|Weather: Cool, Overcast & Windy
The early morning was cool enough for me to use my sleeping bag even though I was inside a building, albeit a basic stone brick wall and straw roof construction. As dawn approached and the sun rose behind thick bands of cloud, the sky frequently changed colours and I was able to watch through my window from my bed at my leisure.
Once out of bed, I ordered a petite dejenour and washed down the bread, butter & jam with coffee & cocoa as I sat and listened to the others sitting at my table, speaking French. As I was unable to join the conversation I gazed up at Ouadâne on the ridge and followed the sparrows when they broke my line of sight as they flitted around the auberge compound.
At 10am I went for what was hopefully a final look at the old city. Final in that I wanted to go to Atâr and from the old city I was heading to the new town to ask whether a taxi-bush would be leaving today. I searched in vain for a great photograph of the ruins tumbling down the hillside, but the light was too low, so I snapped a few shots that caught some of the essence of the site and called it quits. The man who I had evaded the previous day approached me and demanded that I pay for a ruins ticket, calling it a tax, but I was outside the perimeter wall and in a bad mood, so I refused to pay and walked away.
In the new town, I found a well-stocked shop and a shopkeeper who spoke English. I bought a coke and some biscuits for the trip to Atâr, which seemed likely as the shopkeeper pointed to a Toyota Hilux Dualcab and it was a taxi-bush that would leave at noon.
Further along the street, the youths running what appeared to be the only restaurant in town asked me to eat lunch there and added that there would be no taxi-bush today. I promised that if I was still in Ouadâne at lunchtime that I would eat at their restaurant.
Back at the auberge in the valley, I said goodbye to the Italian couple and the French couple then sat down to wait for the taxi-bush with a eye on the road winding down from the new town. I noticed that there was a Hilux outside the auberge entry, so I asked if it was going to Atâr. It wasn't, but the auberge owner was in the car and reconfirmed that she expected a taxi-bush to leave at noon and asked that I pay her assistant for my room and board before leaving.
I was confident that a taxi-bush would be leaving at noon now that two people had told me the same thing, so since I had over an hour to wait I decided to shave. I rededicated myself to the task of styling my beard around the removal of my patches of white hair and was working on the final touches when the taxi-bush pulled up 45 minutes early.
Frantically I crammed my toiletries bag, towel and a few other small items into my otherwise packed backpack and daypack and resigned myself to the fact that I wouldn't see change from the two Ou2,000 notes that I used to settle my Ou3,700 account (Change is often a problem). Then I threw my backpack into the tray of the Hilux and climbed into the passenger's seat as it was offered to me.
Once through the police checkpoint a few metres down the road we were on our way ... to a vegetable garden to collect bags of carrots. So much for rushing about. Still I did get to see the old city ruins from a very good vantage point. With the tray loaded with carrots & other root vegetables we traversed a few kilometres further to a village, dropped off a couple of women and picked a couple up then left the village and climbed out of the valley onto the roof of a plateau and back onto the dirt road to Atâr. The vista of the valley, the village and a glimpse of Ouadâne in the distance behind us was worth the detour.
The plateau wasn't very picturesque. A flat sandy landscape littered with dull, grey rocks and low, sparse vegetation. The few hours it took to drive across the plateau had few highlights: dropping two women in the middle of nowhere where two other women with babies were waiting; stopping to see if we could assist with a broken-down vehicle and having tea with the occupants (I handed round my biscuits and gave them the rest of the packet); and the occasional camel (mostly goats in this rocky environment).
The descent from the plateau was spectacular. Rockfalls had been swept off the damaged sides of the steep road that wound down the side of a ravine, a crack in the side of the escarpment that met the valley floor in a few steps of solid rock cliffs and steep slopes of scree.
Atâr was only a dozen or so kilometres further along and I was dropped off at the accommodation of my choice after paying Ou3,000 (~Oz$16), only Ou500 more than what I had been told it would cost, but I did have a bag and the front seat, both of which often cost extra, for what had been a very comfortable ride.
I had returned to Bab Sahara and chose to camp on the roof of a building for the standard Ou1,500 (~Oz$8) fee rather than the other options shown to me a Welsh staff member, either a mattress in a Mauritanian tent or a sofa under a shade shelter. Prior to setting up camp I undertook the overdue task of washing the iron ore dust off my groundsheet and sleeping mat. Then, once the tent was erected and I had placed the mat and my backpack inside, I left my daypack beside the tent (it was still caked in iron ore dust and sand - inside and out due to the juice that had spilled from its container when was crushed during the train trip) and went into town at 4pm in search of information on transport to Terjît, my next destination, and a very late lunch.
I started enquiring about transport to Terjît when I reached the main roundabout. I asked three times and told three different departure times from three different locations. At least the locations were all close to the roundabout, so I decided that I resume my enquiries in the morning when a taxi-bush to Terjît would hopefully be waiting somewhere near the roundabout.
My third and final enquiry was made at a fast food restaurant where I sat down to a meal of chicken & chips, which made a change to rice or crepes with a vegetable &/or meat sauce. It was good, but not enough and so I also had a sandwich (chips, mince & onions with mayonnaise & tomato sauce in the ubiquitous Mauritanian version of the French long bread roll - every country in West Africa has a version). By the end I was stuffed and wouldn't need to eat the expensive set dinner menu back at camp.
I ate my meal with the French couple from Ouadâne, who pulled up in their vehicle opposite the restaurant while I was eating and joined me in eating chicken & chips for dinner (they probably wanted a change as well). They spoke little English and I spoke no French, so there wasn't much conversation, but they were able to convey that they would be camping on the outskirts of Atâr then heading to Morocco via Nouakchott and Nouâdhibou along the good sealed roads.
They left and so did I after spending less than Ou1,000 (