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6.11. Thu (120) Agadir

The first bigger city after Errachidia accident. I felt quite nervous... Because I was the first time in Morocco, this was of course the first time in so touristic Agadir as well. Yeah, the influences of tourism were visible. Agadir was very different from Rabat. And lots of rush. And from the touristic thing told also the fact, that in some best local restaurants it was not possible to have *local* cuisine! Ridiculous.

Many night clubs for Germans. In a good restaurant menu also in Finnish! Incredible. That place was not for me. Mass touristic. Anyway, nice beach :)

In the camping I met a wonderful, old German couple. They planned to stay there five months. So did many other people there and they had very expensive campers.

Agadir was the last chance to make any preparations for crossing the Sahara desert. I did oil change in a moped shop. Good half-synthetic Motul oil (15W-50). I also helped to find jerrycans for a German woman, with whom I travelled a few days.

8.11. Sat (122) Agadir Laayoun

It was a surprise to me, how vast the distances were! In a world map just one centimetre, but on the road it takes a long day! Road Agadir - Laayoun was paved (tar road) 650 kms of jjust a road, and sand. Very boring track. Also distances between gas stations were long, usually minimum 100 kms, 250 kms was nothing extraordinary.

I had to keep on riding carefully/slowly, because the rear tyre was very worn-out. I wanted to go with that as near to Dakhla (Southmost town of Morocco) as possible. I wanted to save the new Michelin T63 sand tyre for the 'real action'.

Also, although the road was paved, there was lots of dust in the air. It was mostly a problem for the air filtering. It is necessary to the engine to have clean air... Dusty air will destroy carburetors and the piston quickly. Because we went along coastal road, there were also lots of salt in the air! That wasn't any problem, but it was necessary to clean the visor frequently.

Laayoun was quite ok place, safe and people were friendly.

9.11. Sun (123) Laayoun Dakhla

"The Camel" almost fully loaded. Distance between Agadir and Dakhla is about 1500 kms. There were about 20 police checkpoints! Some were just 200 metres between each other! Filling forms like they would be border stations between countries!
Me in West Sahara.
Me in West Sahara 2.

Before arriving to Dakhla, there was a good campsite 5 kms before the town. There were also many other overlanders, who were (of course) going to pass the Mauritanian border. That is not an ordinary border: you have to observe certain border formalities in Dakhla, before you are accepted to the border crossing convoy.

Between Boudjour-Dakhla.

10.11. Mon (124) Dakhla

A scenery from near Dakhla.

Doing border formalities. Because the border crossings in the convoy were only on Tuesdays and Fridays, this was a perfect time to do them.

What was obligatory to do: (I'll send an update suggestion to Lonely Planet publications later)
1) Police station (surete): to show passport.
2) Customs: to show vehicle papers and entry form.
Important papers. I had lost the entry form and that
caused almost 'grey hair' to me!
3) Army office: to book in the Moroccan army controlled
border crossing convoy. You need two passport pics too.

There was work enough for one day! And tyre changing and buying food for the border crossing time. Huh.

11.11. Tue (125) Dakhla border campsite

General information about West Sahara.

Picture of bike service going on. Waiting the start till noon. The convoy was set up at the border of Dakhla town at 8 am. Booking in again and forming the convoy, there were 50 cars and two motorcycles! Passports were collected from everybody.

Convoy left at noon. We rode about 350 kms, in dusty conditions, at convoy, till the border campsite. There were a couple of stops. Sometimes a dune had come on the road. In the dark it is dangerous to ride in conditions like that.

Campsite was where the asphalt ended, 7 kms before Mauritanian border. The border crossing is this difficult, because Mauritania and Morocco are not 'friends' with each other.

Minefields exist elsewhere, so it is very unwise to cross the border elsewhere. Also, this was the only border crossing site open between Morocco and Mauritania, and only ONE WAY! We set up our tents at the camp. Exciting, what will happen tomorrow!

12.11. Wed (126) Desert campsite Nouadhibou, Mauritania

Klick to hear the national anthem of Mauritania
General information about Mauritania.

At 8 am we set up the convoy again and passports were delivered for us. The army personnel left back to Dakhla. Because asphalt ended and sand began, we had to drop the tyre pressures to 1.0 bar (15 psi). Then we continued on our own the next seven kilometres, sometimes getting stuck, sometimes on rocky track. The first border post on Mauritanian side was just a stone hut in the middle of nothing.

Passport controls took three hours (we waited in the heat)! Two German boys didn't have visas at all(!), they had to return. I don't know, how's that possible. No return traffic in to hitch hike... By car also very difficult to return, because of the vast distances. Also a Japan guy didn't have visa ok (not valid yet), so he had to wait three days in the heat!!! He tried to bribe the officials, not possible.

Lonely Planet guides tell that the officers are corrupted, but this seemed quite different... After a couple of other similar posts, we had wasted lots of time. It was coming dark. We went last 16 kms in the night and on very soft sand. Arriving to Nouadhibou camp site 11 pm.

Lonely Planet tells that the border crossing can last up to 10 days! This was just 39 hours.

13.11. Thu (127) Nouadhibou, Mauritania

General information of West Africa.

I heard from other travellers, that because we were in the border city, Nouadhibou, we had to observe certain formalities before continuing to Nouakchott, the capital. I tell this detailed just to show, how complicated the tourist's life can be in certain places.

Formalities were:
1) To the customs office to show the currency report
(that was filled at one border post before border crossing)
2) To police station (surete) with the customs payment ticket.
They made markings to the passport.
3) If you had a vehicle, then traffic insurance.
The insurance office was located in the second floor
of a bank, not marked in any way... Photocopy of the
vehicle document was needed...
4) If the following plans was to go to the nature park
(desert area between Nouadhibou and Nouakchott), you
had to pay the entry fee in an office. 1,600 Ouguiyas.

That was work enough for one morning :) In Mauritania, as in other Islamic countries, Friday is the holy day, so offices closed at noon. Then I had to do some welding to the side bag frame, that I managed to break before convoy left from Dakhla!

Generally said: Nouadhibou was quite poor and miserable town. There lived 30,000 people. Dusty town too. But the people were kind and friendly, but it wasn't as safe a town as many others.

In the campsite my bike's weight problem was partially solved: some thief stole some of my tools, so I didn't have to carry that much stuff with me anymore! It was maybe a French tourist or a local hawker got good tools...

About money:
I learned that in Mauritania the money is a very controlled thing: when entering the country, you have to declare all the money and keep all the exchange receipts with you. The only legal way of exchanging money is at official exchange bureaus, NOT at shops. When exiting the country, you have to show the receipts to the border officer. Practically no possibility to get money with visa card, just only in Nouakchott.

16.11. Sun (130) Nouadhibou Sahara!!!

We had planned to go together in a group through the desert part. Also we took a guide to lead us the right way. That was the only option. Going without a guide would have been very stupid and dangerous. He took 200FF per vehicle.

According to Michelin (the best) map, the distances between gas stations were 529 kms! And that 'between' was sand or pistes. Extra gas needed and 15 litres of water per nose.

We waited the guide to arrive till 11 am, we were supposed to leave at 8 o'clock! African way of life... German or Finnish exactness is from another planet.

Finally we left! Our convoy consisted of five cars and one bike. Peugeot 504, Renault 21, Renault Clio, Mercedes 200 D -78 (or it was a Mercedes long time ago :) Nissan Patrol 4x4 and Suzuki DR800!

View 15 kms from Nouadhibou in the Sahara desert. There were some soft spots, and some even softer spots...

Slight ground contact. You really need to have sufficient starting speed when you hit the soft spot. And then it was The Softest Spot!

Sahara by day. We did the needed border formalities again when exiting Nouadhibou. Sometimes the track was horrible: soft and slippery sand after which there were rocks & stones awaiting to break your knee or elbow... The bumpy and hilly terrain was not a problem for a bike anyway, but mostly to cars. They had only 15 centimetres of ground clearance. We drove/rode till sunset, 100 kms in six hours.

17.11. Mon (131) Somewhere in Sahara

We left soon after sunrise (7 am), heading towards Nouakchott. It wasn't hot yet. Today the track was much better. Sometimes we could go 80 km/h and up to 120 km/h, but usually 40. Everything's OK. The Sahara Highway.

Near the coast (high tide was coming) the dark and wet, soft sand almost swallowed me!! I had third gear on. I had to open throttle fully open, but speed didn't accelerate...only 40 kms/h! Later even worse, fully open throttle, but only 30 kms/h! But we did it with Suzuki. Getting stuck in those places would have required a crane. Afternoon the riding got much easier: we went to the beach.

There was a good sand track. I think that was also the longest beach in the world, 171 kms! Anyway, no tourism in Mauritania. That day we rode till sunset, too. The only stops were when filling fuel tanks from jerrycans and also, when somebody got stuck in the soft sand. Also we had to stop, because high tide was coming on the beach sand road and it was becoming flooded with water.

We had to set up a camp just 10 kms before Nouakchott. No lunch breaks! Others were too hasty. I wanted to go a bit slower and enjoy! What a hard day!

18.11. Tue (132) At Mauritanian beach

At 7 am quick leaving with the hasty co-travellers. They just wanted to pass Sahara as quickly as possible. Not a good convoy. We rode the last 10 kms to Nouakchott campsite. There were also other Sahara crossers. Nouakchott resembled of a little bit of a city: the shops on main street looked ok, elsewhere it was a slum. In the city (and in the whole 'country' too) there was ONLY ONE shop, a travel agency, where you could withdraw money with VISA credit card. Huh! Money matters can be a problem there.

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