Sunday, 6 December 2015

Noudhibou and Nouakchott, Mauritania

Mauritania would greet us with yet another police checkpoint. There is certainly a difference between the police styles in Morocco to Mauritania; with Mauritania having military men check your details in a very stern and to the point way. They seem much scarier, however with us being very friendly with big smiles they seem to become much more relaxed and wave us through without any hassles.
We drove up the pristine tar roads with the white sand blinding us with the glare, as the wind kicked it up creating a fog like mist which meant we couldn't see too far ahead of us. Unfortunately the desert was still cluttered with rubbish which unfortunately steals the light away from these beautiful countries. Which is strange as they seem so patriotic with their flags flying EVERYWHERE and all decorations and signs being the flag colours of green and yellow, but yet they are not too fussed about living with filth all around them. Perhaps their rubbish removals are not as sufficient as we are so blessed to have in the UK.

We arrived into the city of Noudhibou and were in search of a campsite after a long, interesting, eye-opening and stressful day at the border. We wanted to just rest and hopefully find a warm shower after a day in the sandy wind. The city was buzzing with crazy, mental drivers that were even worse than the driving style we experienced in Morocco. They just drive and hope for the best!! If they were coming out of a parking space into the traffic, they would not wait for a gap but make a gap, pulling in whether you liked it or not. Four way junctions meant that you drive towards on coming traffic, and hopefully you would come out alive on the other side. It certainly makes for interesting driving!!
People were greeting us and waving at us as we drove through the chaos. You can't call this a beautiful city but certainly an interesting one with many colours, fascinating people, dusty roads and rubbish.

While driving down the main road we noticed a bank where we could draw some local currency. This proved harder than it sounds with the banks wifi being down and therefore the ATM machines not working. we tried one bank after another and still no luck. After about 6 times of trying we eventually came across a bank that would finally give us 50 000 Ouguiya's (£110) (We still can't pronounce this so we have been giving this currency all sorts of names such as Yougi bears, Smarties, Drachma's, Pokemon's, Uggums, Gummy bears and the list continues), but the feeling of holding a wad of notes gives you a false sense of being rich! Its a great feeling, if only!

After a long day, we arrived at the campsite which was small but to our great pleasure it had HOT WATER!!!!! It would be 5000 smarties for the night, which is almost UK prices at £11! I had read that Mauritania would be one of the most expensive so I suppose this was to be expected.
We had an early night without dinner, but with a cup of coffee before bed enjoyed in the campsites lounge type tents. When I say an early night, this is nothing like back at home with an early night being 10pm! Here in Africa an early night is 7:30, with us normally hitting the sack before 9pm. It is what happens when there is no booze, comfy couches or TV to help occupy the time.

In the morning we would start our course of Doxycyline Malaria tablets as we would be nearing the malaria area soon. We packed up camp and would head off to the Cap Blanc where we would hopefully see some Monk Seals. Unfortunately we weren't so lucky as they were all out fishing for the morning. We did however enjoy the beautiful views of the coastline and enjoyed a rather interesting route up the hill back to the information centre via rope. We watched swarms of sea gulls, crabs and snakes while enjoying a tranquil walk along the beach. On our way out of Nouadhibou we had to cross the train tracks where we saw one of the longest trains in the world pass us by. It was incredibly impressive while we waited for it to pass... eventually.

Our next point was to visit the National Park Banc d'Arguin which I had read offered beautiful spots for bird watching and had amazing dunes and beaches, but was only accessible by 4WD vehicles... Well, this would be no problem for us since we had well kitted vehicles that would do the job nicely. Well it turned out to be nothing like expected as the tracks that were pointed out on the Tracks for Africa maps on our Garmin were seriously out of date, and therefore found ourselves mapping out our own route through the desert.  The boys did so well driving through the soft sand until after lunch when we started getting more and more stuck. Rob did quite a lot of off-road driving back in the UK so his practise was coming in handy as he seemed to know just what to do, even if the sand was a new experience. We enjoyed getting the sand ladders and spades out when Charles got stuck and occasionally Rob as well.

We found a campsite for the night in the middle of nowhere next to the antlantic sea, where we were welcomed by 6 gorgeous Moroccan wild dogs. They were so friendly and just wanted a cuddle and a bit of love; unfortunately they are mostly very skinny which is difficult to witness! They would sleep under the cars and keep guard all night by barking the whole night long, so unfortunately we didn't get much sleep!! Just before jumping into bed we turned off all our lights to see the amazing clusters of stars. That's when we noticed the plankton in the sea which would shine in each wave as is barrelled over. Absolutely beautiful.

Well we were off into the dunes the next day and travelled more miles into the wilderness. Eventually I t was soon starting to get late and we were still miles away from civilization. We passed through a fishing village and were stopped by two men to ask for gifts. One was looking at me through the car windows very strangely and made me feel very uncomfortable. I did not want to get stuck here, but the boys managed to get out safe and sound. We had reached really big dunes and were still going nowhere fast. Panic set in and I started feeling very scared! We were in the middle of nowhere, getting stuck, running out of fuel at this point with no phones, and of course we had just pasted that village that looked as though they hadn't seen woman in a while. But I was stressing for nothing, working myself up and not looking at finding a solution but drowning in my own sorrows. Well I soon snapped out of this and joined the others for their support.
Well we came together, worked as a team and came up with a plan. We were on a roll after this and decided to head to the beach away from the dunes where we could rely on the harder beach sand to get us out of this rut. I loved this and being able to rely on each other was just the ticket!

When we got to the beach the tide was in and coming right up to the dunes, so we had some calculating to do. Cat and I would run along the beach and around the dunes (like Baywatch girls, of course) to see whether it was safe on the other side. The boys would wait for the waves to wash out and then make their move around the dunes after we gave the thumbs up. This worked well and the boys were doing great by avoiding getting pulled in by the sea.

The problem was we were still running out of diesel and Charles ran out first putting the only filled jerry can into the car. Then ours went, so we filled up ours leaving a little in case we needed to put more into Charles' tank.
We reached the main road after dark, thank goodness for that!!! and after going passed a police checkpoint we asked him where the next garage was. Well his answer was about 100km away. OH SHIT! It was dark and we had been told from day one never to drive at night for safety. What were we going to do now with Charles having about 15km left and us having just enough to get there. We spoke on the CB's and had come to the conclusion that we would tow when Charles had run out and hope for the best. While driving we noticed a small petrol pump next to a little brick house. We pulled over immediately as asked if they had diesel. They did not..... but said that there was a lady down the road that had a few jerry cans that she could sell to us. We were in luck and she sold 20L to Charles at a crazy price!!! £1.70 per litre!!! Ouch. But it meant that we would get to the next campsite without any worries. Cat had made friends with these ladies as they tried to converse in French. They got their English speaking families on the phone so that they could practise their English with her. It felt as though we had left as best friends!
Later we talked about them being so happy because Christmas had come all in one day for them!

We arrived at the campsite at about 9pm, had a hot chocolate and straight to bed after another night of no dinner. What a stressful but incredible day as everything fell into place after we had put our minds together.
The next morning we would head to Nouakchott, the capital city, where we would head to a campsite called Auberge Menata (5 000 pokemons(£11) per night per couple) where we met up with more amazing travellers. We will stay here for three nights and make our way to the Senegalese border on Monday in tow with a couple we had met in the campsite. They seem incredibly knowledgeable and seem to have travelled all over the world. With their help and guidance, hopefully this next border we will avoid all fixers and do it without paying much money! 

While in the centre of the city we decided to sort out a few things before we got to the border. So we headed into town to get insurance for the vehicles to avoid getting ripped off at the border. On our way we had children hanging off our arms and clothes asking for food, money, clothes, anything. Sad to see but we had to keep moving so we prised them off which was actually quite hard as they were strong and determined!!!
We paid for 3 months that would cover some of the other African countries (hopefully) at 13 495 Yougi bears(£31). And of course needed to get more copies of our fiches.
We popped into a store on the side of the road where we would try ask if they did copies. There was a gentlemen who was a customer of the shop but was interested in us and our travels. He helped organise a price for us for 50 copies each totalling 8 000 Uggums... but he ended up paying 2 000 to the shop owner to bring our total to 6 000(£13). What was happening? We were not being begged for a free gift? We were being offered money? This was very strange but of course we thanked him for his generosity!! He spoke about some of the travels he had done around the world, and of course about our own adventure. Another crazy moment that restores your faith in humanity!!! 

So tomorrow we will head to Senegal, wish us luck for the border!

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