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Disembarking the ferry goes much more smoothly than I expected. As soon as the front ramp on the ferry drops, the foot passengers bolt for the shore. (They probably are in the usual day to day hurry, not the sense of relief of escaping a sinking ship… just sayin’).

Almost immediately, the crew starts releasing the vehicles in a very orderly manner. All in all, the ferry crossing is surprisingly efficient if you don’t count the ticketing procedure and if you luck out on the schedule. There are horror stories of people waiting for up to 8 hours to get on the ferry. I suspect that Sam Jobe’s influence made our crossing such an easy and efficient event. You mileage may vary.

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The reason for staying outside and south of Dakar was to stay closer to Banjul so that we would have enough time to arrive earlier in rather than later in the afternoon. Last year’s check in was pretty chaotic and, though we are hoping that things will be smoother, earlier will allow for more time to smooth out the wrinkles.

This year, though, we are crossing the Gambia River using the Barra ferry. Last year we went across the river using the new Senegambia bridge, also known as the Trans-Gambia Bridge, south of Farafenni, the Senegal/Gambia border crossing.

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The plan for today was to stop for the night in Dakar, Senegal but that is turning out to be a bad idea. There isn’t regally much reason to do that other than to say that we have done it. And the traffic is reported to be epic.

We start looking for an alternative and find a 2 bedroom apartment in a beach town named Somone south of Dakar. The price is only €56 and comes with 2 baths, a kitchen a sitting area and a pool. And it’s closer to the Gambian border. What’s not to like? We’re off to Somone.

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The day starts with a great breakfast – an omelet, beans, sausage, orange juice and hot coffee. A great break from the rat pack breakfast of the last few days. Slowly, other people come out for the breakfast but no one is moving too fast.

Someone suggests a boat ride on the inlet that is just over the beach from the Zebrabar and about a dozen of us sign up for it. The boat ride is on one of the outboard powered long boats the we have been seeing along the coast when were driving close to the sea in Western Sahara, Mauritania and now Senegal scheduled for about 11:00.

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Today we drive into Senegal and on to the Zebrabar, south of Saint Louis. The border crossing shouldn’t be an issue on either side, exiting Mauritania and entering Senegal. Of course, things may not turn out the way we expect.

But first we have to get to the border and that is a challenge all it’s own. The last 10 kilometers are the worst roads that we have or will have traveled without question. It’s very common for the last miles to or from a border to have poor conditions but this stretch rivals the north entrance to Albania from Montenegro and that’s saying something.

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The Bedouin tent was great but the Bedouin mattress was rock hard. I mean, I like hard a hard mattress but this was beyond my likes. I sleep in snatches, tossing and turning trying to find some position that is comfortable.

The only good parts were that the mattress was marginally better than the thin sleeping pad but only by the slimmest of margins. And getting up in the middle of the night for a bio break for a walk to the beach was positively serene under the full moon and quietly lapping surf.

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Friday, January 26, – Mauritanian Desert

The wind was nearly calm overnight and Dahid has said that the wind will be considerably less than yesterday. That would be nice but surprising. If it does die down the visibility will improve but the temperature will rise. It will still be beautiful and exciting.

Everyone breaks camp and packs up. We are losing a few cars, Clemo, Team 9 and Team 11. Clemo has decided to limp the car back to the road and go to directly to Nouakchott. Dahad says tht there is a mechanic there that has spares for Land Rovers and he can fix the Land Raver. We’ll see.

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The Moroccan border is closed until 6AM officially. In real life it opens whenever the staff shows up. And when it does open, they first process the lorries that have been waiting over night while the border was closed,

Since the border is yet another 80 or so kilometers beyond the Hotel Barbas, we have the group up and moving toward the border by 5:30 in an effort to get in line at the border before the crowds arrive. Last year this plan worked well. This year, not so much. When we arrive at the queue for the border, there is already a long line of lorries, maybe 10 cars and the border hasn’t opened yet. Patience is a virtue and it’s going to be tested.

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I’m up early and grab a quick breakfast with cafe americano (otherwise known as coffee black). Around 8, Clemo, Elaine and Pinky emerge and follow suit. We start on a plan for today.

The most important task today is to collect the money necessary for the different fees for parks, road passes, Mauritanian car insurance and food for those going on the desert run. This adds up to a substantial amount of money and Clemo doesn’t want to hold it any longer than necessary.

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The next day, Elaine and Clemo meet us for a late breakfast/early lunch. When Clemo found out the there would be injectors at the Hotel Barbas, the plan was changes to leave today for the hotel rather than stay for 2 days in Dakhla and spend 2 days at the hotel trying to repair the Land Raver.

We finish lunch and start out of town for the Hotel Barbas. The wind is still whistling and the sand still blowing. The road south is just as boring as yesterday with occasional spotting camel herd, some quite large, and not much else. Blowing sand, windrows and bad visibility. The only good thing is that the police have no desire to stand in the blowing sand trying the catch speeders.

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