The year started off strong! What a pleasant surprise when I had the opportunity to provide medical support for the Trek Dial Dakar, which took place from February 25 to March 11, 2023.

Especially considering that it was decided just a month before the departure. Barely enough time to realize and prepare, I found myself at the airport heading to Agadir!

I had never been anywhere in Africa other than Morocco, and I had never independently managed medical assistance for any event. I knew anything could happen, but I still hoped that my interventions would be limited to minor injuries and typical traumas in this sport.

However, the Trek is demanding with almost 600 km daily, especially considering the adverse weather conditions in the early days (and even before our arrival), which damaged the tracks and fatigued the riders right from the start.

I encountered the usual minor injuries, but not only that, because an adventure wouldn’t be one without its unforeseen challenges…

In the end, out of the 16 riders who started (15 motorcycles and 1 SSV), 5 had to withdraw for medical reasons, including 3 who had to be urgently repatriated.

Logbook

Stage 1 : Agadir – Assa

I arrived quite late the night before, so I finished preparing my medical kits in the morning.

I had the pleasure of meeting two riders who were at the Raid Passion Désert, somewhat reassured to see familiar faces…

We started the stage in the rain, and I was glad to be in a 4×4 for this occasion!

The riders had to cross a 15 km riverbed, challenging for the 4×4, but we had to venture there nonetheless to bring back Fred and his motorcycle.

We finished the stage at night with some riders due to overflowing riverbeds and joined the entire team for the first bivouac (monitored by the military).

Paul delighted our taste buds with swordfish bought at the Agadir market (a swordfish whose smell would accompany us in the 4×4 cooler throughout the journey…).

Stage 2 : Assa – Smara

The tracks led us across a vast plain before entering a series of small djebels (mountain ranges) through more winding paths.

In the afternoon, we reached Western Sahara, where the main vehicles encountered on the road were trucks loaded with fuel containers heading back towards Morocco.

I went shopping with Paul for the next day’s bivouac while everyone was busy around the motorcycles for their daily check-up. Tomatoes, minced meat, bread, onions, carrots, bananas… enough to make your mouth water!

The inn “forgot” to arrange dinner for the evening, so we ventured into the bustling streets nearby in search of grilled food.

We had a great evening!

Stage 3 : Smara – Dahkla

Everything went well. The tracks were quite navigable.

We spent the night at the bivouac, surrounded by acacias growing horizontally due to the wind. We had to be careful where we pitched our tents… the thorns wouldn’t take long to pierce through the fabric. We enjoyed a good meal that Paul prepared for us with the ingredients purchased the day before in Smara.

We were accompanied by a magnificent sunset to end the day on a gentle note.

The military kept an eye on the bivouac from a distance for the night.

Stage 4 : Dahkla – Nouadhibou

Soon after the start of the stage, we broke the front right spring of the 4×4, which forced us to drive slowly to reach the end of the track without worsening the situation.

Never underestimate an unusual noise…

We had hope of finding a spring just before crossing the Mauritanian border, but they were not the right dimensions.

Still, we managed to arrive just in time to cross the border. The mission… it took hours!

The surroundings of the track between the last Moroccan border post and the Mauritanian checkpoint are mined. The visa for Mauritania is obtained on-site. The photo is only required for the first visa application. Luckily, because it takes time…

I discovered the state of Mauritanian roads… A stark contrast to those in Morocco.

Unfortunately, Denis will have to get up at dawn the next day to make a round trip to Nouakchott and find the spare shock absorber.

Stage 5 : Nouadhibou - Akjoujt

For the first stage in Mauritania, Christian took the wheel of the 4×4, with Denis on a quest for a spring in Nouakchott.

At the beginning of the stage, we encountered the longest freight train in the world.

Then, we headed towards the Banc d’Arguin National Park for the pilots’ first fuel stop.

We followed the sea for the first time and narrowly avoided getting stuck on a beach in the middle of nowhere.

It was disheartening to see the state of the coastline, littered with stranded plastics…

One of the pilots was evacuated to Nouakchott for an X-ray and would eventually return to France.

We traversed a beautiful sandy track winding between small dunes. The light of the setting sun created a particularly pleasant atmosphere.

Denis and I spent our days glued to our phones, tracking the pilots using the signals emitted by the Owaka beacons. However, on the tracks, when we strayed too far from the relay antennas, we lost internet connection.

That’s when we saw the Owaka alerts triggered by Julien, Patrick, and Fred.

It was Fred who had a major fall. We ended up loading his motorcycle onto the back of the 4×4 and continued to join the rest of the team.

We arrived at night, too late for the bivouac. Fortunately, James found an inn that could accommodate all of us.

We released the day’s tension over a good meal prepared by Paul.

Philippe landed on the same day and joined us on-site to catch up with the raid. He was immediately in the thick of it!

Stage 6 : Akjoujt – Chinguetti

It was the stage of the “White Dunes of Amatlich.” What splendor! We traveled alongside magnificent tall dunes on our right, an oasis on our left… a few palm trees had lost their way in the midst of the sand… A bit further, we could see some dazzlingly white dunes… it was beautiful!

We got stuck once… it was the first time we had to take so much time to deflate the tires… 50 seconds! It worked incredibly well again, and Denis got the 4×4 out on the first try.

The track weaved through the sand, then ascended to a very rocky plateau, descending later through the Tifoujar pass, reaching some villages and finally the refueling point at the entrance of Atar.

We treated ourselves to a lunch break with chicken and fries and hit the road again for Chinguetti, ending with long stretches of corrugated iron…

The inn that welcomed us was really nice and even had showers! Hooray!

A magnificent stage, the most beautiful in my opinion…

Stage 7 : Chinguetti – Chinguetti

It was supposed to be a short stage… A small loop starting with 120 km of corrugated iron, followed by the crossing of the dunes.

As we tackled the first dunes, I thought to myself that the terrain was really hard to discern, to the extent that before each descent, I feared being caught off guard by the slope… it was genuinely challenging to anticipate.

And it happened!

As we reached the third dune to cross, we saw Patrick at the top who seemed to be waiting for us. We quickly understood what was happening upon reaching him and glimpsing what was unfolding behind the dune… 2 riders were on the ground, accompanied by 3 others who had witnessed the accident.

Later, I learned that a third rider also fell at the end of the dune cord and had to be evacuated.

I attended to the injured (with the invaluable help of everyone on-site), and Denis took care of contacting their insurance to organize their repatriation.

Once the riders were stabilized, we were able to head towards the village, even though the evacuation conditions were complicated and very uncomfortable for the riders.

We all finally gathered at the Ouadane dispensary, where I found assistance from the local doctor and nurses.

In an improbable turn of events, there was an American hospital in Ouadane, which, although closed that day, allowed us to do the X-rays. They also had an ambulance, and it was only thanks to Momo, our “guardian angel” from the village, that we could use it.

The return journey in the ambulance to Chinguetti Hospital was very long (we’re talking about 120 km of corrugated iron). Fortunately, Momo was with us, helping us keep our spirits up.

We finally arrived at Chinguetti Hospital around midnight, all exhausted from this long and challenging day.

Stage 8 : Chinguetti – Tidjikdja

Still shaken by the events of the previous day, we decided to focus solely on the road that day. We stopped by the hospital to check on the riders before setting out, but we had to continue the journey.

The two riders were not evacuated at the same time, and it was quite a lengthy process for one of them!

For the Paris-Dakar of the African era, a landing strip had been created on the road to Chinguetti (we followed it when we arrived). I hoped it would be operational, and we could use it for the evacuation… but it was wishful thinking.

The road was beautiful, with sand tongues sometimes encroaching on the asphalt, but interrupted in places, forcing us to detour through sandy sides.

This stage did us all a world of good.

Etape 9 : Tidjikdja – Kamor

This was the stage of the famous Nega Pass…

In the morning, Denis noticed a smell of glycol in the 4×4… He lifted the hood, but there was no obvious problem… we continued…

Never take an unusual smell lightly…

Initially, the track crossed a long plateau and was marked with paint strokes, hinting at possible future construction work… a new road in the making?

We eventually reached the pass that led us down into this beautiful sandy valley, bordered by an immense circus of dunes below.

We had a little scare, thinking there was a clutch issue, which turned out not to be the case…

When we arrived at the refueling point, we learned that a rider was missing.

It took us hours to find him, between the time to get the GPS coordinates of his motorcycle, the back-and-forths to locate him, and the moment we saw him come out of the village house. He had been warmly welcomed by the villagers who offered him donkey milk and food.

When we were about to leave, we realized that the 4×4 was overheating. The radiator was punctured… hence the smell of glycol in the morning… We filled up with water in the village before leaving, and we stopped again further ahead in a village to stock up.

We lost a lot of time, night eventually fell, and the right headlight stopped working… we ended up using a flashlight.

To top it all off, a few kilometers before reaching the bivouac, we had a flat tire… The whole shebang!

To finish, upon arriving at the bivouac, we learned that there was no internet in the entire country because 4 terrorists had escaped from the prison in Nouakchott, killing 3 guards…

An epic day but thankfully without any injuries!

It ended very well with a good meal once again and a night under the stars!

Stage 10 : Kamor - Aleg

The day unfolded without a hitch, despite a section where navigation was complicated by more or less deep ravines that formed a real maze. The landscapes were truly beautiful once again.

We set up the bivouac right in the middle of the savannah. The internet network was still cut off (and would remain so until the end of our stay in Mauritania).

Stage 11 : Aleg – Saint-Louis

The crossing of the Senegalese border was scheduled for the evening.

To reach there, we crossed a long dike that traverses the Diawling Reserve. I saw warthogs for the first time in my life.

Everything went smoothly despite the scorching heat.

The contrast between Mauritania and Senegal is striking.

Mauritania offers beautiful landscapes, but the atmosphere in the cities and villages is somewhat austere. I will remember the city of Kiffa in particular…

Upon arriving in Saint Louis, the atmosphere was completely different: neon lights, bustling shops, lively bars, women adorned in beautiful colorful dresses, groups of young people…

What a joy it was to arrive at the hotel, by the beach, take a hot shower, sip a good “Gazelle,” and feel a mix of excitement, relief, and already a hint of nostalgia thinking about the impending departure.

Stage 12 : Saint – Louis – Lac Rose/Dakar

We concluded the adventure with a small stage by the beach; it was beautiful but, admittedly, a bit monotonous over time. We passed through fishing villages, sometimes witnessing gatherings signaling the arrival of well-loaded fishing boats.

The only SSV (buggy) in the adventure broke down; it hadn’t been running since the previous day. Its driver had started the stage as a passenger on his brother’s motorcycle, but it quickly became complicated.

Just as we were wondering about his whereabouts, we saw him waving frantically at the edge of the track. We picked him up in the 4×4, not without playing a little prank on him beforehand (you should have seen his face when we pretended not to see him as we drove past!).

At Lac Rose (which was no longer pink at all), we made a mandatory detour to the monument in memory of Thierry Sabine, the founder of the Paris-Dakar Rally.

The hotel was excellent, even though it housed a multitude of mosquitoes. We let off steam; it was finally over.

Summary

It was quite an adventure, and if I could start again tomorrow, I would.

Once again, I learned a tremendous amount and took away many lessons.

On the medical front, it wasn’t easy, especially for a first time solo and in such conditions. I am pleased with the outcome given the available resources, but perfection is elusive, and I now know what I would do differently next time.

It serves as a reminder of how dangerous this sport is, especially in such a hostile environment, complicating care when needed.

I would have been unable to do it on a motorcycle, but I envy the riders who rolled through such landscapes. I understand why they take these risks!

I also loved being able to contribute to the team at my level, whether it was with Denis, with whom I shared all those hours in the 4×4, or with Christian, Paul, Jean-Yves, and Chibani, whom we met at refueling points or in the evening at the bivouac.

I also realized the amount of work required to prepare for such a journey and handle all the daily surprises. Especially on this beautiful African continent, where the climate, terrain, and clash of cultures bring about surprises of all kinds, from the most pleasant to the most perplexing.