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Synopsis - Africa Eco Race 2022

Step 1 | Nador - Bousaïd


Africa Eco Race, let's go!

First colorful day... At dawn, we found the caravan of the Africa Eco Race just got off the boat, in Nador. Over a long connection through the great Moroccan plains, then a portion of the Atlas, we were once again able to appreciate the beauty of this country that we love so much!

Arrived early on the first bivouac of this race which will take us to Dakar, we found our biker friends at sunset. The machines are warm and the minds calm. The finest of African races can now truly begin.

Step 2 | Bousaïd - Tagounite

A stage as we like them.

Sand from Merzouga to start the day and long stretches of desert bordered by black and gold mountains to Tagounite to continue this epic towards Dakar. The opportunity in particular to take the drone to explore the heights of the Marech pass...

Between two photos, it is good to share this exceptional moment with our Moroccan friends. This is their garden here, but we are lucky to be regulars there and we were received adorably. Hamid (Merzouga), Hassan (Ouzina), Brahim (Foum el Marech) and Tiwi (Zagora), thank you for these moments of sharing and see you very soon!

Step 3  | Tagounite - Assa

In pursuit of the great Moroccan classics, here is the second score!

Mhamid, erg Chegaga, lake Iriki, Foum Zguid, Tata and finally Assa. A great spectacle assured for which we got up well before the sun in order to be in position in the dunes before the first motorcyclists. The idea is also to take advantage of the most beautiful light of the day...

We found the media helicopter there, piloted by Nicolas Zozor and accompanied by a cameraman (Patrick), a doctor (Tarak) and the race director, Manfred.

Step 4  | Assa - Remz El Kebir

Any self-respecting transition stage always brings with it its share of surprises. Rule confirmed again at the end of this step 4!

Yes, the extreme south of Morocco has flattened out irremediably; yes the vegetation is much rarer and the water, non-existent as possible. But that was without counting on the experience of Jean-Louis Schlesser who pulls out of his hat an incredible trial pass, very tight, which opens onto an unparalleled white immensity.

A chott like we have rarely seen: dazzlingly luminous, it redefines the notion of horizon as you cross it. This infinity finally finished, the bivouac of Remz El Kebir presents itself in a mirage. So here is the last bivouac before Dakhla and its day of rest which promises to be life-saving!

Step 5 | Remz El Kebir - Dakhla

The longest day of the rally awaits us. Waking up at 5:30 a.m., now familiar, allows us to hit the road around 6 a.m. We start this day with 250 kilometers of asphalt in a straight line between Es Semara and the entrance to the special, at the bottom of Laayoune. As usual in this mad escape to the South, the sun rose on our left like a ball of fire before settling down a few minutes later. Its first lights lead us straight to these desert expanses characteristic of the region.

At the bend in the track, at kilometer 244 of the special to be precise, we come across a small erg placed in the middle of this big nowhere. The opportunity, for once, to freeze this sublime creation of Mother Nature from the sky!

Then it's beating drums that we finish this special before continuing with 250 kilometers of road, again, to the rest town of Dakhla.

A well-deserved rest for the competitors and the members of the organization, who are working hard on this event to maintain a very family and friendly spirit. Successful bet on this first week… Strongly Mauritania!

Step 6 | Dakhla - Chami

Entering Mauritania is also above all a giant step into the Sahara. Paradoxically, the landscapes regain color, while waiting for the return of the relief! We regularly find ourselves on beautiful winding tracks lined with a kind of local grass which gives them an unusual and ultimately very friendly look!

Who says new country also says border crossing. The latter took place wonderfully in a lunar landscape south of Guergerrat, on a strip of land a few kilometers long which does not seem to be the property of any state. We leave the smiles of the Moroccans to meet those of the Mauritanians, who welcome us with open arms. What fun!

Finally, an ultimate stroke of luck a few minutes later… at the bend of a bend, the desert train points its nose in the distance! According to the regulars, this is a very nice surprise to see it by chance. Just enough time to run out of the drone to freeze this timeless memory from the sky. This train is one of the longest in the world and connects the mines of Zouerat to the port of Nouhadibou crossing the desert. It is a real gold mine for the inhabitants whose hamlets line the rail. We strongly recommend an exceptional report from National Geographic on this train really like no other:

Step 7 | Chami - Akjoujt

For this first 100% Mauritanian stage, we decided - for once - to get up at dawn to stand in the dunes at the start of the special and thus take advantage of the mild light.

Once our shots in hand, we went to the heart of Nouakchott, the teeming capital of Mauritania. A city at the perfect geographical but also cultural halfway between the Maghreb and black Africa. There reigns an atmosphere that could be similar to Morocco, with a dry atmosphere and temperatures quickly above 40°. At the same time, the omnipresent color, the smiles from ear to ear and the vehicles from another time (two other times maybe even) remind us of our good memories of Dakar...

A great day, again!

Step 8 | Akjoujt - Akjoujt

Tifoujar Pass. This mythical and mystical name has been dragging my unanswered dreams for years. One-of-a-kind bottleneck, ideally positioned south of Atar and west of Chinguetti, here is in fact a very long sand canyon, between a large dune and black rock, which leads to a trial sand climb very soft. A nightmare for the competitors, a delight for the photographers...

Arrived before the first motorcyclists in this magical place which takes your breath away like no other, we had time to enjoy, together, the majesty of the place. The opportunity again to send our third accomplice, that of the air, to take a little height!

Then the resisters to this epic towards Dakar, of which this is already the eighth stage, finally arrive in this canyon, which then becomes a life-size sounding board. Lying on the motorcycles, the riders try to make their way through this treacherous but oh so rare and difficult to reach sand!

To return to the bivouac, we choose the track option. 150 kilometers that we couldn't have imagined as they had some nice surprises in store for us. Surfing on large dunes on the edge of the erg, crossing charming abandoned villages, well-filled lookout passages (it rained here as it rains once every 40 years), skirting huge lakes at the foot of the dunes. Not only is Mauritania a magnificent and welcoming country, but it also provided us with an exceptional spectacle whose splendor we will never forget!

Step 9 | Akjoujt - Ouad Naga

There are days when you fill up on experience in a few hours. Leaving at the first light of day in two vehicles, we formed a duo with the official photographer of the rally, Alain Rossignol.

Alain, beyond being a friend, he is also and above all a bible of the world of rally-raid. Since his first Paris-Dakar in 1988 (the same year as Arnaud as a competitor), he has never ceased to be present on all the off-road adventures that exist. Passionate about history and a man of culture, you never get bored with him in the dunes. Reading the sand, profile of the dunes, apprehension of a trajectory, management of supplies and our vehicles: Alain, with his keen eyes and always observant, will necessarily give good advice… So we listen to him carefully throughout.

Some of our photos taken between two exchanges on the history of African Paris-Dakar…

Step 10 | Ouad Naga - Ouad Naga

Second and last loop of this adventure. The stage two days before was so difficult that many competitors did not resume the race until this beautiful morning dawning over Ouad Naga. The spot we choose today is not the most promising, but a nice backlight, children fascinated by this show and a little jump will make us happy!

Then we went back for a walk in Nouakchott. This city is full of so many surprises and curiosities that we could spend days there (that is to say weeks… we calm down anyway!)… We were marked by the camel market where thousands of between them are bartered or sold permanently and in a gigantic hubbub! The Toyota Compagnie Saharan could not be swapped because it did not fit in the enclosure provided for this purpose... Bad pick for them because this dromedary has an exceptional scent!

Step 11 | Ouad Naga - Diama

The Africa Eco Race is coming to a sporting end on this penultimate day of adventure! A last Mauritanian stage to freeze the times that we decide to ride in full in order to take advantage one last time of the beautiful track of Jean-Louis Schlesser and Manfred Kroiss, respectively race director and sports director. Today, a taste of the savannah awaited us: after a last small dune cordon, a landscape bordered by umbrella pines and populated by beautiful cows was our lot for this beautiful off-road morning.

A few kilometers of liaison and here we are already in Diama, Senegal. The farewells to this beautiful country that is Mauritania are quickly succeeded by the warm welcome of the people of the teranga. Barter of all kinds, one-of-a-kind expressions, painted vans and a shovel of smiles: we are arriving well in black Africa. The dry wind is absent and the ambient heat humidifies as soon as the Senegal River passes. The border crossing chosen by the organization is the westernmost of the country: about thirty kilometers of very folkloric, brittle and sloping track, lined with warthogs and other migratory birds. Definitely, after the Morocco-Mauritania no-man's land, border crossings in Africa are truly memorable!

The faces at the bivouac are now relaxed. Families and relatives join the caravan and the rankings are final. Tomorrow, there is still a long nocturnal liaison to complete, followed by a renowned formality: the Lac Rose run in Dakar. Enough to plunge all the participants once again into a general thrill before concluding this Africa Eco Race 2022 for good.

Step 12 | Diama - Lac Rose, Dakar

Arrival of the Africa Eco Race, vintage 2022. A great moment that we were waiting for, filled with emotion and the happiness of reaching the Senegalese capital via the desert. The reality did not escape the prediction!

Leaving around 4 a.m. from the Senegalese border to Dakar, three hundred kilometers of road under thick mist are a beautiful metaphor for what is going on in our heads. Memories in shambles, moments of joy and frank laughter, a few quickly forgotten troubles, welcoming people and sincerely happy to see their country highlighted, landscapes as fascinating as they are imposing. Already comes the feeling of the last routine: last briefing, last dinner all together, last withdrawal from the bivouac, last roadbook, last passage of the helicopters a few meters above us...

Quickly, the hubbub of a new day of life extracts us from this nocturnal mist and already the beach along Lac Rose appears in the distance. The mist lifts as if by magic as we enter the sand to let the clusters of competitors escape with a beating drum in a roar that the sea itself struggles to cover. In the distance, isolated from the rest of the world for the last time, in the middle of the beach, it is an opportunity for us to breathe the air of silence on one last occasion. The bikers tumble down a few minutes later and see their eyes furtively clouded with the happiness of going to finish their dream, which we have very modestly accompanied over these two weeks, here is another beautiful moment of emotion...

And then, the final fireworks. The podium is nestled on the shores of Lac Rose like a setting for this theater scene where everyone falls into their arms and, for our part, we open a miraculous bottle of Champagne from our fridge! From the admirable Yoshimasa Sugarawa, 81 spring and 31 Dakar to the incredible acolytes Laurent Cochet and Amaury Barantin, passing by the CzechTomás Tomečekwho won the event alone in his Tatra truck, all these beautiful people are now filled with pride and sated with adventure… until next week at the latest!

It is time for everyone to return to our lands. After an extremely festive and belated farewell in the hearts of Dakar, it was time to thank the team of Jean-Louis and Anthony Schlesser one last time. You have in your hands a mythical event whose guideline you are pursuing with passion and experience. She made us vibrate here and she made those who stayed there dream. This story will continue to be written in a few months. See you in March 2023!

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