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Dunia - An African Odyssey Part 2
      #181026 - 08/05/11 04:36 AM


Click here for the Discussion thread



Index

    Part 1
  • Introduction
  • Planning
  • Equipment
  • Route map and country information
  • Sponsors
  • Links
  • Off-road driving in Norway
  • Trip to Bergen
  • June in Norway
  • To the North Cape of Norway and Europe
  • Lofoten, Norway
  • August in Norway
  • France, September
  • France and Spain
    Part 2
  • Morocco & Africa, September
  • Morocco & Mauritania
  • Mali
  • Burkini Faso


  • To be continued



Back to Part 1


September
Morocco




Camping on the beach


Lunch with Oistein and Peder

Heading down south we finally reached Algeciras where we planned to take the ferry across to Ceuta. Getting tickets in one of the ticket booths along the road we were able to drive right into the ferry with no hassles. The crossing took about an hour and was quite pleasent. Getting off, we filled our tanks with diesel (which we realised later was really bad diesel!! - an Elf station right after the ferry terminal) and headed towards Morocco. At the border, it was literally like stepping into another world. There were sudenly people everywere, all yelling or shouting. We followed the que to the border and went from there to the customs and registrations area. Things went actually very smoothly with a help from a policeman who pointed Erik to the correct windows, as there are serveral. The thing is you have to get to the second one first and then back to the first window and then on to the third etc, etc. All in all, the crossing took us about half an hour! It was then beginning to get late and we headed south and found a campsite in Martil. And what a first night in Morocco - the camp was full of garbadge and the toilets were for the whole town. But with no other alternative we settled down. Erik got to know the bar owner and we were treated for some mint tea. In retrospect, maybe this is what gave Erik a bad case of longterm runny bottom!


Hassan II and Erik


Dinner at Djenna el Fna

Driving through the Rif Mountains was a really nice drive. People selling onions every 100 meters and donkeys everywhere, either fullpacked with all sorts of things or with their legs tied together so that they don't run away. There is garbage everywhere and it seems, as someone else wrote, like they think that Allah is going to remove the garbage for them! So they leave it everywhere. We are not used to the Moroccoen way, yet we had a little trouble finding the camp in Fez. After driving around Fez for some time, we were guided by a moped guy and his friend to the campsite. In return, they wanted us to use the moped guys brother as a guide in the Medina and take us to another cousins restaurant that night. We went along with the guiding of the Medina and he was to pick us up at 09:30 am the next morning. But the man never showed up! So after 45 minutes we took a "petit taxi" and hired Jamal, an official guide from the tourist office. He showed us the Medina, which was fabulous. We saw all the craftmens work and it really is amazing - all from weaving to tanneries. In the tanneries they dye the leather and the place smells like piss - and that's what's really used to! The leather is coloured in animal urin! We got a guy in there to tell us all about it and was very dissapointed when we didn't buy anything later. Lunch in the Medina and the famous tagine was tried out and it was delicious.


Volubilis

Staying in Fez for two days we drove to see Volubilis - a very well preserved Roman settelment. It was very interesting walking around in the ruins, seeing so well their former way of living. Next we went to Rabat to get our visa for Mauritania. Unfortunately the Consulate General had just moved to Casablanca that very weekend. What a bummer! In addition we stayed at a campsite south of the city which had a tivoli next to it. So we had tivoli music on one side and the mosque with its middle of the night wake up calls on the other!

Getting our visa in Casablanca was very easy. We dropped by the Embassey at nine o'clock in the morning and picked them up at three pm. It costs 200 dh for the both of us. In the meantime we went to see the Hassan II Mosque which is open for non muslims - at the price of 200 dh for a guided tour! Far too expensive..... The Mosque was finished in 1994 and was built by 10.000 workers working 24/7 for 7 years. Its extravagance is almost a little too much when you see that there are so many other things in Morocco that need to be taken care of.

Leaving Casablanca we drove down to Marakech. We stayed at a nice and quiet campsite 12 km out of town. There is unfortunately nothing closer, but it's a quick taxi ride into town. The Medina and the famous Djenna el Fna square was a must and it surely lived up to it's expectations. The square were filled with snakecharmers, men with trained monkeys (the monkies are kept in tiny cages when not working and they are obviously not treated very well. We therefor avoided the monkey men and hope others will too. Perhaps if people don't pay for this cruel attraction, the business will die out), tables with real teeth, spices etc, etc. In the evening all the foodstalls are set up and the atomsphere is unique. The air is filled with spices and barbeque smells. First Erik tried out the spicy snails, I had one, and it was actually very good. Later we tried the shish-kabob and sausages. Yummy!

Trawling the Medina in Marakech was a very easy thing to do on your own compared to Fez, where there streets are so narrow and winding that you will get lost in just a few minutes without a guide. I did, of course, get Henna on my hand, more or less unwillingly. Inside the Medina I was offered it for 5 dh. At the square, I was being hassled by a lady wanting to put Henna on my hand. I wasn't interested, but before I knew it, she had taken my hand in her own and began drawing Henna designs on it. It happened so quickly that I was a bit stunned and before I knew it she had completed her task and wanted 100 dh!! For something that I didn't even ask for! We immediately refused and said that it was ludicrious to pay for something we didn't ask for not to mention that it cost maximum 5 dh anywhere else in the Medina. Erik offered them 2 dh, making it clear that if they didn't want it, that they could f....off! They grabbed it. Then they were promptly chased away by the police. Obviously they were known hustlers. So there, I was really hustled! And with this sticky, messy mudpaint on my hand, we went over to a cafè to wash it off. We stayed in Marakech for two days then headed off south by the coast.

Driving south was pretty uneventful exept for a nice night of camping on the beach by ourselves. The beach was totally deserted, but unfourtunatly, the morocan habit of garbege everywere applied to here too. Plastic bottles washes up on the shore, as far as the eye could see... Eventually, we reached the "border" into Western Sahara. It's part of Morocco, but the police and military checkpoints are all over the place. 2 of them where actually only 300 meters away from each other and within shouting distance... Where is the logic? When we got to Laayoune, a United Nations car stopped next to us, and it turned out to be a Norwegian named Oistein and a Swede named Peder. In the end we went to the beach with them and ate lunch together! Western Sahara is a vast area full of nothing! You drive for hours without seeing any change in scenery. It's like a big void. In a way it's kind of intersting travelling through lots of nothingness for hour after hour!


The never ending road through Western Sahara.

We finally arived in Dhakla, the southernmost town before the border. Here we have met a german couple, Nils and Angelika, who we will cross the border with tommorow and drive down to Noakchott with.

It'll be the first sandy part of our trip!


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Re: Dunia - An African Odyssey Part 2 [Re: NitroX]
      #181031 - 08/05/11 04:59 AM


Click here for the Discussion thread


September
Morocco / Mauritania



Loaded truck

The last town near the border to Mauritania is Dakhla, where we stayed for 2 nights before leaving Morocco. The only central place to camp in Dakhla is unfourtunatly right next to a camel "stable" with about 40 camels. This wouldn't seem like a problem at first, but it is! The wind blew non stop from their direction towards us, covering us and the cars, tents etc, in a layer of dried out, pulverized camel shit...

The morning dew then made it cling to everything by turning it into a sticky mess. The nice thing about Dakhla was that there is subsidized fuel, so we filled the car with cheap diesel!

At the camp ground we met a german couple, Nils and Angelika Paulsen, and two belgian guys, Francoise and Pierre. All travelling through Africa. Since we were headed for the same route, we decided to join up for the border crossing.

The border crossing was relativly painless, with only 1 Customs officer trying to get us to give him something. He didn't get anything from anyone. The rest were more professional.


Driving through the minefield...

The hard part begins after entering Mauritania. The border is seperated by a mine field that used to be crossed by convoy. The convoy is no longer and that leaves you to either hire a guide or navigate by GPS. Nils had a GPS route from a german book and we had one from a french book, so we decided to drop the guide. Looking back, that was a bit foolish! The thing is, that the sand dunes move, and thus change, the possible routes... There is about a billion tracks winding through the area, and in the end, you just have to pick one and keep your wheels in the same tracks as the car that has passed before. Several times we came to a "dead end" because the track had been blown over by sand. The trick then was to pass around the barrier by driving on solid windswept stone and getting on a new track as soon as possible. Our little convoy of 3, led by Nils in front, Francoise/Pierre in the middle because they had clutch problems, and us bringing up the rear went very well, despite the navigational difficulties.


Nouadibou sea

Nils did a very good job. The danger was illustrated by the blown-up wrecks of cars that had wandered
of the safe path. Some only a couple of meters to the side! Arriving in Nouadibou, the border town on the RIM side (République Islamique de Mauritanie), we stopped to stay at a campsite in town, it was reasonably clean and the owner knew of a mechanic that could fix the Belgians Land Rover. It could only be driven in first gear now. We spent 2 nights there, looking around town and getting some food for the upcoming trip through the desert to Noakchott, the capitol. We also used some time to change our money into the local currency, plus buy 3 party insurance. Unfortunatly, we couldn't buy the west african insurance - Carte Brun, which is valid in many of the upcoming counties. We'd have to get that later in Mali.


Tres amigos!

With the Belgians car presumably fixed we then drove out of town, heading for the capitol, and for our first taste of desert adventure!


Inside our "cockpit".


A Land Rover owners driver seat dream view!!!


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Re: Dunia - An African Odyssey Part 2 [Re: NitroX]
      #181033 - 08/05/11 05:09 AM


Click here for the Discussion thread


September
Mauritania 1



A deep water well in the middle of nowhere.

The desert has long been a facination of ours that we have looked forward to experiancing. Leaving Nouadigbough in the morning, we headed out towards the desert. We were still in company with the germans and the belgians and navigating by GPS. The first part of the track was quite rocky with rough terrain. Some soft sand stretches appear inbetween and we got stuck! A couple of minutes of sand shoveling and we were on our way again.


Hey, which way?

The landscape then shiftes to endless streches of gravel and sandunes and we hit our first dune where we had lunch. Driving over the flat landscape at 70 km/hour with the occasional dune passing by was amazing. We then found a great place and set camp. Unfortanetly, we could only enjoy the calm and the tranquility of the desert for a few minutes before a mini sandstorm caught us. We then had to put everything back in the car in a hurry and had to sleep inside the car, which is not very comfortable.


The morning after the sandstorm. It wasn't exactly a comfy night!

Nils tried to sleep outside under some canvas for awhile, before he was forced inside his car!! Before leaving camp the next morning Nils and Erik was driving around on the dunes for fun and for training, and Erik got stuck! So we got to use our sandplates for the first time and they worked excellently.


Not many roads or signs nearby. A GPS is needed to find the way.

That day we crossed the big dunes (according to the GPS points). The dunes where a little different than we imagined. Not the caracteristic dunes like we had driven past, but these were long and stretcy dunes with some vegetation. Trying to get up the first time, Nils got stuck in the sand. A little shoveling and pushing got him loose and we decided to take another track up where Erik had noticed a local truck drive.  This time it worked and we were all up. Now we just had to keep the speed up plus that we had very low tyre pressure to float on the sand. Driving through the desert passing hundreds of camels was just great experiance.

Lunch was accompanied with a camel shepard who hung around wanting a "cadeau". Later in the afternoon we hit the beach part of the route. This strech has to be driven according to the tide. When the tide is down you drive on the beach, but it is important to get off the beach before the tide gets up because then there is no more beach and it's too steep to drive off in some parts. According to the locals the tide is up at 18:45. Since it was only 15:00 we decided to start and see how far we got.

Driving down the white beach with blue/green water on your right and dark yellow dunes on your left was fabulous. After a couple of hours the water became so high that we decided to get off and camp. Nils and Francoise had a swim, and the rest of us joined in the next morning. Playing around at the beach a couple of hours before the tide went down was well worth the waiting.


Beach camping

The rest of the drive was fairly easy down the beach. A little rough ride to get off the beach and we were in Nouakchott. In Nouakchott we stayed at the Auberge Nomad which was a good place to stay. The next day we used to get our visa for Mali (Mali Embassy) and Burkina Faso (French Embassy). Both very efficient, we got them the same day. In Nouakchott we said goodbye to Francoise and Pierre, who were heading for Senegal, and Nils and Angelika, who were going around Mauritania, but not until a few days later. For us it was time to get to Chinguetti and do some camel riding!


Mauritanian desert highway. Watch out for speed traps!


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NitroXAdministrator
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Reged: 25/12/02
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Re: Dunia - An African Odyssey Part 2 [Re: NitroX]
      #181034 - 08/05/11 05:19 AM


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October
Mauritania 2



Endless, beautiful Mauritanian desert near Chinguetti.


Some last grocery shopping and we were off again, heading north, north/east, towards Atar and Chinguetti. We had heard of an oasis 50 km before Atar, that was supposedly worth a visit so we took a detour and a rough 12 km piste (almost an hour to drive!) in to Tergit to see what it was like. As we didn't know much about it we thought we would just look around and leave. We parked the car and went on foot 300 meters up the green valley to the oasis. In the oasis it was at least 10 degrees cooler and it turned out that you can spend the night there under beduin tents if you want.


Getting a bit sweaty trekking around near Tergit.


The oasis starts just around the corner behind AC.

We decided to stay for a night and had couscous for dinner that they prepare for you if you want. Unfortunately I had an upset stomach so I couldn't hold on to if for too long!! And I was very happy they had OK (although arabic) toilet facilities! During the evening we were hit by a thunderstorm, so we laid under our beduin tent listening to the rain and the thunder. It was a fantastic place and the next morning we walked up the valley and viewed the oasis and the surroundings. Leaving Tergit we headed for Atar and Chinguetti. The piste form Atar to Chinguetti is very good. The "new pass" is now covered in asfalt, and is a relatively easy, although very steep ride (10%).


At the dinner table

In Chinguetti we stayed at the Auberge Abweir. This place was relatively new and had the best bathrooms ever! Even better than Europe (although still arabic toilets...)! We stayed in a beduin tent again and had dinner with Max, a french man who has travelled around all of west africa for decades both working and on holidays. He was driving down to Senegal to sell a car. As he stated; a "working vacation". He had another french man with him at the moment who is hitchhiking for 3 months.

Couscous Mauritania was on the menu and is made out of Millet, unlike the type from Morocco, which is made from wheat. It would have been very good if it hadn't been for all the sand in it! That's the desert for you! The sand gets into everything. We arranged with the owner to go on a camel ride the following day. At 7 o'clock our camelguide, Elouen, was ready to take us out into the dunes on two camels. Off we went, the three of us and the camels. At first we decided to walk (to get some excercice) but walking in the sand can be pretty exhausting, so I got on my camel. Erik wanted to walk a little further. High up on the camel you get a great view of the surroundings and there was sanddunes as far as you could see. Some red tinted and some whitish.


I traded the car in for this brand new turbo-injection model

The sand dunes are apperently a problem for Chinguetti, as the dunes are taking over the small town. We where told that the town might be totally covered in a couple of decades. After about 3 hours (Erik walked the whole time) we made camp and Elouen made lunch; bread baked in the sand and camelstew from dried camel meat. It all tasted very good after the walk/ride. And we had mint tea about 6 times. The tea is so sweet and after a while you sort of get used to it and it now tastes actually quite good. In the afternoon we headed for home and we both got on our camels.


Elouen making tea

Elouen entertained us singing Mauritanian folkmusic. He was very good and it was a nice touch that made it even more enjoyable. Back in camp we had a good night sleep and were off the next day. We had a couple of long days ahead, heading for Mali.We drove back to Nouakchott and then to Timbedgha in 2 1/2 days. Driving down was very facinating, but a long drive. Around 10 hours per day. The scenery is wonderful. It gets greener and some places looks like you are in Asia because of recent rainfalls.

Cows and goats are everywhere and you see the dried out carcasses of roadkilled cows every 500 meters! We had actually planned to go to Nema and from there to Mali, but we were warned by the military and police along the road not to go there because of Tuareg rebels. They advised us to cut down towards Mali from Timbedgha instead. I must say that Tibmedgha was the worst village we have been in. The children vere extremely harrasing and even older people would not leave us alone. Children were hanging and banging on my door, wanting our little Tiko! Erik was in the Duane (customs) to get the Carnet stamped and had a quite difficult time in there. To stamp the Carnet, the corrupt bastard wanted 20 Euro! Erik asked him what for, and was told that since it was Saterday, it was his day off. Erik then pointed out that he was in his office working, and that the customs office obviously was opened, thus it shouldn't cost us anything for him to do his job... It ended up with us paying 5 Euro and 1 dollar bill. It was the first time we had to pay out to a corrupt official. May he rot in hell!!! After a difficult time finding the right piste out of town that would lead us across the border, we started on the long and dusty cross country drive over to Nara in Mali. It was about 170 km that took us almost 10 hours. Forget about trying that route with a normal car... The car was covered in mud and dust when we arrived, and thankfully, the customs and police in Nara where very proffesional.

At the moment we are in Bamako, and will write soon about our Mali adventures!


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