November 12th, 2009 – by: MrDuck
Look under the RAK...
After a healthy breakfast we set off for the border about 400km, the long straight sandy roads. We got to the border about 3pm where the was a couple of cafes with cars parked outside and trailer lorries parked by the side and a fuel station at the other side. There was the Moroccan check point with staggered barriers and flags, with buildings beyond and then no mans land to the Mauritian side, with its far share of landmines between each of them.
We parked up and ordered coffees wandering if we could get VISAs and wasn’t long before a large Senegal man, with a Spanish passport, started talking to us. The main topic of the day was VISAs and it had been for the past 4 days, when they stopped issuing them at the border.
Apparently the Mauritanian border officials were skimming off too much from the VISAs and not passing it back up the line so they had their rubber stamp removed for the time being. This meant we joint club no VISA and the Senegal man was laughing and pointing to various cars and people of this new forming club. These border frontiers I always find interesting and some of the best places to people watch in the world. You have all sorts of people, honest, dishonest, tourists, business people, drivers, people making deals and people looking to see what deals they can make of today’s situation, a big mixing pot funnelled into this small place. With no VISAs that meant only one thing someone would have to return to Rabat some 3000-4000km away to the embassy. So that meant buses, planes, taxis and a good few days as this was Thursday with no chance making it back before the weekend, a lot of expense and time. There was only one thing to do and that was to share the cost with as many people as possible, Europeans if possible because the costs could be slip more evenly then as the local West Africans couldn’t be expected to pay an equal share.
Into the tropics
With the coffee finished I went to speak to people with a purpose. The first place to start was with the French women and with no French to my name worth speaking I explained to them, we’re on bikes and I was going to return to Rabat to get VISAs for us and if they wanted me to get them one also, sharing the costs. She then told me her husband had already left for Daklha with 4 passports and was leaving to get a flight tomorrow, if we could get to her husband in time we could send our passports to him 400km away, result! After calling her husband and telling him we were on our way, swapping details we had a plan. Make it back 100km to a hotel we saw on the way down then do the rest the next day. A few West Africans also tried to get in on the deal, the more the better, but they sent one of their Mauritanian friends back across the border to do some things, unknown to us but said he would be back in half an hour, this was African time. We stayed around until the sun was getting low in the dusty sky before saying we had to go now or it would be dark and we didn’t want to drive at nigh, a very dangerous time to be on the road in Africa, sand drifts, animals, local drivers who had no idea what the dipped head lights were for and one eyed trucks (why use two lights when one will make the battery last longer! [ejjits!!!]).
Off we set, up the road I felt bad about not waiting longer to help them and hoped the Karma for the trip would not punish us. We got to the hotel, still under construction only to be told there were no beds. No problem, we have all we need if you supply us a room in my best Spanish which isn’t good but I do have a lovely honest smile that seems to warm many a friendly heart. I was shown a room with the walls barely dry, this will do, then another that had been dry for a few days longer and had a working toilet and sink. Finally we had room 302, key number 102, a completed room with beds that became vacant somehow, job done. After a shower I came out only to find a guy I had briefly meet at a Bedouin camping place a couple of days before. John, a Scottish Shetlander was very pleased to hear to hear about our French connection and over dinner with his friends we now had 3 more passports to the collection and Daniel our French man was happy to take them also. A good end to the day and Karma had given us a second chance…