woman's world Wed 23 August 2017

Dakar, the Myth

The dream of many bikers and one of the most desired destinations just like Cape North, Tierra del Fuego and the American Coast to Coast. During the years everyone has wrapped his Dakar and since some years it is possible to reach it on the asphalt only with some unpaved stretches at the Mauritanian borders.
We propose to you “Our - Dakar”.

New Year's Eve  of 2012 was “Rimini - Dakar”, in honor of the birthplace of one of the Rally Team Azzurrorosa’s founders.
2013 was “Rimini- Dakar” as well, because of the name of the residence city of the first subscriber.

  • 19 people
  • 11 motorcycles
  • 1 Vespa
  • 1 assistance van with trailer
  • 4.200 km total (of which 180 km unpaved road)
  • 350 km daily average

NATHALIE TRAVEL JOURNAL
Our Dakar starts on 22nd of December from a Po river Valley immersed in fog you can cut with a knife, with a humid cold that penetrates the bones, at a service station in Modena north highway entrance: we’re waiting for the caravan which is travelling towards Genova to load the motorcycle that will precede us in Morocco. A few minutes and here arrives the mythical Vito accompanied by the imperturbable Lex and the Toyota to which the trailer is temporary attached, already quite full.

Enthusiastic greetings to Mirco (who will be the leader of this wonderful adventure) and Miria, first approaches with some future trip mates (Claudio “Clafo” the Vespa driver, Luca “from Modena”, Marcone) here we go with Swiss efficiency we load motorcycles and luggages. The enthusiasm is skyrocketing, but the time is short, quickly greeting to the “little motorcycle” (like we call it affectionately) and go, the company hits the road again, destination Genova’s port to board for Tangeri.

On 26th December finally arrives also our moment: we arrive “airborne” in a warm Casablanca (16°C is already hot when you arrive from 3°) and we find at the hotel our motorcycles welcoming us and ready to leave for the adventure. We get to know the rest of the group. Okay nobody's missing, 11 motorcycles, 1 Vespa, 1 van, 19 people (we are going to repeat these numbers so many times during these 10 days!), tomorrow we're leaving...for real!

27th December:
Everybody perfectly on time, at 8 am we hit the road towards the south, direction Essaouira. The air is fresh, but the sun and the clear sky highlight the colours of this generous land: the green of the fields, the blue of the sea and the red of the rocks. The road runs across the cultivated and luxuriant fields before plunging along the coast at meeting with the ocean which will almost constantly make us company during our trip. Spectacular lunch break at a restaurant on the banks of an oysters livestock’s lagoon… oysters and paella, ideal to feed and refresh some poor bikers pleasantly “tested” by the road. A simple marvel that makes our enthusiasm growing more and more. And let's go, we keep following the coast, always with the sun on our faces, long a way made of soft curves and gentle slopes, coasted by immense beaches touched by the waves of the ocean. We arrive in Essaouira in the late afternoon, just in time to visit a little bit this beautiful small town surrounded by walls which enclose small streets full of little handcraft shops and small restaurants, little squares which from the outside look like courtyards, enclosing instead colorful bazaars and “tea rooms”.

28th December:
For today there are some different possibilities and the group splits: a great part of the group, made by couples, Mauro and Luca “Transalp” decides for the mountain, full of curves along Tafrout, while Marco, Elvira and Gianandrea decide to go straight to today’s destination: Tiznit. The “easy knob company”, instead, composed by Marcone, Gillo and Nat has convinced the patient Mirco to join them for some off-road: we take advantage of it to explore a desert and breathtaking beach, surrounded by a cliff, where the steam created by the waves in connection with the sun makes the atmosphere even more magical and surreal. Just the time to leave the sign of the wheels on the untouched sand and then go… we have an appointment with Clafo. Today we are going to give birth to a legend! The good Claudio waits for us on a beach inhabited by fishermen, the ideal place to take a break. We take advantage of it to make them cook for us a couple of fishes and while we're waiting for the embers to warm and for the fish to arrive (in these lands you don't have to have rush) we cheat time trying the grip of the Vespa PX/E on the sand. Some pushes and some patience and… go… a Vespa that runs on the foreshore. This is Clafo, the legend of the Vespa biker on the ocean! Marvelously refreshed (food is important to feel good during trips) we run for the last 30 km off-road along the coast, on a panoramic road sometimes overhanging the sea, where the colours are still the constants: green, blue, white. We arrive in Tiznit in the dusk, we meet our companions and the dinner is the perfect occasion to share the different experiences lived today.

29th December:
Final destination of today is TanTan, but there are a couple of interesting beaches to visit while descending towards the desert. First stop-over is a play beach: that is a beach quite easy to reach with motorcycles to allow everyone to feel the thrill of riding on the foreshore. The first goes (of course it's Gillo!) with the others looking at him.. after 3 minutes the beach looks like an amusement park, crowded by seven motorcycles and a Vespa running back and forth annoying the seagulls! Some difficulties to climb up again, but with patience we are all again on the road towards the elephant’s legs beach, magnificent granite formations of an intense red color, which add more charm to this land which already made us fall in love. The time goes by and it's time to go on towards south, Mirco proposes us a lunch break with a picnic on a quite near beach, on which a ship wreck is run aground. The landscape becomes more and more barren, the shiny green left us, giving space to the blue of the sea and to the white and red of the rocks. We arrive to the beach inspecting the horizon looking for the wreck. Mirco falls silent for some minutes and then announces: okay, you'll see the wreck on pictures, because after thirty years they decided to remove it! After a quick picnic lunch on the seaside, the group splits again in according to the two possibilities to reach Tan Tan: little off-road variation or only asphalt… but it risked to become only asphalt for both groups because after removing the wreck, the Moroccans decided to make a gift for Mirco paving the track too! Luckily our guide of many talents could give us satisfaction finding an alternative track to reach Guelmine. In the late afternoon we are all together again in Tan Tan, the door of South West Sahara, taking the classic picture under the two enormous camels.

30th December:
Today we start crossing the desert which it will take the next four days. Today's destination is Laayoune, which we reach travelling 350 km of straight road in the middle of nowhere, on the left the desert, on the right the ocean, that with its power sculpted beautiful cliffs that sometimes remind (except for the colors) those of Ireland, where fishermen stay in precarious balance with their super long lines.

31st December:
We continue our descent trough the desert, today almost 600 km. The landscape is a bit humdrum, it's like the one of the previous day, more dunes, but same story… this monotony added to the straight road tests the ability of the pilots to stay awake (without mentioning the passengers). But maybe this boredom allows us to appreciate even more the sight arriving at Dachla: after some curves the sight opens on this 40 km long white sand peninsula surrounded on both sides by the blue of the ocean. We cross it with the motorcycle slightly sloped because of the wind which blows constantly until arriving at the main beach: a magnificent show in the golden light of the sunset which exalts the colors of the kite surfs jumping on the waves. Just some quick pictures and we run looking for a piece of beach on the west side of the peninsula where we can admire the last sunset on the sea in this last day on 2012.

1st January:
I’d call this first day of the new year the Day of the Passage: crossing of the Tropic of Cancer, crossing of the customs leaving Morocco, going trough nobody's land, crossing of the customs entering in Mauritania. We leave early in the morning to be as soon as possible at the customs, where we will learn that you know when you arrive but you never know when you leave! The exit from Morocco is fast enough (for the African standards) and now we have to cross 4 km full of junk cars, garbage and every kind of trash where a track doesn't even exist, but you can (almost) find the street following the trails of the other vehicles, trying to avoid sand holes. It seems easy, but it's not. Some of them fall down, but with courage and determination they always get up again and with patience and time we all arrive at Mauritania entrance. Still a couple of hours of waiting and we can finally go towards Nouadhibou. The impact with Mauritania is quite strong, even in the darkness of the night you can feel the chaos, the poverty and the humble life conditions of this land. The effort of the day is paid by an amazing fish dinner, which unfortunately Marco had to renounce, because of the hurting ankle… the eaters club gladly sacrifice and ate his portion too!

2nd January:
Today we have to cross great part of Mauritania travelling the 550 km which divide us from the capital Nouakchott. The news of the previous days talked about a sand storm in this stretch, but we are lucky and we only find a bearable wind. Thus we have the chance to enjoy the Mauritanian desert: always desert like the previous days, but here the colours and the shapes change. The sand is always more and sometimes it invades the road, there are much more dunes and the colours goes from yellow to an intense orange, which contrasts with the green of the few bushes and trees. Groups of wild dromedaries and donkeys are almost the only living beings we meet. In the middle of the afternoon we reach the capital, we finally feel the warm weather and we can wear shorts and flip flops!

3rd January:
Today will remain for me the day of pure Africa of this trip! After the first 120 km of asphalt we take the track which will drive us to the border with Senegal: the desert left space to what I’d call savannah, made of red ground, dust, short trees and bushes. Along this, there’s our first unpaved track, unfortunately full of holes with fesh fesh for the first 30 km. The trail is hard in this phase, for some of us is more difficult than for others, but the group goes on slowly, because who falls always gets up again and everybody helps each other. After the first difficult part, the track goes on more compact and with gravel in a natural reserve: it is a pleasure to ride long the lagoons full of pink flamingos and a lot of unknown birds. A little problem of “sink” in the mud for Gillo and Nat during the chase of a warthog family… but the video of the small scampering warthogs pays back the fatigue of pulling out the motorcycle! Tired, dirty and flushed we reach the border, some hours of negotiation and discussion for the poor Mirco while we wait besieged by children and finally we arrive in Saint Louis. Tired but enthusiast, we all have the eyes full of the happiness of the day we have lived. If for a part of us it has been the ideal way to ride the motorcycle, for the other part it has been the satisfaction of doing what they believed it was impossible. It certainly has been the most unforgettable day of this trip for everyone.

4th January:
Final destination of today: finally Dakar! We are all excited at the idea, only less than 300 km left to accomplish our little venture. Senegal welcomes us and surrounds us with all its vivacity and its colors, the smiling and welcoming people are a cure-all after the grey Mauritania. After lunch great part of the group decides to go to the mythic Pink Lake: the road to arrive there is half paved, half track, with the omnipresent sand holes which cause issues, but the desire to reach this destination is much bigger than the difficulties and our fatigues will be paid back by the memory of the children in the towns who greeted us jumping and cheering for us and by the pleasure of seeing the lake really pink, for this reason we jumped into this adventure! During the evening we arrive at the hotel on the seaside in Dakar…yes, we did it!

5-6th January:
On Saturday the men dedicate to the game of joint of all the vehicles in the container, while the girls relax on the beach, on Sunday part of the group leaves for Italy while the others relax with fish for lunch, beach and rest. The celebration of Gillo’s birthday will test hard some of us (he first!) when the next morning they'll need to wake up at 3 am and go to the airport, but it has been one more way to celebrate the conclusion of this our small and personal venture.

A big thank you to Mirco and Lex, first level Azzurrorosa staff, to Miria for the perfect organization from home, but specially to all our trip partners, who made this fantastic adventure even more unforgettable!

Edited by Nathalie

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