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How Did A French Engineer Survive Being Stranded in the Desert?

The human body can survive about three days without water. In such extreme conditions, it would be difficult to find water. When a French engineer was stranded in the desert just outside Morocco, he came up with an ingenious plan that people started calling him the real-life Tony Stark.

Emile Leray, a French engineer, got stranded in a remote part of the Sahara Desert in 1993. With limited supplies, he tore down his Citroen car, turning it into a motorcycle in just 12 days. He was able to return to civilization.

Emile Leray’s Journey

In 1993, French engineer Emile Leray traveled to Morocco, a country he knows well as he has traveled to it several times in the past. Riding his Citroën 2CV, Leray left Tan Tan but encountered a military outpost. The Royal Gendarmerie told Leray to return to Tan Tan because of an escalating conflict between Morocco and West Sahara.

Leray reluctantly agreed, but he had another plan in mind. Before he left, the Moroccan military police asked him to take someone with him to Tan Tan, but since he had a different plan, he declined, citing insurance reasons. This decision would prove a good decision in the next few days. (Source: History Garage)

The French engineer decided to defy the police’s recommendations and continue with his journey. He decided to go off-road and navigate around the restricted area. Leray reports in interviews that he was confident of his decision because he has traveled around Africa about ten times, so he knows the area well.

He was also confident because of his car, saying it was tough, although it wasn’t a 4 x 4. The car is often referred to as the Steel Camel in Africa because it can go everywhere. The 2CV could technically go anywhere, provided that it was driven gently.

After a few miles of driving off-road, his car gave up. As Leray recalls, he probably was too rough driving it because he broke it in the rocky and bumpy road. He lost control and hit a rock. The impact caused the 2CV’s swing arm and wheel axle to break, leaving the car virtually undrivable. When he gained bearing of the event and his situation, he quickly realized that the nearest town might be at least 20 miles away.

He then realized that he would not be able to walk to the nearest town since it was too far. Luckily he had some food and water with him. Leray mentions that he then entered survival mode, consuming less and strictly monitoring his supplies, thinking of ways to make them last as long as possible. (Source: Daily Mail)

Building the Bike Out of the Scraps of His Car

After one night in the desert, Leray came up with a plan, starting with removing the 2CV’s shell to act as a temporary shelter. His idea was to build a motorbike that he would use to return to civilization. He used his socks as sleeves to lessen the burden of the Saharan heat.

He took apart the 2CV with whatever tool was available to him at the time. Leray then repurposed the wheel arm and attached it to part of the car’s chassis. He then mounted the engine in the middle. Then he created a seat out of the rear bumper.

Leray thought he would complete the escape bike in three days, but it took him 12 days. He was successful as the motorcycle helped him return to civilization. Upon reaching the town, he was fined by the local police, citing that he was driving an illegal vehicle. (Source: History Garage)

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