The Plymouth-Banjul rally is a fund raising car journey from England to the Gambia.  Cars are purchased for around a £100 and then thrashed through France, Spain, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Senegal and finally the Gambia.  The cars are then auctioned on arrival for local charities.

This is our story of the 2006 / 07 rally for team NomadRush.

Map showing the route

June 2006 - The Car
We have a car finally! After chasing left hookers on eBay like the other rally entrants we had a lead (thanks Ros) on a 1991 Suzuki Vitara in Bexhill, Kent.

Photo of Alex and Nick with the VitaraAlex made the call and discovered that this chap Nick had been using it to mess about on the beach. Great we know it has been on sand!! So we trekked down there in June to check her out. She actually looked like she had completed the rally, but for a few hundred quid she will be perfect. Apart from fuel tank leak and general maintenance she should be perfect. Hopefully!!!

8 July 2006 - We attended the launch party down in Devon. The Vitara - now nick-named 'Wilfred' (after the great African explorer Wilfred Thesiger), had a good run down to Devon and back, all still intact and working!! At the launch party we met lots of other crazy petrol heads who will be attempting the challenge. Thanks to the dis-organiser Julian (right) and all who attended a great weekend.

19 July 2006 - Maldon Standard
A GREASE monkey and a seasoned traveller are joining forces to tackle a rugged road ralley across Europe and West Africa in aid of three charities... click here to view the whole Maldon Standard article.

20 July 2006 - Evening Echo Basildon
A BASILDON dustcart driver and his brother-in-law are preparing to tackle one of the toughest car rallies in the world... click here to view the whole Evening Echo article

28 July 2006 - Essex Chronicle, Maldon edition
Alex in 3,700-mile charity adventure.  A HEYBRIDGE dustman is hoping a dented banger will make it across Europe and Western Africa in a mammoth adventure for charity... click here to view the whole Essex Chronicle article.  

Simon pulling the car down Maldon High Street5 August 2006 - Team Nomad Rush took part in the Maldon Carnival. We joined the procession down the high street (see photo) and the stall and tombola were a great success. A lot of interest was shown in the challenge and the fundraising efforts.

22 September 2006 - Simon talked to BBC Essex, promoting the challenge and the charities that we're raising money for. Click here to listen. This is a large audio file (2.31MB) so may take a while to download. Apologies for Henry dog barking in the background!

26 September 2006 - Quiz night
The pub quiz was held at The Swan, Little Totham.

£142 was raised on the night. There were approx. 65 participants in 13 teams participating in 10 fun-packed rounds. The scoring was awarded in miles, with the maximum score being the 4000mile objective of reaching Banjul!

  • In the first place came Spurts! With 3080m - who managed to reach Mauritania, still 1000 miles short of Banjul
  • In 2nd place were Scumbag College who made 2910m,
  • and 3rd place Markem at 2850m, both floundering in the sands in Western Sahara.

The team in last place made 2040m so even they made it to Morocco - but let’s hope NoMad Rush can beat that!

21 October 2006
Wilfred gets 5 new all terrain tyres with many thanks to the guys at Universal Tyres in Tilbury for donating Wilfred's new boots.

Brand new tyre cover for Wilfred the Vitara28 November 2006
In addition to the new tyres, Keith Martin Upholstery has made us a fantastic back tyre cover, which Kath Joslin has now decorated (see picture)!

6 December 2006 - Basildon bulletin
As a refuse truck driver, he can normally be cruising the district's streets at 5mph ... click here to view the whole Basildon Bulletin article.

6 December 2006 - Community News, Maldon and Heybridge edition
It's about 4 weeks until Heybridge man Alex Joslin, 34 and his friend Simon Salter, also 34, from Boreham leave Essex and their families behind, for the biggest and most daunting adverture of their lives... click here to view the whole Community News article.  

12 December Quiz night
Following another successful NoMad Rush quiz night at the Swan, Little Totham we raised another £84 in quiz entrance fees, with a considerable amount also raised through sale of raffle tickets for a luxury hamper put together by Gavin and Beccy at the Swan.

We had 7 teams competing in 8 question rounds and a picture round with the winning team, the Fish Street Kids scoring 103 points out of a possible 120 .  In 2nd Place came Norfolk and Chance with 88 points and 3rd came No Hope with 85 points.

Our thanks go again to Gavin and Beccy, John and Val at the Swan for hosting the event and for putting together the fabulous luxury hamper to raffle.  Tickets are still on sale at the Swan and the raffle will be drawn on 20th December at the Swan in Little Totham.

The Journey

Click on photos to view larger version (use back button to return here!).

28 December 2006
Alex and Wilfred at DoverThe guys left just before 7am. Crossed from Dover to Boulogne and started the long drive down to Clermont Ferrand, only to discover that Wilfred (the Vitara) shook violently over 55mph once fully loaded. They decided to stay below 55mph. Reaching their accommodation later than expected they found they had been locked out of the hotel - they did eventually get in and had to share a double bed. They say it’s very cold in France.

29 December 2006
Driving through France, over the Millau bridge in the Massif Central mountains (which is more than 300m high, taller than the Eiffel Tower). Last news I heard was that they were trying to cover as much distance as they could today and will be in Spain at least as far as Barcelona, but hopefully Valencia by nightfall.

30 December 2006
The guys continued driving all night and arrived in Tarifa at 10am this morning after 26 hours on the road. They covered 1000 miles since leaving Clermont Ferrand yesterday morning. After some very cold driving through the night they were pleased to find a warmer climate here! They were the first team to arrive in Tarifa so got their room in the hotel! Now some of the other teams are gradually arriving. They'll get some rest days in Tarifa until they leave for Morocco on the 2nd January.

Group at Rock of Gibraltar1 January 2007
Rest day and a visit to Gibraltar with team 'keep the meter running' that are doing the challenge in a black cab. Had fun and saw the wild monkeys! Resting for a long day tomorrow.

2 January 2007
Early start for the ferry journey over to Morocco. After a bit of customs confusion on the ferry, they were able to set off into Morocco. They reached Meknes and camped there the night. Apparently an Austrian film crew are there filming some of the rally participants, so the guys should be included in the footage.

3 January 2007
Whilst they had hoped to reach the small town of Imilchil, in the Atlas mountains, they found that the roads were too bad to go that way and after a lot of driving around the Atlas Mountains ended up at Beni Mellal (about 200km from Marrakesh). Whilst the roads are bad, they reported Wilfred is doing well! Tomorrow on to Marrakesh!

Cars and Atlas mountainsTaxiAtlas mountains

Marrakesh4 January 2007
Now in Marrakesh (although a day late because of the attempt to reach Imilchil yesterday). They are booked into a good hotel with some of the other teams and chilling out before heading off to the main square for the evenings entertainment.
The main Marrakesh square called Djemma el-Fna comes to life at night with dozens of food stalls, dancers, musicians, snake charmers, story tellers etc they should have fun!

5 January 2007
They are now in Agadir, with a few of the other teams resting before the journey into Western Sahara tomorrow. They had an easy drive from Marrakesh today.

6 January 2007
Today’s drive took them out of the relative comfort of Morocco and into the disputed territories of Western Sahara. They drove for 9½ hours and reached Laayoune. Laayoune is the largest city of the territories and home to about a third of the population. Located to the north of Western Sahara, it is surrounded by desert and sand dunes - the guys narrowly missed a herd of camels on their way there! There are now 7 cars in their convoy.

Wilfred in Western SaharaSunsetAlex and statues

7 January 2007
Reached Dakhla where they camped in a very hard, gravelly camp site, so were pleased of their camp beds that lifted them off the hard ground.

8 January 2007
Our teamThe guys and 4 other teams stopped in a half built hotel at the road side. I think the others in their convoy are Ice cold in Banjul , Desert Scousers , Keep the meter running , and another team in a BMW.

This is on the road that leads to the border with Mauritania (so really in the middle of nowhere), but they wouldn't have so far to go to reach the border the next day - as they were told it was a long drive. They didn't fancy the hotel menu, so were cooking their army rations when I spoke to them. Alex was in the middle of cooking the desert for Si.

9 January 2007Alex posing with Wilfred
Today they should cross the border into Mauritania and drive the famous road which has land mines either side.

I have now been assured that the mined areas to the sides have now been fenced off, so not as precarious as it had appeared in the DVD we watched of the first Plymouth - Banjul run, where they simply had to follow the tyre tracks left in the sand by the previous car and hope that the wind didn't blow the sand over these! The DVD had also shown half blown up cars either side as a result of what happens when someone ventured too much to one side.

They rang later from Nouadhibou where they arrived safe and well. The most eventful thing that happened on the mined stretch of road was the Fiesta (driven by Ice cold in Banjul) getting stuck in the sand. Wilfred had no problems!

10 January 2007
No phone signal from now for a few days, however I shall let you know where they are supposed to be for each day - let’s hope all goes to plan!

Today they drive off road into the Sahara, in groups of 4 or 5 cars and each accompanied by a local guide. This is rougher terrain for some of the cars to handle and many get stuck in the sand and need digging, pulling / pushing out. Hopefully Wilfred will be ok! They'll camp in the desert over night and then head back towards the coast tomorrow.

Our guide HabbaWilfred in the desertGary ready for action!

11 January 2007
Today after a desert camp, they should be driving back towards Mauritania's coast (coming out of the National Park at Nouâmghar) and then driving along the beach before setting up camp once again.

On the beachOn the beach roadOn the beach road

11 January 2007 - Essex Chronicle
Two Heybridge adventurers are halfway through the challenge of a lifetime click here to view the whole Essex Chronicle article.

12 January 2007
Back in signal range about 4 o'clock for Alex's phone only. They have had a good few days in Mauritania, spent pulling the other cars out of the sand. Wilfred was the only car that didn't get stuck in the sand by the sounds of it and they spent the time helping out the others. They had fun driving down the beach road! Camped on a hotel roof at Nouakchott - they'll have to explain quite how this worked?? But they did get to use the hotel facilities and had a well needed shower after the days in the desert.

Wilfred driving through a villageEarlier - still out of signal range. They should have camped last night by the beach and set off early on the beach road this morning. The beach road actually isn't a road and just involves driving along the beach and hoping not to get cut off by the tide coming in.
They would have needed to have left early this morning to make the journey - so with the Atlantic Ocean one side and high sand dunes the other, it’s imperative they get through this stretch in good time before the high tide comes in!


13 January 2007
Disaster struck for team Ice cold in Banjul, on the road leading towards the Mauritania / Senegal border. It sounds like they went down a very large rut in the road and smashed up the front of the car. The steering shaft went and there was lots of damage to the engine. So they had to ditch the Fiesta as it wasn't drivable or repairable.

Thankfully the guys were ok but very shook up. They are now passengers in the black cab, with their gear in with Si and Alex.
So, they carried on and reached the border. They managed the border crossing into Senegal in just 3 hours. This sounds like a lot but apparently that's quick and they were expecting much longer. Si plus Dom (from team Keep the meter running) managed to negotiate their way through in this record time.

They phoned to let us know the progress and events of the day once they had reached the Zebrabar.

14 January 2007
Rest day at the Zebrabar campsite near Saint Louis. They say it’s really beautiful there and they are relaxing a bit before carrying on to Gambia tomorrow. They were just going to go off on a boat trip to see the sights.

15 January 2007
Children in SenegalWell they were going to carry on to Gambia today, but they were enjoying themselves so much at the Zebrabar that they decided to stay another day. They really will travel on to Gambia tomorrow (or so they say!)...

16 January 2007
Journey through Senegal with customs escort. As so many cars had congregated at the Zebrabar, the convoy to cross Senegal became fairly large (in the region of 30 cars) which meant lots of waiting for people to catch up. Also the guide did a fair bit of stopping and asking for directions as well by the sounds of it. Instils confidence doesn't it! They ending up getting to the border very late and only managed about 4 hours sleep in a compound there.

17 January 2007
Simon celebrating the football winThey made it! After very little sleep they continued the journey this morning, over the ferry crossing and to Banjul! This was followed by a parade through the town with all the vehicles, and a football match (of which Si scored the first goal!). They can now look forward to a couple of days rest and celebration!

Wilfred will be auctioned on Sunday 28th January and we will let you know how much money Wilfred has raised for the Gambian charities.

Auction update
We finally found out how much Wilfred went for in the local auction to raise money for the Gambian charities. Wilfred raised a fantastic £1,847.82.

That now brings the grand total raised by NomadRush for all the charities in the Gambia and back home to £6273.84

MacMillan Cancer Support £2,349.76
The MS Society £2,076.26
The Gambian charities £1,847.82

Well done Si and Alex for getting the car all the way from Essex to Banjul and all the money you have raised for charity along the way!


As well as helping us by donating money through the Justgiving website, the people listed below have contributed with the Plymouth-Banjul Rally in 2006/07 and we thank you for your support:

  • Swan Public House, Lt Totham -
  • Universal Tyres in Tilbury
  • Sara-Jade Piper and her colleagues and managers at Waterstones
  • Maldon Accessory Centre
  • Billericay Round Table -
  • Foremost Insurance Services,
  • Keith Martin Upholstery
  • The people from Basildon District Council
  • Read and Simpson, the Jeweller
  • Nick in Bexhill
  • Adrian Tribe - for providing us with the web space for this site.
  • Ernest Doe
  • Lockwell -Industial Electrial Distributors -
  • P & S Pets and Aquatics

With acknowledgement to The Alpine Room Danbury, The Pharmacy at Bentalls, Heybridge also Upstairs Downstairs, Edwards Walk, Maldon and Mr Bunting the butcher.
We've also received generous donations towards the charities and the challenge from the following:
Legal and General, Zurich, Artemis, Clerical Medical, Peter Jackson and colleagues at AWD Chase de Vere, Saunderson Plant Hire


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