Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Nomadic Encounters

We headed off down to Dakhla the next morning for one last Tagine before a planned push for the Mauritania border the next day. Another windy night gone by and we set off, the plan was to get close to the border, camp there and the cross over in the morning. While stopped to take the compulsory photo of us by the Tropic of Cancer sign Chris, a Swedish travel writer who was on his own and wanted someone to travel with to help protect from corrupt officials. We decided to travel in convoy with Chris and cross the border that afternoon. We had managed to get tangled up with the Budapest - Bamanko rally, and the border was quite busy. It took us over 4 hours to get across by which time the sun was setting so we headed for Nouadhibou to find somewhere for the night. No wild camping in this part of the world due to land mines! No real problems at the border, plenty of 'Cadeaux' requests but polite refusals seemed to work fine.

We headed on to Nouakchott with Chris passing through some of the most beautifully barren desert we've seen yet. Plenty of camels thrown in to complete the picture. Several police checks and cadeaux requests later we got into Nouakchott but struggled to find a good value place to stay due to the rally, we were really starting to look forward to losing them. They would be heading east from here to Bamanko where as we were going south to Senegal.

We spent a couple of night in Nouakchott, we had a Mali visa to sort out and had a look round the town and the fish market. A friendly city, and judging by the amount of building going on, rapidly expanding. Plenty of livestock in the streets and at least 95% of the vehicles must have been damaged from collisions. We survived 4 taxi journeys with only one knock, thought we were doing pretty well.

We set off again for the Senegal border. We were starting to miss beer and Hannah was looking forward to not having to fully cover up every day, the weather is really starting to get warm now. We took a side road and found a beautiful beach then headed back inland a little for the night. Found a lovely spot in the middle of nowhere, no sign of human habitation anywhere. Just as we were settling down to make tea a voice broke the silence. "Bonjour", Hannah and I, both a little surprised to see another person said hello, and rapidly got invited back to his place which was near by. So with a very bad choice of flip flops as footwear we set off on a 1km trek with spikes impaling Hannah's foot through her flip flops several times. We struggles with the language barrier as usual, Brahim was a nomad who collected resin from trees to sell in the local village. He lived with his friend so the 4 of us settled down to traditional nomads evening. The tea was lovely, the drink made from fermented milk, sugar and water was better than expected, I was concerned I wouldn't be able to swallow it! We then all settled down to a risotto type dish of rice with onion and dried beef. All served on one plate and eaten with hands, was very careful to use right hand only!

He was trying to persuade us to say the night originally, then saying we should stay for a week, but seeing as the language barrier made things quite difficult we decided we should head back to our tent. The sun had set so we were escorted back to our tent with our flip flop prints used for tracking. We offered them some English tea but they politely refused, they seemed to find the fact we put milk in tea mildly amusing. So M&S humbugs and eclairs it was (thanks Edward). They seemed to go down well.

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