A quick night stop and off we were! The last leg of the journey to Timbuktu! Another 6am wakeup on the 14th, and we headed down the laterite track… As we reversed out of the hotel, the car crunched over a large rock… no apparent damage so we headed off.
The road down the Bambara Moude is spectacular. It’s part of the Pays Dogon, so large cliffs rising out of nowhere with millennia old tribes that luckily haven’t been too affected by other cultures. As we were driving down the offroad segments at 60mph, I commented to Peter that the car was using an unusual amount of fuel… we had been through a quarter of a tank in less than 60 miles or so… he alleviated my worries saying that we actually didn’t have half a tank to start with so we continued.
At this point, I must take a break and say that the obstacles on that road are impressive.
You start with corrugate, which rattles all your bones and loosens all the nuts and bolts on the car. To overcome this you either go at 5mph, or at 60mph… unfortunately, you don’t get much grip, so doing it at 60mph is pretty tough, dangerous, and immensely fun in a rear-wheel-drive car! The merc’s tail was wagging like there’s no tomorrow, and on several occasions we ended up perpendicular to the direction we were going skidding sideways at 60mph… A note to merc’s engineers: you have made a truly impressive car! Even with a roof rack, it never once felt like it was unstable or about to roll!
The next type of obstacle is the sand. Again, for the sand you truly need to gun it. In the deeper sand, the car bottoms out, and unless you have enough speed to “surf” the sand, you get stuck.
The third obstacles are the large holes (which you want to avoid), the dunes (which you want to go slow up otherwise you’ll wipe your suspension after you land), the broken-down, stuck or otherwise not-moving cars/trucks/lorries/buses and the hundreds of hard-headed animals that randomly cross your path and refuse to move. You also want to avoid these, as an angry Bambara isn’t good. (Bambara’s were known as the head-hunters and head-shrinkers in case you were wondering).
Anyhow, after one such dune the pug loses its front bumper… A quick picture for posterity, and we get ready to set off… but wait… there’s a weird smell of leaded fuel… and a notorious trail of drips coming from the merc… cr*p! That’s why the merc was drinking so much, we had a fuel leak!
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