Lost in the minefield

So having arrived in Dakhla we had expected to pick up a few other overlanders over the weekend so that we could go through the Western Sahara in convoy (since the formal army convoy had been abolished in January). So up at 7 for a 7:30am leave with Chris and Tanya from Austria who were traveling through Western Africa in a Renault 5! Also, traveling with us (but not quite ready at 7:30 so catching us up later in the day) were two French couples traveling in a Mercedes 500 and a Peugeot 502.

Now when I arrived in Dakhla I was expecting to find a few Land Rovers, maybe a Toyota Land Cruiser – Renault, Mercedes and Peugeot were not what I had in mind. But beggars can’t be choosers and Nicole’s visa runs out today so to save any bother at the border we have to go – despite 2 Land Rovers who arrived on Sunday afternoon but aren’t planning to go South until Tuesday or Wednesday.

The other thing we were going to try to establish over the weekend was whether to take a guide or not – after much discussion and referring to various reference books we established that the army convoy was for the convenience of the officials rather than the safety of any travellers, and when it was running the escort only led you to the end of the mine field, after that the instructions were to strictly stick to the tracks…

So, it really was a very uneventful drive down the coast – not much to see and pretty desolate countryside – the only landmark worth mentioning was the petrol station and new hotel (why?) about 50km before the border. Very cheap diesel and very expensive Coke! It was here that our French friends caught up with us.

So the four of us drove the last 50km to the Moroccan border together and arrived there early-afternoon. This border was very pleasant especially as this was my last opportunity to use the small about of Moroccan Arabic I had learnt – I hadn’t learnt much but I had learnt enough (mainly from Bart) for the police officer to ask me where I had studied Arabic! They searched the car and then we moved on 100 yard passed the border until everyone had been through and then we started along the path sending the Renault first.

Somewhere along the line we picked up another Peugeot and then we were 5 – looking for the Mauritanian border and keeping to any tracks that look well driven. Somewhere along the line we got lost as we seemed to arrive in a quarry – now we can’t be sure but i suspect that we had at this point crossed the border illegally – anyway, we eventually found the border crossing. Unfortunately it wasn’t nearly as pleasant as the previous border but we got through it having paid the various charges – now they seemed official and we got receipts but the exchange rate is terrible – and since you can’t import Mauritanian money…

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