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Sunday 13th March ~ Laayoune to wild camp Approx 100 miles north of Dakhla

by Marc on August 2, 2011

There’s actally little to say about the journey itself. Not because it’s boring  – quite the reverse – it is totally absorbing. But hard to put into words – more a feeling, a mindset an emotion maybe. But certainly nothing i can write would do it justice.

So, all i can report is what’s going on in my head.

I’m repeating myself now but really – this is really the real Sahara now!… really.

It’s stark, in your face, bold and almost scary how big this place is and how you cannot afford to let your focus slip. What i mean is; dont let your concentration go for even a minute, coz if you make a daft mistake here…. there is no easy fix. Thinking about that last sentence, it didn’t feel like that at the time. No, at the time it was quite relaxed, measured, calm – we just got on with it.

In hindsight wouldn’t you feel like a complete twat – dropping the bike or suchlike and breaking a leg or just an ankle, or even getting a minor road rash.. that got infected? Then what do you do? How does everyone else cope with your cockup? ANYhow, thankfully – it never happened, so…..

We’re on the road at 8.30. it turns out we’ll be on the road until 1900. I’ll tell you now we do 210 miles today. Right, that’s the basic facts out of the way.

Facts  – things that anchor you and your perception to Real Life©.

Today become a very surreal and odd feeling day. Shades of movie plots and scenes of deep intense thoughts from us all.

We are very aware that today we face the ‘Mauritania issue’ head on. WTF is this issue anyhow?

The Mauritanian Issue I’ve covered this already – but to recap –  it’s simple really;

Due to the fact that in the recent past years, Westerners, aid workers every one of them, i think – though maybe the very odd (rare) tourist have very occasionally been kidnapped and passed on to (allegedly) Al Queda for a ransom to be paid.

That’s it, i think. though i’m open to correction and clarification on this. How this affects anyone traveling through the country is blunt and basic. U.K. passport holders for example cannot get travel insurance and are guided by the U.K. Foreign Office statement “Do NOT travel” through the country. I however have the glorious Guinness label on my passport. Our Dept. Of Foreign Affairs state on their website “Essential travel only”. Thus i could get travel insurance – at least partly due to a very heplful lady in the A.A. here in Dublin!

Some of us either hadn’t fully read up / understood the risk or failed to really take in what this meant. Suffice to say that it was a regular topic and worry for the group.

In reality  i felt the risk was shall we say “worthy of note” but not life threatening. Our aim was simple – get in and out as quick as is possible with a flock of Gappers. Enroute though, we’d heard a lot of tall tales about how we were mad, it was a stupid idea, we’d get killed/maimed kidnapped etc. etc. It has to be said that as far as we could see – this ‘information” all came from people that had not actually done nor were going to do the route we were! I.E straight through, no detours and definitely not towards the west and Mali – which could be a serious problem.

But you cant ignore such tales even if they were B.S. The mind may say it will all be o.k. / the heart aint listening.

Various ideas were brought up, from camping only at military camps and getting an escort with them from place to place. For a fee of course. To getting on the ‘piste’ as soon as possible – thus sidestepping the main road and keeping between it and the coast. Again – avoiding sight of any baddies.

Not as simple as it sounds. The Mauritanian military have a reputation that precedes them. It has been said you’d be safer away from them as they themselves would be a target for bandits (think; moths to a flame!) and you’d be more likely to get killed by mere association or their not very skilled marksmanship – ending up as a victim of friendly fire.

The idea of us being part of a convoy was another non starter as our max speed meant we simply couldn’t keep up – so that idea was no good either.

This ‘piste’that Dennis was so keen to go on.. IF it actually existed could hide as many bandits as it could keep us away from and anyhow as Ian said “i dont think there IS 800 kms of piste IN Mauritania!” – So, this was a dubious option. Ian also reckoned the trailer, never mind the Bikes was not capable of such a rough route (more about this later).

So, although we’d asked from Rabat onwards, any and all bodies that had some idea of the terrain (which got Dennis grinding his teeth to put it mildly) for local knowledge, we ended up with less truth and more notions, tall tales, rumour and misinformation than before. Confused yet? Well, we certainly were.

I can understand Dennis’s annoyance at those we asked and listened to – WTF did they actually know for sure? It only made things worse. BUT, Dennis, can you understand why we didn’t trust YOUR judgement either?!

Personally i was prepared to just do it – having lived in Ireland and England, i was well used to the myth and the reality of “terrorist activity” and figured we’d be alright if we used our heads, kept a low profile and got in and out as quick as possible.

Anyhow – one thing was certain; we were near(ish – maybe as much as 200 mile away West, for gods sake!) the area that was thought of as ‘high risk’ and would immediately be moving South (as fast as possible!) away from it – the risk got lower with every single mile covered. What did we have to worry about?

A lot if you believed all you heard from other European travelers. But balanced between Dennis’s scathing comments about others and our own views and new found ínformation from these same travelers, we found ourselves looking at two choices.

Carry on or go back?

From → On the Road

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