Jan 31 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 Seattle.
Jan 23 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!
Jan 21 Arrive London
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.
Jan 17 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 matter.

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!

Jan 14 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 driving.

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.

Jan 13 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 interim.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 Nouâdhibou Mauritania. 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 Nouakchott 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.

Dec 26 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 Spain.

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.

Dec 25 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.
Dec 24 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 night.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 replacement tire.

Dec 23 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.

Dec 22 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.
Dec 16 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.
Dec 9 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.
Oct 10 Heading to England
Dan headed over to England to begin organizing the work on the ICV – John to follow about a week later –
July 17 PD05 Kickoff Party in Cullopmton England
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 attended.