Dan arrives in Seattle
After spending a week in England with the folks from
the trip, driving out to Lizard and Lands End, and then 3
days in Chicago - Dan had a very uneventful flight into
John finally arrives home
Chicago airport ended up closing for weather which
threw a monkey wrench into the trip home for John - he ended
up on a flight to San Francisco where he couldn't get a
flight home to Portland - an overnight and a flight to
Eugene Oregon - then a rental car to finally get to Portland
- even the "civilized" part of the trip was a challenge!
After 4 lovely days in Banjul enjoying the weather,
revealing in the finish of the challenge and helping get
things organized to sell/auction the vehicles/gear, we
headed to London Gatwick on a charter plane - a relatively
uneventful trip in a sardine can of an airplane - there was
virtually zero legroom in the plane and it was full to the
gills - about 5 1/2 hours in flight but the time went fast.
John headed on to Heathrow to catch a flight in the morning
- Dan along with a few other folks headed to Guy Harrison's
house for a few days of R&R before heading home.
Arrive Banjul! - Safari Gardens
After a short distance (300 kilometers or so) but
lengthy (8 hours) drive on some seriously bad roads, we
arrive on the 16th at the ferry landing to cross the Gambia
River about 5:30pm - just as it was getting dark. We knew
that the ferry ran every 45 minutes or so until midnight and
had heard horror stories about how bad the wait could be -
so we figured we had a good shot at it with almost 7 hours
lead time... we were slowly proven dead wrong. In a scene
that was straight from some poorly scripted "B" movie - we
pulled into a line of rag tag vehicles absolutely loaded to
the gills with goats and thousands of goats milling around
mixed in with a hundred people or so...
Took about 30 minutes just to sort out how to get a ferry
ticket - then another 20 or so to actually get the tickets -
during which time we ere absolutely assaulted by every
hustler/urchin type while waiting in line to get to the
ferry. After some waiting and watching around 7:30 we
figured out that the ferry hadn't unloaded or loaded and it
turned out there was a big semi truck stuck on the ferry
with it's brakes locked - Dan spent about 20 minutes helping
the guys try to figure out the problem and eventually they
ended up cutting some parts loose with a torch to get it off
- once off the ferry quickly loaded with a zillion goats and
a few vehicles and people.
Turns out that Jan 21st (4 days from now) is the Muslim
feast of Tabaski, known in other Muslim countries by Eid al-Adha
(Feast of Sacrifice). So, all the muslim people in Banjul
were expecting a goat to sacrifice and the were on their way
via the same ferry we were to be on. Good timing.
After not getting on the ferry we started to "work the
system" and push some promises of bribes here and there - it
worked to some extent in that we actually got inside the
compound where the ferry was loaded from - locked inside
away from the bulk of the scammers/hustlers/urchins - and
were promised to be on the next ferry.
About 11:30 the ferry arrived and we watched it unload
and after unloading, the crew walked off including the
captain. "Last ferry of the night" and that was that. We
ended up sleeping in the cars and on the ground right there
on the ferry ramp with about 1,000 stinking, peeing,
pooping, bleating goats.
At about 5:30am the Muslim call to prayers horns started
blaring away - no more sleeping - we were able to load onto
the ferry around 7am and found that you could really fit
more people, vehicles and goats on a ferry than was ever
contemplated by the designers or anyone else for that
Dan has to take full responsibility for the ferry
problems - after 8 years of getting the short end of the
ferry system on the island where he lives he figures it's
pretty much some bad karma coming back from the ferry
workers - paybacks are hell.
After about an hour drive to cover 15 kilometers of
horrible road into Banjul, another 30 minutes of driving
around lost we stumbled into Safari Gardens - to the waiting
breakfast tables and champagne all around - a great finish
to a long and truly memorable trip!
Arrive Dakar Senegal
After 4 days of rest in Zebrabar we decided to
"break the law" and abandon the direct track out of Senegal.
We were assigned an "escort" by customs to keep us on the
straight and narrow track straight out of Senegal - mostly
due to the fact that we had vehicles older than 5 years.
However, when we started looking around in Senegal -
ALL the vehicles there are at least 10 years old and
look like they're ready for the scrapheap. Maybe they don't
want the competition? -
Anyway, 4 of our 6 vehicles headed for Dakar to catch the
finish of the Paris-Dakar races - we spent a couple nights
in a little town close to Dakar and were able to check out
all the race vehicles and talk to the drivers/riders - great
fun and very interesting to see what the "pros" were
The place we were staying was actually a great little
resort area - near the town of Ngor - the finish of the race
was held at the
Le Meridian President - which was a complete culture
shock for us - actual civilization with real toilets, lots
of western amenities and clean!
We had a great celebration dinner with most of our crew
before a few of them took flights home out of Dakar. Then a
lazy day checking out the area by boat and hiking.
Arrive in St. Louis Senegal
We arrived at Zebrabar campsite in St. Louis Senegal
a few days ago - We had difficulty getting internet access
throughout Morocco and Mauritania - sorry for no updates in
The van survived the desert nicely - we've
had a serious number of mechanical failures along the way
but so far have managed to fix them all (or the critical
ones anyway) - check out the new pictures in the photo album
section - a little tough to update from here but I threw a
few up there.
The trip coming south out of Morocco was very interesting
- entering into Western Sahara began a long dull drive on
not so good tarmac roads with police, customs, and military
checkpoints at what seemed sometimes to be every mile or
two. Some of them went quickly while others required bribes
or gifts to get through.
The border entry into Mauritania was lengthy - perhaps
about 2 hours to get out of Morocco and another 2+ to get
into Mauritania. It's not that there were a lot of people
there - it was basically a couple shacks made from pallets
out in the middle of nowhere - they just processed
everything extremely slowly. We picked up a guide (almost
required for the desert) and headed for
Spent a couple nights there getting supplies and resting.
Then into the desert.
The desert was a challenge for the van - we basically
were beat to death by the rough terrain - there were
sections of the desert that were nothing but rocks with
large pothole type dips. The van broke down or required
maintenance fairly regularly but we managed to fix all the
critical stuff and keep on going.
We spent a night in the desert camping by a big sand dune
- great evening and lots of good company. Another night was
spent in a tiny village on the western edge of the desert.
in the morning we headed west out on the beach - a very huge
contrast to the desert because we didn't have the dust to
breath and the sea air was refreshing.
About a hundred kilometers along the beach and then back
into the desert for an hour or two and we arrived at
Nouakchott Mauritania -
tired, covered with dust and grit and with all our fillings
vibrated out of our teeth from the washboard roads. Had a
great dinner there and crashed out
The next day we started the grueling drive from
to St. Louis Senegal - this was a nightmare - about 75 miles
of powdery dusty roads with huge billowing clouds of dust
alternating with huge water run off ruts that could swallow
up a small car. We arrived at the Senegal border about 6pm
or so - tired and frayed from the trip only to be greeted by
some of the most corrupt and greedy "officials" you could
imagine. After about 6 hours of negotiating and working on
it and paying the bribes, we eventually were allowed to move
on - we arrived at Zebrabar campsite (south of St. Louis
about 20 kilometers) about 2:30am - they had cold beer and a
hot meal ready for us and we ate, drank and crashed.
Have spent the last 3 days at Zebrabar just vegging out
and trying to get things cleaned up. We're planning to head
to Dakar tomorrow to hopefully catch the end of the
Paris-Dakar race and then on to Banjul Gambia.
Driving into Spain
We got a late start and ground our way down the
coast of France and into Spain. The winds were blowing the
poor Creamy Treat van all over the road - our oil
consumption has not gone down and we need to get a new main
seal installed in the front of the engine - we'll try to
order one and get it shipped to Gibraltar. While we were
struggling thru Barcelona traffic (think cluster fudge) -
the van was backfiring and just running horribly - so while
John was driving Dan ripped off the engine cover and began
to troubleshoot - we figured something was shorting out in
the wiring of the engine - on the drivers side John spotted
a "fuel cut off solenoid" thingy that was sticking out too
far - when the engine rocked to the right (because you were
stepping on the gas) - the solenoid would rub against the
engine cover - and short out the entire electrical system -
all lights go off, engine quits, etc.
So, we jury rigged (bodged for the UK reader) up some
radiator hose on the solenoid with gaffers tape and bashed a
huge dent in the side of the engine cover to make room for
the solenoid... and the problem was solved! - the van ran
like a little kitten purring it's way down the coast of
We pulled into Valencia Spain late - looking for a warm
hotel to sleep in. It took a bit of driving around but we
eventually found a nice place and they have wireless
internet as well! - so we're updating the website.
Merry Christmas Everyone
We spent a nice night in the town of Bezier France -
had a great dinner at Le Room - a new restaurant that rolled
out the red carpet for us - if you're ever in Bezier you
should definitely check them out and ask for Lionel - great
waiter and just all around nice guy. A welcome day off of
driving/fixing the van.
Driving thru France
We got a late start - up around 9, ate some
breakfast, then out to inflate tires and check oil and so
forth. We have 2 tires that are leakers - the left rear is
pretty bad, usually losing about 20 lbs of pressure over
On the road around 10:30 or so - driving south and west.
Oil consumption going up - a little hard to tell because we
are buying 5 liter jugs of oil and just dump some in at each
petrol fill up - Fuel consumption seems to be about 12 mpg
(American Gallons )- not exactly thrifty with fuel in France
costing about $5.25 a US gallon.
Had a flat tire today - good news was that it occurred
very close to a "lay by" which is a spot to pull out - and
it was one of the "leakers" that blew - so, we're carrying 2
spares and replaced it in about 5 minutes - bad news is that
our other spare is on a wheel that doesn't fit really well -
it will work but we'll need to nurse it into a town to get
it fixed/replaced if we need it. So we'll be looking for a
Ferry from Dover to France Driving thru France
We had an uneventful night in Dover - headed to the
ferry at 10am - thinking we were on the 11:15 ferry to
France - but it turns out we were actually to be on the
ferry at 14:45 (2:45pm for those that are time challenged) -
so, we spent the extra time inflating tires that had leaked
down and updating the website stuff.
Had some challenges
driving around Paris at night - John was driving and Dan
navigating - got into a little bit of a "discussion" as a
result - French drivers were not happy with the ICV on their
roads - perhaps it was the speed thing ???
Drove till about 1am - spent the night in Orleans area.
Leaving West Coker for Dover
We left West Coker at about 2pm - Since we
were working on the van and had been running the engine a
lot, we knew it was low on petrol (gas) - but it was only
about 1.5 miles to the petrol station and mostly downhill -
we figured we could make it - but we only made it about 1.4
miles... we were literally about 150 feet from the station -
so we walked over, got a gas can of fuel and put it in the
van - also had to borrow their battery jumper box to get the
van started - finally filled the tank and were on our way -
only to find that the van was spewing oil out the oil filler
tube - huge quantities were pouring down the engine cover
and out onto the floor of the van - we wedged a piece of an
inner tube under the cap and it slowed the leak down a bit -
after that, we had the "Lucas Electric - Prince of Darkness"
visit us - the light switch that we have rebuilt about 4
times started flaking out - the lights would just flicker a
bit and go out - so, we ripped the back off the dash while
driving and Dan held the light switch wires in just the
right position while he drove. We eventually got a cable tie
slapped on the wires and things sort of did ok for the rest
of the trip to Dover. We're still leaking large quantities
of oil, but we figure we can keep dumping it into there and
it will all be just fine. We're using about 1 liter of oil
every 200 miles.
We were also interviewed by BBC 2 radio - and they asked
us to update them periodically on our journey down to
Africa. Thanks to Paul Richards (Snapper!) for arranging
this and of course Johnny Walker the famous radio dude that
interviewed us - they want to do some updates along the way
which will be fun.
Celebrating Dan's 46'th Birthday in West Coker
A little merriment and drink in the little
village of West Coker - watching and listening to the local
musicians at the "Castle Pub" - it was "jam night" and
everyone can give it a go.
Back to England for the start
Dan and John left for England this week to
finish up the van and get ready to start the challenge.
Spent a couple long nights (2 or 3 am) working on the van -
trying to get ahead of things.
Heading to England
Dan headed over to England to begin organizing the work on the ICV - John
to follow about a week later -
PD05 Kickoff Party in Cullopmton
Held in the tiny little hamlet of
Cullompton , the official kick off party for the Plymouth
Dakar 2005 Challenge was held on July 17, 2004. John and Dan