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Published: April 10th 2007
Since I left you in Morocco, I've travelled south from Marrakech and on to Mauritania via the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
Western Sahara, as I found out, was invaded by Morocco in 1975, resulting in a 16 year long guerilla war against the occupation. There's been a cease-fire for ages now, but for the last 15 years the locals have been waiting to vote in a referendum to decide on independence or integration. The Moroccan government spend upwards of US$2 million a day in the region, and it's not difficult to spot what this money is spent on, with police checkpoints every few miles in what is essentially the middle of nowhere! And all for the usual reason ... natural resources - zzzzzzz....
Anyway, the years of guerrilla warfare mean that the country is littered with mine fields, which the main road to Mauritania runs through. Although apparently detonations are rare … like that makes you feel much safer!
Other than sand, there's nothing to see here ... actually, I forgot the goats ... there's goats that climb trees!!!! They're hilarious! I have a picture of some, but I've forgotten it today so I'll put it
I probably shouldn't have stepped off the road to take this photo!
in later. They climb right up into the little tiny upper branches, I've no idea how they do it!
Anyway, continuing down south to Mauritania, we arrived in what felt like “real” Africa - miles away from the middle-eastern, Arabic feel of Morocco. Mazes of markets selling silver and leather goods, turned into African street markets full of colour, noise, fruit, vegetables, and live animals, ready to be slaughtered on demand.
The weather also changed almost immediately. Whereas we had been sleeping in woolly hats and fleeces in Morocco, we were now hiding from the midday sun. And in strictly-Muslim Mauritania, we had to cover up during the day time too. No knees on show, ladies!
There’s little to do here though, apart from wander around the markets in Nouadhibou and Nouakchott. In fact, Mauritania’s claim to fame is that it has the longest train in the world! Yes, that’s the longest train, isn’t that fascinating!! The train itself is 2km long and if you're lucky enough to see it (if lucky is the right word ...) it stretches right across the horizon with an apparently endless stream of cargo and passenger carriages.
And then there's
Digging out the truck for the first time ... of many!
the Sahara ... we spent 3 nights bush-camping crossing it travelling towards Mali, and god the sand! The sand gets everywhere - there's sand in your ears and in your nose. It's in your eyes and when you go to rub them it gets worse as there's sand on your hands. It's in your hair, which emits dust clouds when touched, as do your clothes, your sleeping bag and your tent.
It's in the food that you cook, and on the plates you just washed, and in the water that you drink. Not that the water is appetising anyway, as it's hot - not luke warm - hot! I've no idea what temperature it was as our thermometer broke when it reached 50 degrees. But I do know that it was hot enough to melt lip balm, cause sun cream to seperate, mirrors to crack, and cook eggs in their shells on the truck!
And then we arrived in Mali ... heaven!! A swimming pool in the campsite! And cold beer - ahhh, it never tasted so good!!
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Knowing where the longest train is, is filed in my mind now knowing that someday that will be useful !
Mine of information
Hi, I would like to come and help save children in mine-y areas. Hee hee hee.
Sounds like its been fun,had a bit of a road trip meself from Melb to Perth nothin but dead feckin roos and road that looks the same over and over again...copy paste copy paste copy paste !!! Jesus im a geek!! Anyways keep the pics comin laters
Goat's that climb trees!!!!
Are you serious? That's brilliant, get that photo up quick - I won't believe it until I see it! Your blog is great AnneMarie, It's conjuring up the Sahara for me in the office on a bleak Monday morning. And just remember, all that sand may be annoying but your skin will be smooth and soft after it. Blog soon!
Marcel says hello! At the moment he's wearing deadly army gear, I'll get a photo sent to you till you see it... Missing Friday afternoon chineses at all?