Thursday 22nd January 09 To the border

I decided this morning that I would try for Mauritania on Friday. The chap who runs the campsite here in Dakhla says there is camping close to it. On having breakfast I find there are 2 of the lads from Plymouth Banjul still here in their BMW. They had a clutch problem and have been charged 100 Euro to fix it. (Rip off). They are just waiting to test drive it to see if it works before paying.

I decide to leave and go to check out the internet in town. Leaving the campsite I see the owner arrive in his brand new Landcruiser. (I later found out he charged the Plymouth Banjul chaps double.) The internet café was special. Running an early version of windows the computers may possibly have had a 28.8 modem (jolly slow). Couldn’t download my e-mail so I left. I changed a small amount of money to fuel me to the border and then asked for any other internet. Result but at a price. A new hotel had WiFi but I needed to buy a pretty expensive but very tasty orange juice. They also very kindly printed off a couple of documents for me. I then set off for the border. Only a few miles out of town my temperature gauge went up alarmingly. I pulled over and found my water level quite low but no apparent leak. I topped up and kept a good eye on this for the rest of the day. I kept on till 90km short of the border by the last fuel stop and no sign of camping so I pulled down a side road and decided to camp inside the vehicle for the night. I woke up and, failing to put on my glasses, read the time as 4am. I planned to head off to the border at 6 so decided to check for the water leak as I had topped up on arrival. I located it at the hose the runs from water pump to thermostat housing and was in the process of disconnecting it when 2 guys wandered past and insisted on helping me. We trimmed of the split part of hose and re-connected it. (I’ll keep you posted). I gave them a lift about 4kms up the road dropping them, seemingly, in the middle of nowhere. They were actually off to their army encampment. I returned to my roadside halt but couldn’t be bothered to set up the bed again (it had actually been 2am). This was a mistake as I slept very poorly in the drivers seat.

Friday 23rd January 09 The Morocco-Mauritania Border

And so to the border. I top up with fuel as this is the last available filling stop. I drive on and arrive at the border around 7.30 with a long queue of vehicles waiting the Moroccan checkpoint. There is a man filling in fiche cards for people who need them written out but they are a simple and by now familiar form however he wont just let you have one and wants 5Dh. I decide that as I have no real need for my Moroccan coins I will pay this. You need 2 so make sure you take and fill in 2 per person. Strangely, when the border opens at 9am the forms become available free. I caught up with the BMW boys who are having more problems with their clutch. It has completely failed again (hydraulic side of things. They are talking of learning to crash the gears on the way ahead. The border opens at 9am and you need to take you passport asap to the police office with the 2 fiche cards. I was slow off the mark and end up low in the queue. It took 3 hours to get my passport back. Just one guy processing the whole lot. Some of the Senegalese were very agitated and thought they were being deliberately left till last. Talk about a chip on your shoulder. After this it was quite quick apart from a couple of not subtle attempts to get a gift from me. They all wanted things like mobile phones. I gave nothing. The BMW guys followed me through the minefield and got stuck cracking their sump in the process. I was called back to pull them out after which they were left in the capable hands of a car dealer!!!

I then proceeded through the no-mans land and beat most of the cars to the other side. The Mauritanian side went well after I showed none of my roof jerries had diesel in them. Some people had theirs requested strongly and gave it up. Little more than theft. I passed customs after they prayed and paid 10 Euro for a Laissez Passez. They weren’t really interested in a carnet and apparently you pay a similar ‘tax’ to get this stamped. As I came out of customs there were the BMW guys having sold their car in the minefield for 250 Euro needing a lift to town which I gladly supplied. We went to the campsite in Nouadhibou and they went to check out the bus service to Nouakchott. We had a chat later and then I had an early night.

Saturday 24th January 09 Nouadhibou campsite ABBA.

Earlier yesterday a French couple who have been living in their Mercedes van for 2 years gave me some translation help at the border and it is good to see them here at the campsite. I have also met Aart (must be spelt wrongly) from Holland in his Defender 90. We all just sort of got on with our own stuff with the odd chat thrown in. I got some washing done and found out about the car insurance (which I purchased on Sunday for 5000 Oogs 11 days). I will check about the CDA for the rest of West Africa in Nouakchott.

In the evening Marie (who works at the campsite ) taught the French girl to make a Senegalese fish dish on which we feasted in the evening to celebrate the 2nd birthday of one of their friends daughters. We had all been moved into one corner of the site early in the day to make room for around 200 cars that came in with the Budapest Bamako rally and what a noise they all made.

Sunday 25th January 09 To Parc Banc d’Arguin

I did the rest of my laundry, my insurance and left the campsite getting down to Parc Banc d’Arguin planning on camping there. I was overtaken on the piste by some of the rally just as we arrived at the seafront. They said they were going to a campsite and I could join them if I kept up as they wanted to beat the sunset and had a bit of a way to go. This turned out to be quite optimistic.

We kept going and going and I think they lost the piste and tried to trail blaze. At this point I was committed to staying with them as I was off the beaten trail. I quite enjoyed it but it got a bit wearing by the time we stopped at midnight!!

I learnt quite a bit about my vehicle and sand driving in the security of a group. My motor didn’t get stuck but 3 of the others did briefly on one section.. When we finally camped the Czechs in the group offered me food and I retired to my sand ladder for the night.

Monday 26th January 09 Beach drive to Nouakchott

I woke for the beautiful Sahara sunrise at 7.30. Stephanie would have loved this but not the lack of a toilet. We then waited for everyone to surface and left at 10 for the beach. We had to wait for the tide to go out for the road to appear and do the beach run (something I couldn’t have done alone). Once out of the beach run I will have to raise the tyre pressures as I have used my deflators and been running on 18psi front and 22 rear. I would have got stuck easily without this measure. The ringleader of the group went to the village and bought fish and charcoal and tea. The local guys came and prepared it as part of the deal so we had the full local experience (although I drew the line when a lot of the group bought turtle shells as souvenirs). The fish was good although it had been heavily drowned in garlic so I don’t know what the fish actually tasted of. It was a good way to spend the wait before we headed to the beach and ran the thin strip between soft sand and the sea. The bit that has just been under wayter in apparently the hard bit and this proved to be the case. The other advice I got was high range and keep the speed up. It was another great first and I am grateful for the help and comradeship of the group. (Safe onward travel guys). I carried on after re-inflating the tyres to Nouakchott stopping briefly but unable to help the Czech guys who had a mechanical issue. On arriving in Nouakchott I got to Auberge Sahara which is good but quoted me one price and then changed it once I was in. 2000 Oogs in the end. Some of the Budapest organisers were here so I told them about the Czechs and they assured me they were okay and in town. Off to bed and uploading photos and journal to Guy. Sold a CD to Aart 2 days ago and another to the ringleader of the Hungarians (no chance of getting the name right) So thanks to them.