Free camping our way to the Mauritanian border


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Africa » Western Sahara » South » Dakhla
April 14th 2012
Published: April 17th 2012
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Thursday
Day 33

Woke up to a very wet tent and we waited until after breakfast to see if there was any chance of them drying. Of course it started raining and it ended up being even wetter, the gravel and sand sticking to the fly sheet as we rolled it up.
We took off towards Agadir for one last stock up at the marjane and two nights of very little sleep meant I spent the majority of the morning with my iPod on, dozing.
I knew when we'd arrived at our free camp site when we turned off the sealed road and onto a bumpy path that led past a farmhouse with a decent sized field full of olive trees and oddly enough, gum trees! Past the dog and machinery we drove up to a fairly open spot which meant it was windy. Like, tents flying away windy. Coupled with acacia-like thorn bushes that stabbed my foot before I was able to put proper shoes on, we had been warned that conditions were going to get tougher but now it was a reality. Dinner was a simple but delicious spag bol of sorts and we were in bed early owing to the fact that we had a 05:30 wake up.
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Friday
Day 34

Putting wet sandals on with my socks before the sun had even risen wasn't exactly my idea of fun but then I'm not much of a morning person anyway. I am trying though...
I was on the truck sorting through my stuff when I noticed two people walking towards us and a small truck stopped behind them. They were greeted and offered tea and we found out they were bogged in the mud and wanted to know if we could help. After breakfast was cleared away, some of the guys headed down with shovels to see what they could do while we packed up. Nico and I were sitting up front today and I climbed in and settled on the bed, he being off checking out the stuck truck. Suse attempted to drive down a more direct road to get to them but had to turn back when it became too muddy. There was no point in us getting bogged as well!
When we reached them and the men saw it was a female driver it was hilarious. Their thoughts seemed written all over their faces! In the front of the truck there had been at least three adults and a few children; the back was full of sheep, goats, a donkey, a cow and a dog -who was wedged under the cow and yelped every time the cow shifted. The left side wheels had completely vanished in the muddy water and it was a sorry sight. Suse moved the truck forward and Talbot helped tie the two together while we stood well back, just in case. As far as bogs go, this one was easy and they were out of trouble within seconds.
The trip was uneventful until the road climbed higher and we slowed behind a truck that looked to be barely moving. Once the road was clear in the opposite direction, Suse overtook and the driver started flapping his hand at us. Still not quite being fluent in hand movements, we continued on our way and minutes later, found out what he meant when two policemen motioned for us to pull over. It turns out overtaking wasn't permitted where we had been and he wanted us to pay a fine of €70 or 700dh. Suse vanished with the truck paperwork and her passport and came back rather grumpy, having paid her first ever fine after being on the road for over six years - and not even for a valid reason. They had said she can pay them part of it but she refused; it would've meant paying them a bribe. After forcing them to write the receipt, therefore meaning they had to register the fine, we were sent on our way, more confused than ever about road rules in Morocco.
Lunch was in Tarfaya, a small town off the main road with a city wall that seemed to be more of a sand barrier than anything else! We'd arrived just before prayers and I watched all the men and boys leaving the mosque as we were gearing up to leave, looking curiously at our truck. Children called and waved from a 'safe' distance but the adults were more reserved.
Then, at long last, we crossed into Western Sahara at 14:30. Recognised by the UN but not Morocco, we were happy to accept it as our second country as we stopped at the border to take a photo. It wasn't much past this point that the more frequent police stops started. There were police stationed all through Morocco but I don't think any stopped us; we were always waved through. Now, we not only stopped but at one stage, had to stop twice in fifty metres! Suse has a passenger list typed up with all our details which are handed out like souvenirs and we're told this will continue all through Africa, keeping track of our movements.
Nico and I busied ourselves with the French phrase book, he settling on 'cross country skiing' next time someone asked what we were doing in their country. Looking around at the flat landscape meant we found this highly amusing.
Driving on as far as possible while the sun was still up, past smelly cement factories and rocky ground, we scoured the land ahead for suitable camping sites for the night and once again, managed to find a small hill (barely the size of the truck) to shield us from the wind at least a little. But we were unprepared for just how windy it was. Wrapping scarves around our heads and with sunglasses on - and in one case, swimming googles! - we collected large rocks to build a buffer for the fires we'd need to cook dinner. Once that was done, we put up tents on the other side of the truck but trying to peg it down in the sand was impossible until we found rocks to hold the corners. The tent quickly filled with sand so we took the bare minimum in for the night: sleeping mat, sleeping bag, pillow, ear plugs and my phone for the alarm. I slept in my clothes, wrapping a scarf around my heading and burrowing into the sleeping bag to try and avoid the sand that was swirling around the tent.

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Saturday
Day 35

Having watched the sun set over the ocean last night, it was quite cool to watch it come up on the opposite side. I don't think I've ever had the opportunity to see that. Taking a shovel and looking for a bush or rocks to hide behind when I need the bathroom is still something I'm not used to (the guys are having a much easier time for the most part) but as least this morning it was a bathroom with a view!
We're on the home straight, heading for the border. With the coast on our right and mainly flat scrub land on our left, there wasn't much to see. This area is full of land mines leftover from civil war and therefore was little sign of life, apart from the occasional police check and fishing village on the cliffs. At one stage, a policeman requested to come on board and once on, he asked our occupations. Suse pointed to Rhys and Toby and said 'students' and then he looked at Jareb who said 'teacher'. To everyone's surprise, the policeman starting singing Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'! We all laughed and clapped and he looked quite pleased with himself as he left, continuing to sing whilst alongside the truck.
We pulled into a petrol station to top up once more, Western Sahara being much cheaper than Morocco; and with the truck carrying over 1000 litres of fuel, it adds up! The cafe attached to it announced that we were at the 'Topic of Cancer', rather than the Tropic of Cancer. Obviously photos were necessary.
Suse gave us the choice of free camping at the petrol station or pressing on to the border and we were all eager to keep going. We knew the border crossing could take several hours and hoped to spend the night nearby, ready to go first thing tomorrow. Old trip notes that Suse was carrying said there was a hotel 'close' to the border and when we found it, we saw it was literally on the border and that goods trucks were already queuing, ready for the morning. We set up in an enclosed area behind the hotel, some choosing to upgrade to rooms and many happy to pay the 15dh for a hot shower. It left a lot to be desired, the water literally running out on most people but I managed to wash my hair and scrub the layer of dirt off, only to step outside and put it all back in. Bloody wind.

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21st April 2012

Amazing, love it!

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