Published: December 11th 2010November 28th 2010
You can't say you haven't been warned!
And this sign comes back all the way from the Mauritanian side of the border till Dakhla.
Ok, Western Sahara, what did we know about this? Not much, besides that it's a disputed territory. Morocco claims it, while the local claim independence. It was quite 'peaceful' for quite some time, but just when we started to plan our crossing through Western Sahara, Moroccan security forces shot dead some local protestors... The cause of the shooting is still 'not' determined. Some say it was self defence, some say it was unnessary violence.... The border was closed for some time bt was open again when we wanted to cross, so from Nouadhibou went tracked on North...
So after our fish-feast night in Nouadhibou we took a bush taxi with 2 American and a French fellow travellers through the border up until Dakhla in the middle of Western Sahara. As it was Mauritanian independence day, we had to wait for the border to open at 9 am, but it all went smooth, just 3 hours... And then we entered the minefields (!!!) Indeed, there is a 4 km desert stretch between Mauritania and Morocco filled with landmines. There is no paved road here, only tracks, so the best you can do is to hire
Are we still on the road???
One of the tracks through the minefields in no-man's-land.
a driver who brings you through this area following a fading car track. We made it, but we did not see mines from close up.
A funny thing in this mine field no-mans-land is the "local commerce": Need a car or a specific car part? Just go off the track in the mine field and meet the guys and do your business. Second hand car dealers are apparently doing well with their businesses here in no-man's-land. By the way, our fellow French traveller only spent one day in Nouadhibou, brought his car to here, sold it and next day back to Morocco.... Besides car and their various parts, you can see here stripped down refridgerators, car skeletons, not a nature reserve at all.
Soon we crossed the Moroccan side of the border, all went fine but the landscape remained the flat rocky desert as before. Actually it's that boring that after taking the few obligatory "Danger, land mines!!" photo, you can fall asleep. And we did. And thanks God our driver didn't. Later on that evening we heard that a car similar to ours with travellers had an accident in Western
Got a car for sale?
One of the many "dealerships" in no-man's-land between the Mauri-Moroccan border.
Sahara, as the driver also fell asleep. Fortunately no serious injuries, but still... Guess that boredom is the most dangerous element here... But we made it safe to Dakhla.
Danger, disputed territory!!!
Interesting thing to know is that the legal status of the Western Sahara and the question of its sovereignty remains unresolved; the territory is contested between Morocco and the Polisario Front, the latter made up of independence seekers. It is considered a non self-governed territory by the United Nations.
Demonstrations and riots by supporters of independence and/or a referendum broke out many times in the last few years, mostly in parts of southern Morocco. The last such event we know was in November 2010, so we had to find out first if we could travel here safely as the border was closed for a few days due to this incident. Bout all was 'ok' when we passed. Bt then againwhen you jst seen a single stretch of road, you don't get to see much of the regions internal issues.
Dakhla, the new holiday destination
But Dakhla is booming, it has constructions all
The one and only: Sahara Station
Our favorite petrol station in the middle of the desert.
over the place, and we also encountered many holiday makers and surfers. Apparently the Moroccon government is pumping quite some money into this region, treating it as a part of its own. And probably trying at the same time to 'buy' the support from the locals with their cash.
But yes, we cheated a bit... After checking the map of the South of Morocco we realised that we only had 3 weeks left with travelling and the stretch from Dakhla to Agadir is something we could probably miss. So the day before leaving Nouadhibou we quickly bought a flight ticket from Dakhla to Casablanca.
So in itself we only had approx 4 hours until our flight departure, so the 4 of us (the French guy left us in the meantime) went for some lovely seafood on the waterfront. Good food, good beer, working ATMs, so we were happy puppies. And in the evening a plane took us from Western Sahara to 'real' Morocco.
There are more photos below