We were up by 9:00 am and took our time at breakfast, but the pressure was soon back on as I had a promise to fulfill with the bike. It had been thoroughly neglected over the last few days and today was my only chance to catch up.
I was in a bad way, I was completely exhausted and it was all I could do to eat and put up my tent the evening before. I didn’t do any bike maintenance at all, other than buy a new air filter off the KTM truck to stick in my pocket.
I only slept for an hour or so before I woke up shivering. My emergency blanket had been ripped to shreds by a sandstorm. I looked around and saw everyone comfortably tucked up under what were obviously far superior quality emergency blankets. Canadian Tire would be getting a letter when I got home!
The Ulysses XB12X is something of a departure for the dogmatic, Harley Davidson-derived sportbike manufacturer, leaving the sportbike world and entering that of the dual-sport. Buell claim that the Ulysses is more than capable of handling the likes of gravel and fire roads, and yes, even jumps!
From the moment I saw the route when it was first published in November, I knew this was going to be the day. Traditionally the organizers plan a few very difficult days, just before the rest day, to separate the men from the boys. By tonight, I would know whether I was a man or a boy!
It was pitch dark when I left Smara, and started a liaison that would take us through Morocco to the Mauritanian border, where the day’s special would begin.
Although I had four hours to sleep I only managed to sleep for two – I just couldn’t relax. I was too wound up about all the little details I needed to take care of. I staggered through breakfast like a zombie, and wondered what I had gotten myself into. We hadn’t even arrived in Africa yet and I felt like I was already starting to fall apart …
There was no special today, just a very long ride on the highway. In preparation, I had a set of road tires mounted on the bike just for today.
Today’s events started with a riders’ meeting, which was a who’s who of rallying, with Alfie Cox, Fabrizio Meoni, Shlesser and of course, me. I meet the Rauseo boys (Charlie and Dave) – two American brothers who were also attempting the Rally on bikes that they had rented through Rallye-Raid UK.
Okay, I’m going to be honest here. Before October of this year I didn’t know much at all about the Dakar Rally other than it was a two week rally from somewhere in Europe to somewhere in Africa. Trucks, cars and motorcycles all entered, lots of people didn’t finish, some of them even died.