Saturday, 14 July 2012

The Mauritanian Pin

MAURITANIA (Monday June 25 - Thursday June 28 2012) 

The pins: Nouadhibou, Nouakcott, Diama

Nouadhibou - Diama: 800 km in one country that we will not miss at all.. the first time that we felt unable to go further.. the first time that French people gave us more than a hand..

Benoit & Ghislain
In Monday afternoon, we arrived in the Moroccan - Mauritanian borders. Without paying anything and having all our papers in order, we managed to pass both borders in two hours. We also got a Mauritanian insurance for 10 days and 27 euros. Quite expensive if you take into consideration that nobody asks for it. We headed to Nouadhibou with Ghislain and Benoit, another French guy we met in the borders who lives and works in Mauritania. We found the camping ABBA. No comments.. The only good thing is that they let us have a shower in a room. One more time, the toilets were disgusting. Benoit and Ghislain decided to have dinner together while we decided not to join them but meet Nikolas, the only Greek who lives in Nouadhibou. If only, we had been with the French guys.. 

A nightmare had just begun. The car was parked right outside the house of the Greek man. Once he went out his house, he saw the car open. Once again, Zikos had been stolen. The small rear window was broken and the case with the analogue cameras, the camcorder and all the digital memory sticks were missing. In addition to that, our medicine box, a tea box we had for exchange and two shirts were stolen. What is more, Zikos could not start as we had experienced some problems with the starter after the Moroccan borders.   

For the first time in our trip, we felt so discouraged and alone. The Greek guy had previously explained us all the situation and things we were going to see in our trip to the West Africa in every detail. Murders, wars, kidnappings, very bad weather and a car that would probably not make it at the end, was in Nikolas puzzle. With such a "support" and a really bad psychology, how can you continue such an adventure? It's not your stuff that you miss but the positive thinking that you need to start building again.. and he did not do anything for it. 

Next day, we put the car in a kind of garage so as to fix the starter, put an alarm and put a new window as well. We spent the rest of the day in Nouadhibou doing nothing but waiting for the car to be fixed and trying to start thinking positive.
Nouadhibou misery

Nouadhibou is not a city, a town or even a village. A miserable mix of people, goats, cars, garbage and blocks of  barracks consists this place. However, it is a rapidly growing area thanks to fish and other seafood exports and mining (gold, coal, etc.). Of course, exports means ports which have been taken over mainly by Spanish and Chinese companies.The same night Benoit invited us to his place where he cooked for us. A real traveler (who visited Nouadhibou for 3 days and finally stayed there for two years) with countless stories and experiences, helped us by giving really helpful information and advices. If it were for him and Ghislain, we would have been back to Greece with the next plane.

Kim & the twins.
On Wednesday, we headed south to Nouakchott, the Mauritanian capital with 1 million people. We went to the Auberge Sahara, well known by many travelers. We met Kim, a Korean Buddhist philosophy professor, who was traveling for 2 years on his bicycle around the world along with his two children. Great soul, indeed. Georgia cooked spaghetti and along with Ghislain, we opened the maps to take some decisions about the next day route. We decided to go through Diama instead of Rosso so as to enter in Senegal. The majority of overlanders prefers the Diama crossing even it is a bit off road.

Thursday morning, after 150 km in good tarmac road, we got into the piste. The ultimate off road experience on gravel, sand and coutless potholes. We got lost, we went back again and again (it is not a single route), we crossed the Diawling National Park in Mauritania (6 euros each) and finally after 4.5 hours, we arrived at the borders. Zikos did great without any problems! Even in the Mauritanian borders they asked for some money for "formalities", thanks to Ghislain, we paid nothing and moved to the Senegalese border. There, we paid quite a lot of money without any reason (10 euros for passport stamps and 7 euros for Carnet) but it seemed to be obligatory. It was our real first touch in the "Black" continent.

Senegalese-Mauritanian borders
ATTENTION: According to a new law, if your car is 8 years old -at most- you can enter in Senegal without Carnet. However, if you have the Carnet, pay attention to the date they write on the bottom left of a customs document they give to you. Normally, they give you 48 hours to go to the Dakar port, find the customs and complete the import process. They did not keep the first page of the Carnet in the Diama borders and nobody told us if they did it on purpose or you must go -in any case- to the Dakar customs service in the port to finish it. Be very careful in any case.

Attention: The bridge that connects Mauritania and Senegal belongs to the latter and you must pay 8 euros after crossing.

We liked: The French guys, Benoit & Ghislain that trully support us, the Moorish desert that was full of acacia trees and red sand and the off-road adventure to Diama. 

We did not liked: Nouadhibou as a place. We have no problem at all with the Mauritanian people. By breaking your car, it does not mean that all people are bad. 

We saw: People survive under tragic conditions.

Chaos in Nouakcott!
Driving in Mauritania: Every Mauritanian that respects himself owns a stolen Mercendes model 190D or 200. No matter the situation, the color or the horsepower. Driving is a real mess as there are no traffic lights signs, police or pathways. Everyone goes wherever he likes or is more convenient for him even he is heading on you ignoring priorities and other stuff. Animals, cars and people are all in the same road. Nouadhibou has only three roads in tarmac. In Nouakchott almost all roads are in tarmac but driving is chaotic as well. 

Local currency: Ouguiya - Exchange rate 1 EUR ≈ 370 Ouguiya

Average price for diesel: 0,95 euros

Car: Despite the fact that we did our best in terms of the starter maintenance back in Greece, it let us down. The Mauritanian electrician fixed it but we are not sure how far we will go with it. What is more, he managed to make the fridge stop after the alarm connection. It seems that he did something wrong on the electricity connections. In any case, we will run a service in Dakar and CFAO Motors, the African dealer of Suzuki in Senegal.

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