Tuesday 14 May 2013


Stuck in the Mud - Africa Twin RD04 - Morocco Sahara, December 2008
This is more problematic than you might think...

I had been warned that the track ahead was muddy and that I might have difficulty getting through, but I didn't really believe you could get mud in the Sahara and in Ireland we've got nothing but mud so I didn't see what the fuss was about.

Anyway, a couple of kilometers down the track I discovered that the piste had been completely washed away - a flash flood had just cut a swathe right through it, maybe 200 meters across with lots of smaller tributaries criss-crossing back and forth.

So I cast about a bit following some Land Rover tracks to see if I could find a way across but everywhere seemed to end in a sandy cliff about 3 meters high, with very obviously impassable wet mud and standing water at the bottom. It soon became apparent that there was no way over and that I'd have to retrace my steps.

However I didn't retrace my steps exactly. I re-crossed a tributary in a different place, breaking through the crust and sinking the bike up to its belly-pan. The crust wouldn't support my weight either and I sank up to my calves. The mud had the consistency of toothpaste, more clay really, oozing through the spokes of the wheels and down over the tops of my boots and my initial attempts to extract the bike only served to mire us both even further.

So I made my way to the far bank, took off my helmet and jacket, drank some water, lit a cigarette and had a think...

I was about 15 clicks from Merzouga which was on the far side of the river and it was a couple of clicks walk back to the last settlement. I had water and food and a little less than three hours daylight left so I wasn't really in any danger - worst case scenario was to walk back to the settlement and arrange for a rescue party.

But before doing that I was inclined to try and extract the thing myself. I figured that I could lay the bike down on its side and by dragging one end, then the other, I could sort of 'walk' it out - this was an approach that had worked for me on a number of occasions before.

So I took off my tee-shirt, drank some more water and got stuck in. Very stuck in. I removed all the luggage and lay the bike down but it broke through the crust, the handlebars, foot peg and luggage rack sinking into the clay and acting like anchors so that when I tried to pull the back end around, all I succeeded in doing was breaking up more of the crust and sinking myself into the mud!

I tried filling in the holes where the wheels had been with bits of crust, but lifting the bike upright again proved nearly impossible and when I eventually did get it partially upright, it just sank the wheels back in again...

It was time for another cigarette and another think...

In order to do anything useful, I needed to keep the handlebars, foot-peg and rack clear of the clay to stop them making like anchors. So I got the two dry-bags that made up my luggage and placed them (with some difficulty) under the side of the bike - one near the front, one near the back. This worked reasonably well. The dry-bags flattened out and sank into the mud a little but at least the spiky bits were somewhat clear of the cloying mud and the wheels were now slightly below the centre of gravity.

It was obvious from my previous attempt that I couldn't lift the bike. In an effort to reduce the weight I removed everything that could be easily removed, then took out the tools and unbolted the seat, tank and fairing.

Stuck in the Mud - Africa Twin RD04 - Morocco Sahara, December 2008
Anything that can be removed to save weight, has. Dry-bags help spread the weight and help stop the bike from sinking.

Next, I needed to address the problem of the wheels sinking again. I filled in the holes under the wheels again, then spent about 15 minutes crawling over the surface of the oued collecting bits of dry crust and throwing them more or less where I wanted to lift the bike, to provide a dryer surface and to spread the load. Finally, I spread out my rollmat under the wheels, before sitting down on the bank again, drinking some water and gathering my strength.

Stuck in the Mud - Africa Twin RD04 - Morocco Sahara, December 2008
Dry-bags under LHS provide some flotation. Roll-mat will help spread the weight under the wheels.

Normally, lifting an Africa Twin off the floor is straightforward, but requires a combination of strength and technique - lift it by the bars and jam a knee under the tank at the earliest opportunity. However, in this situation the technique couldn’t really be applied because as the bike got higher, my knees were sinking lower so it was just down to strength! By the time I got the thing upright, my shoulders were level with the bars.

So far so good - it was upright and the rollmat only allowed it to sink about 4 inches. I was able to hold it upright while I extricated myself from the mud but I was pretty sure that I couldn't use the side-stand, which meant I couldn't let the bike go! Not sure exactly what was going to happen next, I turned on the ignition and pressed the starter.* 

To my relief, the motor chuffed into life on the fuel left in the carbs. I engaged first gear by hand, and effortlessly drove the bike out and up the far riverbank...

Stuck in the Mud - Africa Twin RD04 - Morocco Sahara, December 2008
Free at last! I can't adequately describe this sense of satisfaction.

Stuck in the Mud - Africa Twin RD04 - Morocco Sahara, December 2008
Ready to put everything back together.

Stuck in the Mud - Africa Twin RD04 - Morocco Sahara, December 2008
The whole process took about two hours. It was getting dark. I still hadn't crossed the river...

*I routinely disable all the interlocks that prevent my bikes from starting in gear. Very occasionally you may need to use the starter motor to move a vehicle. In this case, if the engine hadn't started I could have driven up the bank using the starter motor.

To read more about the rest of the trip, click the link - https://www.mercenary.ie/2013/07/sahara-christmas-08-part-1.html

#AfricaTwin #Morocco #Sahara #Stuck #HondaXRV750 #RD04 #XRV750 #AdventureBike #Mercenary #MercenaryMotorcycles #MercenaryMotorcycleWorkshop #MercenaryGarage

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