[ Saint Louis, Senegal]
It seems to be an emerging routine for me: my time in cities serves as downtime. Rather than switch into Urban Explorer mode I drink coffee, edit photos, recuperate, research next options, and so on. Nouakchott was no exception. I had my first couchsurfing.com experience (fantastic, btw), and it turns out my host works with the folks I met a few days earlier in Terjit. Small World.
Even with a week in the capital, I barely scratched its surface. Nouakchott, like all of Mauritania, is “small.” Despite the population count (a million souls, give or take), it feels like a small town. Many things are impossible or difficult to find, with the upside that people know one another. I was invited to cook-outs in the desert, walks on the beach, concerts, art galleries, and dinner at home with new friends. Most nights I slept outside on the balcony in the cool night air (under a mosquito net, though–lots of those little buggers here as I enter the outskirts of the malaria belt). There were so many options that many passed me by, but I was content with this.
On one evening, I inadvertently tried to blow up my host’s apartment by igniting the gas oven incorrectly, creating an impressively large fireball. Most of the hair on my right arm disappeared in those flames, and I definitely had to change out my proverbial undergarments afterwards, but other than a couple of tiny blisters on my right hand, I got off lucky. Remind me never to do that again.
Taking the Fireball of Doom as a cue, I departed for the Senegalese border with five days remaining on my visa. The road here was more densely populated than elsewhere in Mauritania, and after two days of sandstorm-riding, I found myself in Diawling National Park, within easy reach of the border crossing near Diama. In the midst of that park I had another serendipitous encounter, one deserving its own post, up next.