To escape the desert, a man built a motorbike from his broken-down car
Frenchman and electrician Emile Leray was living in South Africa when he decided to take a road trip in the western part of Northern Africa. The route would take him straight into the Sahara Desert so he knew he needed to be well-equipped.
He’d driven those roads before with heftier vehicles but this time he chose to specially outfit a Citroen 2CV. And this time was destined to be different in another way too...
Starting in Morocco he left the city of Tantan heading towards Mauritania through the conflict zone of Western Sahara. Because fighting had flared up there, authorities stopped him at a border crossing, insisting that he couldn't continue. Strangely enough, they also asked him to take a passenger on his way back to Tantan.
Emile wriggled out of this request by claiming that the Citroen's special insurance didn’t permit him to take anyone else in the vehicle. But he nevertheless turned back and followed the instructions to return. That is, at least until he was out of sight. Determined to continue with his journey, he circled back around and sought out a route to bypass the police, then sped onward.
Before long, the roads became more and more difficult and after maneuvering the car over a particularly big rock, he heard several terrible cracks. The Citroen rolled to a stop. Nothing he did could persuade it to start up again.
Emile apparently assessed his situation, noting that he had enough supplies to last about 10 days. The nearest settlement was 20 miles away, to his knowledge. Too far to risk setting out on foot over very tough terrain.
But he had a lot of mechanical experience and of course, his years as an electrician behind him. So he decided to salvage what he could from his car and build something new that would return him safely back to civilization.
He removed the body and used it as a shelter from the brutal Saharan sun. Stripping down to his underwear, he got to work, pulling the car almost entirely apart and sorting through parts, piece by piece, figuring out what he could use and how.
All he had were basic tools so he had to make do with literally just screwing things together.
He thought it would take him about three days. But it wasn’t until day 12 — with half a liter of water left — that he climbed into his brand new-recycled motorbike, started the engine, and took off.
His "Desert Camel" could only drive up to 12 mph but it was going to save him.
When he'd nearly reached the next town, he was stopped by the police, who were able to take him the rest of the way. They gave him more water, but they also ticketed him for driving an unauthorized vehicle!
Nearly two and a half decades later, Emile still has his Desert Camel — and that certain glint in his eye that says, "When my car breaks down in the middle of the desert, I just build a new one, folks. No big deal."
This guy was like an action hero, except he couldn't drive home for the night and sip a cocktail by the pool to relax after all the hard work. He's for real!
It's a good reminder, too, to go over your survival skills and ponder what you could manage in a situation like that… Hm, time for a class?!