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November 3, 2012 / samwilson60

Mauritania to Senegal

The next morning was a real push for the border but it worked out a treat. It took about an hour to complete the Morocco exit formalities, which included overshooting the final stop sign and getting a grilling from the young policeman.

No man’s land consists of a mine field we know all too well, having towed a 2CV through on our last passage, but we still managed to take the wrong fork and, while safe from the mines, had to contend with more sand than necessary and were slightly concerned about missing the main entrance to Mauritania.

No man’s land

Once back on track, it couldn’t have gone better. Everyone was friendly and jovial – not at all how we had remembered the Mauritanians.

Out of the border, we headed straight for Nouhadibou – not your ideal tourist destination, but guaranteed accommodation a short hop from the border. We set up at a small campsite on the outskirts of town and proceeded to seek out food, internet and somewhere we could finally change the oil (having gone to such great lengths to buy the bloody stuff). We succeed on all counts, and really enjoyed the interaction with the locals – again, much more relaxed and fun than we remembered (except when apprentice mechanic tried to wash out oil filter with water).

We were later joined at our campsite by a couple of Scots on motorbikes also travelling to Cape Town, so exchanged stories and hoped to meet up again along the way. Unsurprisingly, we crossed paths the next day on the way to Nouakchott and agreed to meet at the campsite we’d earmarked in advance.

The long road south through Mauritania

Said campsite was even better than we’d remembered – before you got into crazy town, really lovely owner, roof terrace almost all to ourselves. The only thing missing was the beer. Sam had a brief skirt around town looking for money but instead just found himself engulfed in traffic madness on the sand-covered tarmac – enough adrenalin to make up for any lack of alcohol – and we then kicked back for dinner on the roof.

Although we had initially planned to spend more time exploring more of Mauritania, having taken the direct route south the only sensible thing to do the next morning was try to get into Senegal. Before leaving we tried to help one of the Scots (Bruce, heading round the world on a GSXR 1000 superbike) get the rear end of his bike remade (really hope that worked out), then got on the road asap, with no idea how long the drive or border crossings would take.

Getting to the border was more fun than we could ever have imagined, through a national park full of trees, water and wildlife. The warthogs didn’t make an appearance but other than that – and the state of the piste – it was perfect and successfully distracted us from the potential border trauma ahead, namely trying to get our 30-year-old Tinker Beast into a country that only allows vehicles under 8 years of age.

Driving through Mauritanian national park, along border with Senegal

Further distractions included towing a handful of locals out of the sand after they’d managed to wedge their Renault 19 firmly in the sandbank. Turns out one was a policeman who works at the Morocco-Mauritanian border, so we were promised all the help we needed next time we were passing that way. We forgot to ask if he had any contacts on the Senegalese side – doh.

Good deed number two – at the police checkpoint 40km from the border, we were asked if we were in a hurry or could wait 5 minutes for a meat delivery destined for the chief of customs at the border. For want of any better way to smooth our passage, we sat around with the policeman waiting for the meat and watching the other tourists pass through clearly thinking we’d either broken down or done something worthy of the naughty step.

Truck filled with meat, we bounced along the most corrugated stretch of the day to the border, where the formalities were really just that – all very painless, especially when you present them with half a sheep before getting down to business.

Even the Senegalese side was a bit of an anti-climax as we were ushered from one hut to the next. The policeman shared his tea with us, customs forgot to charge us for the temporary car import and no one even batted an eyelid at our aged vehicle. What’s more, they gave us the address of the ‘colonel’ in Saint Louis, the only man outside of Dakar with the authority to give us more than 48hours on the road. He too was a legend, and thankfully not a fan of Dakar either.

Sat on terrace over the mouth of the Senegal River, at an auberge with cold beers, hot water and a cracking breeze off the water, we couldn’t believe we and the Tinker Beast had all made it into Senegal, and for a grand total of 10 euros – quids in!



Leave a Comment
  1. Izzy pysanczyn (née hooper) / Nov 6 2012 9:04 pm

    I’ve only just caught up with this for the first time in weeks! Must Do Better. What an amazing time you are both having, and making the most of every opportunity, good on you both! I hope everything carries on well and that you enjoy it loads! We miss you.
    Lots of love Izzy, Martyn and Freddie x

  2. Mark Bailey / Nov 9 2012 11:34 am

    whats your email m8 got new phone n hadnt saved it

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