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Published: January 2nd 2010
No Mans landMauritania - 16 Days
kilometres of mine filled land and exploded cars
We crossed no mans land, the several kilometre wide area between the disputed borders between Morocco and Mauritania. It was pretty eirie at the border with so many exploded and abandoned cars and so many people in the middle of fluffing nowhere queing to enter Mauritania.
Nouadhibou didnt have much to see but interestingly there were loads of shipwrecks off the coast that were used in insurance scams and we ended up staying with a really friendly guy from Senegal who gave us his house in the shanty town for a night, he went and stayed with his brother and we treated him to a plate of chicken and chips for a euro.
We ended up taking the train to Choem and then a 4 wheel drive to Atar, the train was the famous iron-ore train which can be up to 3km long and can carry up to 22000 tonnes of iron-ore. You can ride for free in the iron-ore containers or you can join the passener carriage for 6 or 7 euros. We decided to ride for free ut after 20mins when he train gathered some speed we started to realise that we
were going to get covered in iron-ore with dust and tiny particles saturatin the air. The train stopped for 5 mins after an hour and Norma ran back to join the other passengers whilst I stuck it out until the end, arriving in Choem about 9 hours later at 1am. From here we jumped straight into the 4 wheel drive for a further 4 hours of speeding across the desert to reach Atar.
We stayed in Atar a night to recover from the trip and our bag, clothes and arse cracks we filled with iron-ore even after 2 showers. The day after we took another 4 wheel drive, I paid 4 euros to ride outside and Norma paid 5.50 for inside and 4 or 5 hours later (2 1/2 driving, the rest waiting for a road to open) we arrived in Chinguetti.
Chinguetti was a spectacular place, easily jumps into my top 10 places in the world, an ancient town with really old Korans and libraries and a town that is getting swallowed up by the desert. It was surrounded by a seemingly endless sea of different coloured dunes and its where the Sahara proper begins. We stayed here
the man who gave us his shanty-house
4 days as it was so nice and we experienced some rain, although not that much.
After Chinguetti we took a taxi brousse to Nouakchott, the capital, there was little to do so we only stayed a couple of night in order to get a visa for Mali.
From Nouakchott we travelled along the "Road of Hope" to cross the border into Mali via Nioro. The towns along this were really really basic, we stayed 1 night in Aleg, 1 night in Kiffa and 3 nights in Ajoun-el-Atrous. Aleg was one of the dirtiest towns I have ever been to and the conditions were not for the faint hearted, meat covered in flies, in fact everything covered in flies and dirt and rubbish and shit everywhere. The towns only had one hotel, except for Ajoun which had 2 and they were really expensive (e.g. 25 euros for just a bed) but luckily we had the tent and managed to keep the cost down a bit. After Ajoun we crossed into Mali, first taking a lift from a guy who was staying in our hotel but the police at the second checkpoint we crossed didnt like him and took us
The Shanty Town
A free nights stay
to a taxi instead, later we found out that 2 Italians had been kidknapped the night before and we even passed their abandoned van, a couple of days after that we read on news website that the police arrested the guy and he admitted to being Al-Queda and attempting to kidknapp some tourists.... very dodgy but who knows the truth, the police and papers can both lie.
Anyway we arrived in Nioro (Mali) safe and sound.
Mauritania was a nice country, with 3 million people sharing an area more than 4 times bigger than the United Kingdom there is plenty of space, tonnes of camels and great desert scenery with amazingly friendly and welcoming people to help when you realise your in a desolate place.
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