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November 3, 2012 / samwilson60

Western Sahara

We had been planning to do all manner of useful things in Tan-Tan but got distracted by the police hauling us up for not respecting a stop sign in the middle of a fully deserted roundabout. After much debate, finally making friends and learning more than anyone could imagine about the Moroccan highway code/infractions thereof, we paid our hefty fine and almost forgot about our fuel shortage. We then failed to get fuel again in Tan-Tan Plage, making the generally smooth but periodically corrugated(!) tarmac all the more painful. We eventually found a garage and eased into the checkpoint banter, if you can call it that. There are police dotted at more or less regular intervals right the way from Tan-Tan in Morocco to the very south of Mauritania, so we may as well try to get into the game and almost always managed to get them to crack a smile. Post fuel, our spirits were lifted further still by the roadside bakery – bread so fresh it burnt our hands – and by the Sat Phone people finally picking up the phone.

After getting slightly tangled up thinking we’d found a cheeky diversion around Laayoune (we hadn’t), we set about finding a place to stay as soon as we’d past the last gendarme south of the city. A very inviting sand dune presented itself within no time at all and we nestled in to celebrate being back in Western Sahara and well on our way south.

Before leaving, we shared a coffee with the guardian of some aerial over the road. He spoke only broken Spanish – more or less the same level as us – so it wasn’t a long chat but got his and our day off to a good start.

Back on the road, we were once again surprised by variety in the superficially monotonous landscape of Western Sahara – it actually changes a lot with every 50km or so. We really didn’t want to stop in Dakhla again – our memories of five years ago are pretty grim, and not just because the kids stole our tinsel – but we were concerned the checkpoint police might force us there if they thought we couldn’t get to another campsite before dark. It was early enough in the day and they were laid back enough to let us past the turning, so we counted our blessings and promptly found ourselves a spot in between the cliffs out of sight of the road but within reach of the sea.

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