Our first true African border crossing was an experience most will not forget, including a mad German in a camper van who had us in stitches, even though no one really understood him!

The boom opened at 9am, and we filtered through with the rest of the traffic into the Immigration area. Passports were dealt with fairly quickly, but that was the only quick part. Next, a series of customs searches and passport viewings by officials. One check, drive 10m, another check, drive another 10m……two hours all up!
Driving through no mans land to the Mauritanian side (which we could see) took over 3 hours, as a wrong turn put us in deep sand. At least we had a good workout playing with sand mats and shovels, especially as it was a typical day in an area with seasons of “hot” and “very hot”! One “enterprising” chap offered to show us the way to the border, which, as you know, we could see, for the princely sum of 200 Euros! I think he got the message after I called him ridiculous and turned my back on him.

When we got bored with sand matting we ambled up to the Mauritanian border post…to find it closed for lunch. Of course! It was only half past two! Eventually it opened and I sort of barged in front of other cars and just played dumb, that I didn’t understand. It worked and we were dealt with by the police straight away. The strange thing about this “dry” country is that when we were asked if we had any alcohol, it was not asked in a stern, “it is not allowed” way, but a “please give me some” way. Still, we declared that none was carried and as they found none we were allowed to proceed. That was after a small gift of two tins of pineapple changed hands!

Immigration and customs formalities went smoothly and then we proceeded into Nouadhibou. Dusty, ramshackle, filthy….just a few words to describe the place. Even so, we found a decent campsite with showers. They will be few and far between from now on. A few of the lads went on a mission to find some nightlife, and had a rather surreal experience. The only place selling beer was a Chinese restaurant, complete with a lady of the night who propositioned Steve H with a rather amorous fondle. I will allow your imagination to explore that one! The lads then left and came back to the truck, minus “garlic breath” as she was dubbed, to wow us with their tale.

The following morning we drove out to a well in the desert, on the way out of town. All jerry cans and water tanks full, we headed into the Sahara.
Not too impressed by the previous days sand experience, we opted to take the easy way. Realistically there is no choice anymore; the road through the desert is tar all the way! 430kms from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott, desert dunes everywhere, broken only by the odd herd of camels and the inevitable police check points.

The night was spent on the outskirts of town in a small Auberge, dorm beds for all, and the use of a kitchen (with microwave!) and hot showers. The owners were very keen to sell us beer, yet another strange coincidence in this
“dry” country.

The morning saw the splitting of the group. Steve H, Wes, Dunc, Paul, Denise and Chris caught an early taxi to the Senegal border, the search for nightlife continues. The lure of Dakar and St Louis has worked and they will meet us intrepid ones in Bamako. So into the desert wastes we go, obviously with only five we will be very careful and try very hard not to get stuck………..but that tale will have to wait.

It is usually assumed that the traveller who prefers lonely places, the desert traveller so to say, is one who wishes to escape from his world and his fellows.
Freya Stark (1893-1993) from The philosophy of Travel, The Spectator 24 March 1950