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The Real Africa – Nouadhibou

Monday, March 4, 2013

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’ve yet to see a happy looking donkey!

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.

My chosen accommodation, seen in daylight. Nouakchott

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…

Andrew Marsh
Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 4:11 am

Well done, Derek, on your tremendous stamina and achievements thus far! Great narrative, as always. I so enjoy reading your tales. What does your diet consist of? That reminds me of school, “never use a preposition to end a sentence with”.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 8:50 am

Hi Andrew, my staple diet is pasta (usually spaghetti) and some kind of sauce which I’ve taken to making from tomato concentrate (it’s cheap) and then adding mackerel or sardines to. But now I’m in a part of Africa where food is so cheap – 250 UM (which is about 50-60p) will get me a meal of rice, fish, bread and salad, I’m eating locally a lot of the time because it works out even cheaper than I can make myself. I’ve found porridge oats (big YIPPEE) and I have french bread and jam too.

I’m loving the culture and people here, who are so friendly. It’s truly amazing and I’m so lucky!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 9:03 am

Good achievement Derek!
Entering Mauritania after Morocco is like entering Morocco after Spain 🙂
I’m following this trip with much interest, keep the updates coming.
Happy and safe travels.

Luís Cabrita

Tuesday, March 5, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Hi Luís, glad to have you on-board and that you like the updates. I think the key to getting the most out of my trip is to try (in some small way) and mix as much as possible with my surroundings and the locals, with no preconceived ideas of what to expect. Difficult, but I’m enjoying what I’ve been able to do thus far and as I grow in confidence it will benefit me I’m sure.


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