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ADV NewsDream Adventure: Recreating The Tracks Of The Original Paris-Dakar

Dream Adventure: Recreating The Tracks Of The Original Paris-Dakar

A month-long expedition riding the tracks of the iconic 1980s Paris-Dakar Rally.

Published on 06.08.2023

As riders, most of us are familiar with the original Paris-Dakar nostalgia. The Cagiva Elephants, the ferocious Neveu-Aurioli duels, the original Rally Dakar route to Senegal, and spectacular feats of endurance and determination still dominate the imagination of many.

But what would it take for an everyday adventure rider to recreate it?


Pawel Halastra was determined to find out. An IT specialist from Poland, Pawel and his three friends Kuba, Piter, and Tom embarked on a mission to recreate the original Paris-Dakar tracks and ride them at a pace similar to rally carrying nothing but bare essentials and camping along the way. The two week long off-road journey took the riders from Spain across Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, and Senegal as they battled extreme heat and brutal riding conditions while taking in awe-inspiring views and living their own Dakar experience aboard KTM 690 and Husqvarna 701 Enduro motorcycles.


“For me, the original Paris-Dakar rally, especially editions from the 80s and 90s, is total magic, and I have been enchanted by it since I was a little boy. I remember my fascination with the exotic nature of the Sahara and the amazing stunts of the motorcyclists. As an avid off-road rider, I wanted to see if my friends and I could recreate our own private Dakar,” Pawel shares.


The Route: Mapping The Original Paris-Dakar

The idea was born, the date was set, and the four friends set about making it a reality. The planning stage alone took three months.

Although finding original tracks proved challenging, satellite imagery, old Eurosport video footage, and fan pages offered valuable insights. Careful examination of the terrain and references from the past allowed them to identify characteristic landmarks and hidden trails. Combining information from friends, various websites, and platforms like Wikiloc, the team meticulously prepared the track.

“After almost 6,000 km we reached our destination and still had time to continue and only turned back when we reached the end of Senegal near Guinea border,” says Pawell. The whole journey would take a month.

“Planning the route was an interesting experience – it is very difficult to find original Paris-Dakar tracks from that period, but satellite view was very helpful. Looking at the video reports from the area, you can spot characteristic terrain points such as the dry waterfalls north of Merzouga, the dunes in Merzouga, or the train route in Mauritania. The entire Western Sahara section can be spotted by scrolling through satellite views carefully. Many of these tracks have been discussed on fan pages; finally, there are some legendary places like the beach leading to Lac Rose that weren’t hard to find. In the end, though, I think everyone has their own Dakar,” Pawel shares.

Bikes and Gear


For the remarkable journey to Senegal, Pawel and his friends opted for KTM’s LC4, specifically the KTM 690 Enduro and Husqvarna 701 Enduro motorcycles. These bikes were extensively modified with rally kits to withstand the challenging conditions that lay ahead.

The rally-inspired modifications transformed the motorcycles into reliable machines, offering a racelike experience while ensuring comfort. With their lightweight design, excellent suspension, and ample fuel capacity, these bikes were the perfect companions for the adventure that awaited.

“Since we were going to very difficult and remote areas, we had to be sure that we selected the best equipment and serviced our bikes perfectly. After all, we were going without any support! The most important decision was to ride the same bikes, all rebuilt with rally kits and many other farkles,” Pawel explains.

His own motorcycle was equipped with a CarbonFox kit featuring extra tanks, with a total capacity of nearly 30 liters. The team also installed aftermarket seats, navigation towers, foam air filters, and additional light switches.

Every gram of weight was important, so Pawel chose Xcountry panniers for their light weight, a comfortable mounting system, and low center of gravity along with rubber strap extensions for extra luggage.

“All in all, I had 6kg of weight in each pannier plus the backpack,” Pawel shares.

He knew that fuel and water would pose a challenge: following the track, fuel stations would be few and far between, and the team calculated they’d need about 40 liters of fuel per stage. Instead of carrying multiple canisters, Pawel chose a 3-gallon Giant Loop Armadillo bag for fuel.


The riders also carried a water filtration system, water bags (although they later found the bags eventually started leaking), and water treatment tablets and had coordinates for wells scattered around the desert.

Finally, the riders carried Motorola T-72 and T-82 radio sets for communications. “This gave us much more freedom to ride. We didn’t have to keep an eye on each other all the time, we could just ride our own style and in case of an emergency, just call out over the radio. This idea worked for us 100% and I will definitely use it on my future trips!”, Pawel explains.

The Journey to Dakar


Starting in the port of Algeciras, Spain, Pawel and the team set off to Dakar at a rally pace aiming to reach Senegal in two weeks. The riders would get up before sunrise and set up camp at dusk, doing anywhere between 250 and 500 km a day. The entire route was off-road, save for a few short tarmac sections into cities.

“The idea was to cover the entire route off-road, but from time to time, there would be a few paved stretches, mostly city runs. I told myself those were our liaison stages and treated them as such, which, all in all, allowed me to get into the vibe of an imaginary Dakar I took part in,”, Pawel smiles.


According to him, the initial stages in Morocco were punishing: large and loose stones drained energy and limited mileage. Once the riders entered Western Sahara, the rocky trails were replaced by vast, open spaces and fast-flowing tracks. “There, with full steam ahead, we’d cover as much as 500 km a day,” Pawel shares.

Mauritania, with its rugged terrain and unforgiving conditions, proved to be the ultimate test for the team. Prior to their departure, they’d heard stories of the treacherous loose sand in the Sahara’s Adrar region, the rocks and ironwork concealed beneath the surface, and the long stretches without fuel. However, it was the scorching temperatures that posed the biggest challenge.


“The sand turned out to be neither different nor much more difficult than elsewhere in the Sahara; the fuel consumption reached as high as 6.5 l/100 km (36 mpg). However, approaching a narrow gorge between two vertical black and sun-blazed rock walls took your breath away – it was literally the same feeling as opening an oven. We recorded 42°-43°C (107°-109° F) every day, but those black rocks were infernal. In such conditions, you have to act reasonably and balance your energy — this is no joke up there,” Pawel remembers.


Yet, amidst the harshness and challenges, there were moments of profound beauty and resilience. The entire country of Mauritania left an indelible mark on the team’s memory. The hauntingly beautiful landscapes, rough terrain, and remote locations were awe-inspiring. In a particularly difficult situation where two bikes were disassembled and the riders sought refuge from the blistering sun under the shade of two palm trees in a dried-up riverbed, an unforgettable memory was created: “Things had been going hard, heavy winds swirling around us, far from civilization, I remember eating a can of sardines and some sweet biscuits because that’s all we had left.”

“It was intense! We woke up before sunrise, set ‘bivouacs’ every day, used headlamp light to do services and cook. We gave the best of ourselves. We were on our own, we had to have everything.” – Pawel Halastra

When reflecting on the most rewarding part of their journey, the team unanimously points to Senegal. With its colors, captivating people, enticing smells, and lively sounds, Senegal stole their hearts. Riding along endless narrow singletracks, passing by majestic baobab trees and wooden villages, the team felt immersed in the vibrant spirit of the country. In Senegal, cars took a back seat to donkeys and scooters, creating a unique atmosphere. One particular experience captured the essence of their journey—a spontaneous encounter with a village celebrating a wedding. Swept up in the whirlwind of festivities, the riders felt that such connections and experiences are the true rewards of the journey. “This is why we travel… this is why we ride,” Pawel says.


Camping became an integral part of their journey, as they shared a deep appreciation for embracing nature. Each night, the riders set up their tents, finding solace under the starry skies. Apart from two nights in the beginning and one as a reward after completing a difficult off-road track in Sant Louis, the team immersed themselves in the outdoors.

Challenges and Border Crossings

While the journey was filled with unforgettable moments, the team encountered their fair share of mechanical issues with the bikes and gear. The extreme temperatures took a toll on the stator of two motorcycles, gradually causing them to fail. Although not leaving them stranded, it presented a significant challenge. Changing batteries on the go became a lasting memory as they navigated through the demanding terrains of Mauritania and beyond.


The riders had a replacement stator with them, but in the face of mounting challenges, they made the decision to press on without it. The situation with the stators worsened as each day passed, ultimately reaching its climax as they boarded the ferry back to Europe. One bike had to be pushed onto the ferry while the other bravely made its way with a car battery securely fastened to the seat.

When it came to border crossings, Pawel shares using local fixers turned out to be a mistake. “We made the decision that going South, we would use fixers, and once we turned back, we’d do everything by ourselves. Long story short, with the help of the fixers, we crossed borders slower and more expensively. In my opinion, it’s just an elaborate scam – the fixers would add imaginary customs fees on top of their own, which we had no way of checking,” Pawel explains.

In addition, the situation on the ground is often different from what the internet tells you. “We read how bad Rosso was in comparison to Diama (Mauritania-Senegal border crossing points). It took us two hours to cross at Diama and we have no way of knowing whether the other crossing was any better. We did see a lot of African warthogs, though,” Pawel recalls.


If the riders were to complete the same journey to Dakar again, not much would change. “I’d perhaps choose another way back and avoid those black rock canyons from hell as the heat was truly unbearable. Oh, and I wouldn’t use Ultra Heavy Duty tubes again – those things are just impossible to patch. Other than that, I don’t think there’s anything I would change,” Pawel shares.

Within a month, the riders covered the route from Algeciras to Dakar and spent a week venturing deep into Senegal to its southwestern part near the border with Guinea. From there, they made their way back to Algeciras on the tarmac and covered the remaining 3,500 km back home to Poland.


The journey of the Rugged Rides team, tracing the Dakar Rally route through Mauritania and Senegal, was one defined by both trials and triumphs. From the scorching heat of the Sahara to the captivating colors of Senegal, their adventure was an exploration of the original Paris-Dakar spirit, pushing boundaries, and finding solace in the midst of the unknown.

Follow Pawel’s adventures on his Facebook page at The Rugged Rides.

Photos by The Rugged Rides

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

Riding around the world extra slowly and not taking it too seriously, Egle is always on the lookout for interesting stories. Editor of the Women ADV Riders magazine, she focuses on ordinary people doing extraordinary things and hopes to bring travel inspiration to all two-wheeled maniacs out there.

Author: Egle Gerulaityte

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Guy Caron
Guy Caron
June 8, 2023 4:09 pm

Great story Egle!
So I’m not the only one who had that dream of riding the old, legendary Dakar tracks…


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