Friday, November 14, 2008 - Mauritania - added by Roxy

We have now arrived in Mauritania, and it's, well, different! At the border, the police were ultra friendly, but were pretty persistent in asking for a wide a variety of 'gifts' from us. One young guy, virtually jumped into the front of the truck to see what was on offer. At first he wanted the iPod, to which I politely said no, then he wanted the bicycles, then cigarettes, then diesel - all of which were refused in good humour. Another guy came to us, and he too wanted diesel. He was more difficult to shake though, and attracted quite a crowd of other police officers whilst he brought his jerrycans out and insisted that we should give him diesel. We said that he could have some diesel if he paid a fair price for it, to which he said no, and so the discussion continued. Then the guy started to say that he needed diesel because he had run out and couldn't get back to town, all the while pointing at a fancy merc (which we strongly suspect belonged to someone more senior than him). Steve then threw a curve ball and said that if the guy had indeed run out of diesel, then we would tow him and the car into town. When the police officer finally figured out what Steve was proposing, his eyes widened and he started shouted 'No no no'!! Towing his boss' car (we suspect) into town clearly wasn't quite what he'd had in mind. The whole scene was so ridiculous that all the other police officers started to howl with laughter, so much so that they gave up pestering us and just sent us on our way, still rolling about in stitches.

Our first stop was in Nouadhibou in Mauritania. The people were great, but the city isn't much to look at. We found a little campsite, Camping Abba. The bathroom in the campsite was an indication of the change in standards from Morocco to Mauritania. The room was about 1m squared, and was painted dark pink, and had blocks of wood over the windows to act as curtains. The bathroom was a typical Eastern toilet (i.e. a hole in the ground), but the shower hose was directly over the hole. So God help you if you slip in the shower, because you will end up falling down the loo. That aside, and even more scary, was the fact that the room also doubled as a place where you could wash your clothes and dishes - IN the bucket that people use to throw water into the toilet to flush it. Holy moly!

We quickly decided that we would leave Mauritania as soon as possible. There was nothing much expect for sand, sand and more sand for miles around!

Our departure wasn't quite as smooth as we would have liked though. We took a short cut to the border of Senegal, through a really beautiful national park. The roads were difficult to drive on, as we had to navigate a combination of giant potholes, thick sand, and cement-like mud. We almost made it! Unfortunately just a few kilometres short of the border, whilst dodging a pothole, Songololo's front right wheel went off the road, and we found ourselves falling very suddenly into really deep mud, with Songololo's 10 tonnes pushing us relentlessly deeper. Oops!!

At first we tried to get out ourselves, but it didn't take long for us to realise that it was of no use, each time we moved the truck simply became more and more stuck, and we were getting really worried that she might fall over. We had some good company though, in that Brian Doyle, a cool South African guy who is CYCLING from London to Cape Town, came and helped us to try and get out. This is the 3rd time that we have run into Brian - it's a small world out here.

We eventually decided to sit it out and wait for help since we knew that the team from the Amsterdam Dakar rally were coming along the same route (we'd met them in the campsite the previous evening), and that they had a Unimog that we hoped would be able to pull us out. After about an hour and a half, we saw the bikes from the rally arrive. What a sight for sore eyes!!!!!!!!!!! Soon all the cars started arriving and everyone stopped their cars and came to help. After more than an hour, with the help of about 20 really knowledgeable guys, 3 heavy vehicles, and about 40 over-excited supporters, we hauled Songololo back onto the road amidst loads of shouting and clapping! To say that we were thankful is an understatement. We were so so lucky it was unbelievable. And Songololo was unscratched, which was even more amazing! We are lucky bastards hey?


1 .
Just shows you what sh*t driving can do!! The taxi drivers of Joburg would be envious. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Joburg doesn't have mud like that, so I guess we had better send the taxi drivers up to you. Keep on trucking - Folks in Jhb
Fossils - 29 Nov 2008, 8:00
2 .
Enjoying your story which I am following with interest. Heard all about you from Bryan (now in Mali). Go well and enjoy! Cedric (Bryans Dad)
Cedric - 29 Nov 2008, 11:14
3 .
Nice one! Who was driving?
Doug - 29 Nov 2008, 13:24
4 .
Hiya guys. Glad to hear that the adventure is going well. Am missing your company. Having said that, India is amazing; I arrived in Mumbai on the day that the terrorists atatcked, so it wasn't a great start but, it's got better ever since. Goa was the most chilled place on earth - wonderful beaches, people and food. Am now in Hampi, which I have yet to explore. Travelling by train, coach and rickshaw - in a strange way, I'm really missing the bike (which made it back to london intact - less 4 spokes). Anyway, very impressed with your 'off roading' in Mauritania. Hope it wasn't too stressful! You don't seem to have answered Doug's question re who was driving? I'm suspecting that it may be because Roxy's doing the writing? Take care guys - make the most of it. Nick Have a pokjie for me!
Nick - 10 Dec 2008, 9:57

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