I’ve been bragging about my trip to the Sahara for a few years now. I’ve been telling my friends (and anyone else who would listen) that I would be going again in June of 2012. To be honest with you I’m not sure if I even believed it myself. Then last night I decided, in my infinite (and intoxicated) wisdom, to ask people to sponsor me with all proceeds going to the British Epilepsy Association. Within about ten minutes I’d been sponsored one hundred pounds and several people had told me how brave I was and had wished me the best of luck. All of a sudden it became apparent that I could not back down and now I’m in a state somewhere between nervous and mild terror.
I imagine the type of person who normally undertakes such a trip is quite big, confident and has the financial reserves that mean they don’t have to worry about their money whilst they are away. Not only that, they would normally go in a group. As much as I like to kid myself that I’m exactly what I just described the reality is that I’m 5 foot 4 inches, of thin build and am basically about as far away from macho as humans get!
I rode my motorbike from England to Morocco 3 years ago but to be completely honest, I left England with the mindset that I would probably wimp out before getting to Morocco and end up just meandering around France and Spain. The next thing I knew I’d crossed the border into Morocco. There was no time to be scared, I turned up at the border and seemed to get stuck in the conveyor belt of processes to get across. This time I’ve been sponsored by many people so I have no choice, I have to go into Morocco. Not only that, I have to go all the way to the Sahara desert. Let’s just hope that summer in the Sahara is not too hot!
So, to say that I feel nervous would be an understatement at this point in time but for good reason I’d say. Riding a motorbike is a risky business at the best of times but, let’s face it, riding one that’s maintained by a computer programmer and completely overloaded with camping equipment eight thousand miles when ones directional ability is likely to get you lost on the way to the bathroom does not have a guaranteed outcome! The last time I went, I was about five miles from the beginning of my journey when I ran wide on a bend, I ended up flying onto the grass and just managed to stop my 300kg loaded up Transalp just before hitting a tree. For the next twenty miles or so I continuously repeated “Richard you complete twat!”, by the time I’d got to Dover I’d made it into a little song, I even had a little dance routine worked out too! With a start like that what chance did I have getting all the way to Morocco.
It’s now only 19 days until I leave Buxted for Morocco. My preparations are coming along nicely but I’ve had a few last minute changes to equipment. It’s very important to me to have a record of this trip and I can’t think of a better way than to write a blog on my way around (hence this blog). My original plan was to take a little netbook with me but they’re just too slow. I played with one in PC World and within 10 minutes (about the time it took to load Firefox) I’d developed a nasty case of Tourettes.
My iPad was out of the question as typing on them is not something I would bestow on any living creature. You’re okay as long as you don’t make any mistakes but the moment you need to go back and correct something you’re doomed to a life of misery. So there I was moaning about iPads saying if they only had keyboards they would be perfect for my trip, it was then that I found out that you can get keyboards for iPads. I bought mine with a nice leather case for protection then got stumped by photographs. As a test I took some photographs on my Nikon D300 and wanted to get one of them rotated, cropped and resized and put on my blog. My conclusion: If you actually want to do something properly get a computer, if all you want to do is walk around looking like a complete wanker then get an iPad.
So, it looks like I’m taking my rather large HP Elitebook 8530p with me to Morocco. The Elitebook is a fantastic laptop that is designed to take a real hammering. Mine’s got 8GB of memory and a 240GB SSD hard drive so is incredibly fast but the trouble is the battery only last about 4 hours. To get around this I’ve bought another 2 batteries and a 12v charger for the bike. Now I’ve got to wire in a charging point into my left pannier that is able to cope with a draw of 90 watts. I’ve got all the cables and connectors I need so will set about getting this done tomorrow.
I’ve been worrying about getting all my paperwork ready for quite some time now but never got round to sorting it out. Earlier today I compiled it all into a waterproof folder. It contains my passport, bike logbook, bike insurance (Europe), bike MOT, Newhaven to Dieppe ferry ticket, D16 TER Morocco entry form (in English, French and Arabic) and 50 police checkpoint documents for the Western Sahara.
The bike has had a lot of work done to it in the last two weeks. I’ve changed the oil and filter, coolant, air filter, chain and sprockets, headlight bulb, brake pads front and back and replaced the spark plugs. Then it went to Everest Motorcycles in Framfield for the valve clearance to be checked, carbs synced, new tyres and inner tubes fitted front and back (with slime), grease the cables and to remove a link from the chain. With the exception of the wiring I have to do to power the laptop the bike is pretty much ready. Once I’ve completed the wiring I’ll drain my laptop battery and do a little test run and see what happens.
Anyway, it’s now twenty past nine so I’m late for bed. Night!
Today has been a good day for the trip. All the planning and arranging that I have done previously have come together nicely and seeing the bike all loaded up with equipment has made me really excited! Having said that I’ve been sitting here in bed for the last half an hour listening to the rain on the window and it doesn’t seem to be letting up at all. My bike has a pair of brand new tyres which are always a little slippery until you’ve done a few miles on them and riding on new tyres in the wet on the metal floor of a ferry is not good for the sphincter! Hopefully it will be dry on the morning of Sunday 17th.
I have purchased a mini travel tripod for my Nikon and Panasonic cameras and also a 64GB memory card for the video camera. I’ve already got 2 LED Lenser torches and a Petzl RXP head torch (which I love by the way!) so seeing what I’m doing shouldn’t be a problem.
This afternoon I checked the wiring had been done correctly and tested it. Once I was happy that everything was working as expected I replaced the side panels and seat and mounted the aluminium panniers. The panniers have now been packed and are about two thirds full which leaves some space for little purchases throughout the trip. I also visited Peacocks earlier and bought a load of cheap boxers and tee shirts. All my clothes are now packed up in my watertight Ortlieb bag.
I’ve been trying to find the perfect tent for years but every tent I’ve bought over the years has had one problem or another. This time round I will be using my new Coleman Tauri X2 tent which I hope will prove to be perfect. We’ll see!
The only thing I feel disappointed about is the fact that I have been unable to find a light and small fold up chair. I tend to start early and end my day early so I can enjoy my evenings. One creature comfort that I would love is a nice chair to sit on but alas it looks like I’m going to be confined to the floor for a month.
With everything now mounted on the bike and less than a week to go I’m now getting very excited, however at the same time I also feel a little lonely. I know that when I leave Buxted I’ll be on my own, when I’m on the ferry I’ll be nervous and on my own. In France I know how to say the basics but I don’t understand enough the have a propper conversation so I’ll be on my own there too. Ditto for Spain and ditto for Morocco.. Being on my own is fine but it does take some time to adjust.
Anyway, I’ll try to get some pictures of the bike all loaded up tomorrow.