by Kate on October 14, 2009

Title: Dakar

Dates: 15th - 21st October GPS:

Distance: 0km Total Distance: 0km

Roads: Busy

Weather: 30 degrees, humid

Touch down was a few hours late, but all the equipment arrived unscathed, even if Paddy did have to wait a couple of days for fresh underwear because his rucksack was waylaid in Singapore. Our time in the UK has proven to be an excellent plan; a chance for the team to meet and get to know each other a little, an opportunity to make final preparations for the journey ahead, and an interim period to unwind and recover somewhat from the final few crazy days/weeks/months in Australia.

Daniel was waiting to greet us at Heathrow with a hire van. We seem to be getting on like a house on fire. He’s a very easy going guy, eager to contribute his part to the expedition. It wasn’t long before he’d pulled his bike out of the bike box and put it together. He seemed very pleased with his new machine. With all the sponsors’ gear, it was as if all his Christmasses had come at once.

After a few days of running around sourcing various bits and pieces, getting my Senegal visa and making some good connections, the three of us drove up with all the gear to Simon’s farm in Worcester to meet John and Simon for the first time. Simon, our back up driver who is also a Land Rover mechanic had been working on John’s vehicle to get it ready for a ten month journey across some of the most rugged conditions possible. John had just arrived from Scotland having finished harvest. It was quite a moment when all five of us were finally together – everyone was excited. After months of emails and phone calls, we were able to get to know each other over a pint or two in a country pub. Apart from swapping a few travellers’ tales it was a chance for me to communicate the plans in more detail. This project and expedition is so complex, there are so many ‘moving parts’, that it has been impossible to keep everyone updated. 

We spent a day and a half together, utilising much of the space on Simon’s workshop floor to spread out the equipment, sort and re-pack. Dan and I put our bikes together. This was the first time I have had an opportunity to take it for a spin – the bikes are great, Vladimir and his team at Cycleworks had done a great job building them. Paddy and Dan had a chance to test the helmet cam system while John and I went off to source power inverters, a water pump and filter and other bits and pieces.

The plan to get everyone plus all our gear to Senegal is a little complicated. John and Simon are driving down; taking the ferry to Spain, then across to Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania to St Louis, Senegal. Unless everything goes without a hitch (this includes getting Mauritanian visas in Rabat, which will take some time), they will not be there for the start of the expedition from Cap Vert. Dan, Paddy and I are flying to Dakar on Thursday, spending time acclimatising, getting Mali and Mauritanian visas and seeing some of the sights. We’re being looked after by Alex Mackenzie from Bassari Resources, who will also provide a driver for Paddy to film the start, unless John and Simon make it. We plan to set off on 21st October and take two days to reach our camp near St Louis where we will rendevous with John. Then we will set off east along the Senegal River.

By mid-Friday it was all done. We had just what we needed to start the expedition and the rest, including the spare bike was left to go in the vehicle. John and Simon are now well on their way, somewhere in Morocco as I write. We parted with an air of positivity and confidence. Each team member has indicated seperately to me that they are pleased that we all get along so well. There is such a range of skill sets and the team is a great mix of of youth and experience. 

 We’re back in London, staying with another brother of a friend of a friend. (We’ve had some very patient and generous hosts in London; firstly Simon, Daniel and Tim in Maida Vale and now David in Hackney) There’s more last minute things to do; topping up with a few bike parts, camping gear, mosquito repellent, medical supplies, detailed maps from Stanfords (my favourite shop just about in the whole world), water filters… We actually have five ways to purify out water. The bulk of the work will be done by a ceramic filter John has set up with a pump in the back of the vehicle. We also have a Lifesaver Bottle 6000 which filters out everything, a Steripen which zaps water with UV light, chlorine drops and we can also simply boil water. This is essential for our health, so we are not taking any chances.

Last night I met up with Greg Yeoman, who cycled with me across Russia and half of Australia. I had tried to tempt him to join me two and a half years ago, before anyone else knew about my plans, but now he has family commitments so this time he can only be with us in spirit. We’ve also met Claudio von Planta (filmmaker from Long Way Round and Long Way Down) who has been incredibly supportive, helping us with all sorts of advice and contacts.

So next time I write, it will be from Dakar…its getting close now. Have a look at the latest set of photos and listen to the latest podcast – an interview with SEN sport radio in Melbourne (done at 1am in the morning).

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