Desert Travels Index Page
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Book Chapters:Chapter 4: The Trip of a Lifetime Chapter 5: Four Green Bottles Chapter 8: The Dune Corridor Chapter 9: Three Green Bottles Chapter 10: On the Piste Chapter 11: Djanet Chapter 12: Anna’s Southern Tour Chapter 13: The Cathedral Chapter 14: To the Land of Terror Chapter 15: Cracking Up
Most of Desert Travels covers my first attempt at running a desert biking tour in 1989. As it said on the back cover: five left but only one came back riding, but as well as the usual setbacks, we did see a whole lot of interesting Algerian desert along the way.
Some pictures by me, Pete Corbett (PC) and Mike Spencer (MS).
How to get the word out in 1988? Stick an advert in the biking press! Response? Close to zero. Next: source a support vehicle. I get an ex-army Land Rover 101 with a diesel engine conversion.
101 fresh from the auction Ford York 6-cylinder
Testing in Surrey. This is why we’re now having a climate crisis.
More testing on an MX track near Canterbury. Jerry rack and sand ladders in place, a raised air intake too Michelin XS sand tyres. I could only afford 4
I organise a day out (MS) on the Ridgeway Mike’s XLM (MS)
The press campaign picks up
Clive; co-driver and cook. Note the ear defenders Camped off the autoroute near Marseille
Marseille and we’ve already lost Bernie – he got his passport pinched on the sleeper. Four riders left. Mike and Clive have a chat aboard the ferry to Algiers.
Ghardaia Campsite (PC)
Lunch break on the road to Ouargla. The chain on Bob’s Tenere has snapped.
Our first desert camp in the dunes before Hassi Messaoud. (PC)
Pete’s 1VJ Tenere. (PC)
Next evening camped near Hassi bel Guebbour, we bomb around the huge dunes of the Grand Erg. Bob does an endo and sprains his wrist badly. No more riding for him.
Bob (middle) sits in the van while Clive rides his XT. Note the inflatable splint on Bob’s left arm. Later that day we leave Bob at In Amenas oil town to head back north once his wrist’s better.
Morning at Erg Bourharet after the oil filter drama. Three bikes left. (MS)
Sand drifts over the road Desert wave
We camp by the Tyre Tree with a couple in a VW Kombi. It was here that Pete’s trip ended prematurely in 1987.
Next day the 101 crawls across the Fadnoun Plateau. It’s rougher than it looks. Clive rides Mark’s DR. The van is so slow he builds a stone throne while they wait for me to catch up.
Tin Taradjeli escarpment, the southern edge of the Fadnoun. That morning, passing diesel mechanic, Swiss Steve, helped get the 101 running.
Big Fire Camp below the Tassili N’Ajjer on the road to Djanet.
(PC) The Incident of the Unfortunate Gerbil at Nighttime
Delivery truck stuck in the sand on the Djanet track. (PC)
Encounter with BMWs. Riding unsupported in the desert is a whole different game. (PC)
After a few of days in Djanet we set off to take the Southern Route to Tamanrasset with a couple of other 4x4s. The heavily loaded 101 struggles to cross the Erg Admer dunes. (MS)
On the far side we meet some sub-Saharans heading for Libya in a clapped-out 109″.
Camp on the southern route near Tiririne, or maybe Tarabine. (PC)
Nomads at the well at Tin Tarabine. (PC)
Mark crashes out and his DR’s electrics soon follow suit. (PC) It gets hooked up to the van and stays there for the rest of the trip. Two bikes left.
At the Cathedral of Tin Eggoleh. (MS) The original DT cover of 1996
Our guide, Chadli, takes us for a rock art walk. Ostriches. Long gone from this part of the Sahara (PC).
Pete himself nearing Tam. (PC)
VW shell. You used to see a lot of these in the Sahara. Does that make them popular or unreliable? (PC) Another victim of the desert sands. (PC)
Like the Pope on tour, he kisses the tarmac just out of Tamanrasset where he leaves the group to head home. (PC) There is now only Mike left still riding.
In Tam we meet up with Steve again and together head southwest, past the well of Tim Missao for the Malian border. Tim Missao well.
We take turns riding Mike’s XLM.
At the border post of Bordj Moktar, Steve and his girlfriend carry on south into Mali for Guinea, and we turn back north along the bleak, flat Tanezrouft.
With the heat and end-of-trip fatigue, morale begins to fall apart and I become a pariah. See the book for the grizzly details.
Pete’s map of our one-month trip in Algeria.
Land Rover 101 for sale. Two previous owners. Light off-road use.