Friday, July 22, 2011

Mauritania: The Sahara: dreamtime and hard times

The sea cliffs of Nouadibou. The last we will see of the Atlantic for a while. 
Ready to embark on the 'piste'.
Mauritania, compared to the orderly, organised Morocco, is anarchy. Despite our month long tourist visa's we were given only seven days temporary vehicle import permits. Customs could not, or would not extend it, but some people went to the Gendarmerie and had it extended. We managed a two weeks extension, much later, in Atar, after getting the police to lean on the Customs guy. How to improve tourism!

Sad spring!
Then we undertook our first desert trip. And 6500 kilometers into the trip, and 45 kilometers into the 'piste' disaster struck. One of the air helper springs broke the remaining bolt and jumped out. Three hours of hard work in 55 degrees sun had us back on the road.
Team work
Bush camp in the desert
We slept in the high desert that night, hidden, we thought, behind rocks and a dune. And within half an hour a guy came walking, out of nowhere, to greet us, and invite us to come and have meat at his house!!

A moment of distraction, and you are stuck in the sand.
The four hundred kilometers of uncharted track was probably the harshest test of machines and people we had had yet. When we passed a sign announcing sixty kilometers to go before Atar, I had cramps in my shoulders and was so tired I wanted to cry!

Coming into camp I drank four mugs of water, despite having done a mug every 25 kilometers. And then drank some more!

Our next morning in Atar was also not a success. We tried to have the car papers extended, and managed, but were then told by a guy that this would cost another R 250 per vehicle, and there would be no receipt. I lost my temper, and told him this was bribery, at which he took umbrage and left. Then only was I told he was actually a police officer, and had gone 30 kilometers into the bush to find the Customs guy and get him to sign the papers. And the money was to cover his fuel!

After a Coke I felt better, perhaps my sugar levels were low.... And I dream of those orange juices of Marrakesh!

Parked in the courtyard of the Auberge Caravans de Chinguetti
Slowly giving way to the sands
And finally we are in Chinguetti, destination of camel caravans for centuries, depository of religious manuscripts sine the year 1200.  

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