February 01, 2012
by Stephen Jan in Daklha, Morocco
Yesterday started at 6:00 AM - definitely the earliest start since arriving in Dakhla. With a firm hand shake and a long hug, I bade farewell to our wonderful hosts and to the simple Dakhla life I’ve come to know and love. I’m going to miss Colin, Freya, and their pack of dogs and cats. I’ve grown fond their camel meat addicted cats begging for scraps of my camel kefta burger. I enjoyed walking down to the chicken guy to pick out the lucky winner that would be ending up on our plate that evening. After the chicken stop, I’d always try my luck catching the doughnut guy across the street for a string of 8 doughnuts. Somehow he gets away with opening shop 2 hours out of the day. Not only that, his opening times are never predictable. Without a doubt, when I asked about the Timbuktu Challenge, the first word out of my mouth will definitely be “Dakhla”.
By 8:00 AM we were back on the road and the topic of conversation among the team returned to “what is the next stop?”, “how far is it?”, and “how long will it take?”. You’d think that after being here a month, we’d adopt the local acceptance that those questions are pointless. Old habits. We made one fuel stop at Barbas, 10 km from the border and reached the border at 1:00PM.
Past the Moroccan border post there is a lawless stretch of land controlled neither by Morocco nor Mauritania. There is no tarmac, no police, and no one to clean the plastic bags, tires, and car parts scattered as far as the eye can see.
Colin spent a good portion of the month explaining to us desert driving techniques. We clearly didn’t get the message because 10 minutes into no-man’s-land, Dennis dove straight into “light colored” soft sand. The moment we got stuck, the pack of Mauritanians lurking atop a nearby trash heap descended on us like hyenas on a fresh animal carcass. We spent the next 20 minutes simultaneously refusing “help” from these locals and digging ourselves out.
Mike met this British couple Niel and Die in Rabat at the Mauritanian Embassy when he went back to pickup visas. Fortunately for us, they happened to be right behind us. When they saw us floundering around the sand, they offered to pull us out with their giant Renault ex-military truck. Despite the fact that the Mauritanians did nothing but hover around and pester us, they insisted on compensation for their “services”. In hindsight, I should have demanded payment from them for annoying the hell out of us.
Welcome to Mauritania.