Sahara kite buggies finished their journey through landmines and in rain

Posted: Sep 08, 2009 03:29 pm EDT

(ThePoles.com) Geoff Wilson, Garth Freeman, Steve Gurney and Craig Hansen finished their kite-buggy expedition across the Sahara from Morocco to Senegal.

During the last days the seasons changed and the team was hammered with heavy rain, which caused them to stop short of their target, Dakar.

Landmines

The UN warned the team about the likelihood of landmines in Western Sahara and advised them to stay on the beach or on the roads. At night they made camp just to the side of the road on tyre tracks that ensured they did not sleep on mines.

Western Sahara is full of mines and they reported that 11 people have had mine related injuries this year so far.

Out of Buggy Experiences

They guys had many, what they called OBEs (not spiritual OBEs, but Out of Buggy Experiences). Steve Gurney experienced the worst one.

He had a major fall when he was air lifted at least 10 feet and slammed into a lava rock. The side of his body and head taking the impact. Despite wearing a helmet his sunglasses where embedded into his left eyebrow and one of his teammates had to cut them away.

Steve was taken to a nearby Western Sahara hospital where he stayed overnight. He explained his injuries, I had some concussion, there was still blood trickling down my throat and my right ear-drum had burst. Id torn ligaments around my scapula (shoulder).

I was mightily impressed that this Western Sahara hospital was empty! It was pretty run-down, but the staff were fantastic, cordial and welcoming. Steve was temporary not kiting.

Body armour

Steve said he was lucky to have survived that crash and his life was definitely saved by his full face helmet and Thor body armour.

It dawned on me just how naĂŻve I had been with assessing the danger of buggying. It only takes a nano-second lapse in concentration to let a kite drift from safety into the power zone and imminent danger.

Craig and I chose Thor Impact Rig SE for Body Armour. Its been most excellent, has certainly saved me damage to joints, in my back, shoulders, and elbows.

Mauritanian Sahara

When the team entered Mauritania they reported that there would be no water for 455 km, sand dunes for 300 km and only poles in the sand to guide them. With wind its feasible, with no wind impossible, they added.

In Mauritania they crossed the railway line to Choum, which marks the end of the landmines they said and some relief for the entire expedition. Later on though they experienced landmine areas again.

They entered the Banc De Arguin region. This is world heritage listed desert and is pristine and well cared for unlike so much of the Sahara that is used as a tipping ground for plastic, they reported, and experienced it as a buggying heaven.

Into Senegal

When the team entered Senegal the weather turned against them and the seasonal rain started.

They reported, We were in the middle of a desert saltpan when we were hit by a major thunder and rain storm, bogged in mud, threatened with hypothermia and then dehydration. The seasons had changed, the southerlies had begun, and so had the rains.

Then the wind died and rain hammered them for the next 4 days. We covered less than 100 km in these days and on the 30th of August called it a day as we had run out of time - roughly 2160 km (without independent verification of GPS track).

According to the team this is the first time the Sahara [Ed note: from Morocco to Senegal] has been crossed by wind power and also the longest kite buggy journey.

Co-ordinates

Start: 28° 59.26N, 10° 33.56W
End: 15° 39.60N, 16° 35.71W
Distance and records to be verified independently by Titley Electronic by analysis of their tracking chips x 4, stated Geoff Wilson.

On 4 August 2009 the Mad Way South Sahara Desert Kite Buggy Expedition with two Australians, Geoff Wilson and Garth Freeman, and two New Zealanders, Steve Gurney and Craig Hansen, started a kite buggying journey from Morocco across Western Sahara to Senegal.

The expedition finished on 30 August, 150 km short of their target Dakar in Senegal. According to the team they travelled approximately 2160 km in 26 days. They were assisted by a support team in four-wheel vehicles and kite-supported.

Partial biographies courtesy of the expedition website:

Geoff Wilson - Team Leader, Buggy Pilot
One of the four buggy pilots, an African born Aussie, veterinarian/adventurer obsessed with all things wind driven. Geoff undertook a 25,000km sea voyage over 367 days and traversed the Egyptian Sahara by bicycle.

Craig Hansen - Design/equipment. Buggy pilot
Craig is a recycled Zimbabwean now Kiwi. He is also the co-owner of Peter Lynn Kites based in New Zealand. Craig and Peter Lynn have developed the Big Foot buggy and its Saharan adaptations for the Mad Way South. He has been flying kites since he was 10 years of age.

Steve Gurney - Motivator/team driver. Buggy pilot
Kiwi born and bred, has a mechanical engineering degree, is a published author, a NLP Master Practitioner and ex-professional Adventure Racing athlete.

Garth Freeman - Navigation/Router. Buggy pilot
Aussie born and bred Garth is the youngest member of the team. Garth is a professional kite instructor and flew his first kite at the age of 12.

Support crew:
Guy Lankester - Guide, Security and Advisor
Chair - local Mauritanian guide
Eric Pearson - Leader Support Crew
Alan Wilson - Communications/Book keeping
Nigel Milnes - Quarter Master/Camp Cook/Logisitics
Lance Martin - Driver 2nd Vehicle/Sand Board Crash Test Dummy
Derek Wilson - Water Procurement/Morale Officer
Lincoln Williams - Producer/Cameraman l
Matt Hooker - Cameraman ll/Stills Photographer
Hugo Fitzsimmons Cameraman lll

#Trek #feature




Following the coast line due to bad inland conditions (click to enlarge)
The buggy kiting team, Geoff Wilson, Garth Freeman, Steve Gurney and Craig Hansen, celebrating as they crossed the 1000 km point. Images courtesy of www.madwaysouth.com (click to enlarge)