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Kevin Muggleton convinced his brother to leave home and join him riding across the Sahara.

He forget to mention minefields

If an adventure involved halving your bike’s value, spending day’s under the baking sun and nights freezing under the stars, would you go ?

What if you were to somersault over the handlebars, ride through a minefield , face raging sandstorms and hole your sump? What if it was the Sahara desert?

“ For years I’d badgered my brother , Andy, to join me on an unsupported Sahara crossing.

Regaling him with exotic tales of the desert, my slippery tongue avoided thirst, disgusting food, minefields and sandstorms.

The Dakar race fires you up for such madness. Since the early '80's I awaited news of deranged riders torturing themselves for 17 days, breaking bones, suffering acute dehydration and fending off armed bandits .


But when push comes to shove they can click their GPS systems and a helicopter cavalcade will fly to the rescue. Unsupported you may as well talk to a desert lizard.

Without piping hot meals, mechanics or resupply at the day's end, your lot is a hardy one. Food and spares load your bike down until it handles like a Sherman tank.



Like farmers off to market, Andy and I loaded our gear onto 2 R100GS BMW's leaving behind a cold miserable winter for the African sun. We raced South through Spain crossing over to North Africa. In Morocco, we auctioned our mother's soul and Andy nearly donated a month's salary buying a hideous carpet.

The marketplace soon lost it's romance with endless pestering kids, so we bolted from Marrakech for the muddy, boulder strewn roads of the Atlas mountains. The bikes, loaded on road tyres, danced over the desert like a couple of Fat Boys on ice.


Andy rode in the spirit of the great Atlas rally raid. With his knobbly Desert Michelin tyres still strapped firmly behind, he'd already gone arse up. To cheer the day further, he'd decided on a complete spectacular, Careering his bike into the quickest right-hander since Schumacher took out Villeneuve, he watched as his bike smashed into a Moroccan road grader, clearing stones boulders and mud for a hundred yards. We about faced to Marrakech, for repairs to the large chunk missing from his aluminium pots.


If we could find a BMW pot in the Souk it would be truly miraculous. We didn't, but they still carried out the repair. Within hours we were turning the hairpin bends of the Atlas mountains, riding up the Tisni Test summit.

The heady mix of sun, sand and adventure had us itching to replace the road tyres with hardy desert knobblies. What a difference they made. Even when trying to drift, the back end would quickly cut in.

Andy's fun didn't start so well. I glanced back in time to watch his front wheel dig into a soft spot. The bike stopped dead and for the third time that day he was hurled over the handlebars. With the engine still racing, I dug down to the buried kill switch for a little peace.

Unhurt, completely knackered, dripping with sweat and with sand everywhere he guzzled half his water bottle in one swig.


" Andy you're riding like a tosser. " I said.

" You're stuffed because you think you will crash if you ride faster. Stand on your pegs, thrash the guts out of your bike and don't let off unless you're going to hit a boulder or ravine. "

Lecture over, we set of over the baking hot desert. As hostilities rage across the Saharan countries, you can only cross the desert through Morocco into Mauritania. Frequent border disputes leave a patrolled minefield to negotiate. From the town of Dhakla, a convoy crosses the Moroccan occupied zone. Once through their patch, the soldiers point you towards the Mauritanian forces.

I checked down at the GPS unit on the handlebars. Still five miles from the minefield blocking our route into Mauritania. Andy was standing on his pegs and picking the pace up. As the GPS counted down towards the minefield. I could pick out the well travelled soft sand ahead. There was no way I could ride over it, so I walked the bike through.


I wasn't sure if Andy had seen me slow up. Still standing he swang left to a more reliable route... straight into a minefield. I whacked my hand on the horn to warn him,. There's nothing like the fear of watching your brother riding through the minefield, littered with the remains of Land Rovers blown to bits.

On the other side of the minefield, caught napping by the presumed advance riders of an attack force, soldiers of the Mauritanian Defence Force scrambled to their trench positions.

Andy was driving directly towards them. Into their third week of Ramadan fasting, the soldiers jumped from their trenches, highly irritable, screaming at Andy to stop. I had to calm them down quickly. Too late, the soldiers were jabbing rifle muzzles into Andy's chest. The 10 hours detention that ensued was testament to our poor opening gambit in Anglo-Arab relations.

As we resumed our trek into the desert, Andy rapidly adapted to the terrain, so I couldn't understand why he lagged behind. Pulling up on a rock outcrop we looked over his bike. There was a leak from his exhaust-clearly the exhaust gasket had cracked during a heavy crash. With nothing to repair it we pushed on with a 30% drop in power and an enormous increase in fuel consumption.

It couldn't have happened at a worst time. The skies were darkening and thunder preceded torrential rain. The hard desert piste turned into a sea of slush and slime - spectacular crashes began.


Comic style, we'd shoot over the handlebars into soft sand and mud. Sliding down, sand and water sprayed out as our panniers touched down. Then the bike would right itself, Andy, in fits , hit a thick patch, coming to a stop in dramatic fashion. Humour switched to anxiety when the remains of a ten litre jerry can lay under his bike. The two critical elements to make your desert trip a success are fuel and water. Combining a substantial fuel loss in just one crash with an exhaust leak is disastrous.



The momentum to push through the silt pitched us full tilt into the very rocks we needed to avoid. The tyres, barely showing signs of wear belied the the impact to the sump guard. My exhaust was nearly holed. To add insult, a rock pitched clean through my sump guard and sump spilling oil over the sand.


I was gutted. we only had enough for topping up the bikes. To inspect the damage the sump had to come off. It was worse than I imagined, with a gash running the length of the fins. I needed to wash the oil off with petrol, but as the storm built up everything, was coated in a thick layer of sand.

Before the encroaching sands covered the crash site, we had to find a chunk missing from the sump. An agonising 12 hour wait lay ahead to see if the repair would hold. The only protected place to repair the sump turned out to be the inside of my sleeping bag.

We had lost our tent somewhere in the Atlas mountains, so I lay in a bivvy bag, cuddled up to a petrol soaked sump plate. Andy was under a tarpaulin he's grabbed in Morocco. With the thunder barely audible over the wind we screamed like lunatics to conjure up a plan.


It was a sobering decision - one would stay put in the desert while the other rode to Nouadibou to fix the sump plate and bring oil, water and more petrol. Both options were grim.

Just a we tucked into our meagre rations the next morning, we both nearly choked. A 4x4 truck was heading towards us across the sands. An Arab in flowing robes jumped out and asked for directions to Nouakshott , the Capital city. Checking my GPS, I pointed him through the dunes. In return, he gave us two litres of oil.

The adventure was back on.

After the previous night's storm, the desert floor was a sodden slush. Stopping for a drink about and hour later we inspected the sump. The first few drops of oil appeared, followed by a more regular flow. An ominous sign.


Pushing on towards Nouakshott, we tried to gauge if our fuel would last. The last of our heavy duty gearbox oil had been used to top up the engine. It was decision time. Ahead lay larger dunes, behind lay ' Familiar ' territory. We decide to turn around and make for Nouadibou.

With a critical oil situation, keeping up momentum was imperative. And still the crashes came.. Andy led the scores 13-6 I spun the bike to the left , ripping my legs apart in the crash. Over the next dune a pannier was ripped from the frame.

Fifty miles from Nouadibou a military checkpoint loomed. The soldiers didn't believe our story of a failed desert crossing and no amount of dripping oil would hurry them along. The site of a VW Combi lying blown to pieces in the minefield , reminded us we couldn't ride around the bunker.

Once our entrance into Nouadibou had been logged, we spent a fortune on bribes trying to secure passage in a freight ship North to Las Palmas. In the Canary Isles, after no beer in over 2 months, we drank for 10 men whilst waiting for the bike to clear customs.

The Dakar race was on TV at the beach bar. With riders hitting 100mph plus on the desert piste. For a brief moment we thought of having parts flown over so we could head back to the sands. At that point, Andy crossed the bar for a Spanish lottery ticket, dreaming of a support crew, shower unit, beds, personal chefs, medics, satellite TV .... Dream On