So well over a year later
I'm trying to tie up all the loose ends, and that includes this page....
well that'll teach me for being so lazy...
So this is how it went. We entered Mauritania
with Roger et Bernard - this started with a fairly long drive through the
desert which included the odd destroyed carcass of a car - this was the
famous minefield - and a few stops to pick up fire wood (I sent Roxana).
We arrive at the
Mauritanian border post; it was a dusty border post half-hidden amid
hummocks and dunes - a shack with rough log ceilings supporting a roof of
tin and rags, the whole held together by the glue of a million swatted
The fee of €10
for which we received fake receipts was a bad joke, as was the guide who we
were told we would need for the crossing to Nuadibou. We set off ahead of
the Range Rover for a quick reccie - the piste was pretty straightforward -
it split and rejoined a few times as pistes do, but we decided to return
after a few minutes anyway as we were afraid that the others would pass us
along one of the splits.
The guide was furious -
this was his livelihood we were stealing. No, we had to pay his extortionate
fee or die among the land mines... I suppose now it's clear why there are no
piste markers - the guides remove them all...
One day soon a new asphalt road will arrive
across the desert from Nouakchott, and his sort will have to find new
employment. Roll on progress.
As we entered Nuadibou a stone struck my rear
wing, luckily missing the windows. Nobody seemed to care, or even notice.
Welcome to Mauritania.
As part of the guide's bargain we agreed to
stay at a pretty reasonable auberge, and the next morning we set off to the
rail head to try to organise a ride to Choum on the famous ore train. The
railhead was an exercise in disorder. No train. Maybe a train tomorrow.
Maybe a train today. If you pay us, of course.
After a whole day of waiting the flat bed
arrived, and after an extended period of haggling we joined the seven or
eight vehicles making the trip, leaving behind an obnoxious young German guy
who was haranguing the hell out of his poor passenger (Always lock zee toor.
in Afrika always!)
The menagerie of old Peugeots, Landies and vans were wired to the flat beds,
and then we settled down for a moderately uncomfortable night in the car,
Roxana in the Front with the gear stick, and me in the back with the fridge.
It wasn't actually too bad; we were protected from the dust unlike the
bikers sheltering in the lee of a van.
Although we couldn't see much in the dusk,
then night, this was reputed to be the longest train in the world. We spent
hours being shunted around and it wasn't until after I fell asleep that we
actually set off. I woke up in the realisation that the train had been
stationery for some time. I lay awake wondering if I ought to risk a pee -
and in the end slipped outside. There's a narrow walkway alongside the car,
but for comfort's sake I hopped off and set about my business. I swear the
driver must have been watching, for at the moment the train lurched
forwards, and I had to nimbly leap past the turning wheels and clamber
aboard. Roxana probably drank less of the red wine that some French
colleagues had offered - wise girl.
Eventually we arrive at Choum., and pull up
alongside piles of scrap metal. Then it's a wait to have the cars release
from the wire - for a fee, of course. Eventually we're all off, and in
convoy we set off across the piste to Atar, a couple of hundred kilometres
came into it's own that day; I lost count of the number of times we towed
our fellow travellers out of the soft sand - there were a few 2WDs in the
convoy, and the van was in poor shape too. Gerhard, the German biker, was
also struggling with his bike, so we took off his panniers and added them to
our load - apparently it made a big difference.
Eventually we climbed out of the plain and
arrived in Atar, an unassuming town with an entertaining Restaurateur who
mixed French German and English in the same sentence as we enjoyed a hearty
We moved on
to Chinguetti for a look around - it's famous for it's libraries, but mostly
these are just used to trap tourists nowadays. Bernard and Roger in their
Range Rover were heading on to Nouakchott, so our next stop was Oudane,
where we hoped to find a guide to take us to Guelb Al Richat, a massive
volcanic crater in the desert that is visible from the moon...