0262. Crossing the Sahara in Style (Maur 03--revisit)

Nouadhibou Travel Blog

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All buses to Nouadhibou leave mid afternoon--so arriving in Nouakchott late is not an option... We make it in good time, I book my ticket, and have a little hike around the neighborhood--actually, find a fairly modern eatery where I have some delicious chicken and rice...

After my adventure crossing the wilds of the Mauritanian desert back in 2004, staying the night with nomads who play music late into the night... now climbing onto a bus and speeding down a highway is a bittersweet experience... I tell you, this highway has transformed Mauritanian culture forever... Since there are several bus lines, they race each other, passing each other at breakneck speed.

..

Then suddenly, all the buses screech to a halt as hundred or Mauritanians in flowing robes rush out to say their evening prayers on the sand dunes, with an enormous moon lighting up the landscape--a beautifully poetic sight...

I spend much of the journey talking with my fellow passenger, a Guinean who has spent much of his life traveling all over Africa looking for work--from Gabon to Libya to Cote D'Ivoire... a very insightful discussion as he explains racism and tribalism in Africa... the incredible natural resources of his country and how they have been completely squandered... his failed attempt to reach Spain on an overcrowded boat... How his wife finally left him, because he was away too long looking for work... A very moving tale of determination, heartbreak and a man who refuses to lose hope...

Finally, near midnight, we reach Nouadhibou.

.. My companion tells me that I should be able to find a cheap place to stay not too far from the station... So I get off and start walking... No cheap hotels to be seen... Pretty soon the same fellow, riding in an "unofficial taxi" catches up to me, and tells me that it's actually a long ways to get there... so I get in...
Nouadhibou is like three blocks wide and 6 miles long--so yes, it is a long ways to get anywhere.  We get off downtown, which still has a few shops open and finally reach the hostel... It's been a long day--and tomorrow will be another long day--so I'd better get some rest...

Next day, I've got to see the town--so I wander about, before most shops have openned up... A dump truck loaded with workers rumbles past.... A young fellow yells out at me very excited

"Hey! I'm a musician too! Can we get together to jam later on??!"

Bummer.

  That would've been fun... We did manage to exchange email addresses though...

I quickly reach the edge of town, the railroad tracks and then, moonscape.  A magnificent contrast of a lush oasis on one side and absolute lifelessness on the other... Take a couple of cool clips here.

I continue on north a little ways, then try to find a way back into town.  People have little fenced in gardens right in the middle of the sand dunes--and it's a bit of a maze trying through... Then I reach a cool little ruins of something...

Continue on past a typical Mauritanian wooden shack shantytown... past a high school with fairly modern looking friendly young folks head to school. 

I'd really like to hike all the way to the transportation center, but common sense tells me I'd better not push my luck any farther...

Grab an "unofficial taxi" to the edge of town... where he quickly points me to a car that’s heading to Dakhla--assuming there will be enough passengers... No cargo vans this time...

They ask me to pull out my guitar and I soon see the the jollier side of the generally austere Mauritanians as the clap along to a rolicking tune...

Finally, within about 2 hours we have enough passengers to go... Looks like I'm managing to pull off this race across the Sahara...

 

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Nouadhibou
photo by: johnyb66