Crossing the Tropic of Cancer

Day 17… On-route today to the Mauritanian border.  Set off around 9.30am.  Quiet road for 4 hours with hardly a passing vehicle – probably 8 at most.  It really does feel like non-mans land with no humans around.  Greta breaking down at this point would be difficult unless someone driving past took pity and stopped to help. 2 police cars and 4 army trucks whizzed by – slightly disconcerting about what was happening ahead of us.  More barren landscapes before reaching the border crossing.  Joined the queue of lorries but the driver in front waved us on so we felt like VIP and drove to the front of the queue.  No instructions or signage around so every official we asked where to go.  Another scanner machine in operation.  The Moroccan side was the easy part.  At the Mauritanian side, we got mobbed by ‘fixers’ asking for Euro to get us through the process.  Tried to ignore then but it was difficult and were led into a room which looked official but sixth sense kicked in and we walked around that building into the correct one with police officers in uniform.  All quite intimidating.  4 different buildings for visa, insurance, passport stamp, temporary import permit and then car check and passport check.  No signage anywhere and our unwarranted fixer turned out ok in the end so I gave him some small change.  Several police checks on the way to Nouadhibou and driving through the town was pure chaos.  It makes the M25 orderly – I shall never complain again about that road!  Most cars in Nouadhibou would not have been road worthy on the UK with broken windscreens, battered bodywork and bumpers hanging off.  Drivers seemed to ignore the red lights and when we did the same, a police officer pulled us over and told us off.  The irony given the road sense from all the other drivers. Managed to find an ATM that worked and got local currency.  Our campsite that night was lovely, right on the coast with friendly owners (a Dutchman and Scottish lady).  The other 2 guests were German and we sat having tea/coffee together with 4 huge dogs.  Blustery night in the tent before the winds stopped and sleep was possible.

Allen’s perspective…

Border crossings never cease to amaze me. The Moroccan side, seemingly more organised, with more modern buildings, and fancy equipment, was anything but. I had to wander around chatting to random truckers and staff trying to figure out where to go and what to do next. But wait, that was easy as pie compared with the Mauritanian side. Crossing the border was like entering a post apocalyptic wasteland, with decaying buildings, people lying around in doorways, with everything in a jumble. You stagger from one shambolic building to another, to find dubious looking officials working in a dirty back office with a 20 year old computer and a brand new fingerprint scanner. We came away laughing at the chaotic confusion of it all, knowing that we are now beginning to properly enter Africa.

At least we got to see the Tropic of Cancer sign today… although I had to reverse for it, with Rachael worried about traffic on the road… with no-one around for probably at least 50-100 miles in either direction.

Proceed Booking