Sahara Desert Challenge 2016

Hi all!

This thread will be a report on my participation on the 2016 edition of the Sahara Desert Challenge

It's an organized expedition between Portugal and Dakar, Senegal. It follows some of the old Dakar Rally routes. It is not a race, you are self supported, but the organization provides basic mechanic assistance and helps with borders, visas, etc.

Our vehicle was the White Camel, a 1995 Defender 90 300Tdi. You can check it's build thread:

Let the story begin.

So, a long, long time ago, it was the Christmas of 2016.
Weirdest Christmas ever for me and my GF, it was spent preparing stuff for the trip, barely noticing the holiday.
It's our first international expedition, all the hours spent reading about other travelers are worthless when it comes the time to pack your stuff. What to take?????????

The Miss approves the car setup

Forward to the small hours of the 27 of December we were ready to hit the road to Coruche, near Lisbon, where the group would depart.

DAY1 Porto - Beja
The White Camel was ready.

Yes, that's a proper butt sag you see there

Was nervous as hell, every single noise, every little rattle the produced made my heart pop through my chest

Finally, arrived at Coruche

Spent the morning checking the other cars and bikes.

So. Much. Cr@p.

From there it was just a B road drive to Beja, where we spent the night.

Stay tuned
DAY2 Beja(PT) - Asilah (MA)

It as time to head to the ferry crossing to Morocco.
It was drive through southern Spain B roads. Kind of boring but I've never passed there outside the motorway before, so it was different in that regard.

Into Tarifa

We there had a bit of a wait for the ferry with the rest of the group

There was it

Front the outside you have a very hard time believing all the cars fit inside, but hey, they do.
The Gibraltar crossing was spent standing at the line to get a passport stamp.
Then a long, long, long, long wait at the Moroccan aduana waiting for our visas.

And finally, Africa!
It was night and we were crossing Tanger, leaving the city to sleep at the hotel in Asilah. This was our first contact with Morocan traffic. Chaotic, intense, a thrill. Some guys hated it, but we had fun with it
Hi again,

Now we have..........

Day 3 Azilah - Er-Rachidia

The last day of our "age of innocence".....

Good morning Azilah!

We are not in Europe anymore

We had about 630km of Morocan B roads to reach our first camp near Er-Rachidia

Filling up with cheap diesel

Countless kms of crop fields

And many small cities in between. Most of them quite decrepit by our standards, not much industry in this area of Morocco (in contrast with the west of the country)

Batman was never the same after Christopher Nolan left the franchise

There were 3 guy in this weird 4x4 having trouble to keep up with the group. Their car didn't liked to be over 90km. They ended up being our companions for most of the trip.

Turns out their car was a Portaro, a Portuguese made 4x4 from the 70's, 80's and early 90's

They were a Portuguese reengineered Aro (Romanian brand) with Daihatsu engine and gearbox.
Pretty interesting car, specially for the time it was made. Wide, and an early adopter of IFS, with very long triangles.

Their unit was mostly stock, except a snorkel, rollcage (but no seatbelts), winch, long range tank. Everything very DIY. Their project was to get the first Portaro to Dakar since the oficial brand participation on the rally in the 80s. Joining their adventure was great fun and brought a sense of mission to our trip.

The mighty Portaro following us

"I'm gonna kick yo in the @ss when you break down"

Starting to gain elevation as we approached the Atlas

First signs of snow

Then there were a bunch of monkeys. Fat, lazy monkeys

Remember the "when you break down" part? Well, there it was, right in the middle of the monkeys. The auxiliary fan was stuck, rubbing the rad and the Portaro overheated.

I was afraid the car could roll over into the berm

Turns out the fan needed a spacer. Turns out, when I installed the Mantec steering guard there was a spare M12 (or was it M10?) washer that I threw into the toolbox randomly. Turns out the washer was the perfect spacer. Just like that, we're in the road again.

A couple km later we arrived to Antartida

Bringing Chuck Norrisesque manliness to Morocco

Just like the car

And photobombing, lots of photobombing

Wasn't exactly anticipating driving through 10s of kms of this in Morocco

We then started to descend from the Atlas and night fell. After hours of crazy driving in complete darkness we arrived to our first camp.

End of stage 3
Hi all,

Sorry for the loooooooooooooooooooooooonnnnnnngg delay.
Absolutely zero time lately to sort the pics, etc.
Anyway, here it goes

Day 4 Er-Rachidia - Mhamid (30-12-2016)

Night from day 3 to 4 was really cold. -4º cold.

Living the Portuguese dream. Notice the red wine, Barcelos rooster towel and general excess of cutlery

Everything was frozen in the morning

The plan was a 500km day, 90% or so offroad.

We started by crossing a 25km oasis. Incredible views in the morning

Villages are leaving the decrepitude behind and turning into a quite pretty traditional style

Looking like we were going to invade some country


Really feeling into the desert now

First stop of the day

Guys keep pooping up everywhere in Motobecane Mobylettes and the like. They absolutely rock them on the dunes, experience and lightweight bikes do that. I learned to ride in one of those at 12. Without the turban


We kept driving along the dunes, amazing views

King of the hill
Can you spell butt sag?

We then had a looong stretch of narrow hardpack tracks

"Want to buy some stuff? Like 100kg of cr@p of the 1500 we have in the back?"

Our foremost (and only) sponsor. Making blood, tears and people generally miserable since 2014 (or 2013? I have no idea)

The tracks kept getting more sandy.
We had our lunch stop at an absolutely stunning scenery, among large rock formations and what looked like an abandoned fortification. The images just don't make it justice

The panoramic view was something else

Yes, that's a VW Syncro
The sand was getting harder

We then started our towing service business. Crazy profits, that's where it's at

Then things started to go south.
The Portaro lost 4wd in the sand. We had to spend hours opening the transferbox, only to find the selector fork was overriding it's socked. That problem followed them until the end of their trip.

We got it moving with lot's of peanuts and Jack Daniels.
It's was then a race to the end of the stage, trying not to arrive well into the night.

Driving at night in the desert with crappy lights is not the best of experiences
It was a crazy night from then on.
Being very close to the Algerian border meant we had to cross some military checkpoints.

Then the VW Syncro engine died with kms and kms of very narrow, step and rocky tracks to go.

Then several hours later the Toyota towing the VW (which was way behind us) told us by the VHF that it was running out of fuel.

Then we turned around to get them fuel.

Then they found they still had fuel.

Then we arrived to camp at 23h30, completely burn out, still having to cook, mount camp and check up the White Camel

End of day 4