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Ω2

Mauritania

   We entered Mauritania having mixed feelings. I was looking forward to find myself in the middle of the desert and enjoy some more off-road riding. Mauritania is the only country that remains open to travelers offering a genuine taste of Sahara. The rest of the countries are either in war and trouble or are very touristy, so instead of getting a true taste of Sahara, you end up meeting kids and adults corrupted by tourism, constantly asking for sweets, pens or money…

Whenever we pull over, we get surrounded by kids!

   Almost the entire land of Mauritania consists of desert, which we were planning to cross through hundreds of kilometres away from tarmac! That was the reason for Christina to have the opposite feelings than I had… While I was so eager, Christina was really stressed, worrying whether she would be able to cross Sahara through the pistes.

Adjusting the air pressure of the tyres, which should be quite low when riding on sand and high on stony terrain.

   From the first day we headed to the R2 piste. While looking for the starting point, we asked some nomads for directions, who invited us under their big, traditional tent. We took off our shoes, sat on the carpets and had some tea. They were showing us the route on the map we had purchased from Travel Bookstore. Meanwhile, the family’s grandmother kept shaking a skin. Then she poured the content in a big bowl and she gave it to us to share it with everyone. It was very cool and that was exactly what we needed. It was camel milk! They use to drink it in the desert and they say it is good for the stomach. We really enjoyed it!

Filling our bottles with the precious water from the wells…

   We covered about 600 kilometres (373 miles) off-road in about three days. Many of these were on flat, hard soil or on a little bit of sand. On such a terrain we could ride on 60 to 70 kph (37 to 43 mph). The motorcycles were flying and Christina was doing just fine! Then, it was the dunes that entered the scene… We should be very concentrated there and pay attention to every detail on our movements. We deflated the tyres just enough, had the Sena intercom turned on to keep in touch and usually I was leading the way, in order to find the most convenient path through the dunes.

Making regular stops to rest from the demanding off-road riding on the dunes is more than necessary…

   The most important thing when riding on sand is to never slow down. So, when riding up a sand dune, I had to scan the area in less than a second and decide quickly where to go and how to pass through the low bushes that there were in some parts. We had to do this for quite a few hours as there were dunes in vast areas… We got stuck in soft sand a few times but digging out the rear tyre and having both of us pushing was enough to move the motorcycle. I had my motorcycle fallen over a couple of times, while Christina had a few more, but all harmless as always.

The worst terrain for Christina was the one where bushes were growing. She had to find quickly the most convenient way through them without slowing down. Most of the times, of course, I was leading the way, so this was my task.

   When we reached Atâr, we surely needed some rest and happily we found ourselves at Camping Inimi, where Sidi Ahmed and his family hosted us. They had us sleeping in a room, while they preferred to sleep under their traditional tent every night, even though there were some other rooms available. Sidi Ahmed’s wife was preparing delicious dishes of meat with cous-cous, rice or pasta and we were eating all together every day. Their hospitality was unbelievable and it was great that we had the chance to live for a while amongst their family.

My motorcycle got stuck once more, this time in front of the spectacular rock of Ben Amira, the second largest monolith in the world. That’s a place worth to get stuck in!

   We rode a few pistes around Atâr. One day, when Christina decided to rest, I took her motorcycle to enjoy the R5 piste, which would be difficult to ride on loaded motorbikes. I packed some water, dates, two bananas and my tiny electric air compressor for inflating the tyres. I tied the backpack on the seat, took my GPS and set off! Some parts were full of soft sand, while the dunes were steep on one side, so I could not speed up. Nevertheless, with Christina’s unloaded motorbike, it was a game to enjoy!

Overlooking Sahara from above, in the area of Atâr.

   Later, along with Christina, we went to Chinguetti, but we made the mistake not to choose the usual piste. We followed the R4 piste, through Amogjar Pass. This one is totally ruined and is obviously not in use any more. Huge rocks are blocking the way, making the terrain impassable for most vehicles. I managed to pass through with the XR’s, but of course, I had to pass Christina’s motorbike too, while she was coming on foot. Then, I would pass mine as well.

Christina struggling to get out of the soft sand!

   The most amazing place we visited in the entire Sahara was Terjit! Imagine an oasis in the middle of the desert, where you arrive all sweaty and out of the blue you find yourself under the shadow of big palm trees by a crystal-clear river. You find even a small pond forming there, with a perfect temperature for a dip! I went inside the pond and did not want to leave! I was in the middle of the desert, lying on the water and staring at the palm trees and the blue sky above me… It was incredible! Definitely, it’s one of the most magical places I have taken a dip into!

At the oasis of Terjit, I was in the middle of the desert, lying on the water and staring at the palm trees and the blue sky above me… Unbelievable!

   On the way from Atâr to Nouakchott, the capital of the country, it was the first time we travelled in Mauritania through tarmac. It was a boring straight line of about 450 kilometres (280 miles) crossing a monotonous part of the desert. We happened to be in Mauritania around the election period. On the day of the elections we were actually in the capital. The president of the country is not changed. He is the same that leaded the coup in 2008. These elections were about electing parliament and local councils. The candidates had pitched huge tents through the entire country to have their supporters gathered. Beside of some speeches, people were singing and dancing. They see it more as an occasion for partying. How can they not party, when, as they told us, a lot of candidates are buying off votes and the citizens get well paid… Let’s see if they will be partying after the elections as well…

Camping under full moon in the middle of Sahara! What else could we ask for?


 

Here you can watch the video from our adventure in Mauritania:

Soundtracks (Mauritanian music):
Malouma – Jraad
Malouma – Khayala
Daby Touré – Bary

 

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