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Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Senegal, Part 4 & Mauritania, Part 1

Senegal, Part 4

Day 15 – 8/5/12

A dreadful night. We had sundowners on the beach followed a nice spaghetti for dinner and after reading for a bit we went to bed. At ~ 01:00 we heard some dogs barking and then an explosion. The park owners Landcruiser was on fire. Ray rushed out to assist (carrying water) whilst Avril secured our site. It took some time & effort to get the fire under control. It seems that a disgruntled former employee had taken out a sever vengeance. This did not enhance our view of Senegal.

In the morning, we took our car into CFAO, St Louis for a service. They discovered that the gearbox oil drainage plug had previously been badly cross threaded and they had used Teflon tape to get a seal. So the CFAO folks searched for a new plug and managed to implement a secure solution (we hope).

As mentioned, we had run out of pages on our carnet, so home office organised a new one to be couriered over. Thanks to Peter, AAA (Peppina) and RACV (Susan). It arrived late in the day.

We spent a lot of the day doing internet “stuff” including arranging a replacement kindle for Ray.

Day 16 – 9/5/12

Our original intention was to head directly to the border, however Avril’s Kindle froze (yep, the 2nd one!) so we went to the patisserie in St Louis to get internet and see how to fix it. Unfortunately it was not possible, so for the 2nd day a replacement was organised and will be couriered to the UK. We managed to download kindle for PC and so will be able to read our travel guides on the gold old PC.

Then we drove to the border. With trepidation we approached, everyone seemed to have to pay bribes here. First to immigration, they stamped the passport for entrance! Then asked for Euro 10. Ray refused and the next trick was to put a guilt complex in place. We were the 1st Europeans not to pay – yeah, that will work. I should have pointed out we are Australians, not Europeans and do not like to pay bribes to people doing their jobs. So, no bribe here.

Then to customs where the carnet was stamped with no request for money. We had to pay Euro 6 to cross the barrage – but it seemed legit and we got a receipt.

Senegal Summary

What with aggressive rastas, intimidation in the markets,  fire bombing etc, Senegal was not our favourite country. The part of Senegal south of The Gambia is OK. It was nice to meet Pierre and his family. We had a great time with Patrice et al at their home. This made the stay in Senegal memorable. In general the camping accommodation was good.

The roads are good in some parts (~ 50 – 60%), but other wise are OK to poor. For the 1st time since the DRC we felt our personal security was threatened. There are some persistent/aggressive “bumsters” and they were prepared to bend the understanding/agreement reached up front to make a few extra CFA, this is really a 1st for us in Africa. We found the rastas very intimidating almost to the point of violence (we have heard it is similar in Jamaica?). In general there were no corruption issues, but there was the one occasion where a policeman tried to pin something/anything on us.

There are some nice local attractions, but nothing that would stand out as a highlight of a trip through Africa. 

Guides: Lonely Planet = 6/10. West Africa Rough Guide = 6/10. Riese Knowhow map = 5/10 (not as bad a previous experiences, but not so good you could rate it above 50%).

Mauritania, Part 1

Day 1 – 9/5/12
Again we approached the border with some sense of foreboding. Immigration was completed quickly and they requested Euro 10. Ray pointed out the cost of the visa and that the Consul was a friend of his and we were allowed to proceed without a payment.

We needed to buy insurance and this proved to be a lot moe expensive that others. The price came directly from the charts and was fully receipted, but Euro 35 for 10 days was a lot more than expected.

After registering with the gendarmes, we set off to Nouakchott. Along the way you pass through a “National Park” which seems to be mainly cattle grazing. We were stopped and asked for an entrance fee. This started at US$ 40, but we objected strongly. They only wanted Euro or the local money (onjbh). We said we only had US$ and only a small amount. A stand off developed and we went through the charade of getting out lunch etc. Eventually they settled for US$ 11. We understand this is a lot less than the official entrance?

The country side was wonderful dunes. Initially there were low acacia trees and the further north we went the lower they became until it were only small shrubs. ~ 50 km before Nouakchott a plain redevelops and there is little vegetation. As we got closer to the coast the wind intensified and became very, very strong (Beauford ??).

When we got to Nouakchott we changed some money and headed out to the Suttanes Plage camping area/restaurant ~ 15 km from town. The beach is clean, firm and very nice. The camping facilities are basic, but OK. We had a great fish dinner and chatted to some American & German men who were in town for business.

Note, the conventional overlander wisdom is to go via Diama, which is what we did. However the 80 km of gravel road in Mauritania after the border is very bad. It took 3 hours to drive. It would be worth while testing the Rosso crossing. It may be worthwhile to pay ~ $ 50 if you can pass quickly and not to subject your vehicle to 3 hours of stress.

Avril driving.  293 km. 6 hrs . N 180 13’ 10.8’’ W 0160 02’ 09.0’’

Day 2 – 10/5/12

The big downer of the night was the strong wind. We “jerry” rigged up a temporary rope to hold the tent in place. But, when we finally went to bed, the whole frame was shaking and the tent canvas flapping so violently that sleep would have been very hard. So, we pulled down the tent and Avril slept on the accommodation unit floor and Ray slept in the cab.

We did manage to get some sleep and decided to stay at the beach for the day. Ray managed to get severely burnt on his face, despite not going into the sun all day. Avril managed to go into the sun and improve her tan!

We decided not to risk another night of wind, so camped at the well known Auberge Sahara in Nouakchott. We did a little shopping, changed some money and generally got ready to go to the desert.

Again, a very nice dinner at a local Lebanese restaurant. There seem to be a lot of restaurants and well stocked shops in Nouakchott. The city seemed to be well organised with functioning traffic lights and a power grid that stayed on all night. As per the rest of Africa, there still seemed to be a problem with litter and sand control on the roads.

N 180 06’ 10.1’’ W 0150 59’ 49.3’’

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