I went and it was good. Public transport is annoyingly difficult and the food is rubbish, but when I wasn't standing by the road getting my thumb sunburnt, I was having absolute nonstop fun. Would've been twice as good with a buddy, of course.
Ask questions within the next 12 hours because I'm off to the mountains tomorrow.
Hitched most of the way through the Western Sahara. The internet has it that it's an easy road to hitchhike but that is lies.
Made it to the border just as it was closing; had to camp out at a truck stop. This was the queue of cars parked overnight.
Hitched across No-man's land with these overlanders. The Moroccan gendarmerie made them use a knife to cut the Western Sahara out of that map on the hood of their car
No-man's land. Really wans't that interesting, just 2km of bombed out cars
Stopped in the middle of the minefield to sort out visas and do some shady currency exchanges
Port de Pecheurs in Nouhadibou. Nice city, feels very African compared to Dakhla, last city in Morocco
Mauris bloody hate being photographed so I don't have many pics with people in.
About 200 euro for under two weeks, and that's on bare-bones budget, camping and eating sardines. I only changed 200E in Nouadhibou; if I'd had more I would have stayed longer, and done a lot more. I had my heart set on a 5-day camel trek from Chinguetti to Ouadane, only 120 euro including food and guide. Would have been an incredible experience
Walking from Agadir to Fes. Will post on /out/.
To clarify, I did NOT go on the camel trek but would have if I'd had the currency. There are ATMs in Nouadhibou and allegedmy one in Atar, but they didn't work for me
Choo choo mother fuckers here comes the longest train on earth
Here's little me; I wore the same smile when I found a train set under the christmas tree 20 years ago.
Hamed and Mohamed, my companions for the grueling trip
Of course what's a big adventure for me is an annoying 12-hour commute for a hundred Mauris. One car was loaded entirely with goats.
I'm from Maine. Yeah, insha'allah I'll be here through April.
Here's what the inside of the car was like. Not enough space to play stickball, but certainly enough for a full-size ping pong table.
The iron dust gets flippin' everywhere. Scarf and goggles are absolute essentials. I did't want to subject my North Face sleeping bag to the filth which is why I nearly froze overnight
Photo courtesy of either Hamed or Mohamed; once they got their scarves on I couldn't tell them apart. The dust was the devil's dandruff. Miserable stuff. It's free to ride in the cargo carriages; there are two sleeper cars which only cost like 5 bucks for a place, but they stink of piss. More comfortable out in the fresh air where you can stretch out and heat coffee over a camp stove.
Here's Hamed and Mohamed snuggled like babes
oops here it is
Aight I gotta run get all the camping gear my buddy's been storing for me. I'll post the rest later tonight. Stay tuned for oases.
I came by boat from Spain in early January. I'm 24. Been to between 20 and 30 countries depending on your definition of 'country'; I'm a bit of a pedant. My favorite place in the world? If it's early morning with good visibility, then that'd be the Storr on Skye. Otherwise, Maine.
Here's me wrapped up for one of the most uncomfortable nights of my life.
Back in a couple hours
So the friend who has all my gear has fecked off to Agadir; looks like I'm here all night.
So about this train -- after planning this trip for so long it was immensely satisfying. Lying on my back on the cold metal feeling the vibrations in my teeth, brewing coffee over a hobo stove to share with my companions -- for me Mauritania was an exercise in self-determination. It's not exotic and it's not difficult to get to, but in my personal sphere I've had a lot of weight pulling me away from the place. When the train pulled away with me in it, "Then felt I like some watcher of the skies..." Haven't felt that sense of liberation since my first solo vacation as a teen.
Essentials for riding the train: Goggles, scarf, snacks to share and a blanket. I scored a bit of cardboard as a sleeping pad but did not have a blanket. I have suffered much worse nights than that one, but none of them seemed to go on for quite as long. I had a space blanket to protect me from wind, but that same wind was so strong it was ripped to pieces. Ultimately exhaustion allowed me to get about 2 hours of sleep. I picked the wrong 2 hours. I snapped this photo of Mohamed at sunrise. Shortly after he turned to me and said, "I thought you were getting off at Choum". Well thanks for the wakeup call, dick. Ended up having to ride another few hours to Zouerate. A lady I'd met in Nouadhibou let me nap in her house and made me tea until the afternoon train left at about 4pm. This train carried boxcars which were an indescribable luxury. Wooden floor, completely shut off from the wind. It was about 5 hours before we reached Choum; I ate plain cheese and read Ted Hughes by flashlight. For company I had this guy from Nouadhibou who had just hitchhiked from Algiers. I wish we both had spoken better French because I bet he had some incredible stories to tell.
Good question. French is spoken by almost everyone and if you're fluent you'd have no problem. I've learned French just from past trips to Morocco; I can hold a conversation just fine with a Moroccan but the dialect they speak in Mauri is completely different. Most likely it's Senegalese influence doing the mischief. I had to get everyone to repeat things six times before I could comprehend.
This was a shame because the locals were *fantastic* people. It's hard to single out exactly what it was, but something about the Mauritanian character just made me feel completely at ease. Things like body language, emotions, motives of strangers who approach you on the street were accessible to me, whereas in Morocco, and every other non-western country these things can be pretty opaque. Example: I told a lady at the Nouadhibou market I didn't want to buy anything. "Pas de probleme," she says, "la prochaine fois, habibi!" Behind those words I could distinctly hear a lady with a downeast Maine accent saying "Ok, maybe next time dear!"
That brings me to the biggest difference between Mauri and Morocco. Moroccan women have nothing to complain about, but there's not much communing between the sexes. I've not had the chance to get to know many girls up here. The Western Sahara is a sort of twilight zone of equality, where men and women stand in the streets dressed in their best clothes and chatting politely. In Mauritania...young or old, I fell in love with every female I met. They're forward, curious, and often downright sassy. While discussing this with a man in Nouadhibou and I taught him the expression "to wear the pants in the family" and he thought this was a perfect term for Mauri women. I became buds with Fatima in Chinguetti -- a girl about my age, contender for the most beautiful face on planet earth. After our first meeting I was walking through town and saw her on the steps of a shop with a bag full of groceries. She saw me, gave me a smile that would melt tungsten, and waved me to come over. This simple gesture of familiarity by a girl is something I'd never seen in Morocco, and by god it melted my heart.
By the way here's all the gear I took, plus a pop-up mosquito tent and sleeping bag. Considering I didn't use it on the train the sleeping bag wasn't really necessary. Deserts are supposed to be freezing at night; I camped in Merzouga in November and it was so cold there was frost on the sand dunes when I woke, but I guess the latitude makes a big difference.
Once I realized how fast my 200 euro was disappearing I decided I'd be content if I managed to do three things: The train, the Terjit Oasis, and Chinguetti. Here's Terjit. I was worried it would be as disappointing as most other oases. It wasn't.
The adults were all very gentile and seemed not to give a damn that I was white. There were attempts at overcharging me of course, but nothing outrageous. Generally I was treated as an equal, which I find much nicer than being constantly treated as a guest as one is in Morocco. I was able to bond with the average Mauritanian instantly, language permitting. On the other hand children were very annoying. As soon as one of the little bastards spotted me, all around the neighborhood a thousand tiny voices would lend tongue to cries of 'Nasrani, nasrani! (i.e. christian) Donnez-moi un cadeau!' I once had two boys say nothing to me but run up to my backpack, rip it open and start going through it with mutters of 'cadeaux'.
Naw that was one of those rubbish overnight nomad tent experiences; was heaped up with blankets. The possibility of hypothermia definitely crossed my mind on the train, but I've had that shit in the past and could tell it wasn't a real threat. But if you're gonna ride the train, it's so very very important to bundle up if you want to enjoy it.
I spent 10 months on a working holiday scheme in a country down under and made a boatload of money. Wasted a lot of time and resources country-hopping on my way back to the northern hemisphere. Would have been better to just pick one country I knew I'd enjoy and stay there. Been on the road for about 4 months now. I was in Spain with my mother.
With regard to safety? Not even slightly. "General threat of terrorism" -- you can call that misleadingly vague, or you can call it slander. Apparently the tourist industry in Mauri was booming up to 2011. A lot of people asked me why tourists weren't coming any more. I had to explain about the internet rumors of Al Quaeda, and there was such sadness in their faces when they heard this. It's the same kind of sadness I feel when an Aussie accosts me in the hostel kitchen and accuses me of being an obese Bush-voting warmonger, only in my case these prejudices don't dictate whether or not I can afford to feed my family. This Al-Quaeda shit is an outright lie and it's ruining people's lives.
I felt so very, very welcome there. There is only a terrorist presence in Mauritania insofar as one might say there is a terrorist presence in London or Paris. Anyway there are so many police checkpoints it'd be utterly impossible to kidnap someone, unless you tied them up on a camel.
I assume you mean Choum to Atar. I had to wait until the next Nouadhibou train arrived at 3am because the bush taxis time their departures accordingly. The police let me (actually they insisted) camp in their courtyard and they woke me when the train pulled in. The taxis are pickup trucks; I was quoted 3,500 ouguiya for a seat in the cab, but I chose to pay 1,500 for a place in the back. Very uncomfortable since the trip is mostly offroad, but it's only a couple hours and is quite scenic.
Yeah, there were just so many people saying it was easy to get rides from caravans and overlanders, and I wanted to meet other westerners. Especially since I was still half hoping to find a friend to go with me on the train. Hell, there's a CTM bus that goes direct from Rabat to Dakhla.
Cybercafe I'm in is closing. Thanks for your interest; I have lots more I'll post tomorrow.
> Hell, there's a CTM bus that goes direct from Rabat to Dakhla.
Yeah, but no chance to get on int mid-way. It starts full from Rabat already.
I tried to get on board around Sidi Ifni and failed at every stop southwards, finally hitchhiking entire length of WS.
How did you get back to the border? By train or by road via Nouakchott?
I salute you bro, and i appreciate your courage for doing such trip! Have you a job, gf at home? If you ever come to Portugal post here on /trv/ and i will pay you a cold beer ;- ) Godspeed anon.
Briton here, I was this close to responding to his invitation to come with him and ride the train but a combination of fear of the unknown, the .gov warning, inexperience, and my work/college made me pass him by. Regret that now I think.
If you're ever in the UK, I'll buy you a few rounds down my local in return for stories.