I should have known really, as I’d previously traveled in December 2011 to Kenya and spent 3 weeks getting a flavour of Africa. And while Morocco will introduce you to a much different culture than we as rich Europeans are used to, it’s not ‘The Real Africa’. Nouadhibou was an assault on the senses, but in a much more dramatic way than what I’d previously experienced in Morocco – if I had to use an analogy it would be this: the difference between being punched with a gloved hand and a bare knuckle fighter.
This is the place where Muslim North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa collide and it felt like I was in a different world. Battered cars honking their horns as they weaved precariously down the streets with their overloaded cargo’s, goats climbing on top of the rotting rubbish piled high, shops lined up selling all manner of tinned food and french baguettes, and of course the fresh fruit stalls. Donkey’s were everywhere, they too given unfeasibly large loads to carry or pull.
I rode into town tired and without ceremony, just another face amongst the many. After so many weeks of being treated like some kind of celebrity and money on wheels, it was nice to go relatively un-noticed. What became apparent very quickly was that the few greetings I did get were given (and accepted) with genuine warmth. It’s not a big town and it didn’t take me long to find the Auberge du Sahara, my accommodation for the night. It’s more like a youth hostel, but for less than £5 I got secure parking for the bike, a basic room, unlimited hot water and use of the kitchen for cooking. I quickly showered and made my evening meal before briefly exploring my new environment, then crashing out for the night.
From a tourist point of view there is not much of interest in Nouadibhou and for me it was simply a stopping off point on my way to the capital, Nouakchott. It did however provide me with everything I needed and once I’d found the ATM, collected a few meager supplies and filled my stove bottle with fuel, I was on my way.
The ‘new’ tarmac road (actually completed in 2008) connecting Nouadibhou and Nouakchott seemed no different to what I’d ridden for the last few weeks and once again I was riding through fairly featureless desert. Occasionally I’d reach a checkpoint and have to go through the routine of answering various questions, despite the fact that all the information being requested was on the fiche I handed over. I am certainly learning to chill out more and so I just smile and try to converse as best I can, which obviously worked one time when I was handed a banana!
The sun had already set beyond the horizon when I rode into Nouakchott after 4 days of riding the desert highway. I was looking for Auberge Menata, another cheap accommodation listed in my Rough Guide to West Africa, but after spending some time asking both the local police and gendarmes for directions, I gave up and took a rooftop khaima in the Auberge Sahara (seems to be a popular name!). As it was now quite late, I simply crashed out until the next morning.
I’m up early and keen to explore this new town, which I think has a bit more to offer than Nouadibhou, so I’ll let you know how I get on in my next post…