Catching Up


Cancelled day (getting to Tidjikja)

Note – Click here for the CMG Dakar Glossary (just in case you don’t understand some of the terminology used).

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!

I knew that shivering was not a good sign so early into the night. I had one Powerbar left that I had been saving for breakfast, but decided I had best eat it now, as it would help to give me energy to stay warm. Still shivering I decided to take stock of the many pockets on my Sinisalo rally jacket. Things were looking pretty grim when, like a miracle, I came across four chemical hand warmer packets. I had forgotten I even had them. I had put them in my pocket in Barcelona thinking they may be useful on the long road down to Granada and they never entered my mind again.

I didn’t let anyone know what I’d got. I had learnt that this rally was like Survivor – you helped others so that they would be obliged to help you. Well, at least this was the way the French did it. I was keeping my cards close to my chest.

Some others were lucky enough to stumble across a local’s camp …Photo: Maindru Photo

I figured I needed to ration them, as I had no way of knowing how long they would last, so I stuck one under my jacket near my belly button, to help raise my core temperature. It worked, and I felt myself warming back up.

I put what was left of my blanket over my thighs and the drifting sand started to fill in the remaining cracks to keep out the wind. I was wearing everything I had: balaclava, helmet, and goggles. My Shark helmet made for a surprisingly nice pillow, and no matter which way I rolled, it kept my head at the perfect height. I was now warm and even fairly comfortable.

And then the rain came.

I was in the middle of the Sahara desert and the one night I have to sleep without a tent, it rains. But that’s the way it works on the Dakar, once you come to terms with dealing with the hardships, it just gets worse.

Eventually it started to get light and I could see that we were camped in the middle of a plain – completely exposed to the elements! Who the hell picked this for a campsite??

Everyone began to stir to life and I finally got a chance to see my campmates for the first time. Amongst us was Luc Pagnon – a very experienced “Dakarist” who had done this rally so many times that he had Patrick Zanaroli’s personal cell phone number. He called him the moment he sat upright. As it turned out, today’s stage was cancelled to allow the field to catch up. All we had to do was to get to Tichit where there would be a liaison directly to Tidjikja to put us back on schedule.


I was completely out of food by morning and as we saddled up I asked Simon whether he had anything to eat. He said all he had was one granola bar but he was happy to share it with me. This was nice of him, but as we rode together during the day – working together and becoming better friends – he began to pull out more and more food.

He too had been keeping his cards close to his chest.

Stopping to help someone gives you ‘hand’ when it comes to needing help from them in return.Photo: Maindru Photo

It wasn’t long before we came across a lone rider standing in the piste with jumper cables in hand. Irishman, Gary Ennis, had spent a lonely night in the desert, camped out by himself with a dead battery. He too had been on the Satellite phone to the “Mrs.” to tell her he was out and would probably be home in a few days when she told him the news of the cancelled stage and that he still had a chance. We managed to get Gary going again and our little anglophone trio set off for Tichit.

But we were far from being out of the woods, the camel grass was only getting denser and the riding more and more difficult. It wasn’t until noon that we began to near the finish. The sand was very soft and we had been consuming more fuel than we had predicted; my bike was getting desperately low. The two others figured that they would probably have enough and, if I ran out, they would maybe be able to give me some.

I short-shifted and barely opened the throttle to conserve fuel as much as possible. We came across other bikes and cars stopped on the side of the track and asked if they had any fuel they could spare, but they were there because they had run out.

Things were getting desperate and we had only 30 kms to go – so close but still so far. Suddenly we saw a few military jeeps coming toward us, one with a huge machine gun mounted on a turret in the back. I flagged them down to see if they had any fuel, knowing that the locals would part with anything, given the right price.

It turned out that they had been sent by the organizers to bring fuel to the stranded vehicles that we had passed and were loaded with barrels of gasoline. We were the first to get to them and each got 10 litres, more than enough to make it.

It was 2:30 in the afternoon when we rolled in to the final CP. It had been a very stressful 30 hours since I had left Zouerat, but I had made it through what I figured would be the most difficult stage. All I had to do was get to Tidjikja by the end of the afternoon and then there would be one more day before the precious rest day.


Soft sand makes for tough going.Photo: Maindru Photo

The relief was short lived, as the “easy” liaison to Tidjikja turned out to be 240 kms of soft sand and camel grass. It had been used as a full days stage in the 2001 Dakar and we only had two hours of daylight left in which to do it!

The three of us set off again and were quickly back in the hateful sand ruts and camel grass. Simon’s BMW began to overheat so we stopped to figure out what the problem was. He fiddled around a bit, but couldn’t fix it quickly and told us to carry on – Gary’s headlights weren’t working so he had to cover as much ground as possible before it got dark.

By the time we rolled into the village of Lekhcheb, and the halfway point of our ”liaison”, it was pitch black. Fortunately there was a well-defined 2 track through the deep sand to the finish and we could ride side by side, sharing the lights from my KTM.

It seemed like a lifetime counting down the kilometres to the final CP but eventually our spirits rose when we saw the lights of Tidjikja in the distance. Pavement appeared next and finally the airport. It was 10:30 pm and I had just ridden two 15-hour days, back-to-back, punctuated only by a miserable night completely exposed to the elements. I now had to eat, work on my bike, set up my tent and be ready to ride another 400 kms by 8:30 the next morning.

But I was still in the game.

Next day

Back to main diary index

Dakar related Links:

Official Dakar website – Daily updates of the 2006 Rally.

Maindru Photo (who graciously supplied us with pictures) – Check out their daily update of pics from the 2006 Dakar.

Eurosport – Dakar 2006 coverage.

Total Motorsport – Latest news from a Dakar sponsor.

Adventure Rider website forum on racing – Lots of Dakar threads going on.

ODSC website – Read all about how Bob prepped his KTM 660.


Bob would like to thank the following people for helping make his Dakar adventure possible:

Jim, Colin, Richard and the crew at Cycle Improvements.
Michel, Paul and Jocelyn at Kimpex.
Guy, Patrick, Bill and Mario from KTM Canada.
Digby and the ODSC posse.
Lawrence Hacking.
The Harden off-road crew.
Everyone on the U.S. Red Bull KTM team.
And of course Sharon McCrindle.

Join the conversation!