sockhanded scavengers

Mauritania Travel Blog

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Im so tired i have no idea how i will manage the 270 km ride to Dakhar in 3 days.... But were under pressure for visas.

Meanwhile weve finished western sahara and crossed Mauretania. A last meal at hotel Barbas turned into a long hushed talk about the war, about our host who is a sahari and whos family live in Tindouf. We were to speak quietly as the war is not to be discussed in these parts... Nevertheless hotel Barbas is run by a mixture of Morrocans, mauretanians and saharis -and our host looks after all like they were his own displaced family. This included us; They convinced us to stay the night for free and cooked us up a fantastic meal of lobster. I offended badly by offering to pay...  So western sahara and all its grand mixture of people saw us of in style.

After a harsh 5 am start we reached the Mauretanian border, had a last coffee and began standing in various ques. 2 hour s later we were released into nomansland. And nomans land it was. Mauretania, Morocco and Western saharas long standing war has left its gruesome footprints everywhere and nomansland is littered with landmines and carwrecks. There are numerous dirttracks leading through the 5 km strech. "Always take the track to the left" a machine gun armed guard reassured us. So we did and Mauretania greeted us with more waiting and a pressing mid day heat. After another spp 2 hours we were free to continue our dessert ride.

As the glamourous petrolstations of Morocco and Western sahara had been replaced by tents, caravans or shacks with hugely expensive goods our diet took a plunge to equally unglamourous levels. Tinned fish, couscous and pasta got us 470 km through harsh dessert. As the shacks thinned out the dessert became flat as a pancake. Strong sidewinds made the riding difficult as the plateu appeared to be never ending we had to camp in shelter of nothing. And then the sand picked up; In the darkness it sounded like invisible furious giants were shaking our tent. It just about stood through the night but determined to ruin the only shelter we had the dessert blew a fine dust through the airvents. We had to cover our faces with clothes and just wait it out. None of us sleept much that night and in the morning, in fear of staying in the middle of nowhere with no shelter i insisted we move on. All day we pushed trough the winds, faces covered with all sorts of shirts and shawls. The flatness gave way to propper sanddunes and our lunch consisted of fig sandwiches full of sand in howling wind.

And just as all i needed was a glass of rose and french cheese the only glamerous petrolstation of Mauretania and a group of french fishermen appeared out of the dust. As 'no thank' you seems to have dissapeared out of our vocabulary alonside any modesty and dignity (the dessert seems to do that) we happily drank their wine and ate their chesse and then picked the meat of their plates after their meal. A proud moment. But as we sat there the wind setteled and the dessert showed its beauty like nothing we had seen in western sahara: Endless seas of bright yellow sanddunes dotted with shrubs and trees. Here or there there were nomad tents and large heards of camels. As the sun began to set the already amazing scenery took on colours of pastely blues and pinks. In amongst all this we camped.

The next day was as beautifull to begin with. But as the midday heat began new problems appeared: Malaria prevention tablets have left my hands hugely sensitive to the sun. Itchy dry and painfull, gloveless as you tend to be in the sahara i had to resort to putting darens well over used socks over my hands. Together with sinuses tortured from dust, sockhands are a fanscinating combination! And as if that wasnt enough the midday heat surprissed us with millions of flys, surprisingly uninteressted in the socks but determined to crawl into ears,noses and eyes: So back to having our heads wrapped in shirts!

Mauretanias dessert wasn't an easy ride but we made it to Naukchott that day after 160 km. 


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