Mauritania Border Crossing

Trip Start Nov 09, 2009
Trip End Sep 15, 2010

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Flag of Mauritania  ,
Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Fear. True Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, insights fear in many people throughout many cultures. Fear both drives us and stalls us all in life in a variety of different ways. For me, fear drives me to see things and do things that no one would expect someone of my background and circumstance to do. Fear insights adventure but the path is sometimes difficult and the truth is, fear is there for a reason. Today we entered Mauritania.

Though the lonely planet quotes Mauritania to be one of the safest countries to travel in Africa, much can change in the time it takes to publish a book. Currently there have been reports of numerous kidnappings and murders of westerners by al quada along the main road to Nouakchott, the capitol of Mauritania. All of us are slightly on edge about the situation but most of us have chosen to ignore the tinge of fear in hopes that it is all just an overreaction to a small problem. With al quedas particular distaste for westerns and more specifically Americans it makes me slightly more apprehensive in regards to the situation. Though, these are the things I knew could happen in Africa.

The border crossing into Mauritania was a long daunting process just as we were warned it would be. Simply leaving Morocco took three hours and involved x-raying the truck, waiting and Gavin running around from person to person trying to get us through the gates. At 5:30pm we were finally permitted through and were directed into nomads land, the in-between space between Morocco and Mauritania. A barren ruin of abandoned vehicles, trash, dirt and rock piles. There was no road and no real route through the waste land but we plunged ahead through the dirt, rough terrain and endured the general bouncing and swaying involved in such a transit. When we finally reached the Mauritania border crossing there were another set of hoops that needed to be jumped through. First immigration, which consisted of first a man staring at the passenger list for 30 minutes, then the long wait for our passports to be validated. By seven we had given up on making it through the border that night and made camp right in the middle of the crossing. Knowing there were countless landmines laying quiet in the desert to either side of the border we chose to keep as close to the road as possible. Greg said he kept waking up throughout the night hearing clicking noises and thinking he had just rolled over a land mine. At 9pm our passports were finally approved but by then dinner had been started and our tents set up, so it wasn't until morning that we were able to say goodbye to Morocco for the last time. What waited for us on the other side was an unknown. All we saw for miles was the Saharan desert stretched out before us.

Then it happened, not twenty minutes after the border we found ourselves at our first checkpoint. A gate blocked our transverse on the road and men with guns stopped the truck dead in its tracks. A man with his face wrapped in fabric demanded Gavin's passport and papers then proceeded to board the truck. It so happens that this little road stop was actually to our benefit and the men with guns escorted us to the capitol city in Mauritania for our safety. There we were relieved and excited to find out we would be staying in a hostel on the roof top once again but this time we had beds!
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