Saturday, 12 December 2015

Last days of Mauritania and beginning of Senegal

** before I ramble on below.. I am compiling a list and location of each campsite we have stayed at, please either comment on here or on the face book page - Where to Next Africa - if you would like a copy emailed to you. Mandy has also been keeping a detailed expenses sheet, so again let us know if you would like a copy**

Please ignore any mistakes, I have not proof read it due to only having wifi for a short time! 

Arriving in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania, was a bit of a contrast to the previous two days, it was a busy and bustling place, full of street traders and people going about their business. After battling in traffic, we set up camp in Hotel/Camping Menata and were surprised to find we were not the only Europeans. People quickly came over to chat and within minutes we had found another couple, Marlane and Gill, who were heading to the Senegalese border on the Monday! We agreed to go together (safety in numbers!), and settled ourselves in.

The campsite was a lot more expensive than Morocco (it turns out everything is!), however, there was a washing machine! Washing clothes by hand has not been an issue, however it had been almost a week since we had done any therefore there was a lot and you just can't beat washing machine clean!!
We also had wifi, unfortunately I logged on to my online banking to find I have been charged for the transaction I made in Mauritania where the internet connection was lost halfway through. I spoke to my parents in the evening and they advised us to always take out the smallest denomination first to see if it works.. good idea! 

On the second day we headed to a car insurance company who we had been told issued insurance for Senegal, this place was called National D'Assurance et de Reassurance company (come back for whether it is accepted!), and did some food shopping - again was similar prices to England! Time was spent fixing the cars, catching up with family and trying to stem the barrage of mosquitoes (last count I was on 30 bites). We are now taking our malaria tablets but have met lots who are not taking them!

We have had to fix our roof tent, the zip has broken which is very annoying when trying to do the roof tent up, so Charles spent most of the third morning doing that! 

Mandy and I did some research into what we need to get and where, for the onward journey and we are also following a face book page of a NZ guy who is doing the trip on a motor bike, he crossed the border a couple of days ago and had posted how much it cost etc (follow him by searching Wheelie Adventurous).

Monday came around pretty quickly, setting off early we headed to the border. There are two options when crossing into Senegal, each has their pros and cons. We had heard the other crossing, Rosso, was a nightmare.. Possibly run by a family who preyed on the ignorance of travellers.  Apparently they stamp the carnet, although speaking to another couple - Total Overlanders - they said their stamp was not accepted back at the border to leave Senegal so they had to travel back to Dakar to get it re-stamped. 

Diama, the second choice, is smaller and less known for corruption, however there was a rumour going around that they do not stamp the carnet ,giving you 48hours to get to Dakar (200km) to get it stamped before your car is illegal. We chose Diama - arriving there was easy, we had to pay to go through the National Park, and then pay for the car tax (receipts for both), and then we had to pay a few incentives (we tried not to but they would not give us our passports back..sneaky!).  Despite all our efforts,  they would not stamp the carnet - it seems it's an official thing from up on high, not a border thing. The insurance (bought in Nouakchott) worked a treat.  As we headed to the border the officials wanted to see our insurance, for both Mauritania and Senegal, and at the border they were most annoyed we had already got insurance (meaning they couldn't rip us off), they were keen to know where we had got it from! 

I liked Mauritania, the scenery was much more stunning than Morocco, with a lot less rubbish! The people were very friendly in most places, not wanting money, but presents or water. In the villages people were more 'grabby' (coming up to the cars and asking), but in the city people were so friendly, wanting to talk (a lot more English spoken).  We went to a printers to buy more copies of the fiche and met a man called Brahim who was an engineer and had travelled a lot and he was so interesting. The police were completely fine, never an issue and when asked really helpful (lots of fiches needed to hand out). 

I feel this country has really suffered from the outside perception from other countries, all the Foreign Offices (of many countries) say not to go there due to the risk of terrorism etc, however we never felt unsafe. In places where money was once spent it is now poor and run down due to lack of investment. It is a shame!

After the border we were given 48 hours to get to Dakar. This was a decision we decided to make at the campsite, the famous Zebra Bar. After getting cash, we arrived there, checked in and ordered beer. Wow it was good! The camp site was stunning, right by the sea with lots of space (the downside being that the wifi was not working, despite it being advertised. I think this may be an ongoing problem!). We ate in the campsite with another couple Dave and Natalie, and found that they run a tour company in America, with a big converted school bus which takes people on tours of various lengths from Las Vagas to Alaska. It sounded amazing, their passion and their knowledge of travelling really sold travelling through America for us all, something for the future maybe (their website is so check them out!). 

The boys also decided they would spend the next day getting a bush taxi into Dakar with Gil to get the carnet stamped. 

The boys set off at 7.15am the next morning.. And got back at 10pm, a long day. They had taken the bush taxi there which was completely fine (4.5 hours), if a little squashed and another taxi to customs in Dakar. By this point it was lunch time so they had to wait until 3pm. Getting the carnet stamped was easy, however a lot of people to deal with very little paper work! Getting back was difficult because they missed the bush taxi so had to get a private taxi back.. However this was all cheap - less than fuel - about £28 (including lunch). It meant the girls could relax! We hitched a ride into St Louis with Dave and Natalie and spent most of the day wandering around - bought some food (fairly cheap) for veg stew dinner  - then came back to wait for the boys!

The second day we spend out on the estuary on kayaks, we crossed to the other side to be rewarded with the most stunning, spotless beach, white sand, and roaring waves! All of us got in! The boys and Dave went off crab fishing. This was not difficult, on the sand they have swarms of purple crabs about the size of the palm of your hand, they have one big white pincer and are fairly fast. They come up and down with the tide and are fascinating to watch.. They take in the sand, filtrate the nutrients and then discard a ball shaped piece of sand. The boys caught a few to use for bait and we tried, unsuccessfully, to catch fish! Dinner subsequently was stir fry and spam! Could have been worse! Since being in Senegal we have all got burnt, mainly on the day spent on the water. We feel this is due to us being neglectful in covering up however also due to the malaria tablets (side effects include a sensitivity to the sun), so in the subsequent days we put on more sun cream and more clothes!

Rob's birthday was Thursday, Mandy decorated the car! At lunch we made him a biscuit cake with candles and then had some beer! The food served here is amazing, and is about £7 for a three course meal. We decided it would be good to have it that night and we were rewarded with salad, then two steaks cooked to perfection with a sauce and pasta, and a lemon egg tart! We were all very happy! A few bottles of beer finished the day! Just amazing! 

The Friday was spent fixing cars, Robs wheel bearing had gone and our bonnet won't close.. And then the tent zip finally gave up.. Our efforts to fix it failed!