It’s post-apocalypse fiction brought to life. The cars have no headlights or windows; most look like they’ve been rolled a dozen times. Locals give me dead-eyed, zombie-like stares. The architecture is Mogadishu-chic. In among the madness my bike has become invisible. Nothing gives me an inch. I’d be safer on a donkey.
Sanctuary is found in a walled campsite full of Europeans. Tomorrow I’ll start on the real purpose of the journey – riding in the Sahara. For that I’ll need a guide. I hook up with two Dutch guys driving to Gambia. The guide will travel in their car and I can follow. As guides go, Mr Abba certainly looks the part: a dark-skinned Arab in his mid-50s wearing a Bedouin’s flowing, white robe and head dress. He doesn’t seem fazed about taking the bike along, though he takes a long, close look at the fat rear tyre.
The next day we’re out on the piste. There may be some tarmac here, but the riding is hot, dusty work demanding concentration. After 55 miles the car turns right, off the piste and into the Sahara desert. My mouth dries in an instant.