I finally arrived in Senegal. I didn’t post anything yet about Mauritania, and the main reason was because I had almost no internet. I bought a local seem card, but the signal was just enough for whatsapp messages.
After the complicated border crossing I wrote about in my previous post, I spent a few days in Nouadhibou. Nouadhibou is the second biggest city of the country. It has a large fishing harbour. It’s quite a multicultural city. It’s populated with people from all over Africa. The city has a large Senegalese community.
The city’s fishing harbour is impressive. There are hundreds of Senegalese fishing vessels, peroques, in the port and there’s a cosy atmosphere over there. An other part of the port used to be filled with ship wrecks. Apparently some corrupt officials received bribes to dump old ships in front of the shore. A Chinese company started to clean the place a few years ago. I heard there are still a few of them left, but I didn’t find them.
Another interesting attraction of Nouadhibou is the train: the worlds longest train transports iron ore from Atar to the city. Passengers can ride the cargo carriages for free. I didn’t do the train ride, but Kenneth did. If you follow his blog, you’ll read the story. kenneth-onderweg.blogspot.com
Nouadhibou is at the end of a peninsula. That means there was a whole stretch I had to cycle twice. Leaving the city, there was some strong headwind. The road continued towards Nouakchott, the capital. Along the way, there were loads of abandoned cars, completely stripped. Most of the time the road was decent, but there was a lot of sand on it. Just like in Western Sahara, there were a lot of military checkpoints. At every checkpoint they asked for a fiche. It’s basically a copy from the first page of the passport. If you plan to travel in Mauritania, the best advise I can give you is to bring enough copy’s. It saves you a lot of time at the checkpoints. The road to Nouakchott was long, and actually kind of boring. there wasn’t a lot to see, and I couldn’t wait to be out of this desert.
Nouakchott itself is a big city, but there isn’t that much to see. It used to be a small village, but it expanded in the last years. The most important monument is the Saudi Mosque. Further than that, there wasn’t any interesting architecture in the city.
South of Nouakchott, the road got worse. Sometimes there were long stretches of loose sand to cross. a bit further south there were road works. I decided to drive on the construction site instead of on the road. It was much better. I was slowly getting out of the desert. There were more trees along the way, and a lot more villages as well.
There are two possible border crossings to go to Senegal. You can take the ferry over the Senegal river in Rosso, or you can go over the dam to go to Diama. Since everyone told me there’s too much corruption going on in Rosso, I decided to take Diama. The route to Diama went trough a beautiful national park. The feeling to be completely out of the desert was amazing. The park had a lot of wildlife. Apparently there should have been some crocodiles there, but I didn’t see any. I did see a lot of warthogs (the same animal as Pumba in the Lion King) and many birds.
Mauritania isn’t the country with the best reputation. Some embassies give a negative travel advise to visit the place. And if you read about the country, many sources say you can never make eye contact with a woman, or they claim you can’t shake a woman’s had as a man. So obviously I had my doubts before going to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. And I must say… most of the warnings I read were very exaggerated. The Mauritanians I have met are extremely friendly. They have a good sense of humour. As a man, I was allowed to talk to women… and even shake hands. No problem at all. When it comes to safety, the biggest issue for cyclists is the traffic… like almost everywhere else in the world. I didn’t feel any terrorism thread. There were military checkpoints everywhere, so just like in the Western Sahara, the authorities did take track of the tourists. There is no reason to be afraid to visit Mauritania.