Mauritania - Story of my trip to Mauritania

Mauritania - Story of my trip to Mauritania

Crossroads between the Muslim world and black Africa

by Antonietta Peroni and Giovanni Camici

Located in North West Africa, although a place of transition between the Arab world of North Africa and the Black one, it is a country in itself, helping to give it a particular charm.

Land of Saharan trade routes, initiated by the Berbers who led West Africa to the birth of the empire of Ghana, then rejected with the advent of Islam by the Almoravids, passing these territories under the Arabs.

The climate is typical of the Saharan region, with sweltering heat from June to August, pleasant temperatures for a visit from November to March, while abundant rainfall occurs between July and September.

The country excluding the flat and wooded south, where it is possible to cultivate, the rest of the country is desert, with 700 km of coastline overlooking the Atlantic, where the dunes go as far as the beach which can be traveled by 4x4 during the low seas.

Here is the Parc National du Banc d'Arguin, a bird watching paradise, populated by millions of migratory birds; along the coast there are villages where Imraguen fishermen live, the only ones who are allowed to fish as long as it is traditional.

Parc National du Banc d'Arguin

The population of Mauritania is divided between Moors of Berber Arabic origin and those of Black Africa, the spoken language is an Arabic dialect called Hassaniya.

Arriving in this country by land from the north, precisely after the West Sahara, there is the narrow peninsula of Cap Blanc with the inhabited center of Nouadhibou where you can still see the monk seals in the Baie du Levrier.This industrial territory in the Port Mineralier of Cansado (village modern) is the point of arrival and embarkation of the railway coming from the mines of the north, all managed by the French company of Snim.

The territory with its 80% desert shows the best of itself on the Adrar plateau, with its ocean of dunes (among the most beautiful in Mauritania) and stopping places for caravans from Mali, villages (Chinguetti the seventh holy city , Tanouchert, Ouadane) located in beautiful oases where there are libraries containing ancient Islamic manuscripts.

This region can be reached from Nouakchott, or passing from Nouadhibour to Choum by the longest train in the world, about 2.5 km of wagons, which takes the iron from Zouerat to the coast, an unforgettable experience on the railway in the desert.


Another region to venture into is the Tagant plateau, a little isolated from the rest of the country by the means of communication; many travelers go as far as stopping in the peaceful oasis of Tidjikja. From here, moving to the small village of N'beyka you can reach the crocodile colony in the oasis of Matmata (requires your own vehicle) and the ghost towns on the ancient caravan tracks.

The most common animals in Mauritania are those that can serve nomadic shepherds in the desert, the camel and sheep for milk and meat, in abundance everywhere while vegetables apart from in the south and in the capital, in the rest of the country are scarce.

The part of southern Mauritania, is connected from west to east, Nouakchott -Nèma (with a detour to Oualata) towards Mali by the Route de l'Espoir, the largest artery of the country, an asphalted serpentine of about 1400 km in the desert, which crosses inhabited centers such as Kiffa, Ayoun el-Atroùs, today during the writing of this story is still considered a hot area at high risk for the accidents that occurred in Mali, and magnified by Western information, which has caused tourism in this wonderful country to collapse for some years already.

Apart from the Rosso area on the border with Senegal, a chaotic border town of little tourist importance, what about the capital? Nouakchott, a city of 1 million inhabitants, where up to 5 years ago it still had the most important dirt arteries, where today goats still circulate in the center, the largest airport in the country for those arriving by plane, a place of passage to organize the stay in Mauritania, have the first impact with this reality, and why not, in the meantime visit what it offers, its markets (Grand Marchè, Cinquième Marchè, craft shops), the mosques (the Great Mosquèe, the Friday Mosque, Mosquèe Marocaine), the Musèe National, interesting in its genre, and a nice hike to the complexionPort de Pèche.

Port de Pèche

Mauritana is not a country rich in monuments, you go to this place for the naturalistic beauties it can offer and where the desert offers the greatest attraction, so what to visit? Desert, then the desert and more desert, being surrounded by oases, dunes, camels, nomadic shepherds, drinking the delicious camel milk and yogurt, then grazing goats, places to supply water from the much-dreamed wells (yes, as in the films !), sleep under the stars in the desert (yes, just so without a tent!) in the company of a small fire, walk days and days in the desert, but one thing that will always be present is tea and its ritual that will accompany you everywhere, the famous 3 small glasses (maybe even with mint) to never refuse! A country that can be visited backpacking, despite the lack of means of communication, testimony of the undersigned, and where the taxibrousses do not arrive, an alternative means is sought! As-salam aleykum Mauritania!

You will find other photographs of my journey on the pages:

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Trip to Mauritania and Mali

Mali, splendid! Our tour on the road with the camper

  • by SZ
    published on 10/4/2012
  • Departure on 13/1/2012
    Return on 13/2/2012
  • Travelers: 2
    Expense: Over 3000 euros

To reach Mauritania by camper it is clear that you have to cross all of Morocco, but we will not talk about this part of the trip because today Morocco is an almost western country that can be reached easily and where, especially in winter, the amount of campers who pass here the whole cold period is very high.

We will then begin the journey from the border between Morocco and Mauritania.

It is January 13th and we are on the border between Morocco and Mauritania. The usual boring police and customs procedures to which is added, for the Moroccan side, the passage to the electronic scanner of the camper to identify any weapons on board. We had had entry visas (double for Mauritania and single for Mali) issued by the respective Embassies in Rome - a much simpler procedure than relying on locally made visas for which a lot of time is wasted. The infamous and much mythical "no man's land" awaits us, that is the strip of about 4 km of land that has no owner. The road is neither marked nor indicated, so it goes in the direction but there are other vehicles that travel it so it is rather difficult to make a mistake. Instead, a lot of attention must be paid to the route with the camper because the holes, the sand and the many rocks present must be carefully avoided with a very low speed slalom. Attention do not listen to the multitude of characters who offer you help and escort because it is not absolutely necessary to rely on them. We arrive at Nouadhibou, first "useful" city of Mauritania in the evening and we settle down at the campsite "La baia del Greriero".

January 14

Day dedicated in the morning to a tour in the Nouadhibou market (very close to the campsite so easy to reach on foot) and in the afternoon to a jeep excursion to Cap Blanc, the famous cape where the sight of the monk seals is mythologized (which we we have not seen), where there is a cemetery of stranded ships, abandoned to rust and the arrival station of the longest train in the world that carries the minerals from the interior of Mauritania to the port. In the evening they invite us (for a fee) to a dinner in a "Mauritanian" house where they cook fish for us. All a bit shabby because we are left alone in a bare room (the hosts don't even show up), the fish is semi-raw and the amount we pay is absolutely insane for Mauritania's standard of living and the average price of local restaurants. The impact with Mauritania is quite strong because coming from Morocco there is a different race, very beautiful men and women dressed in their traditional clothes, a lot of poverty but not manifested and some rudeness of character, as well as a prevailing filth everywhere.

January 15

We leave for Nouakchott, the capital. Of the whole period spent in Mauritania, this is certainly the most interesting and exciting stage. We stop at Auberge Akwar campsite (hotel) in the city. There are only two places for campers (and we were two) but the site is nice and has water, electricity and wi-fi.

January 16

Let's go and visit the two markets of the city, the one for fabrics, where we enter very narrow and crowded alleys. Here, unfortunately, people are very hostile and we must avoid using the camera too much because they react badly and a possible fight would be a loser for us. Then we go to the artisans' market where wood is mainly processed and where the atmosphere is a little more relaxed. We also visit the largest mosque in the city, very particular for its bright colors, but rather bare. The day ends with a visit to the Fish Market and above all with the spectacle of the arrival of the fishermen's boats (in the late afternoon). Really fascinating and one would remain there to observe all the operations of landing the fish and beaching the boats, "beaten" by the waves of the Atlantic, for hours. Even the market where the fish is traded and all related activities, as for example, the women who prepare the fried fish for the arriving sailors create a very characteristic atmosphere. It is recommended to go to this place accompanied by a guide but, in our opinion, it is only necessary to use common sense and nobody bothers you.

January 17

We start in the direction of Cinguetti, 410 km of good but rather boring road. Before arriving in Cinguetti we make a stop in Terjit and to get there we deviate from the main road for a dirt road of about 15 km. Here we cover up twice (both campers) and so we quickly understand that campers are not suitable for this kind of route. We find a place to camp in a clearing of land in the dark and in total silence

Morocco Mauritania and Mali 1998-1999

This is the story of Igor, Federico and an 18-year-old Range Rover who, by mutual agreement, at least the first two, decide to take a trip. An idea born from the famous unhealthy mind of Federico (famous, for those who already know Federico while those who do not yet know him will have the opportunity to do so by reading these pages) in which Igor also took part who, at the time of the decision not yet knowing him well, he trusted and left with him.
This is the story of how an adventure springs from an idea, made up of a few essential things, first of all the love for a land where nothing is the true master, where among suffering populations, tropical forests, deserts, priceless riches still to be discovered or already discovered, nothing is the only thing that is always present and looming over everything. The struggle to get to the end of the day by everything that populates that earth (including us, therefore, but for us it was only a daily routine of adventure), where human values ​​differ markedly from social ones, where time is marked by the sun and the moon, where the most important thing is to see the sun again tomorrow morning: this will be the common thread of the diary. Together with the bad luck that has always characterized every moment of my life.
This is also the story of how Africa turned two acquaintances into friends (I think).

Federico had always had one goal: to try to spend all the winter holidays in Africa, it didn't matter whether in the desert or in the jungle, the important thing was Africa.
This time, with the help of Igor, the goal was reached, with difficulties, joys, anger, laughter, stiff neck, dysentery, broken balls and everything else that can concern an adventure trip, and so Federico this time was able to spend birthday, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and Epiphany in Africa. Or rather, as far as the birthday is concerned, it was not really like that, in fact on his birthday, the "xxth" (so you will understand, reading), the two losers with the scrap left for France, Spain, Morocco , Mauritania, Mali. They should also have done the Ivory Coast but the Moors have made them waste a lot of time and money. but I cannot continue to tell the events like this, otherwise instead of the prologue, I write another diary.
I would certainly say that we can give the start of this bad luck lasting 8000 km from the first day: December 19, 1998. but, considering that a few years earlier, on the same day, Federico was born, this journey towards adventure would also have ideally could have been born with him, so: 19 December 1966.

SATURDAY 19/12/1998. DEPARTURE FROM ASTI if we ever did. The start was harder than expected this time. The Range (which from here on, for convenience, we will call or, better, we will write RR) was delivered to me by Burgnun only last night at 22.30 but it still does not go well, there are some problems in advance and the engine does , indeed it does not go right.

The Burgnun, who is actually called Adriano, is my trusted scrap mechanic. Halfway between do-it-yourself and the recycling of mechanical parts, it still manages to repair everything you bring it: from the brush cutter to the jet. In his workshop there is an orderly disorganization (or a disorganized order) so that, at the sight of shelves overflowing with car parts that no longer exist (which, however, can always be used or adapted to other cars), one is impressed to so much so that he is seized by the rush to get into first gear and escape, rather than leaving his car in the hands of that executioner. Instead, more often than not, the results achieved are truly successes, obtained with iron wires and second-hand spare parts, just like in Africa, and that's why I consider him the ideal mechanic for my scrap.
Adriano has only two types of clothing: winter and summer. The winter one consists of a very, but very greasy wool sweater, to protect yourself better from the cold, while the summer one consists of a really greasy T-shirt to be water repellent in case of seasonal showers. He has always and always had the same pants, even if lately he has been seen around in a mechanic's overalls.
The nickname Burgnun comes from the fact that he has a white eye, I don't know why.

To load all the luggage I went to sleep at two in the morning and the start is scheduled at five thirty. At half past six, after realizing that:
1st being in the world,
2 ° to be very late,
3 ° having to leave for a trip to Africa,
I rush to get Igor.
The totalizer of km passing in front of the Australian pub in Isola starts at 98350: a new adventure begins ..

Igor, or rather Messieur Igor (with French cadence), as they called him there, for the first time (both for him and for me) was my adventure companion, for this adventure.
After the sentimental disaster that happened to me a few months ago I would have had to face Africa alone (and also with a total bill) and so I started looking for a possible partner for a new adventure. We have been "friends" (mostly acquaintances) for a long time but we have never met that much: a greeting and go. At the wedding of a friend of ours I put the African woodworm in his head and he, who has already traveled a lot, let himself be gnawed calmly and within a few months he was very convinced. For me it was a risk, I did not know who I was carrying with me, if it was a tritamaroni or not, but also for him it would not have been a pleasant thing, to discover my nervous and angry side in the presence of multiple problems, organized in series, as it happens to me periodically, in my "quiet" life as a loser. And instead everything is fine. Not even the shadow of a disagreement, thank God.
Igor is an electronic engineer and his head works a bit like an engineer, with brilliant and reasoned solutions, and a bit like an electronic one, with twisted and impenetrable mental processes. Usually, while traveling, we talked for a long time, about any subject and then silence, for hours. Every so often I turned to see if he was dead, and he was there instead, his brain making noise from too much thinking about who knows what subject. Then he came up with a few sentences that for him was logical, as he had been thinking about it for hours, but for me, who was somewhere else with my head, it sounded incomprehensible, even from a mental problem. However, he immediately adapted (absolutely in all respects) to African life, he ate everything, slept everywhere, nothing disgusted him, he washed when he could without complaining too much (while maintaining the cleaning of his teeth in a maniacal way) . For me a big relief. Many fewer problems.
His relations with the natives were a bit particular, in the sense that, being a bit more experienced than him in matters of Africa, I explained to him: ".do not give too much rope to the locals, because in any case, at the end of each speech, they try to get something from you (example: a policeman from Mali, very kind, asks us for photos of Italy with the snow because he has never seen 'one or the other. I received a letter from him, a few days ago, where he even asked for a camera!) "Every character he met, who usually has a fairly courteous approach, despite my recommendations and despite having touched with his hand the fact that the locals want something from you, however, was an opportunity for him to have a good chat that always ended with a request for something.

A compulsory breakfast of cappuccino and brioche, in the first bar that comes along: the one in the Cuneo station. It was about half past seven and there was already a guy at the counter who probably either hadn't yet cleared the alcohol fumes from the night before or was trying to reach an alcoholic coma early in the morning. I am inclined to the second hypothesis, considering both the psycho and physical state of the phenomenon, by evening he probably could have reached a coma, unless, thanks to the impressive number of swearwords he offered to the patrons of the bar, a bolt from the blue sent by the gods, did not incinerate it thus putting an end to the very sad spectacle.
We arrive after about an hour and a half on the road to the Italy - France border, in Limone, and we already have a small problem: apart from the fact that Igor has forgotten the international vaccination certificate, which would have jeopardized our possible entry into the Costa of Ivory (if we ever got there), the police stopped us and pointed out that the RR has not carried out the regular revision and would like to confiscate the booklet with consequent end of the trip. So I try a proposal: the agent gives me his back holding the booklet of the R.R. behind his back, I steal it from him and run away into the tunnel of the Col di Tenda so that he will never see again, neither me nor the R.R. The agent, after a brief consultation with his captain, accepts the scene but, less cinematically, gives me the booklet and, still unable to understand what a pair of skis were doing on an off-road vehicle that was leaving for Africa, we let go, trying to evaluate the possible mockery.
We are in France and the Roja Valley is as always beautiful the R.R. now it's fine (because it's downhill) and with inertia I hardly notice the damage the Burgnun hadn't repaired. Finally on the motorway and off to the French coast, with the R.R. that looks like a coffee pot and crackles as if I had filled it with firecrackers.
However, we cannot give up now that we are at the beginning and so we arrange for the registration of the points that regulate the advance of the engine and after only 300 km. the engine of the R.R. it purrs like a big cat with eight cylinders and manages to keep a cruising speed of 100/110 km. then. Judging by the load, however, more than a cat it looked like a mule but this didn't seem to bother the vehicle and, consequently, us too much.
Suddenly, while Igor had given me the change for a necessary nap, a strange noise is heard, as if they had decided to do the lottery extractions in the back of the R.R. and, as I open my eyes, I see the car with a strange side tilt angle.
Igor, having terribly twisted mental processes, was still thinking about what was happening but I, broken (in all senses) from all experiences, with one eye open and one still sleeping, with neck and back cramped by the torture room position of the very comfortable seats of the Rover flagship (which can be reclined, but only forwards), I immediately suggested that he replace the punctured wheel before we even ate the rim.
". Mm. O.K." was Igor's answer and so we did the first wheel change dress rehearsal. It was also a general rehearsal of arranging the load, using the jack and the harmony of the couple who, however, had practically never shared anything adventurous until the night before. However, the test gave excellent results, on all fronts.
As soon as we passed the "puncture" obstacle we had to deal with another nasty problem: the rear differential leaks oil!
But in the meantime we cross the France-Spain border totaling about 700 km and we certainly can't complain about problems. The differential now no longer leaks: it just discharges. Pause and second dress rehearsal: you have to lie down on the ground in the dirt and touch dirty and greasy things. Obviously I, as a very ex-CAMEL-man, offered to lie down under the R.R., which was already enough for me on the bales, and Igor, like a valid operating room assistant, handed me the tools for disassembly. In the end, the problem was only caused by the oil level being too high in the differential so that when it warmed up it went under pressure and threw it out. Test number two O.K. I was all anointed and the R.R. it seemed to be okay and so, happily, we proceed on the itinerary. Arriving after Valencia, at a total of about 1200 km, at one in the morning, after about NINE NINE HOURS of driving, I had holistic hallucinations and so we decide to pitch the curtain in the lawn of a Spanish motorway restaurant to try a well-deserved rest.

The cold, in agreement with a bus of Moroccans who made a mess since we arrived until we left, convinced us to get up at half past five to start our journey again.
The Spanish highway runs off fast, so the oil from the cursed differential continues to pour, like the magical ash of Sai Baba's Vibuti, where the more you remove, the more it reforms. The final solution to the problem was then this: when the oil is finished, the differential will no longer leak and we will add more to it. A mix between popular wisdom and Lapalisse which, however, worked not badly so much so that the differential was no longer felt for the rest of the trip.
We are on the beautiful Spanish coast which at the time, and given the time, lent itself magnificently for a fish meal and in no time we find a splendid truck driver's restaurant that prepares us a splendid fried fish the day was very sunny the temperature around twenty degrees: what more could you want? Certainly not a broken shock absorber, but apparently there was nothing else better for which, after the fish, with a galloping-fulminating abbiocco, we left with three shock absorbers also because, moreover, it was rightly Sunday and where are you going to have it repaired or replaced?
Without losing heart we continue this journey that had already had apocalyptic premises and around four in the afternoon we arrive in Malaga, boarding for Melilla, in Moroccan territory. The ferry, however, will leave only tomorrow and so after a quick consultation, but vaff. we leave for Algeciras, where the Algeciras Ceuta ferry will certainly be there waiting for us. Said and done: at 5:45 pm we board the superfast ship for Ceuta where we stop after only 35 minutes at sea.
We are in Africa and we must try to suddenly change our way of seeing the world. However, the classic way out of Ceuta for the Moroccan border is closed: a great traffic of police and people and a strange detour up the Ceuta hill to get around an obstacle. But what will this obstacle be? Why all those people? A gentleman explains to us: ". Nothing. They planted a bomb in a shop, but it's all over now." All finished what? Did it explode or did they just remove it? In any case as a welcome it was really the most welcome for two like us who were looking for a bit of adventure.
Fortunately, then the border was practically crossed with a closed vehicle, without checks or wasted time thanks to a small outlay of money to the classic Ali or Abdul or Mohamed of the situation, in order to be able to continue the journey immediately.

In all the African frontier places I passed through in my ten years of travel, with the exception of the smallest and most remote, there are characters who, according to the best African tradition of inventing a job to do, handle the customs procedures of tourists . However, one should not imagine an agency, as the only real job of these people is to take the forms for you to fill out and deliver them to the "bureau" once they are completed. Basically an information distributor. A job that everyone could do on their own, with the only hitch of the waste of time due to the fact that it is almost never possible to understand which counter or border officer to contact. The names of these characters are always the same, Abdul, Mohamed, Ali or something like that, absolutely false, as they act in total illegality, often also in symbiosis with the customs officers, who cause you a problem (such as some irregular document , absolutely invented on the spot), so that the "customs phenomenon" approaches you and solves it, so you are then obliged to pay for it. By now I have already put them in the travel budget and I have both the problem ready (so as to address the little man directly without going through the customs officer) and the 100 French francs, so I almost always manage to cross the border with the car untouched by checks. customs which could also make me spend more.

At nine in the evening, however, a little peckish pushes us to look for food until we find a food hut where we are served some splendid grilled mutton that up to ten minutes before served as a pillow to the guy who was leaning on it to chat with his fellow villagers present. Igor begins to understand how to behave here in order to live without too many problems and eats his mutton as if nothing had happened.
We decide to go a little further and arrive at the town of Larache where there is the Hotel España, where we finally take a superb hot shower.

Considering the shooting we have undergone in recent days, we tacitly agreed to wake up at nine in the morning. And it starts immediately with a nice surprise, or rather two:
1st it started to rain
2 ° in Morocco (as we later discovered, throughout the Arab part of Africa), it is the Ramadan period for which everything is closed until the blissful hours and the people, who are notoriously unwilling to do normally already, now do not does nothing. Our problems at the start of the day are two:
a) exchange (currency)
b) the shock absorber.
We solved the first one after waiting for an hour in front of the bank and for the second we decide to continue to Rabat.
The political capital of Morocco is a few hours away from Larache and is a beautiful city, very liveable despite its size. Here we have to find the shock absorber and we have to get visas for Mali and Mauritania, even if they shouldn't be necessary for the latter.
The Malian embassy was extremely kind to us and gives us the visa in half an hour while the Moors even confirm that "for the Italian and French brothers there is no need for visas", so everything O.K. (remember this step: you will have the opportunity to find it again.). The lunch break (just as if we were at work, so much the bunch, here, you do it anyway, maybe even bigger) was enlivened by a little place halfway between a fish shop and a tobacconist which however only sold "bric" which are crèpes in the shape of a triangular roll, cooked on plates smeared with oil (Selenia 15W40), filled with shrimp, or chicken, or legumes or minced meat from who knows what poor animal, even available as an option, in a sweet version. A show for the palate and a thriller for the liver.
The shock absorber problem, after lunch, is solved by a wrecker chosen like this, randomly among dozens, while he tells us that he has continuous trade in auto parts with Italy (Milan, in particular) and, judging by the Mercedes 3000 engines or 5000 that were there, we can guess that someone, in Italy, is still suffering from these trades. I find and he sells me a shock absorber from a Mercedes van which, despite mounting under the R.R., was a bit disgusting: it created a final result of an R.R. with scoliosis, but at least the car sat up and was a little more stable in cornering.
I come out of the wrecker as if I were coming out of the Avis: bled (about 150,000 lire lighter) and we leave again towards the south to reach the beautiful Safi, an ancient Portuguese port from the 1500s, with intact ramparts and a wonderful old town. Under Ramadan, the population does not eat anything until about seven in the evening and then revels into the night. And we to revel with them. We had dinner with sandwiches that seemed to come directly from the Vallemanina landfill, but they were of an exaggerated good we did not trust the bacterial plates that wanted to pass us off as cupcakes, filled with creams with undoubted laxative and devastating powers for the flora and also bacterial fauna of your intestines. Sleeping in a hotel from the 1500s, not in style, just from the 1500s: scrap instead of beds, rusty taps. And the sandwiches that were already at work: in fact the intestine, as if by magic, was slowly turning into a cement mixer that would then mix all the junk contained in it until the following morning.

In the morning we have got into a bad habit: we don't have breakfast anymore. Even this morning we didn't eat anything, so, with a cement mixer in the stomach, we arrive in the late morning in Essaouira, a charming tourist resort on the ocean, of rare beauty. Full of tourists, full of Moroccans who want to blind tourists, we shoot it a bit, take some nice pictures, buy some Tuareg jewelry (I don't know what they were doing in Essaouira but they were original). We eat two dinosaur sandwiches and meet a beautiful girl, apparently 12, who was luring customers for her henna tattoos. I think that if by chance she crossed paths with a pedophile, with his winks, she risked being lured, for quite another type of "body art".
We resume the route to the south in the early afternoon and the R.R. it crackles again but sometimes it's 130 km / hour. On the way to Agadir, about ten kilometers. first, we meet a group of surfers with vans for which the R.R. it looked like it had just come out of the dealership. They did a bit of tenderness because despite the "Point Break" scenario, with guys from California, multicolored surf suits, hundreds of dollars boards and beautiful girls, the waves were missing in the end, as the ones that were allowed them yes and no a ride of a few seconds. Such a pity!
Fortunately (so, to break the boredom a little) near the field a truck of sugar had spilled, so we stopped to see Moroccans slaughtering themselves for sugar loaves, now mixed with oil (from the truck), earth and various garbage that in Morocco, as in all of Africa, now abounds everywhere.
Later we arrive in Agadir, or Las Vegas, difficult to distinguish them, but it makes so much sadness, it is so little "Africa", that we flee without stopping too much.
The road now skirts the cliff overlooking the sea, which is so beautiful it takes your breath away. In addition, the breath has also taken away the salt carried by the wind, which makes the asphalt very slimy. This fact on more than one occasion forced us to do some beautiful numbers to avoid flying below, in the midst of the wrecks of ships that swarm this coast.
In the evening we arrive in Tan Tan, where we sleep in a nice hotel with a shower powered directly from Greenland, absolutely not heated. At dinner we finally manage to eat the famous "tajine", chicken, in a restaurant with TV for the deaf, as the volume was so high that if you were deaf you could understand something, and if you were hearing instead you deafened.

WEDNESDAY 23/12/1998. MOROCCO CROSSING. maybe the last day
We woke up with a fog that we would have liked to forget for about twenty days and instead it still haunted us until late morning. It is a haze caused by the very strong humidity carried by the ocean even for several kilometers inland. This area is the beginning of the Saraoui territory affected by the Polisario war and, although the war must have ended a few years ago, there are not indifferent deployments of military and police forces. Passports are consumed by the many and absolutely useless checks where they ask you for a lot of very detailed information, father, mother, profession, characteristics of the vehicle and so on, but they are always transcribed on the first piece of paper they find, which is then the bag where there were the dates of their lunch. Commendable professionalism and seriousness.
Meanwhile, the Atlantic coast continues to our right, allowing us to take unrepeatable photos and curious encounters, such as that group of French campers perched on a cliff overlooking the ocean, fully equipped to live until they were bored. With them there was a nice little dog, with three beautiful children (puppies) who had stolen a shoe left unattended near one of the campers and were now about to tear it to shreds. A little further on, in a lagoon at sea level, there was a colony of flamingos that "grazed" quietly. All these things you will never see because a customs officer son of a bitch seized my roll of film with all these beautiful photos.
Continue the road to Dakhla, our first destination, the first border between Morocco and Mauritania.Here the formalities for the exit in the minefield will be made and from here the convoy will leave, led by a soldier, to avoid jumping on some mines.
Even today, however, we manage to have problems with the R.R. that, partly because he drinks without restraint and partly because the service station had no more petrol, he almost left us on foot in a place where it was not really the case to take a walk of two hundred km. for a can of petrol. Basically, arrived at the service station, after the necessary formalities, I ask the little man to fill me up. He, with a four or five-tooth smile, asks me: "Didn't you pass a tanker? We've been waiting for you for two days!"
After realizing that both the pump and the R.R. had run out of petrol, the first impulse was to extract the teeth that were left in his mouth, loose. But what could he do? C'est l'Afrique! And the problem, with these magic words, down here is solved, in words.
We still manage to get to the first "barrage" of Dakhla with a spy from the reserve who had almost blinded me and, fortunately, behind the "barrage", a distributor had been running for a few months. We were safe!
Dakhla is always the same dustbin, a military border town, full of soldiers, and a strange melange of Moroccans and Moors. The road leading to Dakhla is a black ribbon that divides in two a promontory that stands out in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, formed by hills of white sand and brackish valleys due to infiltration of sea water. Thanks to all this, the landscape is so lunar that, when you cross this area, you always expect to find yourself some astronaut who says hello to you with his hand instead you find only some tourist passionate about fishing in search of the enchanted place where you can practice the mythical miraculous fishing, also because this sea is really full of fish and guarantees the minimum necessary for Mauritania's survival.
This year I opt for a hotel that, from the outside could have been nice but once inside "we left our hopes", like those who crossed the door of hell in Dante's poem. The fight with the cockroaches was so unequal that we felt like we were on the set of "A Bug's Life" and so we capitulated in our sleeping bags also because some flea in the bed surely had a window with glass as an option, then , allowed the passage to poultry-looking mosquitoes: what better gym for the areas at risk of malaria that we would have to cross in the days to come? The price, however, was low and this in the end heartened us a lot.
It was now dinner time and Dakhla was swarming with Muslims as hungry as hyenas. All the restaurants, the taverns and any other toilet willing to give you something to eat were overflowing with men who, in silence, had literally dipped their faces into their plates to eat whatever they put in front of them. Someone even in an outburst of weakness, to the great regret of the prophet, was intent on gulping down a cold beer: but where will he ever find it? After dinner, the town was saturated with population with the crowd shuffling up and down the central three or four streets of Dakhla. Obviously for reasons of tradition, if we also want religious, the men were on one side and the women on the other. The desire of both sides was so strong that you could almost touch it, but during Ramadan even that is forbidden, even if some daring had already managed to pick up the buzzicona on duty and, walking arm in arm with her, pulled her to a thousand showing practically all the male population, with an air of defiance, the large (in the sense of curvy) prey he had hunted, thus demonstrating that Allah can do nothing with regard to love. Love always wins. But when her father pinched him, the swagger capitulated in one round only by K.O. technical!
And for the first time we ate Moroccan nougat. Bi-functional: 1 ° it sticks, and yet strenuously, to the work of your dentist and destroys it in a few minutes 2 ° it can be used as a fly paper, as the fly smells the sweet diabetic smell of the food product (?) In question and then she is so attracted to it and dies there, happy to eat this sweetness. In the end, however, the price was competitive with our nougat, and therefore we had our great convenience.

Today there will be the kermesse of the formalities for the exit from Morocco and to form the escorted convoy that will cross the minefield and, judging by the movement in the city, there will also be many people.
The minefield is the remnant of the war between Morocco and Mauritania for the domination of the territory of the Saraoui (to whom no one has ever asked their opinion, but they have only taken a lot of blows, without knowing why). To cross this area, the Moroccans invented the convoy, which then yields, at the end of all social and political speeches, falling as always into a very narrow economic discourse, a lot of money for both the Moroccans and the Moors. You know: tourists always bring money.
The convoy is nothing more than a row of vehicles that, good good, one after the other, cross, on a track in the desert, escorted by a single soldier, the mined stretch between Morocco and Mauritania.
This year I've already seen a lot of really interesting vehicles, but we'll talk about them in the next few days.
The demented-bureaucratic process is as follows:
1st Police Office: various details (name, paternity, profession, etc.)
2nd Office of the General Staff / Gendarmerie (same nonsense as before plus two photos)
3rd Customs Office (same as police, plus car documents).
Very important: you cannot change the order of the offices (otherwise the Moroccan officials won't find out any more.) And you absolutely have to do all these things in the shortest possible time. We would all leave the next day.
After the formalities a nice lunch based on fish and then, after a day of walking around Dakhla, dinner based on cus cus.
We leave tomorrow, early in the morning, we hope.

Today we leave for Mauritania and at nine in the morning, more or less, everyone is on time and we gather in the square in front of the police at the entrance to Dakhla. We no longer even know what breakfast is, also because, for the usual Ramadan, everything is always closed until who knows what time.
Around the city you can see only more groups that arrange the means to cross the desert. It is the festival of sand plates (they are like walkways that, positioned under the wheels of the car, do not make it sink into the sand), of cans, roof racks, spare tires. All these things, at the time of departure from home, were all in place, well ordered, precisely because one wasted time to find their own place for everything, the hole to fix the petrol tank, far from the one for the water tank, and so on. Now, after about four thousand kilometers, there is nothing left, and everything is always out of place. The shovel "dances" in the holes and makes noise, it scrapes against the rubber so that it can be punctured. All to pass the time before departure.
There are a lot of people: about 70 vehicles including buses, Citroën 2CVs and a lot of "bagnole" of "marchand" (these Frenchisms mean respectively "scrap" and "merchants"). But let's see precisely, in the box below, who was at the roll call.

· The coaches of the French on a school trip with 37 students between the ages of 15 and 18. There was a practically inter-municipal bus (the "bus") with about twenty boys on it, led by a "handle" that took it practically everywhere, plus three minibuses, one for thirty and two for twenty seats driven by teachers, some even abundantly above the ". anta", who, for the occasion, had dressed up a bit like a bajadere, not exactly in line with the strictly Muslim philosophy of the Moors. The buses were fully equipped, cooking, food, water, etc. In addition, the hikers also had a very old Mercedes all-wheel drive truck that had the purpose of its own "broom", that is, to collect the sandblasted. But it was a meaningless wreck and I don't think it has come a long way.
· Giuliana di Torino, a splendid solitary lady, with a pick up full of adventure travel experience around Africa with a surprise itinerary. In moments of pause, during the convoy, she told us about her past around the world, and just think that she went as far as India with a Citroën 2CV starting from Turin. Furthermore, I also discover that it has Asti origins.
· The Venetian UNIMOGs, with unleashed madmen on board who practically quarreled with the whole world. Very distinct people, some, others wild. A bank manager with his wife aboard a practically new Unimog that is still not much to define as beautiful. Stefano, lonely, with a Unimog that ". I bought from the Fire Brigade because it was too big for their purposes, I paid half for it and when I picked it up it had 500 km (new it costs 150 million lire)". These things never happen to me here. Claudio, a former Dakarian, with a very patient wife, on a "small" Unimog ex-race (Paris Dakar, in fact) had two water tanks of 80 liters each and one of these was full of prosecco. With them there is also a beautiful Toyota with a Maggiolina that has hardly any appearance of a car awning anymore, and there was also another Unimog which, for its agility, speed, drive and acceleration, I renamed it "the monument". It is an absolutely motionless vehicle, presumably from the 1960s, with somewhat modern handcrafted accessories of undoubted kitsch taste. The box on which everything was set up (kitchen and bed) had the shape of a parallelepiped with dimensions 1.80x1.60x1.25 (length x width x height). The two brothers who drove it were two "selleroni" of two meters each and I don't know where they could fit.
The three 2CVs of the 70s. There were two berlinettas plus a van, all multicolored. Very nice and with accessories that are not purely African, but more like an "Easter Monday trip", however very efficient and above all unstoppable. The van even had a small playroom inside for the children of the French couple he drove.
· A Frenchman on a bicycle. I don't remember the name, but I do remember that he had already traveled a lot of kilometers by bicycle in European countries, and now he had decided to change direction and direct his route to Africa. In a minefield, by bike.
· A lot of Peugeots with their "peugeottari". This term is what is needed to define these characters also called "marchand", car dealers. It is a fairly common practice in France to buy an old Peugeot, a cult car for all of Africa, and to travel thousands of km in African land and then sell it to some unfortunate indigenous. Subsequently, in Germany, the same phenomenon developed, but with Mercedes. There are those who do it for tourism, like me, those who do it for profit (stealing a car, in economic terms, always costs nothing, but in moral or judicial terms is another matter), and those who do it as a profession. We start with the scrap, we reach the place of sale as soon as possible, without spaces for panoramas or various tourist interests, we try to sell at the best possible price and with the money earned we return home to restart the tour de force. This practice of the "peugeottaro" was very popular in the '70s, especially in Algeria and Niger, then with the question of the fundamentalists, everything was blocked, now alternative ways have been opened, even if in my opinion it is no longer the same thing . If you manage to cross the stretch of desert that divides Algeria from Niger, you will see an immense car graveyard, even a hundred kilometers long. They are all the cars abandoned by the "marchand" for a deep cover-up or a serious breakdown. Now it's just more skeletons emerging as zombies from the sand, "cleaned" of anything that can be recovered or resold, by the Touareg. And they will remain there to witness a lifestyle of the white man in Africa, engulfed by the sands, sanded by the continuous lashing of the sand carried by the wind and burned by the relentless sun of the Sahara. Thanks to them, however, the next travelers will find the right passage, the one on the hardest sand, exactly as if they were milestones to indicate directions and distances, in a place where perhaps it does not really matter where you are going or why you are going and not even how long it will take.
An R.R. German former military green now painted with white wall paint for safety reasons. In fact, nowadays, traveling to Africa with an ex-military vehicle can have strange meanings for the natives so it is better to try to eliminate all possible references to a military excursus of the vehicle, to avoid some fanning of machine guns or some assault of pirates or rebels. The two very nice boys who took him to the slaughterhouse were, therefore, somewhat afraid that it would rain and that the quartz paint would melt.
· Five motorcycles including a Harley Davidson. It was driven by a sixty-year-old Dutchman in typical "Harleysta" clothing but, off the asphalt, I never saw him again. And we didn't even hear the blast from the mine, so it'll be back.
· Fabio and Charlotte with their super-prepared Toyota. A very "noble" style, but with a good spirit of adaptation, distinguished the couple. Charlotte, at first, seemed not to like the trip very much, then we realized that it was just her way. The Toyota was a very powerful model that Fabio had purchased a short time before. Fabio's face was beautiful when Claudio, the former Unimog Dakarian, recognized the Toyota and listed the vehicle's large book of African races, worthy of a professional driver's curriculum vitae. But Fabio's bleaching and cold sweats were appeased by the fact that the old owner of the vehicle subjected the Toyota to a meticulous periodic check-up, with relative repair or replacement of damaged parts, at the end of each competition for which the car was really in good condition.
· Piero and Anna with the Nissan pick up and their thousands of guides. Interesting detail: the roof tent. All "air camping", as car roof tents are defined, have considerable thicknesses once closed. This was only a few centimeters long as it was handcrafted from a double bed base adapted to the roof and apparently worked great throughout the trip.

Finally we leave, all in a caravan, it is a show. A convoy of burglars, with whom no one would even dare to go and buy cigarettes, which come from all over Europe to go all over Africa. The most common destinations are Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo. Two or three more rearrangements are made, to tighten the queue a little, until we reach Bir Guendouz where we make camp and celebrate Christmas with a slice of panettone and a little sparkling wine sitting in the cold sand annoyingly moistened by the air of the 'Ocean. Piero is sick from a cold in the stomach while someone has already smashed the car, remained behind and was recovered only now, very late at night and yet someone else celebrates Christmas with a toast, taking revenge on Ramadan. of Muslims. They are not opulent celebrations, for an adventure trip you prefer to bring necessary things, not superfluous, but there is still a lot of sincerity and a lot of "spirit of body" also because when you find yourself in difficulties here you are exactly like many others, losing all your you value and your rights, and if you also lose the friendships and solidarity of others, then you are truly alone and screwed.
The panettone and the sparkling wine and in collaboration with the local cold and humid, cause gas-forming reactions to develop in our bellies which allow, in addition to a rapid heating (and subsequent overheating) of the tent environment, also an odor effect and sound of undoubted impact (even environmental, if you want), so much so that despite the two, three degrees of temperature, we agreed to sleep with the curtain open if we did not want to end up as condemned to the gas chamber. Merry Christmas! (Although it looks like the dress rehearsal of the New Year's barrels).

As usual, the alarm clock is set for five, even if we are still a bit stunned by the gaseous events of the night, and the start for the funniest part of the convoy is in half an hour. Today we will approach the desert and its tracks, here also its mines, perhaps. The temperature is already well above twenty degrees and the sun is starting to be felt.
The camp where we stopped to sleep is a square of sand and rock, dominated by the fort of the French Foreign Legion, now of the Moroccans, in which there is absolutely nothing. Exactly as if you stopped along the motorway in a special recess, indeed on the motorway you have a guard rail, in Bir Guendouz no. Since this year they have built a building with toilets, but they have forgotten that there is no water in the desert and so toilets are like saying. a little unguarded, here. From Bir Guendouz begins the so-called free zone, of transition between Morocco and Mauritania and, with it, also the desert.The road after Bir Guendouz is still asphalted for a few kilometers, then only sand, stones and what remains of the old asphalted road: a black, impassable strip corroded by the combined action of sand, wind, tanks and mines.
It is a massacre after just a few kilometers. The first to pass was a Dutch Toyota which after three meters drowned in the sand, the other Peugeots, Mercedes, cars and vans will all be covered up around the Toyota within a radius of two hundred meters, looking for an alternative way. The R.R., as a real lady, did not even try to give up a bit of the engine (also because I would have set it on fire) the 2CVs passed boldly, without infamy and without praise. The bikes will still be there ravanano without being able to do an inch. It was the apotheosis of sandplates, video cameras, cameras and the good Samaritans who, freeing their car, go to help others. The greatest spectacle was given by the fifty-seater bus that passed like a rocket without covering up! An asylum.
Three hours of column to cross the Mauritian border one by one: passport delivery, data annotation, etc. etc. The second puddle of sand is an equal fun, too bad you can't take pictures because of the Mauritian border. The show here is due to the fact that the sand is on the curve of the track. Narrow curve, between minefield on the right and the barbed wire of the border on the left. You can't accelerate that much, otherwise you cross a mine and your journey (even the one with a capital "V") is already over. 4x4s (if the driver has some experience) can pass the difficulty with a very short gear and very flat tires, but normal cars even at crazy speeds get stuck in the sand, fortunately in the sand. The R.R. he recovered a van but then the Unimogs did the rest, including the bus. Anyway you have to come up here to see a bus trying to imitate an airplane, considering the jump on a rock that has thrown it up about fifty centimeters !!
The first hints of some problem with the Mauritanian visa begin, but for now we can get through. From here on the track is hard (in the sense of compact) and without effort we can reach the outpost of Noahdibou where they want to stop us for the night with the usual talk of passports, formalities, rava and bean.
During the group formalities (African technique) a light, background noise is heard. Not everyone perceives it, taken as they are in border matters. Then the noise becomes rhythmic and much louder, so much so that now people say to each other: "Did you hear?" From behind the dunes, towards Laiguera, a diffused, milky light begins to appear. Everyone is now silent and the interest in that "Did you hear?" now it is almost awe. Slowly the figure of the locomotive stands out but it is not yet so defined as to associate the sound of scrap metal with the train, also because few expect to see the train in the desert. You don't have time to ask yourself "What is it?" that you immediately understand that it is a burglar that could only circulate here in Africa, but when you can't see the end and, during its very slow pace, not even the beginning anymore, you ask yourself "But how long is it?" Then after a few minutes of total silence in which the scrap metal dominates all the other sounds, the last of the 250 wagons arrive and you can breathe again and start doing what you were doing again, yes because, without realizing it, you are immobilized, kidnapped by a scene worthy of a post-atomic film, which for a few moments created a feeling that ranges from fear to amazement, passing through disbelief. Then you look around, believing you are the only idiot who at thirty remains open-mouthed in front of the train, but you see that more or less everyone is at your level, you hearten yourself and fall back into the reality of border formalities in Mauritania .
Meanwhile, the buses got lost in the dunes in the midst of mines. The military recover them at night, but they will arrive in the city in the late morning. French schools are fantastic, especially safe: if I had a child I would certainly enroll him in a school that organizes a school trip to a minefield in Mauritania.
With a clever move I manage to unlock the passports of the Italians, thanks also to the help of Alì and Claudio degli Unimog, and I manage to go to sleep at Alì's campsite on an almost real bed. Claudio is a former Dakarian, crazy and, at times, very nice with Marchand but he should have a different behavior. It is already three in the morning by now. Entry formalities in Mauritania tomorrow.

Ali is the owner of a beautiful campsite in Noahdibou: "La Baie du levrier". It is a sandy courtyard, enclosed by walls, consisting of a canopy with kitchen, bedrooms, and bathrooms at your complete disposal. You can choose whether to put up the tent, sleep in the room, cook your own food, in short, whatever you want. The only flaws are the shower, which is always very cold, and the toilets, which always stink even if the staff cleans them often.
Ali is an Arab who has understood that if he wants to live with tourism he must adapt to the needs of tourists. Not many in Mauritania have understood this. He is always extremely helpful, courteous and within the limits of his culture, clean and polite. These ingredients have made your campsite a good success with patrons. Organizer of excursions in the desert, he is a maniac of Mauritian tea, but above all of the tea ritual. If, during the day, he meets you in the courtyard or sprawled on the deckchairs under the canopy of the kitchen, he immediately offers you tea: the first bitter and with a very strong taste, almost like tobacco, the second, a little more sweet but always with aroma. very intense the third, very sweet, from diabetes, undoubtedly favoring tooth decay, so much so that after each tea, Igor, a tooth maniac, could not have continued the day without using a toothbrush.
Claudio was one of the most interesting characters of the caravan. Anyone in that caravan would have wanted to kill him, because of the very strong hatred that stimulated anyone's hidden animal instinct, but he liked me and he never suggested murderous raptus to me. First of all he is a wild madman, ex Dakariano (runner from Paris Dakar), mood swings from manic depressive crises, and, particularly worthy of merit, he had the two water tanks of the Unimog full of prosecco. He quarreled with everyone but as an alibi he had what he had already drunk at two in the afternoon. In short, a particular type.

Another typical meeting of these trips: Pasquale, from Naples but resident in Berlin, long hair braided by dreadlocks, age 48 (he looks like his uncle Carlo, says Igor), married and separated with an eight-year-old son, " citizen of the world ", as he called himself, assistant cook in a restaurant in the German city, with a Mercedes SW diesel to sell in Bamako. But we will have the opportunity to talk about him later.

In Noahdibou we finally break off that African custom of not having breakfast and we go to the "Patisserie Claire de Lune" to get overwhelmed with cream desserts, with sure devastating effects, already tried for us by the Christmas panettone. We also brought rain: it hadn't rained for eleven years. But the bad luck does not stop there.
The formalities consist in crossing several unnecessary-bureaucratic difficulties.
Customs: formal control of currency declarations, declaration on the honor of not having arrived in Mauritania to sell the vehicle (ninety percent of the participants in the convoy were marchand) and a long queue to wait for the stamp on the passport for the temporary import of the vehicle. Too bad that the customs officers, to the bystanders standing in the corridor, rummaged, so casually, in the pockets to scrape together some ouguiya, obviously without asking or, rather, trying not to be noticed.
· Insurance: stipulation of a normal policy with costs as if a novice driver had to drive a Lamborghini Diablo in New York during peak hours.
· Police: the painful notes. Formal visa check and Mauritanian entry stamp. "The Italian and French brothers do not need a visa for Mauritania", the secretary of the Mauritanian embassy in Rabat told me. Evidently that policeman was not a relative of the secretary and, consequently, not even of the Italians or the French, as it cost the only two Italians without a visa like us the hefty sum of 200,000 lire to enter Mauritania. If all my damn things attacked that nice cop by now, he'll be dead of roundworms for quite a while.
Having said goodbye to Ali and Mohamed, we manage to leave Noahdibou around five in the afternoon after having bought a tank for water (I thought I bought it in a jewelry store, after having heard the price!) And after having repaired the broken rubber. Then the three mythical shacks of the first frontier, that of the desert, obviously at the end of Ramadan, so there was no one to consider us. But at a first check, realizing that we hadn't bought the tickets for the Banco d'Arguin Park (which we shouldn't have done!), They began to take us into consideration. Above all to beat us again some money that, now disgusted by the vexatious day, we paid without too many problems, wishing them that, thanks to our proceeds, they could enjoy long days of hospitalization in any orthopedic department or, better, surgery of any local hospital, better if small and poorly organized.

Mohamed is a Mauritian who lived for several years in Italy, working as a carpenter in Milan. He speaks Italian very well and uses a single interlayer. "It is a madonna's mess." Currently he has a hardware store but is always engaged in more or less shady "Arabian" trades.

Yet another humanitarian trip of the CIS to Senegal

Sunday 15 March 2020

With the ambulance given to us by the ASAVA of Alba and the minibus given to us by the car rental Cordero of Priocca d'Alba, on Thursday 30 January we leave Canelli with boarding in Genoa by ferry to Tangier, Morocco. The dr. L. Zannini, former head of cardiac surgery at Gaslini in Genoa, who years ago had participated with us on the trip to Ethiopia, Sudan to bring an ambulance, had promised to greet us on departure, but the day before he was called to Algeria, where he often goes to operate on children. The participants of the trip are: my brother-in-law Vittorio Baudino from Sanremo, my brother Gian Carlo from Turin, and a friend, new entry David Francescatti engineer who has worked for years in Germany. After two days of navigation we arrive in Tangier, around noon on Saturday. The temperature is cool. Let's just hope they don't make too many fuss at customs. We agree to stop at the exit from the ferry immediately after the ramp instead, the nice surprise: Vittorio driving the minibus with Gian Carlo, they are not there! Where will they have gone? The time of the next lunch makes me think badly! Yet their yellow medium is very showy! We meet after a while wandering around the huge port. We don't have time for lunch, we have to go through the many customs formalities first!

Here begins the ordeal. At customs despite having all the documents required by the Moroccan customs and checked before departure from the respective embassies, they stop us for three days. Ambulances cannot pass through Morocco, without ministerial authorization, the vehicles have to go through a long process, because registered after eight years the office in charge reopens on Monday. In Tangier, where we stop, the three traveling companions spend their time visiting this beautiful city, especially the old part I don't follow them because I have other things to do, I already know the city! When we go back to customs, the person in charge makes us wait until 5pm by law we would have to pay 9000 euros of deposit for each vehicle to pass. We were around the 5km long Tanger Med customs all day it was a nightmare! I call many embassies with evasive answers! We are now convinced not to enter, as they always tell us! Not knowing French, I have to continually pass the many phone calls to Davide, who nevertheless never loses his temper. In the evening, perhaps because they feel sorry for them, at 8 pm they give us the transit documents, without paying anything a manager of our embassy in Rabat, then activated himself on the spot! We are tired, we met the driver who will drive the minibus in Morocco, we decide to have dinner and sleep outside Tangier, also because we cannot ensure the means for the closed offices and we also skipped lunch, which will then be the norm.

Are we leaving? Edit

The next morning at 6 we are about to leave, but unexpectedly the driver contacted by Italy to drive the minibus to the Mauritanian border, decides to leave demanding the agreed money! He has a commitment the next day! He drove a total of 15 minutes! I give him an excellent remuneration, but he would expect more! He is replaced by the good Vittorio, a truck driver up to a year ago, very experienced in driving reluctantly accepts the job, if he ends up in prison, for lack of a specific license, we promised him fresh fruit every day! Unfortunately the previous incompetent "driver" had broken the locking device of the passenger door, we have to tie it up because driving at night, the cold is felt! Before Rabat, we leave Vittorio and Gian Carlo in the motorway restaurant with Davide and I go to the center where we meet an excellent person who accompanies us to do the insurance of the vehicles. He also offers us great tea!

We will meet other similar people! The beautiful highway connects Tangier to Agadir, the latter completely rebuilt after the earthquake of the sixties. During the trip I don't know how to find another driver! A true guardian angel comes to my aid! Like a mirage in the desert that we will cross. Fatima, a Moroccan nurse who works with me in Italy, through her father, who is also very helpful, manages in a few hours to find a nice Kalid driver, who is already waiting for us in Casablanca. The same girl in Tangier had managed to help us, talking to a relative in the Moroccan embassy. I will never thank her enough. At one in the morning we are in Marrakech, a fairytale city! Too bad, however, that we cannot stop, because we have already lost too much time. In the following days we cross Tan Tan, Laayoune and Daklà.

Finally, having passed the infamous no man's land, where it is very easy to plant yourself in the dust, a very risky area due to the presence of marauders, you enter Mauritania! Our embassy strongly advises against entering it. It is the fifth time that I go there, fortunately without particular problems. A few more hours of waiting and, without paying a euro, they let us pass. We see the famous iron train about 2.5 km long. and in the evening we arrive at the Catholic mission of Nouadhibou, perched on the small hill of the city.

We arrive in the late afternoon, when the boys are still playing football. Compared to the last time I was, I notice that essentially nothing has changed, there are always the same services to the population, especially the less affluent. It seems that relations with the government have improved, after the opening of the nunciature, wanted by the current pontiff, which corresponds to reciprocity in Rome. Catholics are few, but their welfare activities are very numerous. It is not possible to proselytize, for this reason, there are no schools of religious, even if the Catholic religion is respected, in due form. Father Jerome, a former missionary of the parish, is currently in Nigeria, the country where he was born. So I had contact with him to book the rooms. Speaking to the people, I understand that the church is well accepted here too. The government maintains strict control of the territory to avoid the formation of terrorist groups. Good welcome, excellent dinner with spaghetti, we leave medical material given to me by the late Mrs. Bonini, and the very useful used glasses to the mission. Another stop in the bishopric in the modern capital Nouakchott for dinner and overnight stay.

The next day, again with Nicholas, the driver we meet in Nouadhibou, we cross the beautiful, but very hard, track on the bad track! (the minibus has crossbows as suspensions!), Diawling National Park, with numerous migratory birds, in an area full of lakes, with lots of greenery, immersed in the desert with the sea as a backdrop. We are almost in Senegal, we breathe a sigh of relief, our backs are broken, our legs do not hold us easily due to the continuous jolts and headings, our bags are scattered around all means.

We delude ourselves that we have finished the odyssey. No! At the customs in Diema, we are told that the vehicles, having over eight years of registration, cannot enter. To my grievances, the military offer us the alternative of paying € 2500 bail for each vehicle. It's absurd, we don't have that figure. Strangely, then they decide to keep only the minibus, which we should have donated to the school of the Cluny nuns also in Saint-Louis, while the ambulance was destined for the hospital in the same city. Patience, we all set off in the ambulance, hoping they won't stop us for checks. Between Morocco and Mauritania we met about 36 gendarmerie and police checkpoints and we equipped ourselves by giving them photocopies of passports, without any problems.Strange thing: in the last fifty kilometers before the Senegalese customs, the soldiers of the three checkpoints ask us all if we want to sell them the minibus! The arrival in Saint Louis is in the late afternoon, the coveted meeting with Sister Celestine a good meal from the nuns restores us a bit, after having taken off us with a nice shower, the kilos of dust that have even entered our bones . Overnight stay with Johan Gomis' family that I have known for years. In front of the house there is an oven that floods us with a tempting scent!

Delivery of the ambulance to the hospital Edit

The next morning we deliver the ambulance to the regional hospital, where a staff of doctors are waiting for us, head physicians with the medical director. They offer us a great lunch in a restaurant and a nice gift. I do not want to give up, in the hours free from the surgery, with Sister Celestine, we go around the customs offices in Saint Louis, to try to unlock the minibus stopped at the border. The day before leaving for Dakar I decide, once back home, to send the requested money by bank transfer to customs, after receiving assurances that the vehicle would then be delivered to the school of the institute. Sister Celestine advises me to wait and pay, she takes me to other customs offices

finally we enter the office of Colonel NDIAYE, nice and serious customs inspector, who absolutely advises us not to pay, he promises me that within a week, the minibus will be unlocked without spending a euro! Miracle! In this case, I promise the thanks in the newspaper that I will then send him. Vittorio, Gian Carlo and Davide continue to Dakar, where they will stop until I join them for departure. They spend their time visiting the country, such as the island of Gorée and the pink lake and other places, remaining fascinated. After a thousand medical visits in the clinic and hospital, I join my companions in Dakar. We spend the afternoon together with the Salesians, where, as always, a swarm of young people play happily.

"Cuomo" Pediatric Cardiology Center Edit

Thanks to the head of cardiology dr. Adama Kane, a friend for a few years, in Dakar we went to visit a Franco-Italian hospital, "Cuomo Cardiac Surgery Center", which has been in operation for two years, where they also perform heart operations on children with congenital defects, who would die if intervention was not done. I signed a collaboration with the hospital and my non-profit organization C I S, in order to finally be able to have some of these children operated there every year in Senegal, with obvious advantages for everyone, including economic ones. We are very satisfied. We suffered a lot during the trip, in particular: my brother-in-law, having a heart operation and my brother for a serious illness. We finally got a nice concrete result, thanks to the collaboration of all of us and of the many people who helped us.

The day before departure, in Dakar I visit little Charles, a Senegalese boy who a few months earlier I had operated on at Gaslini for a serious heart malformation, thanks to the collaboration with the non-profit organization of Aosta "Ana Moise". We had two live shows with Veronica One radio in Turin, always managed by the talented Stefania, with connections from Mauritania and Senegal. Unfortunately for me, over the thousand problems, in the last two days I have been anxious for my beloved two-year-old grandson Andrea for respiratory problems, the pediatricians have decided to hospitalize if the little one still does not accept to take the antibiotic. I often call for news, then the day before I leave, the fever starts to go down, now he's fine and he's home. We are all satisfied, even if tired. The very amalgamated group is made up of nice people who are not only interested in the touristic aspect of the trip. As always, in these cases, some memories crowd the mind: nice meeting with the over seven hundred children of the school of Saint Joseph de Cluny sure that Davide knows how to do with the children, makes them sing, entertains them with a thousand jokes on the minibus who collects them to take them to school, we stay packed with them, the vehicle is loaded beyond belief, they all laugh heartily! Vittorio and Gian Carlo happily participate in the short trip to Saint Louis, (one of the reasons why I often go there!) Very nice, even if short, the stop in Tuareg's tent, to drink the three famous teas, even if we don't like it very much. the use of four small glasses for eight people, and the tasting of camel's milk from a common bowl!

That family really enjoys our visit because they say, we helped them by having tea with them! If the passing tourists did it too. And to say that, during the journey, when I told the driver to stop for tea, because we were all at least thirsty, he stopped in a very rare bar the companions were all very happy for the stop, but they rebelled when I told them the surprise was yet to come! The driver had made a mistake in stopping there, we resumed the journey among their grumbles, but only for a few kilometers because then we stopped in the tent.

On the day of departure with the flight, we attend mass in Dakar at the Salesian mission, the choir performs cheerful religious songs to the rhythm of drums and maracas, accompanied by elegant dances, and seasoned with many, many smiles! The women, with the hard-working hairdo, are wrapped in their brightly colored dresses! We do not notice anyone turning around, they are concentrated on the religious service, they all communicate! The approximately two hours spent in the church pass quickly without realizing it. Father Carlos, a Peruvian Salesian I have known for years, is also involved in the joy in the church he is currently in Gambia, where he wants to open a medical clinic, I give him a good contribution. As always, the dominant note of this trip, which we will gladly remember, is the cheerful smile of the children.

Despite having received very little from life, very rare people who are sad, or worse angry, never lose their contentment, and then smoke is almost absent! I thank all my three valid and nice collaborators, and our wives for not hindering us in this difficult undertaking. A special memory to my Austrian friend ing. Wolfgang who was unable to leave with us due to a serious family problem, as he had prepared for! In Milan as soon as I get out of the subway, Andrea, seeing me, falls silent with joy! I hug him happy, I'm home!

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Trip to Mauritania. Ouadane or Chinguetti?

Of the two Mauritanian caravan cities, many prefer Ouadane for its defensive position on the top of a cliff. Personally I preferred Ouadane above all its tranquility while on an architectural level Chinguetti stole my heart. I would spend hours in its sandy alleys if it weren't for the overly pushy vendors. In general it is very difficult for me to choose between the two.

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Internet connection in Ouadane and Chinguetti

Mauritania certainly does not excel when it comes to internet connections. The wi-fi is limited or non-existent in the accommodation facilities. In Ouadane, although I had a Mauritanian sim with me, I only found telephone signal available. At Chinguetti 3G internet works in the city while wi-fi is almost impossible to find.

  • Manuscript in a library of Chinguetti
  • Inside a Chinguetti library
  • Manuscript in a library of Chinguetti
  • Manuscript in a library of Chinguetti
  • Manuscript in a library of Chinguetti
  • Manuscript in a library of Chinguetti
  • Chinguetti. New city
  • Chinguetti. Old City
  • Chinguetti. Old City
  • Chinguetti. Old City
  • Chinguetti. Old City
  • Chinguetti. Old City
  • Chinguetti. Old City
  • Sunset on Chinguetti
  • Meetings in Ouadane
  • Ouadane. Procavia of the rocks
  • Ouadane. Ancient mosque
  • Ouadane. Views
  • Ouadan. Fortified well
  • Ouadane. Views

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Trip to Mauritania and Mali

Mali, splendid! Our tour on the road with the camper

  • by SZ
    published on 10/4/2012
  • Departure on 13/1/2012
    Return on 13/2/2012
  • Travelers: 2
    Expense: Over 3000 euros


We visit Djennè which is a very interesting city, especially for the large mosque built with mud, as would be done for a sand castle. Unfortunately, the mosque can no longer be visited inside due to an event that happened a few years ago, a French photographer thought it best to photograph his models inside the mosque, arousing the right resentment of the Muslim population. The visit to the outside of the mosque that can also be seen from above, climbing (for a fee) on the terraces of the houses around the "petit marchè", the visit to the library and the visit to the "petit marchè" exhaust the interest in Djennè which for the rest is a town (built entirely with mud) smelly because of the open sewers.


We leave on a cart (with full wheels and without shock absorbers) to go to the Peul village. The transfer should be done by boat but the river is dry and, therefore, we touch the cart. It will be a short but very "painful" journey. In the village we find women who have their faces, around their lips, conspicuously tattooed. This custom has been handed down since the women of the village used this ploy to get ugly and not be kidnapped by marauders. They actually achieved the purpose because they are truly impressive even today. A couple of women dress up in traditional clothes and host us in their huts allowing us to photograph them. The day ends in a negative way because we receive a text message from the foreign ministry inviting us to get in touch immediately with the Consul in Bamako. The phone call is briefly a pressing invitation to leave Mali immediately due to the unrest caused by the Tuareg fled from Libya and which is spreading southwards. After thinking for a long time about what to do we decide to go back which forces us to cancel the visit to the Dogon countries which was the real destination of the trip. Even today we are very sorry that we had to "escape" from Mali (perhaps also due to the alarmism of the Farnesina), a beautiful and hospitable country. It is useless for us to tell you about the return journey with the further passage in the roadless area, the new stop in Segou, the visit to the Bamako market and so on until we reach Nouakchott in Mauritania again. The trip ends 8 days ahead of schedule, time that we decide to pleasantly spend in Morocco.

Final consideration

Mauritania does not offer much except desert and desert, the only exception being Nouakchott. Mali is a pleasant country but very difficult to reach by Camper - you have to travel about 13000 km A / R of which 40% of "nothing" (better to go by plane to Bamako and then turn in a Jeep)

· This trip was organized by a company from Milan that organizes Jeep trips in the Sahara desert (Algeria and Mauritania especially). Unfortunately, the organization of the trip was greatly affected by the absolute lack of experience of the Company with regard to campers and campers. To this inexperience was added the very poor knowledge of the territories by the Italian guide who relied on local guides who spoke only French and who did not support us in the translation. The trip was characterized by many tensions and a state of continuous stress, as well as by the lack of compliance with the contractual clauses, so I do not recommend relying on this company and I recommend, instead, to organize the trip alone without external support (not there is no need)


Mhaïreth is one of the largest oases in the Adrar region. Its view from the surrounding rocky reliefs is impressive, an inevitable stop to immortalize the village from above. During the break we were joined by a myriad of kids looking for a "cadeau", sweets or coins. The inhabited center is characterized by earthen houses and tikitt closed inside zariba, fences made from stacked brambles. Beyond the village a large expanse of palm trees and a oued which fills up during the rainy season.


  • Mhaïreth
  • Mhaïreth
  • Mhaïreth
  • Mhaïreth
  • Mhaïreth
  • Mhaïreth
  • Tanouchert
  • Tanouchert
  • Terjit
  • Terjit

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