Nouakchott, MAURITANIA to SENEGAL
Dec 30, 2005
Awoke to the sound of birdcall, which meant it was after 7am. When I roused enough to look at a clock it was 7.40am, later than I had hoped because I wanted to get to the Senegalese border at Rosso before it closed for lunch at 1pm.
By the time I had packed and bought some baked goods for breakfast from the bakery nearby, it was almost 9am. I then had to wait to pay for my two nights accommodation because reception had only just opened and there were people waiting ahead of me. Like myself they had to have their passport details entered in the register before they, and then I, could pay.
As such, it after 9am by the time I was able to hail a taxi to take me to Garage Rosso, Only Ou500 (~Oz$2.65) this time compared to Ou1,000 in the opposite direction when I arrived in the country, and by the time I arrived there it was close to 9.30am.
There was the usual chaos as people tried to drag me into their vehicle. I settled for the first one I was shown, a Landrover, because despite having to sit in the back where it looked uncomfortable, it looked almost full. I was wrong. Although the proper seats were taken, 2 people in the front seat and 4 in the back, the bench seats where I was sitting, in what would normally be a storage space, were not popular and took a long time to fill.
In fact two men who were sitting on a bench when I arrived disappeared, either changing their minds, which is unlikely because they pressure you to pay straight away (I paid Ou1,500 ~Oz$8 as expected plus Ou500 ~Oz$2.65 - haggled down from Ou1,000 - for my backpack), or they were there temporarily to make it look fuller, and thus closer to departure, than it was.
Before disappearing, one of the two men even had the nerve to ask me to change his mobile phone setting from 'English', which he couldn't understand, to 'French'. Although I was able to work how this could be done, it needed a security code that he didn't know, so he had no satisfaction.
It was after 10.30am when we left, two little girls filling the last spot, so it wasn't quite as squeezy as it could've been. By my calculations it would be 2pm when we reached the border and it would be closed until 3pm. At least that was preferable to arriving just before the border closed at 1pm when I would be at the mercy of border officials with a penchant for cadeaux (gifts) as to whether they let me through before their two hour break.
The trip took only three hours, but the cramped position due to a low bench that was tough on my legs and a low ceiling that was tough on my neck, concentrated pressure on my backside and it became sore very quickly. Fortunately, there was a break in the middle of the journey, and the rest of time I concentrated on the desert scenery that was being whipped up by a sandstorm.
It was 1.45pm when I arrived in Rosso. After confirming that the border was closed until 3pm, I shook off the guides that were desperately trying to attach themselves to me, and searched for a restaurant. Decent restaurants were few & far between. The first one I found was out of service because it had just passed 2pm and it was time for one of the most important prayer sessions of the week. Either the restaurant had stopped service out of respect or else the kitchen staff had gone to the mosque.
I then wandered into a squalid hotel thinking it was a restaurant, but a woman, presumably a staff member, said she could arrange chicken & chips (poulet & frites). A space was cleared at a cluttered table on a balcony and I wrote the day's journal entry while I waited for the meal to arrive. The overpriced meal was filling, but nothing special and I washed it down with an extortionately priced Coke. On my way out I discovered that there was a restaurant on the premises and from the menu I could tell that the woman had seen a chance to make some easy money by doubling the price of the meal and quadrupling the price of the drink.
I entered the border area a little after 3pm and went straight to the Immigration counter. After a short wait I presented my passport and after my details were noted in the book, it was stamped and returned to me.
I then proceeded to the car ferry that was preparing to cross the river. A man approached me to change money, so I arranged to change my remaining Ouguiyas at an almost reasonable rate. I wasn't sure about the legalities, so I insisted on making the exchange on the ferry between the vehicles. I was particularly alert during the exchange because a boy was pointing at his eye, indicating that I should keep my eyes open. The transaction occurred without a hitch.
Once the man had left I gave the boy a tip then followed the boy to the front of the boat. The ferry shoved off and soon we were heading to the Senegalese side of the river.