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Off Road Truckers

Nouadhibou, Mauritania

The border crossing from Western Sahara to Mauritania is quite difficult to describe. To get though the actual border itself you have to fill out a form, then wait..... For some reason our English passports had been put in a different pile and there seemed no order of a queuing system and without Aziz stepping in and asking why the English are still waiting 2 hours after turning up, we could still have been there. After the first stamp you walk 10yards to a police check point, then another 10yards to the Army check point, at this point there is now no road and at the last check point we got another stamp and sent on our way.

We got back in the lorry and Aziz starts zig zagging though the sand with no road or signposts just bumpy, sandy, rocky desert. A car had over taken the convoy of trucks that Aziz and ourselves were leading. The cocky car then got stuck in the sand and 4people got out the back seat with spades and started frantically digging like it was some kind of gumball rally. Still driving in zig zags the path now indicated by loads, and we mean loads, of abandoned vehicles.

From cars to trucks, they had evidently broken down sometime ago and were now stripped of all their interior leaving behind a metal shell. It strangely enough didn't look too much out of place with all of the rubbish that surrounded the dunes.

Finally we reached tarmac and yet more police checks. Only this time there were 3 types of check points-one for police, one for gendarmarie and one army. When asking Aziz, who was losing his patience and his money by this point from all of the bribes he was paying, why are there so many checks so close together when all there is around us is desert? he replied it's because they want money. We've no idea what to believe but what we do know is what we saw and that was people giving 'gifts' to the uniforms from their cars. Whether this was to speed up the process or to avoid the vehicle from being completely unloaded like some of the trucks that obviously couldn't pay up. We had our passports checked and stamped again before we drove about a mile and stopped at what looked like a derelict town where several trucks were parked up.

In the village that consisted of about 5 recognizable buildings still standing, one of them claimed to be a restaurant. Inside the restaurant it was a shoes off jobby and to our disappointment it was just a resting room with cushions and a rug. To our delight they had showers and a sit down toilet which was pretty disgusting with it being a truckers stop.

On chatting to the owner, Mohammeda, who sat in the corner of the main room and stared a lot. We found out that he was the cook, waiter, cleaner and shop keeper, his shop consisted of a silver lockable briefcase (the key around his neck) that contained a bureau de exchange, tabac, mobile top-up, and soft drinks. He was a nice guy that seemed to stare a lot and he even shared his traditional Mauritanian fish'n'rice lunch with us. However we were charged for using the showers and he did want us to sleep in the restaurant come hotel from probably an added cost but we declined, sleeping in the camion for another night.

That evening we got to see the other restaurant/hotel which was a cook your own. Habib taking over the cooking prepared a tagine and it was looking vegetarian as we watched Habib peal tomatoes but when it was dished up Kat was mortified as a leg of lamb came out. We stayed two nights in Nouâdhibou resting from the sun in either of the guesthouses. We made friends with other truckers, Kat tried to play rummie with a guy who was playing hearts and she still beat him.

There was another guy called Omar who kept wanting his picture taken with her. By the third day she was fed up of being the play thing and looked forward to leaving once Aziz and Habib got their papers.

Whilst we were there though we managed to see the longest train in the world (the Iron Ore Railway) a few times during our stay.

permalink written by  Kat and Ben on July 3, 2009 from Nouadhibou, Mauritania
from the travel blog: Kat & Ben's World Adventure
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