Plymouth to Dakar in a Car Bought For £100 – Part 6 of 8 (Andrew)

In 2004 a friend and I tried to to drive from Plymouth to Dakar in a car bought for £100. In August 2022, Livejournal sent me an email to congratulate me on my 18 anniversary of starting a journal with them. When I checked the link I discovered they still had all my old online journal (not called a blog then!) entries. I thought it would be fun to publish them again.

7 November 2004 – Mr Smokey’s Orientation 101

So they drive Plymouth to Banjul via Dakar. 

It all sounds so easy. First they go to France then Spain then Morocco. They take a quick trip across the desert by passing through Mauritania before ending up with a short ride through the Gambia to reach Senegal.


Or at least that’s what they thought.

Turns out, these countries are slightly bigger than they anticipated. It turns out that some of the signposts (that’s if they’re lucky enough to actually see any signposts) might not even be in English. Worst of all under cross examination Mr Smokey had to concede that he didn’t actually know where Senegal was.

“Africa”, He said, “On the coast, I think”

So Team Bandit bought maps. Loads of maps. Road maps of Western Africa. Individual maps for each country. Such detailed and highly precise maps that even Mr Smokey must surely know where Team Bandit is going.

We were wrong.

“Africa” He said. “Down the coast, I think.”

Mr Bandit despairs, he really does…

8 November 2004 – Bandit Jones’ Diary

Sunday 7 November 2004

Number of finger nails with oil under them: 10
Number of minor injuries: 2
Number of new spark plugs on Beauty: 4
Number of swear words used: too [bleep]ing many
How absolutely useless are Halfords: very

A productive weekend for Team Bandit as we continued to prep Beauty for her holiday in the sun. The Bandit earned his mechanical stripes, putting to good use the brand new shiny red box of tools we bought last week. Beauty had a mini service: new spark plugs, engine oil and oil filter, replaced the leaky coolant hose, and probably most important of all put the Chrysler hood ornament (a five pointed star) up there at the front of the bonnet.

We also scored a major success on ebay (the auction website where we bought Beauty in the first place), procuring some all important sand waffles for a knock-down price, of which more later.

15 November 2022 – They’re Waffely Versatile!

Our sand waffles arrived safely at the end of last week, causing a great amount of excitement at the Bandit’s flat. Well, ok, truth be told only the Bandit was really excited – Karly, and Ian (the Bandit’s flatmate) were pretty non-plussed.

Right about now you’re probably wondering (with good reason) just what the heck sand waffles are. You’ve heard of belgian waffles, which are often eaten at breakfast time with whipped cream and a strawberry conserve. You might even have heard of potato waffles, which come from the freezer section and they go great with eggs, burgers, fish, fingers – fish fingers… you know the rest of the song.

Fortunately sand waffles are not a member of any of the food groups. For a start they’re too big to fit in your freezer, and would be too filling to eat for breakfast. 

Rather, they are made of glass reinforced plastic, are about a metre long, 30 centimetres wide and 5 centimetres deep. You place them under the wheels of the car when you get stuck in sand and can’t get out, and they form a little bridge to help you get out of the sand and get moving. The theory is that once you’ve got some momentum up you can keep going, and as long as you keep a bit of speed up you shouldn’t get stuck in the sand again. And a top tip from the Bandit’s brother – Andrew “Ray Mears Survival Expert” McGinty – tie the sand waffles to the back of the car with a long bit of rope so that you don’t have to stop to pick them up and get stuck in the sand again.

They’re pretty essential then when you consider that we’ll be spending days crossing a desert in a car which, quite frankly, can’t even cope with a daytrip to the beach.

They were another wonder of ebay hunting, and Gav won them, quite literally, by beating the other bidders in the auction by 70 pence with 4 seconds left to go. If that sort of luck stays with us, the trip should be a breeze!

14 December 2004They’re Flashy! They’re Bouncy! They’re Flashing Bouncy Balls!

Being popular is a difficult business. 

But if you have something to offer, something that people like about you, then soon you’ll be the coolest kid on the block. But what if you have nothing? What do you do then?

Team Smokey Bandit have no fears on this front, as thanks to Pinsent Masons the team go fully stocked with a box full of fluorescent coloured flashing bouncy balls! Roughly the size of a golf ball, when dropped these things bounce straight back up to you (Wow indeed!). But that’s not the real magic – the clincher is that the bouncing action sets off some crazy disco-party lights! 

Yes, it’s certain that we will be the most popular team when we start handing out the coolest christmas presents in town. Border guards will open gates, desert bandits will wave us through as, once Mr Smokey and Mr Bandit set all the lights going, they will become Africa’s first mobile discoteque!

15 December 2004 – Flu? No, they drove there by car…

In HG Well’s War of the Worlds the evil Martian invaders are defeated by none other than the common cold.

Though these Martian’s had heat rays and tripods and interplanetary crafts, “intelligences greater than man” and “mathematical learning… far in excess of ours” they didn’t have Strepsils or Soothers or lemon flavored lempsip.

Now, Mr Smokey has all these things (plus a bright red nose from two days of constant sniffling) and, he, unlike those lily livered Martians, isn’t going to let a last minute bout of the cold get in the way of preparations for the rally.

With a flight to London booked on Thursday night, Mr Smokey is confident that his umpteen injections for everything Africa can throw at him (surely they must be good for something as simple as the cold?!?) will show this cold what what and ensure Mr Smokey is fighting fit for Friday’s rally.

The common cold?!? The cold’s nothing! Why, in Africa they don’t know the meaning of the word “cold”…

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