[ Nouadhibou, Mauritania]
Unlike Morocco’s 90-day entry stamp, Mauritania issues a 30-day single-entry visa by default. My current plan is to use them all, unlike most folks on two wheels. For reasons unknown to me, people tend to pass through Mori as quickly as possible on their way to Senegal and beyond, but I’ve heard interesting things from people who’ve taken the time to explore. I like interesting things, so I’m heading into the interior to see what I can see.To do that, I’m taking the famous iron ore train (featured image, above) into the interior, about 460 kilometers along the border to a tiny settlement called Choum. From there I’ll work my way south to the national highway, and then slowly down to Nouakchott, the capital. The whole process should take about ten days to two weeks. [Fervently knocking on wood.]
Regarding safety and politics, this is the first time I’ve given it any thought. There are potential bleed-over issues from Mali if I continue much further eastward, but the intel I’ve received from the border police, and from a German couple I met, is that the area is currently unproblematic. The Germans (a brief, typical, random roadside encounter) were on their way home after four months in-country, a lot of it precisely where I plan to go.
The farthest east I might travel–and I’d have to hitch a ride to out-and-back from Atar–is a village called Ouadane, just past Chinguetti. Ouadane sits next to a giant formation visible from outer space. It’s called “The Eye of the Sahara.” Since I can’t make it to Timbuktu, that might be a suitable consolation prize?
Even if I’m limited to the train journey and the ride down to the capital, it’s 1000km of pristine, scarcely populated Sahara–devoid of the commercial and tourist traffic or frequent settlements of coastal Morocco/Western Sahara. And no Atlantic Ocean.
If you were here with me, you’d understand that Mauritania already feels like the next level on this journey. It’s not that it’s particularly intimidating, it’s just less-traveled, much emptier, and…untouched. Forgotten? Unjustly avoided? Whatever the cause, the feeling is clearly different than what I left behind. Combine all of that with the formidable climate and geography, and the vast scale of everything, and this will likely qualify as the first actual adventure of this adventure.
As always, stay tuned!
The cellular infrastructure and quality of (data) service here in Mauritania is orders of magnitude less than in Morocco. Here, in the second-largest city, it’s completely unreliable; in the interior I suspect it will be non-existent. In other words, once I depart it may be a while before you hear from me again. Worry not.