Admit it, participating in the Dakar Rally is on your bucket list! Well, it was on mine, but of course I am not a professional rally driver. Fortunately there are several alternative rallies for the less professional driver. When talking to a friend about my vague desire to once cross the Sahara Desert in my own car in 2007 he indicated he had the same dream. Instead of drinking to our common dream and leaving it with that, we committed to participate. A few months later we registered for the Amsterdam Dakar Challenge charity rally and bought a cheap (that’s a Challenge rule) four wheel drive car. Another few months later we departed cold Amsterdam towards unknown Africa! The ultimate road trip! As you will understand, the rest is history:
This is a long road trip, connecting two continents and about five climate zones!
Although I write about this adventure a few years after undertaking it, you can still participate. Also in 2015 and 2016 this great adventure is being organized. See the official Amsterdam Dakar Challenge website for the latest news.
The Rif Mountain Range in Northern Morocco is a beautiful and virtually unknown travel destination. Very traditional and some of the best mountain driving of Africa.
The great thing about driving from Northern Europe to Africa is the passing of the climate zones. We left in rain and fog in the late fall of 2008, to drive through a sunny Moroccan street somewhere near Marrakesh only three days (and 3,000 km) later.
Used to organized European traffic driving in Africa is something different, although you very quickly get the hang of it. Besides, the quality of our 15-year old four wheel drive easily surpasses that of the average local vehicles.
In other countries the maximum load limits seem to be much higher than in Europe. Or drivers care less about the rules…
Used to European prices, fuel costs almost nothing in North Africa! Cheaper even than in the USA!
There are four wheel drive vehicles and there are Four Wheel Drive Vehicles!
Crossing the mine fields that form the border between Western Sahara and Mauritania in your own car! One of the (many) highlights of this road trip!
Crossing the Sahara Desert over the Atlantic route takes about four days, using (mandatory!) local guides in both Mauritania and Senegal.
Our guide prepares some camel meat for lunch on a small fire, during one of the many pit stops.
About a week after leaving home we find ourselves on a desert piste between sand dunes. This is some truly awesome driving!
In Mauritania, only a few kilometers before the Senegal border we help this London to Johannesburg driver out of the mud. We needed four four wheel drive cars to get him out of the muddy bank! The South African driver bought all of us all the beers we could drink that night!
Arriving in Lac Rose, just outside of Dakar. This is the traditional finish of Le Dakar. A great finish of our Sahara crossing! But not the end of our road trip…
Our journey continues into the Gambia, where we drive right onto the white beaches of this increasingly popular West African holiday destination. Tourists were really surprised to see a Dutch license plate on their beach!
Having our own car allowed us to get well beyond the beaten tourist path in the Gambia, where we drove east until the asphalt road turned into a dirt track through the jungle. We stayed with the locals in a small eco camp on the Gambia River.
We visited a few authentic Gambian villages in the dense jungle…
…before donating our car to a local hospital and flying back home. This drive is about 8,500 kilometers long and took us 25 days. The flight back took about 7 hours. What an adventure!