr800 and no discounts this time.

Other information

If ever there was a place to camp on the beach, this is it.  However, a nice oasis prior to the deprivations of booze-free RIM!


N 20 55.341', W 17 2.511 '

Day10 -25 December 2008

270 miles

Roads still good (except for couple of km of no-man's-land rocky piste); tarmac and little traffic.


Hotel Sahel.  No bar or restaurant, but nearby Spanish restaurant  (Casa Canaria; N 20 55.533', W 17 2.367 ') had both, albeit only for foreigners and at outrageous prices (33 a bottle for Rioja; apparently the Chinese have taken over the illicit booze industry!)  Clean, air-conditioned with secure parking, internet, but no printer.  Tel.: +222 574 3857. 70 inc. tax

Other information

Border crossing involves absurd amounts of paperwork with reverse of entry into Morocco; the Moroccans have made an art out of bureaucracy and it takes an hour to exit.  Entry to RIM somewhat easier. 25 each for 15 day visa, 10 for jar of coffee for police! Bought insurance at border 35 for 30 days.



Day 11 - 26 December 2008

212 miles

Followed the old route through National Park (Banc d'Arguin).  First experience of getting stuck in sand dunes; deflate tyres and off we go...!


Badly organised camp site (no water, shower, WC),  mattress in tent for ~7 each.  Lame, over-priced meal for another 7 each.  RIM charges EU prices for rubbish because there is no competition...and we are stupid enough to pay.

Other information

Make sure you agree price (e.g. from guide) before you start and get it in writing.  We thought we had a deal and shook hands, but every possible opportunity they try and add something.


N 18 5.228 ', W 15 58.392'

Day 12 - 27 December 2008

Nouakchott 1.jpg (60085 bytes)

107 miles

Famous drive along beach is definitely worth it; relatively easy, smooth and beautiful as the sand dunes hit the Atlantic.


Hotel Mercure Marhaba, supposedly best hotel in the country.  Clean, everything works and a swimming pool.  Unfortunately they were "out of stock" of all booze regardless of price.  New regime perhaps?

tel.: +222 529 5050

110 but only 89 on internet.


Day 13 - 28 December 2008

16 miles to beach and back

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 25 each.  We unwittingly arrived on Sunday, but they still opened for us and the others who turned up for visas.

Plage des pecheurs (N 18 6.158 ', W 16 1.578 ') makes an interesting outing to watch the boats come in, although now you are warned by gendarmes not to take photos of people, because if you do they "will not come and rescue you". 


N 20 30.599 ', W 1303.347'

Day 14 -29 December 2008

272 miles

Decent tarmac road; rather boring for first 200km then interesting climb into mountains and excellent views.


Hotel le Mehariste (36) supposedly best in town, but run down and tatty with over-priced (UM 3500 ~11) three course meal comprising soup, couscous, tinned pineapple.

Other information

Parked in hotel compound but still got tyres slashed so wasted time following morning getting expensive change (UM5000 labour only).  Now down to one spare tyre so feeling less gung-ho about desert...


N 20 27.652', W 12 21.879'

Day15 - 30December 2008

65 miles

Reasonable piste except last 10km or so (corrugated), with asphalt through spectacular pass.  Ignore Lonely Planet (and Chris Scott) information on start of piste.  It actually starts exactly 1700 metres from Auberge Dar Salam, not 10 km as they state.


Auberges des Caravanes located in centre of new town; UM2000 (~7) each for mattress on floor in hut.  Shared facilities but not unpleasant.  Dinner again over-priced as previous night.  Purported decent hotel has been taken over by military to protect tourists (who now have to stay in campsite or auberges).

Other information

Diesel from underground tank with hand pump, not unreasonable price (UM294 ~0.93; still cheaper than UK!) and saves having to go back to Atar to refuel for desert crossing.


N 20 55.602', W 11 37.461 '

Day16 - 31 December 2008

80 miles

Bone-shaking heavily corrugated piste; try every technique but it still gets you.  Took 4 hours one way (the slow technique) and two hours on return; TLC survived as did we.


Auberge similar to previous night.  Special celebration dinner of roast sheep (quite edible) plus our own sparkling water for New Year.  Again the military have taken over the best accommodation!

Other information

No diesel. Met fellow travellers to share the desert crossing; we would not have done the 4 day crossing to Tidjikja on our own, although others do.  We were to meet several others on that route so you do stand a chance of being picked up if all goes horribly wrong!


N 20 25.403', W 12 34.952 '

Day 17 -01 January 2009

112 miles (only 16 miles into desert from Chinguetti)

Side trip to Tin Labbe, then same horrible piste back to Chinguetti followed by start of crossing through smooth, sandy Wadi.


Sleep under stars; no charge!  Beautiful.

Other information

Amazingly we are surrounded by nomads trying to sell us stuff as soon as the sun rises!


N19 53.649', W 12 22.396 '

Day 18 -02 January 2009

68 miles

Mixture of sand, and rocks  including mother of all rocky passes, rather like driving up a mound of kerb stones!  Very nasty and difficult balance between keeping enough speed to avoid stalling engine, but not too much so as to crash into rocks!  Did not dare to use low ratio as very difficult to steer accurately with all differentials locked.


Sleep under stars again; no charge!  Beautiful.

Other information

Again amazingly we are surrounded by nomads trying to sell us stuff as soon as the sun rises!


N 19 12.464', W11 55.506 '

Day 19 -03 January 2009

74 miles

More sand and rocks; piste wanders around to avoid shifting dunes, so sometimes very slow with one out in front guiding between huge rocks.


Sleep under stars again; no charge!  Beautiful.

Other information

No nomads; nice and peaceful.


N 18 45.015', W 11 39.689 '

Day 20 -04 January 2009

57 miles

Relatively easy day with plenty of wadi driving which is sandy but level.  Time for sightseeing in Rachid and leave shortly before sunset to get away from town for camping.


Sleep under stars; no charge!  Beautiful if a little chilly.

Other information

After four days in the desert it is strange to be in an albeit small town.  First thing is to check in with gendarmerie!


N 16 38.956', W 11 26.805'

Day21 - 05 January 2009

337 miles

Asphalt from Tidjika (not piste as shown on most maps), with stunning views over sand dune valley  Then onto the infamous route de l'espoir with usual suicidal sheep, goats, camels, donkeys, children, adults carefully, particularly near towns. 


Hotel El Emel.  Bungalow style accommodation with en-suite shower; very tatty for price.  Deep-fried chicken and chips is sole offering from restaurant; made the mistake of looking into kitchen...or was it the rubbish tip? 

tel.: +222 563 26 38;  45 including dinner for two.

Other information

Diesel still cheap and everywhere.



Day 22 - 06 January 2009

272 miles

Tarmac all the way.


Slept in car at side of road to avoid having to revisit Nioro!

Other information

Exiting RIM requires 10 exit fee (maybe unofficial, but hardly worth arguing over).  Entry to Mali relatively stress-free, although numerous visits to police, gendarme, douane.  Paid official (receipted 10) for "Laissez-passez" for car plus another (unoffical) 3 to police for inspecting douane certificate!


N 12 38.022', W 7 58.45 '

Day 23-30 - 07-17 January 2009

262 miles

Deliriously wonderful, brand new EU funded asphalt has replaced the appalling piste so it is tarmac all the way, including some rather quaint EU features such as road signs, marked lay-bys and ...zebra crossings!!


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.  Excellent restaurant.

Tel.: +223 221 19 93

75 including discount for 10-night stay

Other information

GPS proves invaluable as we marked hotel as waypoint on previous visit.  Lovely cold beer, first since Nouadhibou; even wine.  Flew back from Bamako having sold our lovely TLC.


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Jeremy Harrison 2005-2020