25 January 2008


Two Toyotas to Timbuctu

Team Shap Ahoy, Tim Lovatt and Nick Capron took part in the 2006 Plymouth-Banjul Challenge, when they raised over £4500 for Pageant. (see the story of their journey) Then in 2007, they were off again to Africa, this time to Bamako in Mali, to check the route for the new Bamako Challenge. At the end of this, they sold their car for £250, donating this to Pageant. (see this story) Tim still hadn't had enough, so this year he and three friends decided on another independent trip to Mali - hence Two Toyotas to Timbuctu or 4Ts.
Tim with Nolan Pretty, Ian Hunt and Geoff Todd acquired two Toyota Landcruisers off eBay. These were the the old short wheelbase LJ70 models, each sporting a 2.4 litre turbo Diesel engine. The teams left the UK on 26 December, and travelled by ferry from Portsmouth to Bilbao in Spain. They then drove through Spain to Tarifa, and crossed over to Tangier by ferry, reaching Fez on 29 December. Their journey through Morocco took them through the Altas mountains, taking time to explore the Todra and Dades gorges. They then headed over the Atlas via Quarzazate and along the coast into Western Sahara, camping near Laayoune.
On 5 January, they crossed the border into Mauritania, driving off-road to Nouakchott, still on the coast. From there they headed east through the desert towards Nema and crossed into Mali. They reached Timbuctu on 11th January, and immediately set off into the desert to the north to visit the Festival of the Desert. On returning to Timbuctu, they sold both cars (proceeds to Pageant) and became tourists. They hired a car with driver, and set off to tour the fabulous Dogon country. This was followed by a boat trip on the River Niger. They returned to Bamako, and flew home on 21 January.
So that's the end of another adventure!
Pageant has a web page, with reports sent back during their journey. Over the next few weeks we hope to have pictures and more details, so keep checking this page.

05 January 2008


Trouble in Mauritania

Lisbon to Dakar Rally Cancelled
On 24 December a part of French tourists were picnicking near the small town of Aleg, 150 miles east of Mauritania's capital, Nouakchott. They were approached by a group of gunmen who demanded money. When the tourists refused, the gunmen shot four of the party dead. The local police believe that the gunmen have links with Al Qaeda. (see Guardian news item) Subsequently the French Government advised French citizens not to travel to Mauritania, and advised the French organisers of the Lisbon-Dakar Rally not to go ahead with the event (see further Guardian news item) and on 4 January, the 2008 Rally was cancelled. (see announcement) Meanwhile the UK Foreign Office is advising against all but essential travel in eastern parts of Mauritania, adjacent to Algeria and Mali. (Foreign Office announcement)

Plymouth to Bamako & Banjul Challenges
The 2008 Plymouth-Dakar Challenge destinations are Bamako/Timbuktu for groups 1 to 5, and Banjul for groups 6 to 9. The Bamako/Timbuktu route keeps close to the Senegal border before crossing into Mali, so hopefully avoids the problematic areas. Groups 1 to 3 have already passed through Mauritania, and many have already completed the challenge. Group 4 are close to entering Mauritania, while Group 5 have yet to start from the UK on 11 January. The route of the Banjul Challenge stays close to the coast through Mauritania. Some of Group 6 have already crossed Mauritania, Group 7 are mainly in Morocco and Group 8 are in France or Spain. Group 9 are due to leave the UK on 11 January. Unlike the Lisbon-Dakar Rally, these challenges are completely unsupported, so the teams are making their own decisions. It seems that they are all likely to proceed with their journeys, keeping up to date with the latest news and taking sensible extra precautions. It is possible that the journey through Mauritania will keep to tarmac roads, rather than going 'off piste', and teams will keep together in large convoys. Team Transplant Titans in Group 9 have their web page on the Pageant site, where you can find more news.

The 4Ts Adventure
The 4Ts Adventure is two cars making an independent trip to Timbuktu and Bamako. The latest report is that they are close to the border between Western Sahara and Mauritania. We have no information as yet of any changes to their itinerary.