Kiffa - Nara

Kiffa Travel Blog

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morning in the campsite


We left the campsite and drove for about 3 hours on paved roads and our battery went flat. This was just past a military check point and the armed guards came over to see why we had stopped. There was a heavy military presence all along this route because of the murders of the French tourists I mentioned before.

They were really friendly and helpful. They had a mechanic who took over the task of changing the battery. Then from nowhere this junior soldier appeared with a silver tray with a tea pot and gave us all a glass of tea. Totally surreal. Driving through the desert in the middle of nowhere and drinking tea with the Mauritanian Army.

overloaded lorry. one of the constant dangers.

We left them with gifts of pens and went on our way.


When we arrived at the final town in Mauritania we decided that we would not make it through the bush and the dirt tracks without another battery.  The main road through Tidgima was a real mess, yet there was a shop full of car parts and unbelievably new fully charged batteries. 70 euros later we were off. Now with three batteries.

The road now disappeared as we drove through the town and onto deep sand tracks.

No more roads and the gps was really important from now on. Unfortunately ours was flat as we couldn’t charge it up in our car. We were reliant on following Hans and had to keep up. This was fantastic driving. Some of the best so far. Very deep sand tracks and very bumpy. This was lined by lots of acacia trees and other plants. It was important not to lose control here or a close encounter with a tree was inevitable. I was really getting used to this and we were getting some good speed up. Then we went round one sharp corner and the jeep went up on two wheels and Steve let out a shout and a little swear word! He really thought we were going to roll over. Thankfully the sand rut caught hold of the wheels and straightened the car up just in time. I  was just laughing my head off. I wasn’t worried!! Well, maybe a little.  It didn’t slow me down though. It was too much fun. A few minutes later Big Hans hit a dip a bit too hard and the back half of his exhaust fell off.  This was his bargain 100 euro new exhaust he had fitted in Dhakla. When he got out to inspect it, he kicked the broken part and it spun around and and hit him in the leg.
Poor Hans, he wasn’t happy but we all thought it was hilarious.

Steve then took over the driving before we lost all daylight. We stopped for the sunset which was great and relaxed for a while watching camels walk past the cars and watch the sun go down.

Now we had to drive in the dark with only one battery left. There was still a long way to go. As we set off into the bush again we followed Hans closely as we only had our side lights on and couldn’t see much. Then Hans lost the track and we were totally lost. We spent at least half an hour literally driving around and round in circles and ended up doubling back on ourselves. If we couldn’t find the track at least we would eventually come to a paved road. That was the theory anyway. We had to get Hans to put his fog lamp on as we were losing him in the dust. This was much better. We then came across four other teams that were lost.

This made us feel a lot safer being in a larger group. One of the other cars then drove behind us so we could see where we going with the light from their headlamps.

Amazingly after about an hour we drove down a track and into the last checkpoint in Mauritania. It was a great site as we knew we were going the right way.

Two of the other teams decided to camp at the checkpoint as they didn’t feel safe driving on. There was only about an hour left and the rest of us opted to drive on. We just wanted to get into Mali. After about half an hour we lost all our lights. Steve did a great job of following Hans’ fog lamp, which actually lit up the track just enough to see. I can’t believe we drove in the pitch dark through the bush with no lights.

We must be crazy.

Finally we turned a corner and there was the campsite. What a sight. We made it!

It was now 11pm and everyone was shattered from the drive. Steve pitched his tent and went straight to sleep. I had a walk around the campsite looking for our Hungarian friends in the other pajero. They were not there. I was a bit worried as they had taken two days to drive what we had just done in a day. I didn’t yet know it but my night was not over.

At midnight they arrived in the camp on the end of a tow rope. Now I’m going to get a bit technical.zzzzz. They had suffered what they thought was a cam belt failure and the engine would not start. This can cause major damage to the engine, requiring a rebuild.

They had been found out in the bush by another team that towed them in. After closer inspection I noticed the cam belt had not snapped but the balance belt. This is not necessarily so serious. It had jammed between the cam belt and the cam belt pulley.  I was then up until 2 am unjamming the belts. The engine was turning over by hand and not making any horrendous noises so we were hopeful it might be ok. We had a quick go at starting it but nothing and as it was late we didn’t want to wake everyone.

Finally I got into my tent and sleep. What a day. Can it get any crazier. What do you think?


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morning in the campsite
morning in the campsite
overloaded lorry. one of the const…
overloaded lorry. one of the cons…
Hans broken off new exhaust
Hans' broken off "new" exhaust
racing behind Big hans in the dust.
racing behind Big hans in the dust.
Steve at sunset.
Steve at sunset.
sunset throught the windscreen fol…
sunset throught the windscreen fo…
photo by: johnyb66