Tag Archives: truck

A Dakhla Birthday for Mikaela…

Yesterday Mikaela celebrated her 22nd birthday. Having been reminded of the importance of birthdays in Mikaela’s family home, I knew that my well-being depended upon her day being special.

So I thought I’d begin with an English breakfast in bed. This was no easy task, and the menu choice was of course dictated by a lack of pork! The final result of my market shopping skills was fried tomatoes, eggy bread, scrambled eggs, avocado smoothie and the pièce de resistance Heinz baked beans. Not a strictly traditional menu but Mik was content to break from the normal routine of a cheese triangle smothered roundbread.

I hear you asking “where on earth did you find Heinz baked beans in Western Sahara?”. They were in fact purchased in a tiny shop in the even smaller town of Olonzac in the south of France, which had a small section for English holidaymakers. The tin then survived several thousand kilometers undetected by Mikaela in one of our panniers.

On the morning of her birthday, I snuck out early to seek a kind café owner who would let me use his kitchen (a stealth operation for those who know Mik’s light sleeping and early morning wakening). Using the fresh supplies from the market, I clumsily stuck the meal together, turning down a few potential buyers of her breakfast. I then cautiously loaded it onto the plate I had also bought in the market and woke Mikaela to the smell of beans and toast.

Sometimes the things that at home are pretty normal become much greater tasks and sweeter surprises in this case! Equally the hairbrush and nail varnish that Mik unwrapped with the excitement of a five-year old were appreciated so much more. The little, simple things that can make us smile.

So now, with a birthday behind us we are ready to leave Dakhla. As we try to make sense of my knee grumbles, we are approaching the deadline of our single-entry visa to Mauritania on the 4th of November. So it seems we’ll have to load our bikes onto another truck at least until the border where we will negotiate the generous no-man’s-land by bicycle.

The next part of the journey brings new risks that we have not had to consider before. The route we must take through Mauritania has seen a rise in kidnappings of Europeans and after seeking the advice of everyone from the FCO to security experts on the region we have taken the difficult decision not to cycle. This is really a simple case of risk outweighing benefit and whilst disappointing the timing is actually pretty good for my knee injury. Besides, we can’t deny the child within that relishes every moment of truck fun, sat high up above all the other cars honking at donkeys and camels, every cloud has a silver lining

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to Laayoune…

Our bodies have been wonderful to us, they really have. We on the other hand have not been so wonderful to them.

Things were going well, kilometers were being covered and our daily mini-yoga ritual appeared to be working. But the last few days we have pushed ourselves too hard and we are both feeling it. Covering up to 120 km per day has tested us and although we have no major injuries Imran is experiencing some knee grumbles.

So as we always agreed we would we are airing on the overly-cautious side and resting. We made this decision 50 km from Laayoune (El Aaiún) when we flagged down the first truck that passed us.

To our delight Ahmad pulled over and hopped out of his truck asking what the problem was.

Imran limply hopped at him and pointed at his knee, this was enough.

‘My truck is full, there is no space for your bicycles’.

Our faces dropped and we smiled to him accepting rejection, we had thought hitching might be tough.

‘But my friend Rachid is just a little behind and he has an empty truck’.

Sure enough Rachid hauled up, jumped out of the truck and rushed over. Bouncing over to us he shook our hands with a grin. In a moment he had seized the guitar and the scarf that cushioned it. Rachid began dancing and strumming the guitar, throwing the scarf around his head he imitated a woman and continued the performance.

Ahmad looked on and with a familiar sigh and announced Rachid as crazy.

We trucked along happily entertained by Rachid and his countless impressions of stubborn camels, until around 10 km before the city checkpoint where the military would not be happy to find the truck drivers helping us out. We threw ourselves out of the cab with little grace and about as much dignity as Rachids camel impression.

Thanking them for the ride we cycled towards the checkpoint into the biggest city of Moroccan occupied Western Sahara.

The checkpoint was busy with soldiers and though friendly we immediately felt a sense of the kind of city we were visiting. One of a controlling military presence.

We cycled away from the officials and towards the slightly clinical looking newly built city. For now we are resting but we might have to hitch a ride, knee dependant. Fingers crossed…