Riding into the Saharan sand storm along railway route

Middle of Nothingness Travel Blog

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There's a train a comin!!!! (you can just see Tim and his bike on the right)

We set off at 9am getting our fuel on the way out of town, passing the various road blocks with the usual questions.  The first 90km was on ashfelt and a young kid jumped on the back of Tim’s bike to take us to the start of the piste beside the railway.  There was lots of sand!  And proper deep sand!!  To say I was nervous would be an understatement, could I really do this??  We stopped and deflated the tyres to make them longer and give better traction through the sand, the wind was blowing strong towards us from the east and the railway tracks starched out across into the desert.  Time to bring out on the goggles as the visor is not much good with the sand blowing around us.

We spoke with the Landrover crew and arranged a place for us to meet later, the bikes should make much faster going than 4 wheels.

A bit close for comfort...
  We rode the bikes onto the middle of the railway track, I almost toppled over and was feeling very tense.  We waved good bye and rode off down the track watching out for debris than would damage our tyres.  It was not long until we were riding across the wooded sleepers with deep gaps between them, the wheels are round so I gave it more throttle and the bike bounced its way across then the gaps where filled in with shale and sand.

As we rode there was a something coming the other way towards us, train!!!  We rode to where we could get the bikes off the track and I got my camera out, this should make a great shot.  As the train pasted inches from me I realised this was not a good place to stop and if any of these carriages get wider they’ll hit my pannier!  I teased the bike away from the pounding carriages and relaxed a little more, (ya ejjit, next time get well clear!).

Was told not to play on the railway, heehee
  It was a tremendous sight to see a huge train this close.

About 20km into the route we stopped and waited for the Landrover crew, the wind was very strong and the piste was very close to the railway at this point.  A good place to stop.  We waited for one and half hours by a bush with the sand storm blowing around us bringing the visibility down to 200meters, and surprisingly flies buzzed around us, I out my goggles back on to protect my eyes.  We had thought maybe they had driven past along another piste, we had walked across the piste and was sure there was no other way past but as if by magic they appeared just was we were thinking about setting off.  Looking at the faces we could see their route had been difficult and they were concerned for what lay ahead, they decided the route was too difficult to continue.

Now it was up to me if I wanted to continue with Tim and he let me make my own mind up, which took a while.  I decided I would regret it if I didn’t.  We put the 10liters of fuel I had in the Landrover into the bikes, grabbed food and extra water, I was now carrying about 12liters, enough for the next few days.  We set off into the sanded storm keeping a careful eye for trains in front and also behind!

We rode into a very strong head wind and we hoped it would die off later but it didn’t.  Riding in the heat and sand crunching in your teeth made your mouth very dry and sweat dried off you instantly.  About 30 seconds after taking a drink from the camel pack your throat was bone dry again, you have to respect these conditions.  We rode past a dried up camel that was hit by a train.

That night we were about a third the way across when we stopped behind some huts where people lived, they provided water for train system I think.  We asked if we could put up our tents using their box huts for shelter but they guided us into a hut that they used for sleeping.  This one was brick, no windows, carpet on the floor and old steel sleepers from the railway made for a strong roof.  Later they also brought us some food, people who have nothing showing great generosity.  We discussed our fuel problem at great length, the lack of it.  We checked our tanks and done numerous calculations, we both knew the strong head wind sapped our petrol.  We decided to go to the next village not far in the morning and see if they had fuel then we could continue else we would have to return.          

That night you could see the light from a train in the distance and watched it get closer, you could hear its loud horn (I wander if you could that riding the bike…?).  It came thundering past creating its own sand storm adding to the one already blowing.  I watched it off out of sight into the sand about 150meters up the track and looked down the track as the iron ore  carriages kept rolling past, this was a long one and was strange sight only seeing carriage after carriage come from and off into the sand storm at night.  Usually the first one is a passenger carriage but you can travel for free in a iron ore carriage like the Dutch couple did.

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Theres a train a comin!!!! (you c…
There's a train a comin!!!! (you …
A bit close for comfort...
A bit close for comfort...
Was told not to play on the railwa…
Was told not to play on the railw…
Middle of Nothingness
photo by: MrDuck