Trip Summary

Destination: Sahara desert
Distance: 6,950kms (4,350 miles)
Vehicle: Yamaha Townmate 80cc
Result: Dehydration, heatstroke

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The Photos

View all the Wrong Way Round Sahara photos here or online at:

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The Videos

Watch all the Wrong Way Round Sahara videos here or online at:

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Trip Diary

Desert Storm (in a teacup)

The Bike of Shame

Two Wrongs Make a Wrong

Which part of "bring the tyre levers" did you not understand?

It's scorching, let's do coffee

Up the creek without a pump

It's definitely left. Or right

Sun block "Check". First Aid kit "Check". Inflatable guitars "Check"

What would Bear Grylls do?

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Whatever you do, don't lose the water...

Sunburnt, dehydrated, and suffering from heat exhaustion. Never have four lost travellers been so pleased to see the French Foreign Legion. The Yamaha Townmates proved once again they are unstoppable (unless faced with a 50 ft sand dune in which case they are unusable).

Extreme Trifle takes on the Sahara desert. And loses. Quite badly.

Desert Storm (in a teacup)

There was quite a lot of debate at the Pub General Meeting about whether to attempt another “Wrong Way Round” adventure. In fact it took until pint number two to decide we would, pint number three that it would be across Africa, and pint number four to do it in the hottest month of the year, cos that would be funnier. Pints five onwards were mostly spent debating about how Charles would cock this one up. There was also a moment involving speed-eating Watsits in hot custard but this is not generally relevant other than to portray the overall state of events.

It occurred to us that entering the Sahara desert without a support vehicle might be a bit dodgy so we set about a thorough risk assessment and calculated that in all liklihood we would find ourselves getting hopelessly lost for days. Our water would eventually run out and we would die slowly and painfully. Or we might forget to check our boots in the morning and get stung by scorpions and die slowly and painfully. Or we might camp the night at a desert oasis only to discover it is a watering hole for angry hippos who would trample us to death quickly but still painfully. Or we might get caught up in a plot to overthrow a small country and end up in jail, where we would die very slowly and painfully.  But at this stage at least, the only painful thing was working out how to fit all the kit on to the bikes.

The next morning we set about building the desert spec prototype. To do this you need to take a standard Yamaha Townmate and attach a lot of stuff to it. The result (as shown in figure 1 below) is the result*

* for this you will need, 1 T80, 1 rider, ten litres of fuel, ten litres of water, 3 litres of oil, tools, spare tyres, inner tubes, pump, cables, bulbs, spoke kit, tent, sleeping bag, clothes, mosquito net, first aid kit, sun cream, haemorroid cream, cameras, lenses, video cameras, tripod, travel documents, maps, GPS, mobiles, solar charger, torch, firelighters, pots, pans, stove, , food, bog roll, Shit Box, lock and chain and last but not least, fancy dress and inflatable guitars. Oh, and a rider.

 

We subsequently learned that "tools" should not constitute one 11mm spanner and a piston for a Honda C90.

Ultimately this was to be a team effort. We bore no grudge against Kaspars whatsoever for making us carry several tons of equipment and this was reflected in the manner in which we carefully prepare his bike to the highest standards...

The Bike of Shame

The world's greatest adventurers have a lot in common. Meticulous preparation, determination, and careful use of available resources. This is why we are not the world's greatest adventurers.

However we had all agreed that Wrong Way Round Sahara would not be the fustercluck that wasThe Wrong Way Round For starters this would mean we could not have a repeat of the previous year's stunt show at our Moto GP leaving party. Assen is still strewn with pieces of indicator lenses, brake levers and the entire contents of Nick's garden allotment. If you are not familiar with the first Wrong Way Round trip that last bit won't make any sense. Never fear, making no sense is a common theme here.

The net result of our annual general meeting was that A NEW RULE was introduced for this event giving us a grand total of one rule.  It was declared that since this year’s leaving party was at the Silverstone Moto GP,  we wouldn’t need to take the bikes, we could just pick them up on the way back. Thus, this would save them from destruction by over enthusiastic drunken behaviour.

With Kaspars not due over to the UK until the leaving party, it was left to the rest of us to “prepare” his bike. The preparations consisted of gathering up all the awful spares we decided weren’t good enough for our own bikes, and bolting them together to make one awful bike. Charles decided this alone wasn't enough and it should not only be awful, but embarassing as well. But seriously, how do you embarass someone who is already riding a Townmate?

Charles with a knowing wink said he had something in mind. "Think pink" he said.  And so the debate started.

"Pink? Hang on, didn't the SAS used to paint their landrovers pink as desert camoflage".

"Yes they did".

"Well it will hardly be embarassing to ride a bike that is bloody invisible!".

"This is no ordinary pink"

Charles strutted off to the garage with airbrush in one hand, roll up in the other and can of Stella in the....hang on. No Stella, blimey he was serious. So after a few minutes or so the bike was entirely stripped down (number plate removed) and prepared for painting  (top layer of rust removed with wire brush).  And then the first squirt of pink was laid down. Spangletastic Pornstar Pink to be exact.

Simultaneously everyone reached for their sunglasses and then stood around nodding approvingly. It was truly hideous and abundantly clear that far from being invisible in the desert, the bike would actually be visible from space.

As there was still work to do Charlie ended up taking the bike home with him. We arranged to next meet up at RAF Wittering for the annual "Moped Mayhem" event. This is a 6 hour endurance race on mopeds. In fancy dress. What is not to like. Our only slight problem was that in keeping with our meticulous preparations, we had to resist trashing one of our desert-prepped bikes, and instead rely on a Honda Melody that had been festering in the garage at HQ for 3 years, but according to Matt "it used to work".That was reassurance enough for us.

Sure enough the day before the race we got the bike going and after a trip to the end of the drive and back declared that the bike had demonstrated full race specification. Unfortunately the Moped Mayhem racetrack is a tad longer than the drive. Long enough for us to realise that the Melody was incapable of reaching the manufacturer's claimed top speed of 31 mph. It is not cool to be overtaken by someone walking back from the burger van with 8 cups of tea.

Worse was to come. Charlie had trailered down both Kaspars bike and his own bike so we could take them back to HQ for storage until the trip. Here we had two fully prepared T80's that were about as fast as anything else out there and we couldn't bloody ride them for fear of wrecking one just weeks before the trip. In order to put them beyond temptation we lent both bikes to the race marshalls so that they could use them as safety bikes for removing objects from the track like mudguards and bodies and stuff.

We looked on in a huff as every other team bombed around having a laugh while we stood despondently looking at our asthmatic Honda Melody which now refused to start. At about this time somewhere in the distance something which looked a bit like a packet of Haribo Star Mix exploding happened. This turned out to be one of the marshals losing the front end in to a hairpin bend and binning Kaspars freshly painted bike in a haze of dust and sparks.


Unbelievable. It would have been bad enough if we'd crashed ourselves but to think it had been caused by a race marshall (who shall remain nameless) was even more galling. We were sick to our stomachs and not at all looking forward to the awkward conversation that was about to happen and to inspect the inevitable damage that would have been caused. As the marshall walked sheepishly towards us pushing the bike with a bowed head it began to dawn on us that the bike was still remarkably pink and pretty much the same shape as it was before.

By some miracle the rack that Charlie had fitted over the front mudguard to hold a tent and sleeping bag had taken the brunt of the crash and the paintwork was untouched. We were so deliriously happy that we immediately celebrated by removing all the bodywork from the bike and ragging the arse end out of it for the remaining 5 hours of the race.

All it needed afterwards was new forks, a new rear brake pedal and a new set of handlebar grips tol be desert ready once more. We didn't tell Kaspars.

Two Wrongs Make a Wrong

Calling a trip the "Wrong Way Round" was always tempting fate. About the only thing we got right was the prediction of something going wrong. There were many reasons on the first trip why we "fell a bit short", but mostly we like to blame Charles. And the Transnistrian Chief Prosecutor.

The plan was all going to plan until we got the news. Matt, who had finally gone to the doc's after spending a few weeks failing to put on his own slippers, was told that a life of banger racing, drunken trampolining and generally dropping himself on his head, had not been kind to his back. In fact, he was about six inches shorter than he used to be, but his wife Jaki hadn't noticed, assuming that perhaps he just had tall hair before.

Suffice to say, the doc was not impressed with the plan to ride a moped 7,000kms off-road and Matt was grounded. Enter stunt double Greg McBride, Extreme Trifle veteran and Co-founder. He was raring to go and seemingly unperturbed by the fact that he did not possess a bike licence. Mind you neither did Kaspars, a fact he admitted on the day we were leaving.

Matt nobly handed over his beloved "Purple Peril" in the full knowledge that a blind chimp is marginally better at riding a bike than Greg. To add insult to injury, as Matt waved us off through gritted teeth, the headlights on the Transhit packed up. We sat around drinking tea while Matt had to fit a new switch.

Kaspars meanwhile was waiting to be picked up from Gatwick and now we were running late and in danger of missing the ferry. After limiting ourselves to one pitstop for the bog and essential travel supplies (pasties, donuts, espresso) we made the ferry port with 20 minutes to spare and then got pulled over for a search which was the last thing we needed.

After the sniffer dog had sniffed the back of the van and eventually been resuscitated we waited for the inevitable "what is the purpose of your trip" interrogation. This could have gone either way. Either they would decide we'd actually consumed a good portion of the drugs we must be smuggling or they might believe us and let us on our way. Since no one seemed to be slipping on a marigold we assumed it was the latter, and after a few shakes of the head we were let on our way to join the ferry queue. Bellend last obviously.

The next two days consisted of the customary spank across some bit of Europe and there is nothing further to report of proceedings until our arrival at base camp in Marbella, since by now you will already have assumed that we had the typical mishaps on the way down such as getting the van and trailer stuck in a churchyard or ordering spaghetti bolognese for starter AND main course by accident.

Thanks to Roger Bruton, Plymouth - Dakar Rally veteran, for putting us up on the first night with dinner and wine at his Ferme de Candeloup Hotel. It was a welcome retreat after 15 hours on the road.

The campsite in Marbella was also a bit of a result. It had a compound where we could store the Transhit whilst we took the mopeds off to Africa. The owner was not that pleased since he assumed none of us would make it back alive and he'd have to pay to scrap the van.

Once the van was unpacked, the bikes were off the trailer, and the tents were up, we gathered for a team "talk" in the bar. Things went downhill once Kaspars spotted a bottle of "VAT 69" gathering dust on the top shelf. The next morning our camp was a disaster zone of bent tent pegs and snapped guy ropes hence the packing and leaving process didn't quite go as planned since we had to spend some time finding and then fixing things. 

Even hours later, Charles wasn't quite as fixed as we thought having spent 20 minutes at the ferry port in Algeciras looking for his sunglasses which were in fact on his head underneath his helmet...

The Moroccan border experience in Ceuta was fairly standard with everyone claiming to be the best fixer in town, "I know Chief of Police", "I know the King of Morocco" or in top spot "Do you support Manchester United?".

It's hard to fathom quite how it took over two hours when the actual border process went like this:

1) Hand over terrible quality photocopied customs form - STAMP
2) Hand over passport - STAMP
3) "Have you got insurance", "No"
4) "Will you get insurance at next town", "Yes"
5) "OK go".

We went to the next town. We didn't get insurance.

The plan was to head down the Mediterranean coast and find a place to rest up ready for a long slog the following day inland towards the Atlas mountains. We found a beach front cafe and stopped for some mint tea which was the sort you could glue a rock to a ceiling with. Eventually curious locals started to mill around until a chap called Aziz asked if we wanted to stay the night as his place. 

With an expectation of pitching tents in his back yard, we were surprised to be offered the whole floor of a beach-front house, with its own kitchen, bathroom, and walled garden to park the bikes in. The only thing to top this off would be some cold beers though we knew this was a long shot. Aziz took a deep intake of breath, shook his head, saying it was not possible, and as if by way of apology, promised he could get us weapons grade hashish in five minutes if that helped.  We politely declined.
As if fraught with guilt, Aziz then summoned his 10 year old son, gave him some money, and sent him off in to the night. About an hour later he came back with a couple of carrier bags of...cold beer! It was now us that were fraught with guilt, although only until the top came off the first beer. Aziz said we could drink on the strict condition we didn't wake up his wife. Assuring him that we weren't likely to go all Magaluf on him, he bid us goodnight and woke us the next morning with breakfast of hot coffee and cakes. 

After the customary round of photos, swapping of email addresses, and false promises of meeting up again in the future, we headed out for the next leg of the journey out towards Fez and the Atlas mountains. Things had gone way too smoothly up until now so we knew we were due an incident. 

On the outskirts of town there was some temporary roadworks which in Morocco means a hole that could swallow a tank with a traffic cone marking the edge. We all slowed to a halt to let a taxi through coming the other way only to hear a faint cry and the sound of a T80 sliding past us with Greg in front of it, rather than on it. Normal service had been resumed.

It was definitely looking like two wrongs make a wrong. 

 

Which bit of "bring the tyre levers" did you not understand?

We had now left the relative tranquility of the Mediterranean coast and began heading inland towards the Middle Atlas mountains. To get some distance under our belts we decided to take the main route. We'd only just started thinking that Moroccan driving wasn't as bad as it used to be, then we arrived in Fez. It all came flooding back. In places like this the highway code might as well be replaced with the Beano.

By comparison to say India, it was actually fairly well organised chaos as opposed to total chaos but even so it pays to keep your wits about you. Every set of traffic lights was like the start of a Moto GP race, only with slightly more riders and a lot more donkeys. Local etiquette dictates that the horn must be applied constantly with only brief silences permitted when your spare hand is otherwise engaged in lighting your pipe or combing your moustache. There is no such thing as a two or three lane highway, just as many lanes as there are vehicles that can physically fit in the space without a pile up.

The entertainment value reached its peak when Charlie failed to slow down for a roundabout which was either 5 lanes or 8 lanes wide depending on whether you count people selling melons as traffic. We looked on in awe as Charlie weaved through the tiniest of gaps narrowly missing a bloke walking against the traffic pushing a wheelbarrow made from a bath tub. We assumed he'd simply earned his Moroccan stripes quicker than the rest of us until we found him later at the side of the road looking for his rear brake pedal.

We decided to make a tactical pit stop for fuel and food and after a long lazy lunch of grilled kebabs we decided to get clear out of Fez and head towards the mountains to camp for the night. More often than not, our overnight stays are decided by necessity rather than choice and today was no exception. As we started to ascend in to the mountains it became clear Charlie was now having a problem maintaining “speed” and was starting to go so slow that he got overtaken by a crisp packet floating in the breeze.

We pulled in to the next town and asked for directions to a campsite.

The favoured response from the locals was to point to the top of the hill that overlooked the town. We assumed this meant that there were no campsites, and they were simply directing us on to the next town, but the top of the hill was indeed a “campsite". There are several reasons why this is a shit location for a campsite. More than several as it happens so let’s just stick to the top three:

  • Reason 1) It was dry, dusty and windswept. Not a good combo.
  • Reason 2) We had to camp on a steep slope since it was somewhat difficult to get 4 tents pitched on the summit
  • Reason 3) It's quite difficult to get a metal tent peg into limestone

We should add, the owner also seemed to have the area's largest collection of stray dogs, who kindly left it until about 3am before they started barking and fighting, and then, a donkey which sounded like it was either giving birth or dying, joined in the chorus.

This was only topped by waking to find that an irrigation pipe was leaking, and rather than irrigating a patch of dying grass, it had in fact irrigated Charles' tent.  On a positive note, Charles, assuming that he’d pissed himself, got up at sunrise so, by the time the rest of us awoke, he’d already pretty much fixed the problem with his bike (dirt in the carb) and set about knocking up breakfast. It was a beautiful sunny day and we had an awesome ride ahead, where we would be experiencing the first 3,000 metre peaks.

In all the excitement Kaspars was already out of the gate and winding his way up the valley before the rest of us had finished our morning ablutions (one wet wipe under the armpits and one down the pants). By rushing off Kaspars broke one of banger rallying's golden rules which is that you never lose sight of the person travelling behind you. For the most part this is a failsafe to ensure two things:

  • 1) That someone who has broken down, run out of fuel, crashed etc. does not get left behind
  • 2) That the person following doesn’t lose sight of the person ahead and end up taking the wrong turn.

On this occasion it was Kaspars who came off worse. A few hundred metres up the valley we started findings bits of his luggage. First a bungee strap, then his jacket, and then his rucksack. A few hundred metres more and we started finding bits of Kaspars' bike. First his number plate and back light and then his top box. At this point we were expecting to find bits of Kaspars himself, but fortunately he had noticed that his bike had started handling really well, and realised this must mean half of his luggage was missing.

The nuts and bolts holding his luggage rack to the back of the bike, had made a bid for freedom, and in the process, so had everything on the back of the bike.

After spending an hour combing the roadside for the rest of Kaspars' belongings, we deployed the "banger rally temporary fix procedure" and set about his bike, with gaffer tape and cable ties, so we could limp to the next village for repairs. Some friendly locals who were cannibalising a Peugeot 306, as spare parts for a Mercedes 230E, duly stepped in and found us some replacement nuts and bolts, and after a bit of spannering, we were on the way again, albeit an hour or two behind schedule. Not normally a problem this, in fact to be expected, except that today we’d set ourselves a massive target of 350km to reach the village of Imilchil, gateway to the incredible Dades Gorge.

Things went well from this point, and we had time to enjoy the stunning national parks, despite having been in the saddle for nine hours already. The heat of the day was now being replaced by the chill of dusk. Our thoughts were on finding a hotel in town and downing a well earned hot drink. As we rounded a mountain bend, we nearly went head first into a group of villagers coming back from market. The donkeys got spooked by the bikes and carnage ensued, as villager after villager got catapulted out of the saddle, and tomatoes and oranges started rolling down the hill, like someone had emptied the kiddies ball pit in McDonalds.

After some apologies and general rebuilding of cultural ties, we got a few kilometres further on when karma struck. Kaspars’ back tyre was as flat as a pancake. Again, not normally a problem and to be expected, except that at this poin,t no one had questioned the contents of the toolkit, or envisaged we might need waterproofs in Morroco. As the heavens opened, we hurriedly fashioned some waterproof jackets, whilst Oz strode over holding the toolkit with a sense of purpose. A sense that was short lived, when, it became apparent that he’d packed 5 spanners all of the same (but wrong) size, and no tyre levers.

So in summary, we were stood half way up a mountain wearing bin liners, with no way to remove the back wheel or get the tyre off. The sun had now dipped behind the mountains and the temperature was dropping further. At this point we had to deploy the "banger rally dig-yourself-out-of-a-hole procedure". This basically means using items for other than their intended purpose. Since Oz (as far as we can work out) has no intended purpose, he was sent to the naughty step. By luck, more than judgement, he had at least packed a pair of mole grips and pliers, and these along with a large rock, were used to release the wheel spindle. The tyre was then removed with the combination of a screwdriver, bottle opener and one of the metal struts holding Kaspars’ luggage rack on.

Piss wet through, and in near darkness, we still had over 50kms to go to reach Imilchil. On these mountain roads, it meant another 2 hours of riding. We finally stumbled in to town, shivering and aching, to find Chez Bassou, a hotel frequented by many explorers. 20 minutes later we were tucking into hot tea and soon after, a sizzling lamb tagine.  All hail Moroccan hospitality. It beats a muesli bar from a Travelodge vending machine any day of the week.


It's scorching. Let's do coffee.

After the cess pit of a campsite and the 400km ride the day before, it was a welcome treat to have had a bed for the night and to wake to a breakfast of coffee and pastries. As we were the only guests the hotel owner had even valet parked our bikes in the restaurant overnight.

The plan today was to cross the High Atlas mountains all the way to the mouth of the Dades Gorge. The “road” had long since ended and the path through the mountains was nothing more than a dirt track more frequented by cattle than vehicles.

With the bikes all packed up we headed off to refuel to find the whole town was without power. No power = no petrol pumps. The options were either to hang around waiting for the power to come back on or set off with only the fuel we had on board and hope we didn’t end up stranded in the middle of the mountains knowing that there would be no villages for 100km either side of us.

After a group discussion we decided the sensible option was to wait for the power to come back on, so we ignored that and steamed off up the mountain. Imilchil is over 2,000 metres up and our route through the High Atlas would take us to over 3,500 metres (due to a slight navigation error, see episode four, ahem). With temperatures at night plummeting compared to the daytime we really didn’t want to get stranded overnight.

Our tactic was to keep a slow and steady pace using as little fuel as possible. Unfortunatelyconditions conspired against us. The track was strewn with rocks and was so bumpy that trying to maintain throttle control was like trying to not spill your pint on a bucking bronco. On top of that the gradient was so steep that we had to drop down to first gear and generally nail it to get anywhere.

On the plus side the scenery was amazing, only spoilt by the fact that if you took your eyes off the track long enough to marvel at the surroundings you either hit a rock and fell off or got vertigo and fell off. After a couple of hours of steep ascent we crested a summit to be greeted by a view all the way down the valley as far as the eye could see. All the way to the Sahara itself. In the face of such an awe inspiring panorama, we decided it must be time for lunch.

From here on in “lunch” took on a new meaning. We now had to carry food impervious to both scorching temperatures and being rattled around constantly on the back of the bikes. We needed sealed or dried food with a half life of several thousand years. Or put another way, Lithuanian army rations.

Kaspars had used a contact to secure us a job lot of army rations, the only problem being that with the ingredients written in Lithuanian we had no idea whether we were eating Tuna pasta or depleted Uranium. You have to be slightly wary of a brown stick that looks and tastes like chocolate but which doesn’t melt at 40 degrees. And so the daily ritual of “Ration Roulette” was born.

Whilst unpacking the food and firing up the petrol stove (having momentarily forgotten we were supposed to be conserving fuel) a goat herder appeared.  It never ceases to amaze that no matter how remote you think you are a local will always appear as if from nowhere.  If it had taken us three hours to reach here by moped and we hadn’t passed a single house, where the hell were he and his goats going? Bizarrely the only other humans we’d seen all day were three lads from Manchester in a Volvo coming the other way.

The herder and his goats eventually meandered over all smiles. After climbing on Oz's moped and posing for some photos he then tried to charge us for the pleasure which failed so he switched his attention to the contents on the stove. After a few nods and the motioning of his fingers in to his mouth we got the jist that he was hungry.  We bunged him a sealed foil bag of something which he seemed delighted with until he actually tasted it and then started spitting it out all over the floor and gagging slightly.

He wiped his mouth and shuffled off without saying anything, head bowed. Obviously not as hungry as he made out then if he could afford to be picky about it. It was only later that we realised we’d tried to feed a Berber pork meatballs in beans. This did raise the question though, how does someone who doesn’t eat pork know that they are eating pork? Anyway, we rid ourselves of any guilt by blaming the Lithuanian army for not writing things in English.

After a hearty lunch and a quick check round the bikes to check that nothing essential had fallen off we pressed on towards the horizon as the temperature continued to soar. By mid-afternoon we were really starting to flag. The combination of the terrain, heat and dust was tiring on the body and the eyes and the problem was there was absolutely no shade of any description since we were now well above the tree line.

Enter, Hotel Tizi, a “hotel” of such randomness that it wouldn’t have been all that surprising if it was staffed by pandas. Located on a mountain top, it was hardly prime High St location. At best, that day they would have had passing trade consisting of us and three blokes in a Volvo.

We were enticed in by the thought of an ice cold Coke but alas although they had a fridgewith a plug on it, there was no plug socket to put the plug into so it was basically a cupboard with a glass door. We asked for water but they explained the water had to be boiled. So we settled on the only thing that was available, steaming hot coffee.

In the circumstances it was not as horrendous as it sounds. To be honest anything that wasn’t warm water from our Camelbaks was a welcome change. The combination of caffeine and 18 sugars was actually a good pick me up and set us up for the remaining four hours or so it would take us to descend down to the mouth of the Dades Gorge. But what a ride. That is a route you could do repeatedly and never get bored.

At the bottom as we got low enough to be in shadow the temperature cooled and we took the opportunity to wade into the cold refreshing waters. We set up camp nearby ready for the final push towards our ultimate goal, the Sahara desert, where events, including the temperature, were set to go up a notch or two.

 

Up the creek without a pump.

In hindsight, following a route that all the locals said was impossible was a bit daft. We have a habit of doing this in the belief that it all adds to the sense of adventure, which to be fair it normally does. Being stuck at 3,000 metres on a trail used mainly by goats wasn't the adventure we'd envisioned however when we all said "yeah bollocks lets go that way".

The main cause of this predicament could be traced back to the night before. After an exhausting day crossing the Middle Atlas mountains we found a market town and decided to reward ourselves with some proper food for a change. Amongst the carts laden with tomatoes and watermelons was the local butcher who advertised his stall with a row of freshly severed goat's heads. The attention with which he'd made sure each goat head was looking in the same direction gave the impression of a man with pride in his work and attention to detail. It was only the massing swarm of flies feeding on eyeballs and windpipes that cost him the Michelin star.

Back on the rooftop terrace of our hotel, we fired up the petrol stoves and set aboutmaking goat meatballs. Now, at the mere mention of rooftop terrace you've already started thinking we were in some plush hotel with a pool overlooking the mountains. In reality we'd climbed out on to the roof because the "hotel" had no windows and no air conditioning. In other words it was basically a kiln with beds in. We could indeed see the mountains though so it wasn't all bad.

As the sun disappeared and the first stars began to appear we ate our dinner in torchlight and mused that the only thing missing was a cold beer. A warm one would still have been good. A warm one with a beetle floating on a layer of cheese would still have been preferable to our staple diet of stale water, mint tea, and the occasional bottle that said Fanta on it, but was just as likely to be Toilet Duck.

We were just remarking about how we wished watermelon was alcoholic when Kaspars turned up with good news and better news. Firstly he'd managed to fix the large hole in his bike frame courtesy of a bloke with a welder. Unfortunately it was a carbide powered welder so the five minute job took three hours. Oh how we laughed. On the plus side this allowed Kaspars enough time to explore, and like all good Latvians (who are trained from birth) he tracked down the local home brew.

So we now had two innocent looking bottles of "Best Good Cooking Oil" containing the local berber moonshine, reportedly made from figs but judging by the taste, somebody's flip-flop. It did however become more figgy and less flip floppy the closer we got the bottom of the bottle. By bottle number two it was up there with an XO Cognac.

The next morning was not good. The combination of sleeping in the kiln overnight with a skinful of the local sauce meant we were all stumbling around half dazed and wondering why we had tongues like a baguette. Packing up took ages, packing the bikes took ages, paying the hotel owner took ages, everything took ages. It was because of this that when it came to looking at the map and deciding on whether to go the established (but longer) route, or the impossible (but shorter) route we uttered the fateful words "yeah bollocks lets go that way".

Things were going so well. It did in fact appear that there was a route across the mountains. In the early morning sunlight we wound our way up through the mighty peaks surrounding Mt Toubkal and took in the views whilst congratulating ourselves on finding an epic shortcut. It's just a shame the shortcut was about 50kms short of being a full cut. Whether it was the result of an earthquake or whether the locals just decided they had no need to be this high up a mountain we didn't know. All we knew was that the route ended abruptly in an impassable wall of rubble.

The thought of backtracking was too much to bear so we pondered on a strategy of heading down to the valley floor to follow the river bed. The most direct route was straight off the side of the path down a ridiculously steep slope but with absolutely no way to get back up if it turned out to be the wrong choice. The other option was to backtrack quite a way and drop down in the other side of the valley. We would have all gone with the latter option if Oz hadn't already lobbed himself off the side of the mountain and was now sliding with both wheels locked up in a haze of dust trying not to become a human landslide.

This created a problem since it was apparent that neither Charlie nor Greg could follow. Charlie's front brake was held on with gaffer tape and his back brake was somewhere in the Middle Atlas mountains so he simply couldn't risk it. As for Greg, it wasn't so much a matter of whether he would die horribly, just how quickly and how horribly. So Kaspars was sent down after Oz and the plan was to "wave at each other from opposite sides of the valley and meet somewhere in the middle". This was quite possibly the worst idea ever conceived.

After half an hour or so of mopedaneering, Oz & Kaspars reached a small village. Peopleonly ever arrived in this village from below so the locals were somewhat taken aback to find two people descending from above...on pink and orange mopeds. They invited us for tea and bread and then took great delight in telling us we were the only motorised vehicles to ever set wheel in their village. This was plainly awesome but also meant no road out. We paid our way, shook hands and set off. After picking our way through the tiny gaps between the houses and trying not to fall in to the open sewers we made our way to the donkey trail that would take us out.

Not only had we made it down the valley but the track was now much wider and smoother and by luck more than judgement we’d timed it just right to see Charlie and Greg on the other side of the valley, albeit high above us. As per the plan we stopped our bikes and commenced the pre-agreed signal (frantic waving). When that didn’t appear to work we upgraded to shouting:

Oi”, “Down Here!”, “Oi”, “Wankers”, “Oi”, “Are you fucking blind or WHAT!!...OI! OII!!! OIIII!!!!

We abandoned the plan, got on our bikes and took off to catch them up. We got about one kilometre before Oz's back tyre ended up with a three inch nail in it. This meant we now had no chance of catching them and worse still was the realisation that Charlie and Greg had both the pumps and the puncture repair kit. None of us had a mobile phone signal.

Kaspars headed back to the village in search of a pump. He quickly realised that miming the action for a hand pump was easily misconstrued. Miming the action for a foot pump didn’t fare much better, with most people assuming he wanted to find a place hosting country dancing. Two hours later he came back empty handed.

Somehow we had to get further down the valley or hope that Charlie and Greg would find us. After three hours we were running out of options. Oz remembered reading about a biker who’d got a puncture in the desert and had stuffed his tyre with a blanket. It was enough to stop him wrecking the tyre and reaching a place where he could get a permanent fix. We didn’t have a blanket but we had some clothes.

It was a risky bodge since we had no spare wheels and this didn't work it was gameover. Pants, socks, t-shirts and a pair of swimming trunks later and we set off at a snail’s pace. All we could do now was hope we found help soon. What we did find was totally unexpected. Propped up against the side of the track was Charlie’s bike, seemingly abandoned. A little girl was sitting on a rock opposite. We motioned to her “where is the rider?”. She pointed down into the bottom of the valley. After some searching we spotted Greg and a local both attempting to push his bike up the side of the valley. We could only guess that they’d tried to cross to our side of the valley and got into difficulty.

About an hour later, Charlie appeared on Greg’s bike with Greg and the local running along behind. “What happened?”. Charlie's reply; “well, let's just say we are the only motorised vehicles ever to cross that valley”. “Funny you should say that” said Kaspars.

It's definitely left. Or right.

A wrong turn is rarely more than an inconvenience. In the Sahara it's the difference between reaching your destination or running out of water, dying a slow dehydrating death before being torn to pieces by hyenas and picked clean by vultures.

So here we were standing at the "crossroads", the one which the locals had given us stern warning about. The correct way would take us on to an oasis in the Erg Chigaga dunes where we could find shade and re-stock with food and water. The wrong way would take us into a barren no man's land where we would likely get hopelessly lost. The trouble was, not one of us could now remember if they had said left or right.

A few days ago we were stuck at 3,000 metres in the High Atlas mountains with a back tyre stuffed full of pants and socks as an emergency puncture repair. This debacle had cost us half a day and we still had over 200km to do to reach Zagora. This was the last place that we could make repairs, refuel and stock up with provisions before leaving civilisation for the mighty Sahara. We decided if we got our heads down and motored we could reach Zagora before nightfall if we didn't have any more problems.

The first problem arose when Charlie's bike decided to start dismantling itself. During aparticularly rocky stretch, a bump too far caused the struts holding his top box to snap. Only the back wheel was holding everything up. Luckily we'd prepared for such an eventuality and without hesitation the gaffer tape and cable ties were deployed. Good as new.

Nothing has prepared us for what came next. As we crested the rise of a hill the flat plains of the Sahara were stretched out before us and coming straight at us was - the Chergui, an arabic word which presumably means "shoving your head in an oven and sandblasting your eyeballs". If Chuck Norris was a wind, he'd be the Chergui.

With our keffiyehs covering our faces we ploughed on determined to reach Zagora however long it took. Checking the map, we thought we could intersect a tarmac road some 50 or so miles further ahead. Thankfully our tactic worked and after a couple of hours we reached the main route down to Zagora which had the luxury of tarmac but with just enough potholes to make sure you couldn't ride in a straight line or at a steady speed.

A massive truck went past creating an angry swirl of dust and sand blasted us full in the face, went in our eyes, our throats, and seemingly removed the top layer of any exposed flesh. We had to pull over and have a rethink. We thinked a bit. We carried on. After two more hours of squinting and ducking everytime a vehicle went past, our shed got that little bit closer to collapsing. It got dark. We now had a choice. Ride in the dark with sunglasses on, and end up in a pothole, or ride without sunglasses and have our corneas slowly shredded. A broken arm seemed preferable to blindness so we rode on in the dark with sunglasses. After all, Bono gets away with it. 

To our huge relief we saw the flickering lights of Zagora. Obviously a dodgy power supply. Still, all dust clouds have a silver lining. Zagora had a hotel, a bed, a shower and...what, noooo, you have got to be kidding?!

The next morning we went down for breakfast. The hotel owner asked us if we'd slept well; "like a log". He didn't know what a log was but he could tell by our faces it was something good. "After eat you swim" he said. We didn't know what swim meant so we just nodded enthusiastically as he led us out the back of the hotel. Our jaws dropped. Imagine a wall. On one side is nothing but a desolate dusty landscape of rock and the odd bush. On the other side is a lush manicured lawn, some decking, and... a swimming pool! If Elvis had been floating on a lilo we wouldn't have been any more shocked.It's a weird, weird feeling to be shivering and chattering your teeth when its nearly 50 degrees centigrade. Even though the water was warm, such was the difference in temperature with the outside air that it felt like a freezing cold bath. We dipped in and out of the pool, variously, boiling or freezing all at the same time. Bizzare.

We decided to set off in the afternoon which gave us time to buy food, water, and get thebikes repaired. Mohamed Gordito is something of a legend in these parts. He had a big workshop in town full of bits of works rally cars which had met their end in the desert. The locals had no hesitation in suggesting we go there for repairs. Mr Gordito had never seen, let alone worked, on a Yamaha Townmate. But a fine job he did too. Once he'd stopped laughing.

With everything sorted we sat down for what be our last proper meal for some time. It felt a little bit like being on death row,  if death row is a cafe serving up freshly squeezed orange juice, grilled chicken and watermelon. With a final round of handshakes and "in sha'Allah" from the locals we made our way out of town passing the sign which tells you that Timbuktu is 52 days away as the camel plods.

The considered view was that you avoided riding between 11am and 3pm when the sun was blistering, literally. There is a good reason why the Paris Dakar rally took place in January.Before we'd even realised it, Zagora was lost in the heat haze and all that lay before us was desert.

For the early stages we could at least follow the tracks used by the tourist 4x4's but as we got further in the tracks petered out. At one point we strayed across a section that must have once been a fast flowing watercourse as it was strewn with suitcase size boulders. It was a bad move as the bikes took a pounding and damaging a crankcase or bending a wheel out here would have been game over. We made it through on to a flatter section but then Charlie found that he'd lost first and second gear. Bearing in mind Oz's toolkit disaster and the fact we hadn't seen fit to buy any tools in Zagora, stripping the gearbox was not an option.

To our immense relief it turned out the gearbox was fine. Charlie had just twatted a rock and bent the gear lever so much that it didn't have enough travel to actually change gear. With the aid of another rock we re-twatted the gear lever in the other direction. Fixed. Wipe brows. Carry on.

One thing you can't under-estimate is how much water you need. In Zagora we'd stocked up with as much water as we could carry. But we also needed spare fuel, and fuel and water is heavy so we were limited. Although we'd been advised not to drink the water, when we did come across a well we filled up. Better to have a dodgy tummy than die of thirst. We drenched our turbans with water to bring some welcome relief from the heat and pushed on. By our reckoning we had about 70kms to do to reach our first planned stop. We weren't aiming for anything in particular, we just knew we had to make that sort of distance to keep the schedule. Trouble was in the last two hours we'd done only 30kms, and we only had two hours of daylight left.

We did get a good long stretch of hamada which enabled us to cruise for long periods at a mind-blowing 40 km/h. And then we reached that crossroads. "It's definitely left. Or right". We were too busy tucking into fried chicken to remember the instructions the locals gave us but we could all remember them saying one way was good and the other way was "very very not good".

Sun block. Check. First Aid kit. Check. Inflatable guitars. Check.

When planning an adventure there is a lot to be said for items of luggage which have no practical use but do look good in a photo. With our ability to carry luggage at a minimum we decided on the inflatable guitar which, as it turned out, doubled as a surprisingly good pillow but was useless for navigational purposes.

The satnav (which had come back to life after Kaspars had accidentally fed it too many volts) appeared to be traumatised as it was insisting we should turn around because we were heading for the middle of a lake and that a speed camera was approaching. 6,000 years ago this would have been accurate (apart from the speed camera). The map was not much help either as you need to know where you are on a map in order to know which direction to go in. It was with some irony then that we based our decision on the one thing that would likely kill us first if we got it wrong. The sun.

Due east was to be avoided since that meant ending up in Algeria where we would likely be shot. Due south was to be avoided since that meant ending up in Algeria where we would likely be kidnapped, and shot. Due north was to be avoided since that meant heading home and we weren't ready for that just yet. So due West it was, chasing the sun, even if we'd rather be running away from it.

As we motored on, ahead of us was a seemingly endless expanse of sand and rock and itinvoked some mixed emotions. This after all was the reason we had come here, to experience the raw environment of the Sahara desert. But at the same time we couldn't help thinking that if things went tits up our lasting impression on this earth would be a newspaper headline saying "Four tourists die in Sahara" but actually meaning "Four muppets on mopeds venture into the Sahara unsupported in July and die. Who didn't see that coming?"

We were now so far in to the desert that access to any form of help or assistance would be through a pure chance meeting with another vehicle but we hadn’t seen one in four days. Mobile phone signals had long been non-existent. So we decided to pop our iPod's in and ride as far as we could that day.

We were so zoned out that no one noticed that one of Charlie's panniers had bounced off along the way. We had stopped to stretch our legs and grab a quick snack and water when Charlie realised there was only an empty space where the bag containing all his spare clothes should have been. Still it could have been worse, it could have been the bag containing the water. This minor incident aside we just kept racking up the miles hoping that a pub would magically appear in the distance serving ice cold cider and steak and chips. It didn't.

As the light began to fade the riding conditions got more difficult. The terrain begins to lose definition and you lose your sense of depth, a bit like skiing in poor light. Everything starts to look smooth and you constantly have to strain to make out rocks and holes which is both physically and mentally tiring. We already knew we were on borrowed time when up ahead a huge arc of sand sprayed in to the air, containing what looked like a back wheel, then a front wheel, then Charlie.

The benefit of being behind the lead rider is that you can stop before the same thing happens to you. We all pulled up to find a rather dishevelled Charlie spitting out a mouthful of sand whilst his bike and luggage had spread itself in all directions. As it turned out this had actually done both him and us a favour. Not only had Charlie inadvertently found us a perfect camping spot but his bike had already unpacked itself.

The rocky hamada had turned in to a stretch of erg and the soft sand would be ideal for sleeping on. We set up the tents, lit a fire and tucked in to a well earned meal and even managed to rustle up a final cup of coffee from the dwindling rations. It was the first time all day that we'd actually sat still and talked to each other.

As the fire faded and we laid back on our roll mats to sleep we were met with one of those sights that you can just never do justice with a photograph. With zero light pollution there were literally thousands of stars above us and huge great swathes of the milky way which you could just never see in the cities. We just gazed for what seemed like ages, transfixed as satellites streaked overhead through the night sky as clear as anything.

We all had trouble sleeping in the end. A combination of feeling slightly vulnerable in this place, the sheer weirdness of it all, and Charlie and Oz's farting which was always followed by a bout of schoolboy giggles. But then the mood changed a bit. "Charlie" Oz whispered. "Who or what the fuck is that?"

Just beyond the horizon was a shimmering light, small at first but getting rapidly larger. Our first thoughts were that it must be the headlights of a convoy of 4x4's. We sat bolt upright and stared in silence as the light source got more intense and then suddenly swept up over the horizon. It took a few seconds to register, but the convoy of 4x4's turned out to be...the moon. It was so weird. Back home, the moon is either in the sky or it isn't. We've all seen a sunset and a sunrise, but certainly neither of us had ever seen a moon rise. Weird.

Eventually the exhaustion of riding all day took its toll and we slept if only for two hours or so. We all stirred about an hour before sunrise, woken by the same thing. An insatiable need for a drink of water. Bleary eyed we ate the last of our ration packs. All we had left now was biscuits, stale bread and boiled sweets. The oasis couldn't come soon enough.

We packed up and headed off, struggling in the soft sand but at least thankful that the sun had barely risen so we had a chance to make distance and hopefully find the oasis before the desert became a furnace once more. There were some encouraging signs within a couple of hours. Firstly in the distance we could make out some dunes and then we spotted a camel, but significantly the camel had its two front legs trussed with a rope so clearly someone didn't want it wandering to far. There must be someone around.

We perched atop a gently sloping dune to get a better vantage point and were busy slapping on sun block when in the distance two locals came trotting towards us. It was difficult to tell at first who was the more surprised, them or us. But once they saw our mopeds and that we were carrying inflatable guitars it was definitely them. They explained their camp was just a few kms away, jumped on the back of our bikes and guided us in.

Our spirits soared. It was the oasis. Food, cold water, shade! The camp was right at the foot of a vast section of sand dunes. It was the type of desert scene you see in the films. Huge dunes with sharp crescent edges as far as you could see. The berbers hopped off the bikes and asked if we wanted tea. We nodded enthusiastically but then got a bit carried away with ourselves and decided that before sitting down for tea we'd go and tit around in the dunes. Inflatable guitars in hand we then ran up the nearest dune and started stage diving off the top. Then we thought we'd try it with the bikes.

Things didn't go quite as expected. Charlie got about twenty feet up the first dune before the bike ground to a halt and then almost flipped backwards. He was stuck with his front wheel pointing vertically skyward. Naturally our instincts were to leave him stranded, laugh hysterically and reach for the video cameras.

For the next hour or so we lost ourselves in the moment and took it in turns to see who could get to the top. We used longer and longer run ups so that in the end we were hitting the dunes at about 70 kmh just to try and get over one. This did eventually work but once we got over the first dune we realised that the only thing now on either side of us was another dune so we no longer had a run up. Dragging the bikes by hand back over the dunes took it out of us physically. It was now about 10.30am and fast approaching peak midday temperatures. The sand was now starting to get too hot to be stood in so we called it a day and went back to the camp.

Tea was served. Right then, time for lunch!! We were already salivating at the thought of fried chicken washed down with some watermelon. The berber guides rather apologetically explained that the camp contained no supplies at all. They were just a skeleton crew who looked after the place periodically during the summer months. They weren't expecting supplies for another six weeks since no tour operators were stupid enough to venture into the desert from June to August. Our spirits sank.

They did find some cheese of the Dairy Lea variety but when it was unwrapped it was mostly green and furry. Our spirits sank a little more. It was now midday and we knew this meant we would be going nowhere for the next four hours. Too damn hot. At least they had water and plenty of it. We had no option but to sit things out. It was only then that we realised Greg had gone extremely quiet and in the space of about an hour had gone from looking tired to a terminal AIDS victim.

Something was not right.

What would Bear Grylls do?

To most people the French Foreign Legion conjures up images of men with rifles trudging up sand dunes looking generally quite knackered. It was with some surprise then that we found ourselves sat in their barracks drinking cold beer whilst having our clothes washed and ironed when  just a few hours earlier we were well and truly in the camel poo.

Two days before we had found the oasis at Erg Chigaga, more by luck than judgement. We were thankful for the shade, water, and somewhere to rest up until mid-afternoon when the temperature would be bearable enough for us to ride without being microwaved.

In the camp it was too hot to sleep and it’s not like you can talk about the weather, so passing the time was a slow process.  We eventually settled in to a dazed silence, only permeated by the rustling of the palm leaves and the croaking of the frogs. There was a moment when we thought we might be hallucinating but we all heard it.

If there was one thing none of us was expecting to hear in the desert it was the sound offrogs. The camp had a small water channel about six inches across running right through it in which a serious frog party was occurring. Oases are not just for weary travellers then.

Our plan was to navigate towards the Draa valley where there would be settlements and therefore people, water, and food.  If we set off early evening the berbers estimated that it would take a further two days if we rode for 8 hours a day, sheltering during the midday hours.

We filled our camelbaks and strapped another twelve litres of water on to Charlie's bike in the space where the pannier containing all his clothes used to be. We can only apologise to the person who found it and the fossilised remnants of Charlie's undercrackers.

Unfortunately the berbers only had enough food to sustain themselves while they tended the camp so there was none spare. All we had was biscuits, some stale bread and some jam.  Of more immediate concern however was Greg’s health. To the trained eye heatstroke is an acute condition of hyperthermia caused by prolonged exposure to excessive heat. To the untrained eye it means a person with no sense of humour who is generally useless. So it was only when Greg lost his sense of humour that we knew something was not quite right.

Over the last couple of days he had become more and more withdrawn. Whenever we stopped to take photos he would just sit on the bike with his head on the handlebars and while in camp he had barely said a word and had started to look pale (which is quite an achievement with sunburn).

At first we had ignored it deciding that Greg was just having a tougher time than the restof us but he then admitted that he’d been puking earlier and was having dizzy spells, and since this could not be attributed to 10 pints and a kebab, we realised he was suffering with the intense heat. In the circumstances we didn’t have a lot of options except to get out of the desert.

At 4.30pm we set up off continuing west, following the setting sun. We had about two hours of daylight and although it wasn’t much, psychologically we all wanted to leave the camp and feel as though we were heading somewhere.

As it happened that ride was one of the most spectacular. We descended on to a flat plateau flanked by rocky hills behind which the sun was disappearing in a fiery orange glow. We were in an ancient dry lake bed. For us it was a moment to savour. A vast area of billiard smooth sand which was sun-baked so that it rode more like smooth tarmac. Even though time was of the essence we couldn’t resist riding in massive circular loops round and round. For that moment we were in our own personal playground and all our troubles were forgotten. We set up camp, tired by happy. Apart from Greg who was just tired.

The next day was quite simply, horrendous.

We set off at first light as planned, riding for hours across dusty barren plains untileventually the terrain began to get rocky which meant we were gradually leaving the open desert behind and getting closer to the Draa valley.  The rocks made the going tough. The bikes didn’t have enough suspension travel to soak them up so we ended getting bounced all over the place and walking the bikes over some boulder fields. There were a couple of lonely looking trees up ahead so we decided to stop and make the most of the shade.

Greg was some way back in the distance but still making progress. As we stretched our legs Charlie crouched down and put his head in his hands. The empty space on his bike which was where his pannier full of clothes used to be, and which we’d filled with all the spare water was now an empty space again.

As we stood contemplating this disaster, Greg had stopped two hundred metres away, got off his bike and appeared to be looking at his feet. “He’s found the bag of water!” we thought. But curiously Greg just stayed in the same position staring at his feet. This went on for about five minutes so Charlie walked back to check on him.

It turned out Greg had not found the water. His bike had cut out and he had exhausted himself trying to get it started. Charles got the bike going and set about our disaster recovery plan. We put Greg in the shade and Oz stayed with him while Charlie and Kaspars headed back the way we had come to look for the lost water. Two hours later they returned. With nothing.

This was bad news in any circumstance but Greg was already at a low point and simply wasn’t in the right frame of mind to deal with it. Within minutes he was hyperventilating and approaching a state of panic. We tried to keep him calm, sat him down and lied that we weren't far away from help. Then he started dry retching.

We considered our options. The light was fading and it was near impossible to ride in those conditions without risking an accident. We'd been drinking from our Camelbaks  all day thinking that we would just top up from the spare water, of which we now had none. Five litres between four of us, and it had to last all night and as long as it took us to find more water the next day...day after? Our only option was to pitch tent and try to sleep, the theory being that if we were asleep we wouldn't drink anything.

Lying in our tents with a mouth like a ricecake all we could think about was water, and ice creams, and fresh orange juice. Suddenly the desert felt oppressive and claustrophobic.

"What would Bear Grylls do?"

"Drink his own piss probably"

"Huh"

Not appealing. In any case most of us hadn't passed more than a dribble in two days. It was a long, uncomfortable night. During the day we'd been drinking from our Camelbaks and spitting out the first mouthful because where the water sits in the tube it heats up to hot tub temperature. Now we would have done anything to have those scraps of water back.

At first light, rejuvenated by a breakfast of strawberry jam and bread so stale it was likeeating MDF, we were up and gone. Almost. As we packed the bikes Charlie found the pivot bolt for his front suspension hanging out. It was a miracle it hadn't come out completely. To everyone's amazement Oz had packed a spare nut that fitted exactly, by pure fluke obviously. Fixed. We were gone.

We were now all down to about half a litre of water but the early start gave us a good six hours until the midday sun would come back to haunt us. Greg was on autopilot, unable to speak but able to ride. We kept him in front of us so we could keep an eye on him. Progress was slow but steady. More rock, sand, dust and the murderous desert wind.

For some reason Greg began to ride with both feet on the floor as if he was trying to stop the bike falling over. On closer inspection we found him riding on a completely flat rear tyre. He knew it was flat but in his confused state he demanded to continue and began shouting at us that we had to get out of the desert.

We had to physically lift him off the bike as it was impossible to talk any sense into him. If he wrecked the rear wheel we were going nowhere. Spare inner tubes we had, spares wheels we didn't. Another forty five minutes lost. It was now 10am and the temperature was really kicking in, and everyone was getting edgy. We really did not want to have to sit out the midday inferno again.

Tyre fixed, we plodded on again. It was hard to make out at first, and we weren't entirely sure if it was mirage or hallucination, but as we got closer you could definitely make out the shape of what looked like a fort, until eventually when we got close enough to realise it was a fort. Home to none other than the French Foreign Legion. And they had water. Cold, cold water. It was without doubt the best tasting drink ever to pass our lips (and that includes Thatcher's Gold).

And it got better. They had showers, beer and food.  Not even the moment when Greg caught his own vomit in his hands only to then throw up through his nose could take that luxury away from us.