In Pursuit of Adventure - Part 5, by @terresco (translated from French)

in story •  4 months ago

This is an authorized translation in English of a post in French by @terresco: A la poursuite de l'aventure 4

As my primary language is not English, there are probably some mistakes in my translation.

Remember that the person who speaks here is NOT me, Vincent Celier (@vcelier), but @terresco, a French guy.




The trail towards Timiaouine was sometimes monotonous. In the hot hours, the colors, crushed by the intense light, lost their brilliance. In our black Mercedes we suffered from heat, every day more. We felt we had to move forward to keep our motivation, we had been in Algeria for too long, we needed something new. The new would be to enter Mali where we thought we could sell our vehicle at a price sufficient to cover the cost of the trip. The adventure, which was bogging down day after day in the Saharan sands, had begun two years earlier and had consumed a lot of energy (see 3 previous articles).

* * * * *

Cape to the south

The days were similar, the morning waking before the break of the day to take advantage of the most mild temperatures between 6h to 11h. When the vision did not return the good information by excess of light, while the time of the mirages had come, we had a long pause. We pulled a tarpaulin, recovered on the road, between the car and what we could, usually the sand plates planted vertically in the ground. Our living space was then reduced to two or three square meters of this shadow for the next 6 or 7 hours. In the evening, the struggle to move on was resuming until the night, when the glow of the stars replacing the sun, offered us a little respite.

A good day, we could drive a few tens of kilometers, often had to be satisfied with a few kilometers. The long passages of sand were formidable for our unsuitable car. We had to take a maximum of speed and throw ourselves into the soft sand. If the passage was too long or the sand was too soft, we stayed planted, and we had to gain meter by meter until the next hard zone. Get the sand plates, dig the sand under the car, place the plates, advance the length of the plates and start again. We now understand why the aluminum sand plates offered by the specialist sellers were so expensive, the weight of our steel plates was exhausting to handle.

It was necessary to monitor the temperature of the engine, possibly add water, sometimes oil. Other times just stop to cool down. Another problem was tires. To have a chance to pass in the soft sand, we had to deflate them strongly which entailed risks of disintegrating. When we arrived on stones, not to damage them, it was necessary to reinflate them, all that, it will not surprise anyone, with a manual pump. It could happen to do this operation more than 10 times a day.

We drank the same water we used to cool the engine, a water collected at random opportunities and stored in plastic cans. We even experimented with a way to make tea without heating the water, simply by leaving it an hour or two in a black plastic can in the fury of the sun. Obviously it ended up playing a few problems and the stages were interrupted by new breaks, urgent and indispensable, for the greatest distraction of the one who was not concerned ... this time. The provisions diminished but that was not a matter of concern, with some dates and old provisions we survived perfectly.

Orientation was another of our problems. There was no GPS at that time and our compass without a precise map was not very useful. We did not have a road map that covered all of North and West Africa, from Algeria in the north to Ivory Coast in the south, from Senegal in the west to Chad in the east. Sometimes the track was easy to follow, decorated with abandoned tires transformed into a haunt such as small piles of pebbles marking the mountain paths. At first it's quite confusing because there is not a track but a tangle of tracks intersecting tirelessly. Each traveler, according to the difficulties of the moment, passed on one side or the other creating new ways. Once we understood this principle, we were more serene and in the image of the walker of Antonio Machado we made our motto, there is no track, we make our track while advancing.

Where we lose the south

A first experience was formative. The vision of a beautiful sand dune stopped us in the optic to make a beautiful picture. While the place was endless and I had only to stop the car, I parked stupidly as I would have done in a parking lot. We left for the dune, for our photographic break. Discussing quietly the meaning of life and our journey we came back later. Pascal taking the wheel started straight, since it would be logical for me to have left the car in the same direction. Luckily it was the evening stage and an hour later we noticed that the sun was not falling on the same side as usual. A stage lost, a little stress but everything is back to normal and we understood the lesson.

Another time was less amusing if one can say it so. It was a little before the evening stage, Pascal slumbered under the tarpaulin while waiting for the time. The urge to take a walk on foot, to spend all these hours under the tarp was often a difficult exercise of patience. Confident in the tracks that my footsteps left in the sand, I did not pay much attention to not getting too far away. Suddenly a strong wind rose, erasing my tracks under my eyes. I ran in the swirling sand trying to follow the last marks as long as possible. Useless efforts, a quarter of an hour later, when the wind stopped I did not know at all where I was or where to go. Forcing me to stay calm as Pascal had to do, who was beginning to worry, I waited without going further away. I heard a little later honking horns that seemed far away. Strangely I could not determine the direction. It was only at night that the glow of headlights and lamps brought me back to the car. Free lesson to remember.

* * * * *

Thus, kilometer after kilometer, lesson after lesson, we arrived at the village just north of the border to Mali. Tired but happy to attack a new phase. Time had passed much faster than in our most pessimistic forecasts and some in France had to start worrying about the lack of news. We needed to revisit our objective, the ambition to go down to West Africa became disproportionate and one should think about selling in the Sahel. Probably not so good but it was not our main concern.

Continue to Part 5

-- @terresco

Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

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Nice post
Good luck

The west African dessert has a calm and eerie disposition, it is beautiful but deadly if you are not equipped to travel in its vastness @vcelier