Sunday, 10 February 2008

6th Feb 08

Date: 6th Feb 08
Location: Nouadhibou, Mauritania
Weather: Fog to start, sun for the middle and cloud and strong winds to finish! 27°c
Status: Ben & Luke – weary and in need of some good food (Luke on the case!), Colonel – happily clocking up the kms.

Wow what a day, we awoke early to get a good head start and were surrounded by thick fog! Headed out of Dakhla and north to join the connecting road south to the border which we stayed on for the next 450kms. A long, long drive!

Passed through some spectacular moonlike scenery which changed from sand dunes to rocky outcrops and long open stretches of nothingness which disappeared off into the distance to the horizon. The dunes are driven by the near storm force winds continually and every so often extend over the road and almost cover it completely.

Compared to the drive the day before there was very little on the road at all with the occasional lorry or military vehicle heading north, the area is desolate, hot and so so huge it’s hard to comprehend. We drove the equivalent distance today of driving from Portsmouth to Edinburgh and saw maybe 10 vehicles…oh and of course shedloads of camels! The military presence in the area has reduced in recent years but the leftovers from years of territory changes have meant that the borders and areas off the clear roads and tracks are littered with mines with signs warning of the danger along the route.

Stopped around lunch for a dip in the cold Atlantic, an orange and a much needed stretch of the legs!

Hit the border around 2.30pm and left morocco for the first time in a month, realising that the insurance for the car had run out 2 days previously…oops, still no questions asked at the border so we had got our exit stamps and customs clearance and headed to no-mans-land…of course after the obligatory requests for presents, cigarettes and packs of cards, so we offered a pack of cards and they didn’t want them as we only had one…not enough for poker apparently!! They waved us through…

The formalities on the Mauritanian side were a whole lot easier, and so much less official. Two wooden sheds with guards who asked for the carnet for the first time which of course we had, got it stamped and away we went. As we left the building we were offered Mauritanian money which we bought and also a guide to get us through the minefields, we declined these as the road was very obvious and there’s nothing like taking a good old fashioned risk anyway!! We all made it through just fine.

The road this side of the border was in a worse state than before with sand encroaching from both sides blown on by the ferocious wind which was driving from the north east, behind us so we made good time to the next town Nouadhibou which was a real introduction to black Africa and its delights. Cars approaching from all angles, pedestrians everywhere and donkey carts at every opportunity as we made our way to the centre of the town and our intended camp for the night.

When we got there it was closed and nothing more than a walled enclosure so we headed back out and up the coast to a site where we’d seen a German campervan earlier on parked up next to them for another hard-earned nights rest and the delights of Luke’s cuisine!

Tomorrow we’ll skirt round the national park to the capital Nouakchott as we press south to the more relative safety of Senegal and The Gambia. If, as we expect the new road hasn’t been finished yet we’ll head through the park for the 300kms drive stretching it out over two days to take in the 5hr blast down the beach to the capital.

End of day location: Nouadhibou, Mauritania
Distance covered: 486kms

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