Dakar by bike.
Hubert Auriol knows the former destination of the legendary Paris-Dakar Rally like the inside of his motorcycle jacket pocket. He recently returned to his favourite spots in the Senegalese capital. Tips for a motorcycle tour in Dakar.
Rally legend Hubert Auriol found a second home in Dakar. He's treated like a star whenever he shows up there. In fact, he's so much of a celebrity that he was named an honorary citizen of the city. Hubert has always loved returning to this place. Not least because he was born in Ethiopia and spent his early childhood there. Thus it's no surprise that Africa plays a big role in his life. "The Senegalese are incredibly open and friendly", Hubert says. His route through Dakar takes us to places that hold special memories for him.
The heart of the historic city centre of Dakar is the Place de l’Indépendance – the independence square. "The award ceremony after the Paris-Dakar was usually held here", says Hubert. "Crowds of people gathered, traffic was total chaos. It took us three or four hours to push our way up the winner's rostrum, and it took us just as long to get back. You can imagine how long the award ceremony took", he says with a grin.
The Marché Soumbédioune is located not far from the Place de l’Indépendance. The market offers an impressive glimpse of Senegalese crafts. Located very close to the Medina, it's the creative space par excellence for local artisans. Merchants sell leather goods, ceramics, jewellery, books and baskets. "These are products that you really only find in Senegal", says Hubert.
The part of the beach made famous by the Paris-Dakar Rally is located about 30 kilometres north-east of Dakar. Back then, riders reached this destination after 10,000 kilometres. Countless people celebrated the racers as they rode the last kilometre along the Atlantic coast. The weather was 35°C and sunny, and Hubert would often use the time after the rally to recover from all the hardships in the desert. "I would simply lay there like a lizard in the sand and I was just happy. I had to fully enjoy that moment. After all, winter was awaiting me back home in Paris".
Vis-à-vis the beach lies Lac Rose, the pink lake. Only a few dunes separate it from the ocean. The lake was also an important place in the Paris-Dakar Rally. Some of the award ceremonies were held here. The atmosphere at the salty lake is magical and almost surreal; the calmness is intoxicating. Farmers glide across Lac Rose, collecting salt from the bottom of the lake. "I remember how people celebrated me and called out my name when I won the first time in 1981. It was such an extraordinary moment, the kind you never forget", says Hubert.
The route continues to the south side of Dakar. Down at the beach one can find Hubert's favourite restaurant, "Le Lagon". He's friends with the owner, and there's a brass plaque with Hubert's name on the restaurant's Wall of Fame. "The ocean is very important to Dakar", says Hubert. "You get the feeling that life mostly happens here". The view from the restaurant is fantastic, and so is the food. The perfect finish to a day spent exploring the history of the Paris-Dakar Rally.