Our expedition through Mauritania was unfortunately shorter than planned.
I hope to return again and ride the length from Noubouidou to Nouakchott someday soon, in the right direction. Any takers, ladies?
A year-long expedition took me a year to plan, and as a Social Educator, my heart was in the construction of our innovative online adventure learning program and not in the finer details of the in country logistics.
I’m an experience-to-learn kinda girl, so with some research and some planning regarding seasons and weather – I just thought we would work the rest out as we go. For example – BIG learning opportunity, do not set up camp near a rice field! We thought we would get shelter from the wind, but oh my, as soon as the sun set the air was humming with mosquitos.
Also, it turns out there is a reason why all cyclists rode from Morocco south down the African continent’s coast. The reason being wind direction.
Not only were we battling a headwind, we were in the region at the end of windstorm season. With winds around 25km/hour, we were also heading into the hottest time of the year, daily around 40c.
After a few days to the Rosso border in the headwind, Nic was finding every opportunity to persuade me to change the route. No way. I was not giving in, I wanted to ride in the desert, experience the sun and sand and thirst. I wanted challenge and hardship and to get through it with determination and perseverance.
The Rosso border, contrary to many online reports, was administratively easy to get through. The people in Senegal were polite and helpful and warned us that those in Mauritania would rip us off. After taking a small boat across the canal to Mauritania, the locals were again polite and helpful and asked if we were treated well by those in Senegal. No one asked for a bribe, and beyond the heat, the process was manageable.
In Rosso we filled up on water, each of us carrying 13 liters on our bikes to get through the next couple days. At some points, against the wind, I was riding as slow as 12km an hour, so we needed to carry ample water with the risk we would not make it between towns/water points.
From Rosso to Nouakchott, a distance of 200km, I had planned to take 2 days, at a 20-25km avrg. At the pace I was going it would take at least 3 days.
We set out, I weakened from a night being ill, slowed to a pace about 8km an hour. Just churning the peddles over along the narrow highway in a landscape of sand. I needed a 3hour nap and still was ridding no faster, I did not mind, the distance would just take us closer to 4days. Would the water last?
We stopped again, and this time a group of children ran out to greet us. One of the oldest, carried in his hand a pail of water. They stopped and handed the water to us, how kind!
We shared it with them along with some biscuits we had in our bag and after much smiling at each other continued on again.
Finally, in a moment of weakness I consented to a lift with intentions to stack up my case in why we should still continue across the desert to Noubouidou.
In Nouakchott, however, I made no gains to win Nic to my argument, as I had also not researched in-country financials! Do not travel to Mauritania with only a MasterCard! That’s what we had and were not able to use it. With this information Nic bought an online ticket to Casablanca and we camped in the airport parking lot (which was lovely!) and cooked the rest of our groceries.
Everyone was very kind to us, and I felt really safe. Besides having no MasterCard facilities in the country, there is also no alcohol. I really liked that as I felt a lot safer in the night. At the airport we had some difficulty getting to the gate, as we really had no money (except a few coins) and could not pay the bike transport fee. After much pleading we were let through and found a coffee on the other side to use our few coins. We had not enough for a coffee each, but the attendant gave them to us. Another gentleman approached Nic with an african ring for Nic to give me. We explained we had no cash. He did not want anything, he wanted me to have this ring! Nic took it and put it on my finger and we all smiled at each other and then boarded our plane.
I hope someday to return to this part of the world. The people were sincerely kind and generous and sadly globally misrepresented with all the travel warnings due to small numbers of rebel groups.
Please feel free to contact me for any more information. The hostel we stayed with at first was: Auberge La Sanga.
Now, on to the next adventure! Until soon, xK