Priston's Plymouth-Banjul Challenge


Robin & Henry
with acknowledgements to the Plymouth-Banjul Challenge official web-site

Click on the link for  BASIC INFORMATION
Click below to enlarge photos.
Marrakech Tizi N Test Mirleft restaurant Floods in Western Sahara Longest train
New Year's Eve camp site
New Year's Eve party On the beach St Louis, Senegal St. Louis ferry police convoy Banjul ferry
VW Golf

PROGRESS DASHBOARD

To sponsor the challenge in aid of Send-a-Cow, contact Aylet Anderson on 01761 470339 or fill in the Sponsor sheet in her garage or in the Ring O' Bells PH.
LAST UPDATE
7 March 2006

LAST LOCATION
FINISHED! Arrived in  Banjul, in The Gambia. at 1700 on 7.1.2006 after 19 days.. Car sold for £945 and total sponsorship raised was £1200.
Click on the links for satellite photo and map of route.
MILES GONE/TO GO
4026 /0  100%
DAYS GONE/TO GO
22 / 0
LATEST STATUS
Arrived in Banjul after over 4000 miles drive from Priston.  Car sold for £945 and total sponsorship raised was £1200.
ROUTE WEATHER
Priston - St Malo - Gibraltar - Rabat - Marrakech - Agadir - Laâyoune - Dakhla - Nouâdhibou  -  Nouakchott - St Louis - Senegal - Banjul
ROUTE HEADLINES
Morocco - Mauritania - Senegal  - Gambia

LATEST REPORTS FROM HENRY & ROBIN

When
Where
Days
Miles Report (latest report first)
07.03.2006
POSTSCRIPT
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[from Robin] I have, at last, counted up and reconciled all the money that people kindly donated to Send a Cow to sponsor Henry and me on the Plymouth Banjul Challenge.
The total is £1026.50.
Add the tax repayments expected for those who gave by Gift Aid and the total becomes more than £1200.
Henry and I are so grateful for everybody's generosity which will help those in Africa who are so desperately poor.
In addition and separate to Send a Cow the car we did the Challenge in was sold for Gambian charities for £945.   This is nearly twice what we paid for it which is gratifying.   I hope it went to a good home. All the cars on the Challenge are being sold for Gambian charities and the proceeds of those sold so far is over £88,000.   There are still more to be sold and the organisers confidently expect the grand total to top £100,000.   This must be a significant amount for a country like The Gambia.
14.01.2006
Priston!


Both Henry and Robin back home safely.  A selection of Henry's photos have been added to the web-site.
12.01.2006
Banjul, the Gambia
-
-
[from the Priston Web]: Henry is back safely in Priston, and Robin is returning tomorrow (Friday). Henry is providing some photos he took on the Challenge which we hope to  post onto the web-site in the next few days.
09.01.2006
Banjul, Gambia
21
4026
1830: [email from Henry - forwarded by Aylet]
I left you [in my previous email] on New Year's Eve in the Sahara.

This was a really good evening, and it was nice to spend it in our small and friendly group (the 'suicide squad' as the other teams had named us). We camped  near some small dunes (see blue Z marker on satellite photo) where some sand surfing was tried, with not much success. The following morning we awoke to find that the Range Rover would not start! This was a problem, as all the other cars were not really suitable for the route we were taking! We really needed it working!!

After maybe half an hour of fiddling and even trying to start it with the starting handle (3.5 litre V8 vs hand power!), we got it going...to my great relief! What followed was another day of zooming along one minute followed by getting stuck the next . .  AGAIN!
Banjul challenge group
The Golf lost her bumper on a particularly fast and bumpy section. We didn't even see it go, but the guys behind said it flew over their car! We stopped that evening on a peninsular where the track was definately a 4x4 only. The final day in the Sahara was good. We got onto the beach, and enjoyed reasonable tracks where you can do 80km/h or so. We saw our first team since the last sight of civilisation. In their group was a guy trying to tow the first trailer to make it to Banjul. He didn't make it, as the wheel had fallen off!

We gradually met up with the other groups and finished the desert section with 75kms of beach driving, where a rocky outcrop had to be crossed. Those of you in the West Country may see us at this point on the BBC, 2 weeks today on a program called Inside Out. A cameraman has followed the challenge, in particular Bristol teams. He was apparently filming as I drove past the rocks.

We got to Nouakchott that evening and enjoyed our first cold drinks for ages! This was another comedy Mauri town with slightly less battered cars, but the usual death-defying driving!

From here we set off for the dreaded crossing into Senegal. For those who haven't seen the PDC DVD, this was where the cars got stoned at the border and had to 'break out' from a stockade. I wasn't looking forward to it! In fact we went to a different crossing point at Diama, which was so quiet! There must have been only 3 buildings there. Having set off at 10.30am, we eventually arrived at our campsite near St Louis in Senegal at 2am.

This was a very nice campsite, where we spent 2 days under the palm trees! We had to stay, as Senegal has a stupid law which meant we had a customs escort to ensure the cars were not sold/dumped in the country. This meant that from here we had to drive in a 40 car convoy, 400km to the Gambian border! That was a long day, on really bad roads, with nearly 2 hours needed for everyone to fill up at the same petrol station! We didn't make the border in the end, and stayed in a nice hotel very near it.

The final day of driving took us across the border, and on the ferry to Banjul which involved the usual hassel for a group as big as ours.

I think we got here on Sat. afternoon. The cars will be sold at auction next Sat., and this afternoon we have to be in a parade through the town!

07.01.2006

Banjul, Gambia

19

4026

2345: [from Aylet]: They've finished!  5.00pm (English and Gambian time) Saturday 7 January.   The last part of the journey was endless.  They've been in the 40-car escorted convoy insisted on by the Senegale authorities, as the cars are over 5 years old,) since St Louis.  They  had to travel at the speed of the slowest car.   The heat was intense, and the roads appalling.   At the Gambia River a special ferry had been reserved for the teams to cross to  Banjul, and then it was a short run to the The Safari Garden Hotel where the Challenge ends.   They have just had an alcoholic dinner with other teams, and were finishing the night with drinks in some bar with a backdrop of the rowdiest mating toads you could wish for - I could hear them quite clearly in England!

All the cars in their group made it.  The reason they were out of contact an extra three days was because they had a very very long run from Mauritania into Senegal.  They left M. at 10.am and got to their campsite in Senegal (Zebradar, as Richard Bottle rightly surmised) at 2am the following morning.   So they had a couple of nights off.   It's worth clicking on Zebredar on Richard's web pages, - it looks really nice.   H & R hope to fly back on Tuesday, if they can get a flight.
BBC Southwest have been covering the Challenge, and it will be featured on "Inside Out" at 7.30pm two weeks on Monday (that should be January 23).   The Beeb was actually following a group of students from further in the West Country in a brightly painted Lada, but there may be shots of H and R in the background.
The car will be auctioned next Saturday.  H & R can't speak highly enough of its performance.  All it needs is a wash, which it's going to be treated to, and there's nothing else wrong with it.
What a relief!
Our congratulations to Henry and Robin on their great achievement!

07.01.2006
Approaching Gambian border
19
3976
1100:  [from Aylet] Henry's friend has just rung to say he's just had a text from Henry to say they're approaching the Gambian border.   They're being held in a 40 car convoy, and the roads are pretty rough, so it's very slow going.   Providing things go well they should make Banjul by this afternoon.
06.01.2006
Somewhere in Senegal 18
?
1220: [from Henry] On our way to Banjul. In a 40 car queue for petrol at the mo! Will be a long day. Have to be in convoy due to stupid Senegal law. Won't make Banjul today.
05.01.2006
St. Louis, Senegal
17
3648
1730: [from Aylet] Greatly relieved, as have just received a group email from Henry dated 4 pm today - they've got to St Louis, and it's Banjul and the end tomorrow.
[from Henry - forwarded by Aylet]
"I think we left Marrakech on Boxing Day, heading through the Atlas mountains towards the coast. We took a good mountain pass called the Tizi n Test, which took the little Golf into the snow line at it's highest point. This is where the car got it's first rock impacts on the underside, thanks to my careful driving!

We stopped in a hotel on the Atlantic coast in the village of Mirleft which was really nice. Owned by a French guy, and used by surfers, it was very relaxed, and we bumped into another team there and drank lots of beer and wine! Can't remember where the next stop was, but I do remember the drive. Morocco had had loads of rain in the days before, and a small bridge had collapsed on our road, which meant we had to cross this river in poor little Golfy! In fact it wasn't too bad, maybe a foot deep, but didn't expect to have to do this on the trip! There were quite a few lorries stuck in the water, but we ploughed through.

Shortly after this we had our first taste of sand driving, as 3 of us took a little detour from the road into the VERY soft sand at the side. One car got stuck instantly and had to be pushed out, and another broke gearbox parts, and had to be towed to the nearest town (which was not very near!) We survived!!

After a long drive the following day we reached Dakhla. This was our last day in Morocco, and the beginning of the real hard stuff in Mauritainia. We formed into groups here, ready for the trip south. Our group consisted of a team from Chippenham, with their 4x4 Range Rover, and 3 teams from Germany, who had done loads of desert driving. This meant that they did not want to take a guide for the Sahara crossing (which every other team did) and instead wanted to use their GPS. I can't understand why we didn't say "no way" to this!

The next day we drove south to the Mauri border, crossing a minefield in no mans land, and stayed in Nouahdibou (not sure how to spell). This was a seriously crap town, with comedy cars that had been crashed about 20 times each, and had no headlights or number plates! Driving through the place I could see why. Very dodgy driving!

We camped there and the next day the crazy part of the trip began.. Our confidence was rocked instantly, as we couldn't find the start of the 'piste' to cross the desert! After driving off road and getting stuck straight away, we saw another team still driving along the road! We dragged our cars out and got back on the road in pursuit! We didn't find them! We ended up taking a random track from the main road, which lead us out into the middle of nowhere.

Meandering through surprised herds of goat and camels, we eventually got on the piste. It was nice to see other car tracks heading our way. The problem with not taking a guide was that we didn't know where the the soft sand was, and our little Golf got stuck a few times. Luckily we had 'Des' the Range Rover to pull us out. I'm going to make a little shrine to Des, as we couldn't have got through without him!

We camped that evening on a plain somewhere in the Sahara. We had sparklers, a big bonfire and champagne New Year!  I'm going to have to leave it there, as I have to catch the boat back to the campsite in St Louis in a sec. We head for Banjul and the end tomorrow, and I'll complete the story from there when I have more time."
04.01.2006

16
?
2355: [from Priston Web] Still no news from H&R, but the Sheik Rattle & Roll team which were part of the same desert group have reported to Plymouth-Banjul Challenge official web-site as being now in St Louis, Senegal., describing the border as a bureaucaratic nightmare, but friendly people with good food and beer!
04.01.2006
?
16
?
2100: [from Priston Web] No contact since 1100 yesterday.  H&R should be through the notoriously difficult Senegal border by now, hopefully at the Zebrebar campsite, near St Louis.
03.01.2006
Senegalese border
15
3586
1100: [from Aylet] text from Henry to friend says they are approaching the Senegalese border, and hope to be through it by nightfall.
03.01.2006
Nouakchott
15
3459
0935: [from Priston Web] strangely, just after getting the update from H&R at 0930 below, two further text messages arrived, which had been sent by H&R  on Christmas Day,and  Boxing Day respectively, but had been lost in the system since.
03.01.2006
Nouakchott
15
3459 0930: [from H&R] Nouakchott 5568km from Priston. Capital of Mauritania.It is like a wild west town. Hairy drive through desert. New Years Eve spent at 16d09m41s West 20d31m43s North (see blue Z marker on satellite photo). Car full of sand
02.01.2006
Nouakchott
14
3459 2300: [from Aylet] They're out the other side of the Sahara! "Lots of sand, lots of getting stuck". The Chippenham team (Sheikh Rattle & Roll) with their Range Rover was the salvation of the other four cars, all of which were front wheel drive and got stuck again and again. Bursts of very fast going over flat, featureless, hard sand, but then suddenly they'd all hit soft sand and be towed out by the R. Rover. Other parts incredibly rough going and rocky. H says he never wants to drive on sand again. They had 2 nights camping in the desert, one of them New Year's Eve. One of the German decked his car with fairy lights, and they sat round a huge bonfire drinking Asti Spumante. They celebrated midnight in Central European Time as they were too exhausted to wait for Greenwich Mean Time. After the desert they had 90km of beach driving ( there's no road). Slightly hairy as you had to drive seaward of rocky outcrops and the sea was very close! Then they hit the tarmac again, and are now in Nuakachott. All the teams have booked into very modern, expensive Novotel, and were about to dine together. R. said the sand from their hair almost blocked the plug-holes. Nobody broke down badly (H & R had one puncture) and every team is still running.
02.01.2006
?
14
 ?
No news since 30.12.  According to the rough schedule, H&R should have driven through the Banc d'Arguin National Park (see map) and should now be driving along the beach somewhere between  Nouâmghar and Nouakchott
31.12.2005
Somewhere in Mauritania
12
?
No news from H&R today, so you may care to read this, courtesy of the Somerset Guardian
30.12.2005
60 km into Mauritania
11
3086
2030: [from Aylet] To my amazement, just had a call on a reasonable line, though with massive time lag, from H & R, 60km into Mauritania. Only a 2-hour wait at the border, thanks to quite a bit of money changing hands. Amazing half-mile No Man's Land between Morocco and Mauritania, and the difference between the 2 countries is huge - Mauritania is real 3rd World. They crossed the infamous minefield without difficulty; no guide, they just followed a local Landrover which went straight across. H said there were Mauritanians camping in the middle of it! Tomorrow morning all the teams meet at some huge sand dune in the middle of the Maur. National Park, and then they think there really will be 3 days' silence until they get to the capital, which does have a mobile phone mast.
30.12.2005
Dakhla, Western Sahara 11
2760
0700: [from Priston Web] H & R due to set off now across desert.  Sheikh Rattle & Roll report to Plymouth-Banjul Challenge official web-site that the desert group consists of themselves, the Priston Privates, plus T6121 C-Town and T6123 Croisiere de Saables. (These are German sites - you can get rough translations  from Altavista Babel Fish Translation - there are some interesting pictures of the route in the Tagebuche section of the C-Town web-site.)
29.12.2005
Dakhla, Western Sahara
10
2760
2100: [from Aylet] Henry was, of course, in a restaurant! They'd had the briefing. They're in a group with 3 German teams and the Chippenham 'Sheikh Rattle & Roll' team. H & R are really pleased, as they like the Chippenhams, ( husband and wife and 10-year old son) and the Germans have all done desert rallying before, so should be expert and efficient. The Golf has been stocked right up with water and fuel, and they are buying bread supplies in the morning. It will take them all tomorrow to get to the Mauritanian border at Nouâdhibou. From there to Nouakchott where tarmac roads start again, will take 3 days - desert all the way. Nouakchott is on the Senegal border, and they've been warned that corruption rules OK there "8-10 hours for border formalities and you just have to throw money at them"; Depressing. We're going to try to contact each other tomorrow night, as there are occasional pockets of reception - but it depends who your mobile provider is - and I suspect it might not be O2.
[from Priston Web - you can see the extent of mobile phone coverage by clicking here and selecting the appropriate countries - Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia - but it is quite possible practice may not match theory!]
29.12.2005
Dakhla, Western Sahara
10
2760
1300: [from Aylet] I heard from H & R at lunchtime today. They were (yet again in a restaurant) in Dakhla, well into Spanish West Sahara. The Golf was being looked at in a local garage - no real problem, but they were having a new fan belt fitted and some engine noise investigated. At 3pm there was to be a briefing for the desert section. They'd all received a message from the organisers: "This is the end of the holiday. Split into groups of five, and do not worry about other peoples' idiosyncracies". They leave at 7am tomorrow (Friday). Henry had got talking to some German in the garage, who had done the crossing in 1999, and gloomily said "It's bandit country - you will have to bribe all the time". So everyone please keep their fingers crossed that they [all] have a safe journey. They will be out of touch now for 3-4 days.
28.12..2005
?
9
?
[from the Priston Web] No  news today - according to the (approximate!) schedule on the Plymouth-Banjul Challenge official web-site R&H should be around  Dakhla in Western Sahara.  Mobile phone coverage gets very patchy in the Sahara., so we hope no news is good news.
27.12.2005
Laâyoune, Western Sahara
8
2448
2130: [from Aylet] Spoke to R & H on an intermittent line.  They've had a long drive to Laayoune (3940km). As per usual, they appeared to be ringing me from a restaurant! There's been very heavy rain in the area, and a bridge they needed to cross partially collapsed - the bridges are very low, so it was only a case of it falling a foot or two - but all traffic had to be escorted over in little convoys, in the water!. Several of the teams were together, and they then decided to have a trial run through the soft sand at the side of the road to see what the Sahara would be like.... They all got stuck. The Golf was pushed out unscathed, but the lead car, a Suzuki 4x4, "broke down terminally with no gears " and had to be towed off to some town. They're just hoping it can be got going again, otherwise it will be the first fatality of the challenge.
26.12.2005
Mirhleft, Morocco
7
2103
[from H&R - only received on 03.01.06!]  3385km from Priston. Over Tizi N Test (2100m altitude) through High Atlas.  Quite hairy.  Charming hotel run by Frenchman.  Boozy dinner with two female drivers.
2120: [from Aylet] Just had long chat to Henry. They've had a good run today from Marrakech to Mirhleft, which is beyond Agadir. Very good drive with some of the other teams over a pass in the High Atlas - 2000m. and snow! The Golf found the climb a bit hot but recovered. They then dropped down to the coast. Distance now travelled - 3300 km. just about halfway. Mirhleft is apparently charming - right on the Atlantic, strong French influence; small, none of the endless hassling etc. you get in the bigger towns. From now on there is only one road south, so all the teams will be bumping into each other all the time (not literally, I hope). Tomorrow they pass into the disputed territory of Western Sahara. There is a UN presence in the area, so hopefully that may mean there are still mobile phone masts. Such luxuries are non-existent in Mauritania.
25.12.05
Marrakech, Morocco 6
1875
[from H&R - only received on 03.01.06!]  Xmas day in Marrakech.  Mass more a spectacle than a religious ceremony - bongo drums and swaying African girls in the offertory procession  with ululations.
1900: [from Aylet] The Golf shows nearly 3000km on the clock now.  H & R are in Marrakesh until tomorrow morning, and are just off  for dinner with a large gathering of the other teams.  Robin made the mistake of going to Christmas Day Mass this morning.  The service took over 2 hours, and the offertory procession was African ladies swaying and ululating up the aisle. A trifle different from Peasedown St John!  They head off tomorrow, individually if they want, in the direction of Agadir.  The next important date is 29th (I think) when they form up formally into groups for the Sahara.
24.12.2005
Marrakech, Morocco
5
1875
2340: "Now in Marrakech.  Car going well but slight whine.  Marrakech very interesting.  Traffic chaotic."
[from Aylet] Robin rang at 23.30 Christmas Eve to say that they'd arrived in Marrakech. All well. Marrakech streets frenetic, pedestrians all over the road etc. They'd just been out with some of the other teams. They head off towards Agadir Monday morning.
23.12.2005
Rabat, Morocco
4
1625
2350: "Took 2.5 hrs through customs at Tangiers. Otherwise all OK"
[from Aylet] R and H rang me at 10.30pm. As you heard, the bureaucracy was mega at Tangiers, and they arrived in Rabat long after dark, and unable to locate the Lonely Planet hotel which R had earmarked; so they are in a nice but expensive one they just happened across. Their main course was arriving at the table as we spoke
23.12.2005
Sotogrande, Spain 4
1419
0800: [via Aylet] "Robin rang me from Sotogrande at 8am (Friday). Still very strong winds (9 on the Beaufort Scale which is Severe Gale). Still no ferries; but they'd had a good night out in an 'Irish' pub with challengers. There are two 10-year old boys doing the challenge. One, Pat, is with the Chippenham Sheikh Rattle and Roll team - the other is doing it just with his father."
22.12.2005 Sotogrande, Spain 3 1419 2350:"Very windy, ferries haven't sailed for two days - hoping to sail across to North Africa tomorrow"
21.12.2005 Granada, Spain 2 1275 2306: "Now in Granada, so far so good  but H. says engine sounds rough, investigating tomorrow."
21.12.2005 nr Granada, Spain 2 1250 1900: 25km from Granada where H & R are spending the night.  "Traffic round San Sebastian and Madrid  was awful and it's very cold [3 deg C].  Car going well.  Team from Chippenham are staying in Toledo tonight."
20.12.2005
Bayonne, France
1
650
1900: Near the Spanish border, staying in a hotel with a team from Chippenham, car working well.
20.12.2005
Nantes, France
1
250
1000: Arrived without any more car-related drama.
19.12.2005
English Channel
1
100
2130 After two breakdowns in Salisbury and on M27 due to fuel-line problems, H & R are escorted to the docks by the RAC.  Having missed their original ferry to St Malo they boarded the ferry to Caen., where they met a Priston neighbour!
19.12.2005
Priston
1
0
1700  - they're off!
Banjul Challenge departure
Click for larger image
05.12.2005
Priston
0
0
Replacement car acquired - 1989 Volkswagen Golf  reg no F404 THY
15.11.2005
Priston
0
0
Henry and Robin's original car, a white Ford Escort, was stolen and burnt out