After a lot of back and forward, I decide I will not explore Mauritania. The distances are vast, and I’m not certain I will be able to buy gas in the remote areas of the desert I’m interested in exploring. I would love to drive out to Atar to see the world’s longest train, but I can’t carry enough gas to get there and back comfortably, and there really is no way to find out if they actually have gas there or not. To be perfectly honest, I’m also kind of done with the endless sand and intense sun beating down day after day.
I’m done with the desert. I’m ready for something else.
Gas shortages are very common in Mauritania, and even when it can be found it has a reputation for being extremely low octane and very expensive – to counter this I filled my Titan tank and the stock tank on the Jeep full to the brim at the last station in Morocco.
I drive straight South into the capital city, Nouakchott, putting in a massive day and arriving in the city right on dusk. It’s dark as I make my way on severely crumbling roads to the Auberge Menata, a famous Overland hangout right in the city centre. The place is deserted, save for the sad-looking monkey tied to a short rope. I spend a couple of days in the city getting a visa for a future country and buying insurance to cover the Jeep for most of the countries in West Africa for the next 6 months. I venture downtown to the market, and am a little shocked by the poverty and desperation I see. It’s by far the worst I have ever seen in my life.
The city is very decrepit and dirty, a result of recent severe droughts and a military coup in 2008.
After a couple of nights I move over to the Auberge Sahara across town, and am immediately happy with that choice. It’s certainly not cleaner, but I happen to bump into William, a French-Canadian riding south on an old Honda motorbike he has just bought this week in the city. His route looks similar to mine, though he will cut through The Central African Republic to cross the continent, and end his journey somewhere around Kenya.
In the morning I again aim South, heading towards what is commonly called “The Worst Border in Africa”.