A Trip to Spain That Ended up in Senegal

Crossing Atlas mountains from Dadesh to Imilchil.
Crossing Atlas mountains from Dadesh to Imilchil.

Most reckless deeds start with a deceptively innocent plan.

Evan McGregor thought of going for a motorcycle ride in Spain, and ended up in Eastern Siberia and then North America, the long way round. I thought of going for a motorcycle ride in Spain, and ended up in Dakar, and then Mbur in Senegal.

I moved to Karlsruhe in 2012 by invitation to work for 1&1 Internet AG. Once I’ve adopted to the new center of my personal universe, I’ve started to look at my new travel options. France was within a bicycle ride now, Italy was just behind the Alps, and even Spain – a remote country I sincerely adore – wasn’t that remote anymore.

The transportation options were quickly narrowed down to flying (cheap, albeit inflexible) and motorcycling (cheap, albeit perceptively suicidal). A quick googling brought me to the thriving German second-hand vehicle market, and before I could say ‘Jack Robinson’, I drove a Kawasaki into my instructor’s testicles by mistaking the first gear for a foot peg. It was then that I’ve discovered a side benefit of wearing a full-profile integral helmet: if you manage to keep your back straight, you can laugh like mad, and nobody would notice.

So, the plan was to go for a ride in Spain. A quick googling or, rather, ‘google-mapping’, brought my imagination to the straight of Gibraltar and then Morocco. The evil bug that eventually transforms a weed smoker into a heroin addict, was at work at full throttle, and before I could say ‘Jack Robinson’, I was reading up about the sand storm seasons in Mauritania, and baobab fruit harvesting in Senegal.

‘This is insane, Toomas,’ — my mother said. ‘Are you going to wear one of those silly leather outfits with metal spikes, like these dentists and lawyers riding their noisy Harleys?’ No, of course not, Mother, a motorcycle for me is just a cheap and flexible way to get from A to B, and my outfit is purely protective and functional. I felt relieved, expecting an instructive talk about life and death.

‘This is insane, Toomas,’ — my boss, Christian Ciocina, said. ‘5 weeks of vacation, continuously? Am Stück? This is rare in Germany,’ — and he gave me a look. ‘Well, if the team agrees…’ Hey, fellows, any vacation plans for November? No, not this year.

‘This is insane, Toomas,’ — I said to myself, exiting the 1&1 building on July afternoon. ‘You can barely stand the heat, and it’s only Germany. Again, are you heading to Sahara? Look into your passport, if you are so senile that you’ve forgot your own age!’ By the time I’ve got home, I’ve decided to check my thermometer. It showed +35° C. I’ve opened a weather forecast web site to examine the temperatures in North Africa. This time I could indeed say ‘Jack Robinson’ quite a few times before I found a spot in the middle of Libyan Desert that was hotter than Karlsruhe that day.

Nothing was preventing my upcoming act of insanity.

(To be continued)

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