Tuesday 27th January 09 Nouakchott.

Today I decided to have a drive around to see what I could find. I promised myself a sticker for the car for each country. This proves to be very difficult as it is so low on anyone’s priorities in a country such as this that they don’t seem to be available. I picked up the staples of some bread and fruit and also pick up my first milk for a while. I then head into the French Embassy for the Visa Touristique Entente which I am lead to believe covers me for Burkina Faso, Benin and Togo. I fill in a form and am told I need the fee in local money equivalent to 60 Euros. I dash to the bank and get the slowest teller in the world. It takes half an hour and I am holding up the lady from the embassy from her lunch. I rush back and pay my money to be told ‘Come back tomorrow morning’. So off I go and get myself a little more organised and try to see the town. It is a sprawling mass and is obviously overcrowded from the influx of formerly nomadic people. Looking at it without any agenda at all I can see that certain areas have had slums knocked down and tidy little residences built in their place. Who is funding this I don’t know but I guess it is a start. I think that one of the most striking things that I see is the proliferation of plastic bags caught up on bushes just littering the landscape. Off my high horse I head back to the Auberge Sahara. They do have decentish facilities although I’m not sure even the sit down loo would pass muster for Stephanie.

A quiet night uploading pictures to Guy and off to sleep.

Wednesday 28th January 09 Nouackchott to Atar.

Around 5am Ouch what a noisy chap the guy in the mosque is. He gives it his all for about 30 seconds and then peace for about an hour. I suppose it makes okay sense as the evening lot stops around 9pm. Another ouch. I have been attacked by bugs. Several beautiful bites. Time to get the mosi net rigged up.

I head back to the Embassy and check if my visa is what I asked for. Apparently not, only for Burkina Faso. I can apparently pay another 60 Euro for one to Togo but they don’t do one for Benin. I leave disappointed and hope anyone following just goes to the Burkina Embassy in Bamako for their visa.

Following this downer I decide to make a run up to Atar and Chinguetti as it is meant to be the place to see. 500 km of asphalt is a long way in 40oC. After about 100 km the dunes appear for a while then it becomes more rocky desert. I pass through many police and customs checkpoints and get through a multitude of fiches. I cannot recommend this item enough. It just makes things simple. I will try and send an example for people to use if they want. I make a stunning ascent of a mountain pass (beautiful) but other than that and the bones of dead camels by they road the trip is just one long haul. Wait a minute, that’s why I should take notes. I saw something that I can’t be sure about today. It looked like a baby twister coming out of the desert sitting on the road for a few seconds and then moving off. Is that what they call a dirt devil? Only got a poor photo of it as it had moved away by the time I got the camera sorted.

I arrive in Atar and head to the campsite that has been recommended to me, Bab Sahara. It is run by a Dutch couple and, while I may be wrong, I got the impression he was a bit of a desert snob in that he wanted real explorers and not tourists. (Maybe it was just the long drive). Anyway the site obviously had a woman’s touch and I think most would find it charming.

It was a long day so I headed to bed.

Thursday 29th January 09 Atar to Chinguetti and back to Nouakchott

Why so much in a day? Well I didn’t quite plan it this way but got up early and headed off to Chinguetti which is apparently the 7th city of Islam (Mecca being the first) although I think they spend more money on the others. The road is quite direct with one main turn just out of town onto the track. What a rough road. Serious corrugations in many places and the rest of the time the type where you need to get up to 40mph to iron them out. Most of the trip is dull as it is an uninteresting road but there are 2 highlights both being in the more mountainous areas. The first is the sight of a beautiful oasis of a village down in a gorge and the second is the stunning views from the mountain pass.

I arrive in Chinguetti and am inundated with people trying to show me this, that and the other and sell me anything. I am also shown keys to libraries and in the end after getting very frustrated with all the hassle pick one of the guys who then directs me to his family library with books that are really old. Pardon me if I sound underwhelmed but it turns out there are several of these libraries and I am not sure that the way he handled the books didn’t mean he had someone already making the next batch. He was entertaining and worth the fee for the effort he put in. It may well have all been authentic but I can’t help feeling I missed the really important books that were in town. I am afraid I got fed up with the hassle and offers of guides and so with a brief glimpse of the sand sea I headed on the road back to Atar with the intention of having a look on the road to Ouadane. 35km on that road was enough and while I still had some teeth left I turned round and made my way back to Atar. I bumped into one of the guys from the campsite and he tried to get me to do the piste down to Mali but I didn’t really get a feeling of security and safety, more one of bravado and gay abandonment. I headed back on the long haul to Nouakchott after refusing to be ripped off by one of the locals for bread. (I expect to pay a little premium but once I know the right price then double that is taking the mickey.

At the end of my long ride back I was quite glad to get to my bed although I had been concerned by a noise from the vehicle. Don’t panic, it was just the Hi-Lift jack banging about as one of the delightful cherubs who jumped up on the back for a ride had loosened the clamp and it had worked loose on the road.

Friday 30th January 09 Nouakchott again.

I decide to have a little ride round today but mainly have a relaxing day and do a little car servicing. I get my worst police check so far but nothing too bad. I head towards the port but end up losing my way a bit and just decide to get some fruit and a couple of hose clips and head back. Little things like hose clips are available but are hard to find when you don’t speak the language. So I start the oil change. I change the fuel filter and also the air filter (which gives me a box to store the K&N filter that has been getting in the way). I have to take the bowl of old oil up to the service station who will do my greasing for me (better than I can) for 1500 Oogiya (about £4-5).

The Auberge fills up again and I take the opportunity to buy a few CFA from a British guy who has just spent 2 months travelling around Mali, Senegal and Burkina with his wife and 2 children (the young one had his 1st birthday in the Sahara dunes). So a quick dedication to Ward Construction of Twickenham. I am off to bed in a few minutes as tomorrow I start in the direction of Mali.