plymouth - dakar - banjul challenge
or to put it more simply... Boscastle to Banjul!
We went on the Plymouth Dakar/Banjul Challenge in February 2005. The thrust of the event was to raise funds for Gambian charities but we wanted also wanted to raise funds for the Cornwall Hospice.
The challenge had unusual aims and rules. We could only spend up to £100 on the vehicle, which MUST be left hand drive! Vehicles are auctioned in Banjul, with Gambian charities reaping the rewards and participants fly back to the UK. There is no back-up and challengers must extricate themselves from whatever predicaments they find themselves in! We were “sold” a 10 year old Kia Ceres pickup for the princely sum of £1! It turned out to be the only one in the country causing great problems with spares as the vehicle was not recognised on Kia (UK) data base. We spent months, with lots of help from local sponsors, to create the spares and get the Flying Dodo ready for its journey of approx 4000 miles.
A great gathering from Boscastle sent us on our way on a freezing February day. The Kia had no heating whatever, which became very noticeable going across to France and through the snowy Pyrenees. Cheryl commented, sitting wrapped in six layers of clothing, “I never knew I could feel this cold when I am inside,” as she kept the windscreen defrosted with a 12v hairdryer! We thought we would remember that when we were sweltering in the Sahara!
And swelter in the Sahara we did! The route took us from Boscastle to Portsmouth to catch the Le Havre ferry. We drove through France and Spain and crossed to Tangiers in Morocco but were only just warm. Gradually, as we drove through Morocco we began to shed layers and admired the wonderful vibrant city of Marrakesh. After that came the Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia. It really was an incredible journey, travelling in convoy with cars from Boscastle, Crediton, New Zealand, and two teams from Holland (double Dutch?) We became a great team especially when driving across the Sahara for three days.
Our first day in Banjul saw the grand parade of the challenge cars through the streets of Banjul. We drove through the Presidential arch (usually it was only opened for the President) It was amazing - police escort, lights flashing and horns blowing and everybody cheering and waving. We perfected our royal waves and realised what we had achieved.
The auction was the following week so we drove into the heart of the country to visit the schools in the more remote areas. Staying at Tendaba Camp, we left the so-called road to go down tracks until we came to settlements and found schools. The children all sang and danced and we did same- not the dancing you understand! We handed over the equipment kindly donated by so many- thanks to all! The hospitals were so appreciative of all the equipment (over £7000 worth)
A boat trip across River Gambia took us by mangrove forests- and we spotted Goliath herons, pied kingfisher, malachite kingfisher, sunbirds, reef heron,great white heron, monkeys and monitor lizards. We took the Flying Dodo into Kiang Wildlife Park on an evening safari and saw a troop of about two dozen baboons at a watering hole, antelopes (roan) and nightjars. It was so good to be independent AND have a four wheel drive even though the heat was exhausting- over 40degrees!!
Then back for the auction at the Gambian National Stadium. We felt really sad to relinquish our Flying Dodo of the desert after all we had been through together. I would happily have driven back to Boscastle, but was delighted she was bought by the boss at Tendaba camp.....so we know where she lives! She raised 150500 dalasi- about £3000- the top price of the group.
Rev ChristineMusser and husband Brett gave us a keyring that kept them going - this is the verse, based on the old Irish blessing.
May the engine keep running sweetly,
May the clutch never get stuck.
May the wheels keep turning smoothly,
And everything work in your truck!
And until we meet again,
May your good humour and generous spirit keep you going.
PS. We also raised £3150 for Cornwall Hospice Care.