I decided to leave Dakhla at lunchtime, as the 40 km headwind back to the mainland would make up the majority of the days ride and I’d determined that would be enough, as it is very energy sapping. Strangely enough the main beach lies some 27 km back up along the peninsular, so apart from the camper vans and a few kite surfers it is amazingly quiet.
It’s a beautiful spot and I wondered how busy it would be during the main tourist season, given that it’s not exactly easy to get to from Dakhla itself. For me that would be it’s appeal!
Once I’d got back onto the mainland I had the luxury of a cross/tail wind which made the going less arduous and I began scouting for a place to camp. Because the landscape was so bleak here in the Sahara I’d been choosing places to hide out of sight, but it was extremely difficult. Then the unexpected happened; as I passed a mobile phone tower I was called out to and invited for tea. I explained I needed somewhere to camp and was offered a spot behind the mast, which was perfect. The 3 local dogs soon got used to me and actually proved useful during the evening, alerting me to anyone approaching which meant I didn’t have to worry unduly about the bike and being so close to the road.
And so the pattern was set for the next 3 days. The landscape was just desert with nothing to grab the attention, other than I recorded for posterity the passing of the Tropic of Cancer. I was now into a rhythm regarding the cycling, but this was the most mind numbing cycling I’ve done by far, but the upside was I now looked out for and camped next to the mobile or radio masts. I did go off road and ride the piste occasionally for a bit of variety, but I also knew there would be many more opportunities coming up to ride in the Saharan sand and so didn’t go overboard.
The border crossing between Morocco and Mauritania was anything but easy, both mentally and physically. The Moroccan side was a breeze as they seemed pleased to let me go, leaving me with a cheery ‘bon voyage’. Once released I headed for the no man’s land which stretches for 8 kilometers before you reach Mauritania proper and a decent bit of tarmac.
The no man’s land track is hard rocky ground covered in sand, sometimes too deep to ride the bike in and I ended up pushing it past the many burned out vehicles, discarded TV’s and mountains of rubbish.
After I’d crossed over it took 95 minutes to get through the 200 meters of officials huts on the Mauritanian side (and they were anything but welcoming) before I got on my way again.
My final destination for the day, Nouadhibou, lay another couple of hours away (40 km) and was strangely similar to Dakhla in that it too lies on a peninsular adjacent to the mainland.
So I’ve arrived in Mauritania. More later…