London to Gambia by car 2018.


London to Gambia by Car. 2018.

Banjul (Dakar) Challenge   
Organised by Julian Nowill
So today’s stupid idea is to drive to The Gambia. The plan is we buy an old car in the UK for £361. Drive it to The Gambia and give it to charity out there. Plan is to catch a very early eurotunnel boxing day and drive South. Hopefully get there around Jan 12th. 



Having left our house in London and stayed overnight in Kent, we left Maidstone, Kent, at about 4am, much to the annoyance of the neighbours!


Off we go

Up at 0300, on the road at 0357 after yet another jump start! Should we have bought a new battery? Only time will tell. Took the 6am train to France, and set off in the dark. Uneventful drive to Folkestone and welcome a flat white coffee from Starbucks. Train left early and no other surprises. Dreadful grey skies, rain, horrendous winds and a vehicle with lots of holes in the soft roof. Lovely! 

New Fanbelt please

All went well except for the rain, and about 3 hours later, and about 200Kms into our 4,000Kms trip The Duchess announced to me “One’s battery light has been illuminated.” We stopped quite sharpish on a side road, not only for the battery light but the bonnet wasn’t secure. Stupidly when filling with petrol Sue had gone into automatic pilot and pulled the button by the steering shell to unlock the petrol cap. Good idea but wrong vehicle, as it opened the bonnet. That’s how Juan Carlos, the car in Spain works. Anyway, we then find that the fan belt has broken.

Mechanic to the rescue

However Graham, my marvelous mechanic, engineer, all round sort of bloke you hate because they know how to fix everything, (Only mucking about) Brother in Law in the other car fixed it. An old replacement is found in the boot, how lucky is that. But after a couple of hundred kms there is awful screeching from the fan belt. We’re saving the spare for a real emergency as the old one seems to be working.   I did say to him before we started that DIY means “Don’t Involve Yourself”. So the deal is, he fixes what I break, and I buy beer for him.

Hunt the fanbelt

Set off again, and found the only Suzuki parts shops for about 300 miles, (The French don’t do Boxing day) in the town we are staying in, and they had one fan belt left for our 2001 Suzuki. Excellent.

Best Western hotel Poitiers

All of this commotion and we’re not even through France.
Now in Poitiers, next stop, 600 miles away in Salamanca. Early start!!
Mucho extra strong Leffe Beer, white wine and chilli pizza. Asleep by 930pm.


Another early start. Alarm goes off at 0500. Dreadful weather, once we had got out of the underground car park at 6am as the door was broken. Try to leave the hotel from the underground car park but the street door refuses to open. Night duty receptionist assists.

Off to Salamanca

We leave Poitiers. We need a lot of gaffer or duct tape supplied to us by Graham and our Sun roof is now attached to the rest of the car. 
We are heading south for 8 hours to Salamanca Spain. A great £361 investment to buy the Suzuki. Onwards and upwards.  Weather is ‘orrible. It’s pitch black, windy and rain. Did I mention that the windscreen wipers are not the best!?

Bit Slow
Anyway, journey starts about 0630 and eventually we have our first stop at 1000 having just bypassed Bordeaux. On the few overtakes that Sue tried there was just so much spray from the trucks it was quite scary. The plan had been to drive at about 65kph. No chance for nearly two hours. Average of about 45.

Spanish Border

I am driving for a few hours towards Spanish border. Although I didn’t have the pitch black sky I did have a hailstone storm or two to cope with. Not nice at all.

Me and the bird is in Espana!!

Arrived at the Parador hotel, Salamanca about 1845. The rooms are lovely, spacious, comfy, delightful. Have supper in a local bar/restaurant. Return to hotel just before 2200.
Another early night but don’t have to set alarm until 0545. Whoopee …….

On route to Gibraltar

Back out again at 7am for the last part of the european journey to meet the rest of the team near Gibraltar. Shame to leave such a lovely hotel room for a cold, rattly Suzuki Vitara but that’s what we did. Although still pitch black until almost 0830 the drive this morning was better without the rain and wind. Not that it didn’t come at various times throughout the day.

No dramas.

We stopped for brunch at a service area, but the food was hot. Continued the drive, and meet Paul and Alison (Alf) at one of our pit stops. They’re driving a very fast Shogun thing. They overtook us at a high rate of knots.

Gaffa tape holding

The gaffa tape which is holding the back of the vehicle together is flapping around in the wind and will need some attention as soon as we can get the canvas covering dry! 

Mid afternoon we get to the southern tip of Spain, and now staying in the ferry port of Tarifa, for hopefully a 10am jet boat across to Morocco.

The radiator cowling

fell off the other day and had to be re attached with plastic zip ties.
But still the £361 worth of love machine keeps going. It even started this morning without the normal battery ‘defibrillator’ as the weather is getting better.


We met up with some of the other travellers, some of whom are to cars what train spotters are to trains. 


Quaint little chalet type room, but very basic. 
Plan today is to get across the Moroccan border and book a hotel in Fez which is about a 3 hour drive away. Up at 0615, pottering around. Drizzling. Very basic breakfast 
Getting across the Med was very easy. We turned up at the port of Tarifa and book a ferry for 1 hour hence, at 10.00 (A 45 minute trip) for about 200 Euros a car. Obviously only 1 way!


Ferry to Tangiers from Tarifa
Ferry crossing takes us to Tangiers where the fun starts. There are a multitude of forms to fill out. Insurance to buy, customs officers to keep ‘happy’. Eventually we leave the port and we are now a convoy of 4 cars. John and Lynne are also in a fetching red Suzuki Vitara Jeep, the same colour as ours. Graham and Karen are in a silver model. Paul and ‘Alf’ are in a blue 4 x 4. We hit really slow traffic initially, then we head for the ATM. I am told at this point that we don’t have any idea of a route, so Sue and I take the lead.

Road to Fez

The plan is to head to Fez for the night. driving through the town was a nightmare. There are no rules for cars, for pedestrians, for anyone or anything. My poor heart didn’t know how fast to pump. Scary, scary stuff. Roads not too bad after that and had lunch in what is described as the blue city/village. Had to pay someone to look after the vehicles whilst we had lunch! If this morning was bad this evening was worse. There were huge trucks, with bales of hay, very badly loaded, travelling at slow speeds along very bumpy roads.


No alcohol!
Cars were overtaking in the dark, round blind bends and doing crazy, crazy manoeuvres. There were very few road markings visible and Sue is so grateful that she wasn’t behind the wheel. We struggled to find our hotel and we arrived at about 2030. Another long day. Pizza delivered to the hotel and plans made for tomorrow. Knackered ….
Oh dear there is no alcohol served here! We have to rely on our duty free we collected along the way.


Alarm set for 0715. The plan is to drive to Marrakech so back in the £361 limo. 

Paul and John go off to the hills, Graham and I head straight to Marrakech. 

Zimmer Beach Resort

Paul and John set off in their vehicles and we bimble around town to find Carrefour for some supplies. Had a Costa coffee whilst waiting for the shops to open. Not much to report on the drive. We stopped for lunch at the Zimmer Beach Resort in Mohammedia or something like that.

Golden sand, crashing waves, surfers, a couple of beautiful white horses. Expensive meal but enjoyable. Then back on the road.

Driving at night

Unfortunately we mistimed the journey and didn’t get to our destination in daylight. Driving on the motorway at night is complete madness. Flashing lights, dreadful overtakes, heavily laden hay trucks. The result being that we are still outside Marrakech not knowing where we’re heading. Finally establish contact with Paul and John. They are beyond Marrakech in the mountains, miles away.


We drive into town and more by luck than judgement manage to get two rooms at the Ibis. This one does have a bar, and surprisingly there are a lot of guests here all preparing to enjoy the new year. Couple of beers and lovely hotel window views!


Ibis Hotel Marrakech

Sue and I decided not to drive the mountain route the next day but stay on the motorway for a much shorter, easier drive to Agadir. where we have 4 rooms booked for the New Year celebrations. We want to go directly there as we are not sure if the car will make it up the hills.  Sleep in a very basic, just about clean room. Karen and Graham decide that they will make for the hills tomorrow.

Iconic and vibrant views from our  Moroccon hotels Windows.

No alarm, slow start to the day. Breakfast at the hotel. Today should be a short drive to Agadir for NYE and another night.  


We leave the hotel, just Sue and I. Karen and Graham went very early to catch the others. (Graham later tells us that he got a speeding ticket in the hills. The fine cost around £3.50p.) So far so good. Well apart from being stopped by the Police in Marrakech town centre when I send the Duchess down a bus lane. Lots of apologies by me, lots of showing off long legs by her, and me pretending I didn’t understand a word he was saying.He spoke to his supervisor, and we were let off. 


Eventually found the toll motorway and it was plain sailing from then on. Saw a herd of camels grazing, lots of sheep and goats with their carers, villages in the middle of nowhere looking very desolated. Not sure if people lived there or not. Meanwhile we’re looking at the Atlas Mountains, some sprinkled with snow. One stop to put some more gaffa tape on our back window and on to our hotel. 
A quick couple of hours to the Hotel.

Let the New Year celebrations commence!

Get to the hotel about 1.30, slight kerfuffle with the room and had to change. All very good. Found an atm and the inevitable English bar. Karen and Graham arrived by 1700. Their route through the mountain range was very scenic. However, some of the road was only just wide enough for all four wheels of the vehicle to be in contact with terra ferma! and there was also the added problem of a vehicle coming in the opposite direction. Definitely not for the faint hearted. I think we did the right thing. We found Karen and Graham later on halfway through a tasting menu in the local Moroccan restaurant.

News Years Eve

We joined them and embarked on a six course meal – including the veggie option. All very nice. Now about 2200 and we paid the 200 dirhams to get into the New Year’s Eve party. Back into the hotel room about 2315. Such was the fun. We were asleep before midnight. Happy new year!
Good morning everyone from a rather sunny Agadir. I think I know a song about that!
Things are a bit more dusty here.


Last night was NYE and we found a British pub, so we went there for a short while but was a bit of a toilet so The Duchess and I celebrated the passing of the old year by snoring.

Rest Day

Today is a rest day, first in a week, and tomorrow back on our heads.
The £361 love machine is working ok and the next stop is some place in the desert called Guelmim. We have slow stroll through part of town, find the beach and have a couple of coffees whilst using WiFi. Massage followed by an hour around the pool. Meet up with the others for a couple of drinks and a very nice meal – tajine of seafood. Lovely.

Sidi Ifni

Well today we find ourselves in the coastal town of Sidi Ifni. Morocco. South of Agadir. Morocco.
I am glad to say that we left late today as a vehicle broke down, but it was not our £361 of love machine.
We leave the hotel about 1100, head for a supermarket and petrol station.

Sidi Ifni. Morocco
It took a while to get out of town but we were soon on a dual carriageway of sorts for most of the journey. Coast road most of the way travelling in 4 vehicle convoy. Scenery was stunning, bits of rocky desert, some greenery and then the Atlantic crashing into the golden beaches. After a couple of hours we pull into a little seaside village and decide to call it a day. In total about 3 1/2 hours driving.

We are here for the night and continue south, prob reaching Mauritania on Saturday. Blooming warm now, and getting more desert type by the day.

We can still get beer so all is good.
We at last have a decent hotel room with a view, but the sea is dark so we cant see much.  

Still have beer
Hotel basic but clean and right next to the beach. Very wavy, a surfers beach. Dinner had at the hotel. Another tajine, only octopus this time.
However google translate did come in handy earlier when we wanted to change rooms.


Today we find ourselves heading to Tan Tan. Morocco, and a hotel in El Ouiate, Where am I? Some place on the coast. Very nice, right next to golden beach and very ‘busy’ waves. Trouble is everything is damp due to the constant sea spray.
It is proper Beau Gest/Jest? land here. Camels, sand (Proper desert), no beer!! The full lot.


Still have beer

However we do have essential supplies with us of beer, red wine, white wine, etc, oh and a biscuit if we get lost.
Very leisurely start to the day. Remained in Sidi Ifni area and backtracked a little to walk along a beach. Dick bought some toot from one of the great unwashed.

Tan Tan

Found supermarket and petrol station in the middle of nowhere so stocked up with lemons. Nice drive towards Tan Tan. Decent roads, camels, changing landscape into much more desert effect now. Pulled off and had  lunch like a load of old people on our camping chairs just looking out into space. Most enjoyable.

Tomorrow we go to Laayoune, Morocco, wherever that is, for a night in a tent. 6 or 8 to a tent so that should be pleasant. Especially after camel curry washed down with lots of Moroccan home made beer.

Sunday Mauritania, and unhappily Gambia by end of next week.

Someone asked how much the car cost, £361.00p. We did have a small problem today when the gaffer tape came unstuck, and then the back window nearly fell out.
Also the battery was low on water, hence the smell apparently of rotten eggs. Hopefully better now.


Off to Layounne. wherever that is. 
Not much happening after an early dinner. By the way no alcohol is served in the area!


4.1.18. Very good breakfast served – some sort of omelette, fresh orange juice, bread, cheese, jam and a big coffee. The sea mist turns into a quite dense fog so not much sightseeing along the way. However did see some flamingos, more camels, sheep and goats. Roads still reasonable. Have a stop in Tarfaya, Morocco, for lunch and Graham has a haircut. He looks like a Bhuddist Monk. Next stop is the Bedouin camp. We have individual tents, more like permanent structures.


Borj Biramane
We are staying at Borj Biramane Two beds to a tent with electricity. More Banjul Challenge people arrive who helpfully coordinate dinner as the chef calls in sick. The site is in the middle of nowhere. The sky is full of stars – Orion’s Belt and the seven sisters apparently, some of the Milky Way. Beautiful. So peaceful too. The police arrive to check our paperwork. All friendly. In bed by 2130. What did I do before downloads and podcasts? The overall consensus is that we should invest in a new battery.

The ‘bad egg’

smell keeps returning and I’m sure it can’t be good for us to be breathing in those fumes. We’ll see what tomorrow brings. The good news is we find beer!!!

Puncture time


Up early and ready to roll after paying an expensive bar bill. Apparently the small cans of beer cost £3. That was the good bit of the morning ….. about 2km away from the camp and before the main road we side swipe a rock or something and bust the tyre. There is a tear in the side wall. Not good. Only at the bottom though.First tyre change of the trip.

All goes remarkably smoothly with help

from John, Paul and Graham. We head into Laayoune for breakfast but due to the mishap we have to stop at a tyre shop where we also decide to buy a new battery as well as the new tyre. Long overdue in my book!


Running repairs
This takes a bit of time and a lot of haggling on my part. In the end we pay £140 or a bit less for both items. As breakfast didn’t happen I bought a bread stick for about 10p. Still, all sorted, we hope. We then head out of town for our goal of Dakhla quite a few hundred kms away. C
lose to the Mauritania border.

Stop off at another garage en route to try and get some help for Paul’s Shogun. They say his turbo is not good. Don’t know how important that is.

Drive to Dakhla

The drive continues. Landscape very barren, rocks, scrub bushes, sand dunes in the distance, Atlantic to our right. There are quite a few bits of roadworks with minor detours onto dusty tracks which is difficult to drive through. There are camels crossing the road. There are not many petrol stations. I think all of us were getting close to fumes when we found one. Filled a jerrycan each as well as filling the tank. Moral of the story never miss a petrol opportunity. Lots of police stops now. All very friendly.

Loss of time

Due to loss of time in the morning it is pitch black before we reach town. Hate driving in the dark. Get nice hotel and then taxi to a restaurant where they sell beer and red wine. Very nice evening. I am still trying to convince the Duchess that we should fly from this local tinpot airport to Gambia and sit on a beach. She is not having any of it. 

We continue driving. Well she does, and I just look Mantastic.
Tomorrow we start making our way to the Mauritanian border, it is very desert type land 

Drive to Baras

Breakfast at the hotel and leisurely drive to Baras through desert landscape. Passed some stunning beaches which went on for miles, herds of camels and not much else to be honest. The road is in much better shape than anticipated.

Arrive at the hotel about 1400’ish and then just waste time.
We are staying at the Hotel Barbas in Bir Gandouz, Morocco. This is very close to the Mauritanian border. The room is very basic, can’t even say it is clean. The pizza for supper was nice. Lots of teams now at the hotel with a fair amount of one-up-manship going on – whose done most travelling and my dog’s bigger than your dog type of thing..

More mechanics

Paul is having ongoing trouble with his Turbocharger and there are a number of mechanics local to the hotel. The lighting they use is from their mobile phones, however Paul is so happy with the work that he give a mechanic his inspection light. Mechanic overjoyed and will name his next child Paul. Just hope its a boy! There are very heavy ladened vehicles here. We even find a man driving a UK plated Jaguar.


No Booze

Strange place. No alcohol here. Supplies starting to dwindle, we may have to abort the trip!
Go to bed and watch a downloaded tv programme, drink a glass of red wine and go to sleep


Head to Mauritania

Alarm goes off at 0445. Embracing the culture at 5am before border. The Duchess had to hold my newspaper so I could read it. Love is a wonderful thing. 


Start the drive for the border at 0600. Only 40 minutes or so but pitch black, bad visibility. Really don’t like night driving. Join the queue ……. Whilst waiting for the border gates to open the cafe opens and manage to get Café au lait and a sort of pancake type thing to pass the time.

Morocco border crossing

The border crossing is still being built but there are sufficient huts for passports to be stamped and vehicles to be checked in and out. This process starts at 0900, lots of paperwork, lots of different people looking at the same paperwork. There is even a sniffer dog doing the rounds. After this a short drive, couple of hundred meters, and the same paperwork is checked again.

Mauritania Border

Then we come to no-man’s land which looks like the place the world forgot. Dreadful odours of I don’t know what, broken down vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Our fixer is there to meet us, Dhahid is his name, impressively dressed in some sort of floating robe. In his white Mercedes he drives us through the proper no-man’s land.


UN Checking us

There is no road as such, just a pathway of sand and rocks with UN vehicles looking on, a machine gun post and lots more abandoned, decaying vehicles. All very strange. We then reach the Mauritania border. Even more chaos. We need car import stamps, visas, a separate passport check and then insurance is needed. Somehow or other it all gets sorted and we leave the border area about 1400. Not bad apparently. Now back on tarmac we drive in a 13 car convoy to our base for the night in Nouadhibou.


We have a quaint two bed permanent tent type thing, no running water but the toilet does flush. We drive into town passing a really smelly area where goats, camels and people all live together. Further back from the rail track are shanty towns. Everything is so poor. Litter is everywhere, potholes rule the road. Driving about is scary.

Donkey and cart

Two lanes quickly become five, donkeys are pulling carts. There are sets of traffic lights which do not work and cars come at you every which way. We find a bar for beer and wine. Silly prices but what do you expect in a non alcohol country. Return to the camp for dinner, bit of a disappointment. Karen and Graham join us for a drink and we turn the light out about 2230.

Head South

Breakfast at 0900. One boiled egg, instant coffee, stale bread and watery strawberry jam. Worth €5! Set off to town once again for an ATM and supermarket for supplies as we are camping for the next two nights.

Driving around town wasn’t any better than yesterday. The landscape is very barren now, virtually no greenery anywhere. Lots of sand dunes. We catch up with the Real Dakar Rally cars and support vehicles.

Very impressive. Some of the cars are no more than golf buggies. 

Off road

We then go off piste driving along the sand. I said I wanted to do this drive so off we go. Much of the route was sturdy enough but the dust that is kicked up by the other cars makes visibility poor. Sometimes it seemed like we were driving over corrugated flooring. Lots of bumping, lots of sliding in the soft sand and I did very well. Have to admit the three hour drive in these conditions was about two hours too long for me. Spotted a few camels along the way and not much else.

Bush camp

Early evening to arrive and move into our new two bed tent, no ensuite here, and boil up some water for supper of couscous  and porridge.

Waste an hour or so sitting around a log fire listening to the waves in the background. Very soothing.

Beach Drive

Another early start for what I think is a drive along the beach. We’re at a beach side campsite so not far away I thought. 150 kms later driving through soft sand, desert and corrugated bumps we get to the beach. I thought I’d cracked driving through the sand so thought nothing of the drive down onto the beach. A few feet in we get stuck! With help of the others manage to reverse and then power, power, power forward through the sand. We’re very close to the sea, waves actually lap in as we’re driving along. We hit a very dirty puddle and cannot see anything.

I get to drive

Not happy. I take over after half an hour or so.

Really can’t understand why we’re putting ourselves through the stress of doing this drive. The first 10-15 minutes of the beach stank of rotting fish and there was lots of horrible seaweed. When we eventually reach a nice bit of beach you can’t stop or appreciate the view as you’re in soft sand and will sink if you stop.

Bumpy Old Time

Again I thought we were doing a 30 minute route but it turned into another 50kms drive. Even when we turned off there was a dreadful soft sand patch and more corrugated bumps. Sue takes over the drive on the tarmac and within a very short distance the car is juddering to a halt. We stop and the thought is we have a dirty spark plug. Off we set again. Not for long though as we judder to another halt. Could it be a blocked fuel line? Who knows…. Anyway after a couple of these stops it is decided to tow us into town Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, about 30kms away.


Meanwhile Dhahid is contacting a mechanic to meet us at our accommodation the Auberge Sahara Hotel, Nouakchott, Mauritania. What a dump but that’s another story.


We get into town and the garage only has diesel so the three Vitaras continue to drive on fumes, not us though as we’re being towed. Arrive at the hotel and after a few different ideas being put forward by our guys the mechanic states it is the fan belt and that is why the new battery was not keeping any charge. Hey presto it all works for the cost of £20 or thereabouts and we use the fan belt we bought in France on Boxing Day.


We then find a Total petrol station with petrol. At the hotel there are only three rooms – we share with Karen and Graham. There are no towels, no bed linen, next to no light but there is hot water for showers. Best room ever. words cannot describe how much of a dump this whole place is.

Early start

Early start for Senegal border tomorrow. . Lots of to-ing and fro-ing not achieving much until we go to the restaurant across the road for pizza. The group refuse to pay £7 for a can of beer so it is a Fanta all round. Back to the hotel for an early night. All in all, an exciting day for all the wrong reasons. Forgot to mention our rear number plate had to be removed as it was falling off and there was a worry about our exhaust as well. Looking forward to Senegal.

Head for Senegal


We leave the Auberge Sahara Hotel, at 0700 after a small misunderstanding about the price we should all be paying for the rooms. It doesn’t help that they have devalued their currency and issued new notes which the locals haven’t quite got the grip of. Anyway, finally manage to manoeuvre our way out of Nouakchott despite road closures, diversions, darkness and manic driving.

The tarmac ends pretty promptly

and we’re driving along heavily compacted sand, rocks and I’m not sure what else. We are leading the five car convoy as only I could download the map.

Consequently Sue is driving faster than she would like, if I’m honest, but felt I had to keep up the pace set by Paul when he’s in front.

Another Puncture

We get our comeuppance when Sue crunched down into one pothole too many. These potholes had to be one foot deep in places and sometimes were the width of the occasional tarmac road. No description will adequately cover the dreadful conditions of the roads. You have to steer from one side of the road/track to the other to miss potholes and general degradation, not to mention have two wheels off the road in soft sand with the other two on the road. Bloody nightmare. The cost of my driving is both tyres punctured on right side of the vehicle.

Penelope Pitstop

Sue is devastated and cannot apologise enough as the guys do a double pit stop. Sue has been renamed Penelope Pitstop! Quite like it. Everyone takes it in good humour saying it had to be one of us! After what seems an eternity we reach the National Park turnoff and miraculously there is a perfect tarmac road for about 20kms. Divine. We then get into the park proper and the tarmac disappears.


I should add here at a couple of the ongoing numerous police check points we’re told not to go to the border crossing of our choice as it is closed. We choose not to believe this as Dhahid has arranged us to be met on this border crossing to help us through to Senegal. We think it is part of a scam to direct cars to another part of town where the ‘local mafia’ scam you for all the currency and gadgets that they can ‘persuade’ you to part with.

No potholes

Back to the park it is all the compacted corrugated track which is dreadful to drive along but better than the potholes. However there are deep tracks which necessitate steering from one side of the track to the other and I, of course, am ultra aware of the fragility of the tyres knowing that we only have two more spares between three cars. Find a slightly smoother path and follow that. Not much wild life seen – a few cows, donkeys and then some flocks of flamingos.


Mauritania Senegal Border

The border is in sight and the final hurdle is to get up a steep, rocky, heavily pockmarked slope. I see Graham in front just hit the accelerator and fly so I do the same and come to a screeching halt at the top. Success.

We still have the excitement of getting through border control but our contact is there and he takes our passports and vehicle paperwork to various offices/portacabin lookalikes. He keeps returning asking for money for police tax, border barrier tax, bridge tax and anything else they fancy tax.


We did know this was going to happen but you still can’t believe the cheek of the corrupt system. After the best part of an hour everything is stamped and the border barrier is lifted and we drive across the bridge to the Senegal border following our fixer man. There we meet another fixer man who takes all of our paperwork to various offices. We have fingerprints and photo taken. I find a toilet, there is tarmac on the road, trees on the horizon and all of our vehicles which are over 8 years old manage to fit the Senegalese criteria of acceptable modes of transport to be allowed into the country.


We all go to the nearby parking area to pay our fixer €180 each for bribing the right people and getting our insurance with a nice pocket of cash for himself and his runners. Again this was expected, in fact the going rate is usually €250 so we did well. A short drive into St Louis, Senegal, where we find a hotel overlooking the river.

Hotel Du Palais À Saint Louis du Sénégal.

The rooms have bed linen and towels. Marvellous.
Nice place for a 2 week all inclusive.We decide to stay for a second night to get over the trauma of Mauritania. Our group has already adopted a local lad who is doing our laundry, getting some of the cars cleaned (not ours yet), who joins us for dinner at a local restaurant, and we decide to use his city tour by horse and cart tomorrow at 1700. Everyone tired so back at the hotel by 2200 and asleep by 2300.

Round up thus far

A quick round up of events.
Well we left the nice part of Morocco to travel across the Sahara Desert to the Senegal border. Via Mauritania.
It has got to be said that Mauritania is without doubt the biggest toilet known to mankind. There appears to be 2 towns, one of which has been stated as the most lawless in the whole wide world, we spent one night there. 

Also a capital shitty, I mean capital city down the road.

Crossing the Sahara desert was easy, one night we stayed on the beach in nice tents and off we continued, although it took a few days from start to finish. At one stage we drove along the beach, Sahara one side, sea the other. That was different.
The £361 of pure joy, keeps going. Sort of. 

Did I mention the car cost £361??

The exhaust fell off, repaired with cable ties, the roof is now held together with cable ties as we ran out of gaffer tape. The radiator cover fell off and had to be held with cable ties.The fan belt had to be changed, again, after the battery went flat and ended up us being towed about 30kms by one of the other cars in the group. We drove down a pot hole and blew up 2 tyres at the same time. And just like Coco The Clown at the circus, as the car stopped the number plate fell off!

You couldn’t have made it up.

Three people from Belarus are doing the run in a 1972 Lada! 

Once across the Senegal border it is like the whole world has changed. Beer, beer and beer. The people are nice. We are staying in St Louis for 2 days before driving to The Gambia. The hotel has an on suite without a hole in the ground.


No driving today.

Hurrah. ‘Rio’ Suzuki Vitara (did I mention it only cost £361?) gets a wash and is one sparkling in the sunshine. Slight hiccup I remember that I left bank cards and cash in a pair of socks that I left with the washing. Ismael, our new Senegalese friend, is contacted. The good news is we got the cards back but certainly missed out on a couple of hundred euros. Shame really as I thought Ismael was a good guy. Another learning curve. We wander around and find a place for breakfast. The omelettes arrive with lots of ham so Sue enjoys coffee and a croissant.

2 breakfasts

We continue our meanderings through the narrow sand covered streets to see dilapidated colonial style houses, kids in uniform going to school, kids with no shoes walking the streets, thousands of fishing boats in various states of repair surrounded by so much rubbish – plastic bottles, bags, paper – such a shame as it made the whole area look filthy. We are amazed at the cars that are driven. Certainly wouldn’t pass an MOT. The town is buzzing with lots of markets where the locals are selling small amounts of fresh vegetables on the kerb to kiosk type shops selling lino and single sachets of shampoo.

Have horse and cart tour of the town at 1700.

Horse looked fairly healthy and we went on an hour’s hike around town, saw mosque, fishing village, fish market and lots of people doing their business, mum’s looking after their kids, kids looking after other kids, goats meandering….

Dickhead award

On another point, I did get the DickHead (I can say that) of the year award the yesterday in St Louis. When we started this trip, someone broke the unbreakable travel safe (It wasn’t me), so we had to invent useful places to hide our Euros. I chose my dirty socks, which was a great idea until I sent the dirty washing off, and money, having had several bottles of beer. In the morning I realised my mistake and saw the Fixer man that had taken away the washing. One of the peasants is no longer a peasant as I only got about 20% of my cash back. I assumed the rest of the cash got money laundered. The Duchess still beat me although it was not Domestic Violence Friday.

We learn by our mistakes.

Got the washing back but no more money. Went to a different restaurant for dinner. It appeared very posh but the food wasn’t that great. In bed by 10.30’ish.

Head to Kaolack

Lovely breakfast in patisserie virtually next door to the hotel and then head off towards Kaolack, Senegal. Should have been an easy drive but we first bump into street closures as the President is visiting and we find our own diversions. Unfortunately the road is fairly potholey and I’m paranoid about busting more more tyres. We then encounter another very busy town, Touba, Senegal, where about 10,000 people are visiting to go to the big mosque. So many people, cars, buses, horse and carts that we find ourselves gridlocked and we eventually turn down a side street.

Getting lost

We lose Paul and John in the mayhem and get to our final destination in a two car convoy on much better roads where we see cows with humps, goats, antelopes, squirrels, donkeys, horses/ponies, vultures and one very stunning light blue bird. The resort, Adjana, Kaolack, Senegal, is very nice. There are chalets in the water but ours just have a beach view which is very pleasant.

However, we seem to be the only people here and there is nothing else in the vicinity so you’re a bit of a captive audience. Also they only take cash and we didn’t have much. Oh well, another trip to the ATM.


Border crossing into The Gambia

Leave the Adjana Resort, Kaolack, Senegal, about 0830 and embark in a fairly pain free journey to cross the border into The Gambia and then to the ferry to Banjul. Like all sea/water ports the area seems pretty dirty but everything functions. It seems that by making a ‘donation’ of a few euros on top of the price of the ferry you can ensure a place on the next ferry.

Ferry crossing

We only wait for about an hour. There are already quite a few lorries, 4×4’s, and vans with various livestock on the roof so I wonder whether we will, indeed, get on the next boat. 


There is also a large gathering of foot passengers with varying amounts of luggage, bags, live chickens and all sorts. Our four vehicles manage to get on. It is chaotic.

Lots of people

What seems like a never ending sea of people are pressing by the side of the car to get on. I feel imprisoned in the car and can imagine becoming slightly claustrophobic! Once we move away from the dock I manage to squeeze out of the car and stand on the back bumper gazing in awe at the sights of us all on board this ferry.

Ferry crossing

The crossing only lasts about 30 minutes and then the same chaos ensues as we all try to get off at the same time. Easy drive to Senegambia area where we find our hotel.  Senegambia Hotel, Gambia. There are a couple of police stops along the way where we are asked if we have anything for the officers.

Share rooms

John and Lynne already have a reservation at the hotel, Paul and Alison get a room as do Dick and I. Karen and Graham have to go upmarket to the hotel next door for two nights before our reservation begins at the Senegambia hotel. The complex is huge, a few pools, lots of trees and lawns, monkeys, colourful birds and vultures. Apparently feeding the vultures occurs everyday. Several restaurants and bars. We go to the Ali Baba restaurant, Senegambia, Gambia for a mediocre meal and a fairly early night after visiting Safeway supermarket for supplies.


We had a great 3 weeks driving down here, and the £361 love machine got here with limited damage, technical problems, and lot of cable ties. Right, so now we are in a lovely beach resort for the next week or so drinking breakfast beer and watching olde birds making a fool of themselves.


So the morning starts with the Duchess being very quiet. Well I have bought new fresh air spray for the toilet so that cant be it. It is because little Rio is going to see his new friends at the charity and The Duchess is going to miss him! FFS! It is a car. Morning spent trying to sort out the luggage from the car and having an explore of our location to see what is about. The answer is not much really. There is one Main Street of bars, restaurants, money changers, supermarkets and taxi drivers. I spend a couple of hours around the pool. We meet another couple for a drink before dining in Lebanese restaurant. Very nice.

People return to UK.

Sue has a body scrub and then African healing massage. Came out floating. Nearly as good as the massages in Rishikesh. Say goodbye to Alison who returns to the U.K. and spend a short time around the pool before meeting all of the others plus Grace for a tapas meal. Have a glass of wine in hotel with Karen and Grace.


16.1.18.As Sue purloined a yoga mat of sorts from Lynne yesterday she started her day with a short yoga session on the terrace. Spend the morning trying to get a strong WiFi signal. Fail miserably, but we do find George Gomez the contact for the Dakar Challenge car drop. In doing this we see The Bees Brothers, Stuart, Ken, The Odd Couple (the Smalls), Paul Reid and The Colombians.

Meet the Police

We are also introduced to some police officers, immigration and customs officials who meet weekly to progress the donations of the cars to local charities. There is also the editor of the local newspaper. Photos are taken and we await the printing of the next edition. 

Afternoon around the pool, a meal on our own and then meet with the others for the ‘Jazz Band’ entertainment. Watching a fat, white woman with her slim, black escort took over our main interest.

We are famous

Another short yoga practice to start the day and then just general pottering around until 1200’ish when we have arranged to hand over the car. We do find an edition of The Gambia Standard and our photo is emblazoned on the back page. Made me smile.

Little Rio is formally handed over to George Gomez.

John and Lynne donate their Vitara to the eye clinic,l ater that afternoon. Couple of hours around the pool then we dine at the Lebanese restaurant. we are introduced to the Ali Baba Garden bar, Senegambia where the old, fat white women congregate there with their young, slim, black escorts. I enjoyed myself.

Sugar Mummies

This place is a reversal of the Thailand experience, that, apparently, men endure in Bangkok. In that white European ladies of a ‘certain age’ will chat to local young men, fall in love with them, and walk along hand in hand with a man clearly 2 generations younger. I am not sure what the local men see in the fat corn beef legged ladies who have so many blue lines up their legs it resembles a motorway road map of the UK. Or is it, as put to Debbie McGee, ” what is it that you see in this elderly millionaire?” Or is in this case, just love!


All of the others go on a day excursion to an animal park in Senegal and have to start at 0600. We continue our quest to find a decent internet connection and spend some time around the pool. We invite all to our house for pre dinner drinks and the decision is made to return to the Lebanese restaurant.

John and Lynne leave for the airport about 1100,

tearful farewells!!! Us, Karen and Graham go for a coffee which is short lived for a Graham as he is suffering from Delhi belly/sunstroke or some such. We have a walk along the beach in the afternoon and find a bar called Poco Loco. They have a decent dinner menu and we suggest it as a different place for dinner. All very good.

Karen, Grace and Sue set out at 0700 for a trip to James Island,

where the slave trade took place in the 18th century. Dreadful what human beings can do to human beings. Travelled on the new Banjul ferry to get to our destination and also sampled a ride in a leaky fishing boat. Afternoon around the pool. Graham feeling better. BBQ at the hotel for dinner.

Another massage

Sue has a massage at 1000, perhaps a dodgy Greek salad for lunch. Belly gurgling……… a couple of hours around the pool and then meet Bobbie and Paul from the America Club in the hotel before dinner with Karen, Graham and Grace. Back in the room by 2300 awaiting my stomach’s response to food ………..

Time to go Home

It was a hoot. Time to get the sand out of all my orifices, plug my bottom as liquid is coming out, and stop eating ‘spot the organ’ food. Neither of us fancy breakfast so we struggle to close Sue’s rucksack without breaking the zip and pop out for a last cappuccino of the trip. I can only do water! Proper Gambian belly. The journey to the airport, check-in and boarding all uneventful as was the flight.

Thomas Cook

Thomas Cook premium leaves a lot to be desired. The food was good for in-flight catering, but the plane was so small there was no chance of having a standup or walk about. Adrien picked us up and dropped us back home.
Trip completed.