Senegal and Mauritania
I crossed into Senegal on Friday the 25 August and drove to the nearest town Moussala, which looked more like a huge refugee camp than a local village. Hundreds of temporary shelters were sprawled across the countryside. We later heard that gold had been discovered in the area and they were mainly artisanal gold miners.
Senegal like Mali and Burkina before it is lush and green with hundreds of kilometers of green fields and totally opposite to every photo I’ve ever seen which show these countries as dry, dusty and hot. I now realise that all the tourists to these countries visit in the dry season and I’m still yet to work out why.
On our final morning the sun came out and we bypassed Dakar and drove through the outskirts of Saint Louis, heading to the river crossing at Rosso.
As I travelled north from Dakar the green pastures and lush forests of the last three months were replaced with sandy, arid terrain typical of the Sudan Region of North Africa.
The next phase of my African journey started when I crossed the Mauritanian border. I’ll spend the next two months in the deserts of North Africa, including crossing the Sahara in summer.
Before we could head north into the desert we had to negotiate the infamous border crossing from Senegal to Mauritania which is across the Senegal River and is notorious as the most corrupt border crossing in all of Africa.
Corrupt officials, hassles, problems, bribes and chaos on both sides of the river.
All up it took about six hours to wait for the ferry and make our way through the process with the help of a local fixer and a few dollars paid to the right people.
After having crossed into Nigeria by road and been stopped sixteen times in twenty kilometers by Nigerian border officials and also having crossed the border from Angola to the DRC by road where we enjoyed the added bonus of being interviewed in a small back room by the Agence Nationale de Renseignements (ANR) , aka the Congo National Intelligence Agency, the crossing to Mauritania was just another fun day in Africa that I got a few laughs out of.
It was difficult to fathom the suddenness of the change in landscape. In less than 100km we went from green fields and rice paddies to sandhills and camels.
The following afternoon, after a scenic desert drive north we reached the capital, Nouakchott – pronounced Nuwak-shut – where the Sahara meets the sea.
On my first afternoon we headed to the Port de Peche. The fish market is one of the busiest in West Africa and we arrived in time to watch the boats return.
Hundreds of colourful traditional wooden pirogues lined the beach with others returning from the ocean every few minutes with their catch. Once near the shore, they battle the shore break and twenty guys drag it up the beach on rollers.
We stopped at a cafe near the boats for local mint tea and watched the sunset over the Atlantic Ocean.
After our time in Nouakchott we headed into the desert, sand and heat, hugging the coast north towards Nouadibou. Pronounced No-waadi-boo.
We drove up the eastern side of Star Bay and found a beachfront hotel with resident Greater Flamingos feeding in the bay, where I had a long afternoon walk around the edge of the bay.
The following day we crossed out of Mauritania into no-man’s-land where there’s no road with a side order of land mines. The territory is disputed between two countries and two would-be-if-they-could-be countries. Mauritania, Western Sahara, The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Morocco.
After exiting Mauritania and before the five day Sahara crossing we stopped at the border for a chicken tagine lunch and cold drinks. The photo below is just after leaving the border cafe.
I’ll spend a week in the Western Sahara and then a fortnight in Morocco visiting Agadir, Marrakesh, Tangier, Cueta, Casablanca and a few places in between. From Morocco I’m flying to Niger for a week and then Chad for ten days.
My next post will be from Tangier in a fortnight. Bye for now.