Desert Travels was originally written in 1996 (paper edition: last few copies) and covered my first six Sahara trips, starting as a clueless 21-year-old with an on a Yamaha XT500. The book finishes about 7 years later, following a fractious ride from Algeria to Mauritania via Timbuktu with ‘Steve’, just before nomad rebellions swept the central Sahara in the early 1990s.
But most of Desert Travels describes my so-called ‘Sahara Motorcycle Tour‘ of ’88, when I managed to scrape together five guys to follow me (right) and a cantankerous Landrover support vehicle for a month through the Algerian Sahara. Like it says: five set off – only one came back riding.
The Golden Age of Sahara travel
Today, following nearly a decade of kidnappings, much increased trafficking, nomadic rebellions and not least the recent spread of weapons and disenfranchised fighters from Libya, independent tourism in the central Sahara has collapsed or is severely restricted. But it wasn’t always like that.
The 1980s were a Golden Age of desert tourism; post-colonial nations had yet to be beset by internal strife, while the popularity of the Dakar Rally, as well as the advent of desert-capable motorcycles and 4x4s saw adventure tourism flourish in the central Sahara. Most winters the overlanders’ campsite in Tamanrasset was packed with VWs, Land Rovers, Ladas, BMWs, XTs. Today, when I stay in Camping Dassine it’s like an empty stadium – only the old ‘airstream’ Transsaharienne bus (right) rests where it always did by the entrance gate. Desert Travels is set in that era so read the book or scan this website for a taste of the classic desert biking days.