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Mauritania I

Nouhadibou. Auberge Camping Abba. GPS N20 54.51 W17 03.179. A satisfactory site. Well located in central Nouhadibou, the sign and the site is on the right opposite the large BMCI building (the cash point is for Mauritanians only). A large site, sheltered from coastal wind with a kitchen, hot water and electricity hook up; accommodation in Khaimas or rooms is available. Mahmud, the guide based at the site, is willing to give advice on piste travel, etc.

Piste R2 (Nouhadibou to Atar). As given in Chris Scott’s book, R2 is a good desert piste for the desert novice; we had undergone no training prior to leaving England. The piste now does not start until Bou Lanouar. Here take the left hand exit from the bend on the main Nouakchott road, head NE towards the railway line and follow the well used track alongside the southern side of the line for about 800m until the true piste on your right becomes clear. This avoids the confusing, multiplicity of tracks on the east side of the village. The rest is relatively easy; particularly if you stay away from powder sand close to the railway when in the dunes. Mahmud’s advice to go in an elongated, anti-clockwise direction around the only ‘mountain’, an obvious (only one there!) pointed hill about 2km south of the railway line, when crossing the Azeffal dunes was absolutely right. There is no defined piste to follow, but the sand was firm and made crossing the dunes great fun and a good confidence building experience. The guide’s advice and low tyre pressure meant that the spade and sand ladders were never used! It’s your choice where you bush camp; however one is worth a mention:

The Monoliths. GPS N21 13.522 W13 39.668. Magical!! Given to us by Mahmud, the two Monoliths are 2 kms to the north of the railway line in an area where the NW/SE piste, tracks, etc ensure that the fear of mines is unfounded. The Monoliths are in view from about 6kms away.. on a clear day!.. and the campsite is hidden from the nearby village on the railway line and close to a natural bowl at the base of the larger of the Monoliths. There is an obvious and well used crossing point over the railway line some 2kms to the west of the village.

We also deviated from the R2 route about a km beyond the 508 km point, carrying on to Atar by the more dramatic pass ‘in the escarpment ahead’. The ‘Auberge’ given in R2 and at the 508 km point is now a customs post; again no demands for a ‘cadeau’, only smiles and ‘bon voyage’.

Atar. Bab Sahara. GPS N20 31.16’ W13 03.72’. An excellent campsite but not sign posted until you are within about 100m of the auberge, to the right off the Azougui road as it leaves Atar. Bab means gate or door in Arabic and the site has friendly staff, very good facilities, electricity hook up and restaurant (good but not cheap). Accommodation is also available. Bab Sahara is within easy walking distance of the town centre and is run by a very friendly and helpful Dutchman called Just. He offered advice about the area and has just completed building opposite the auberge a workshop to maintain his 4x4’s .. and those of any passing overlander! He has good contacts in Mauritania and Europe for spares and a good Moroccan mechanic acts as his workshop manager.

Chinguetti. Auberge Maure Bleu. GPS N20 27.445’ W12 21.521’. Follow the main piste through the town; when beginning to cross the wadi the auberge is at 10 o’clock on the far side. A good, French run auberge with no camping allowed.

Ouadane. Auberge Vareni. GPS N20 55.858’ W011 37.136’. Follow the piste up the escarpment and into the village, the auberge is on the right hand side of the first road on your left. Run by a friendly Mauritanian woman, the auberge has accommodation and space for camping; there are reasonable facilities and a restaurant (good food, huge portions!). Madame will contact Sidi (museum) and arrange a guide (non English speaking) for the old town.

Terjit. Auberge Caravan. GPS N20 15.512’ W13 05.776’. A very well run Auberge, signposted from the police checkpoint / turning off the main Atar-Nouakchott road. Follow the piste past another checkpoint to the village and the Auberge is on the right as you enter. It is really accommodation only, but, if space permits, camping is no problem. The facilities are good, there is a pool! and the food is excellent; the jams and
real coffee at breakfast were the bees knees!

Nouakchott. Auberge Menata. GPS N18 05.590’ W15 58.639’. We visited two other sites on the Nouhadibou road, the Menata offered the same price and a more central location. The only difficulty was finding it; it is off Ave General De Gaulle and if heading north, the first left after the Mauritel building. The Auberge is French run with good facilities, hot water, electricity hook up and kitchen. Accommodation, roof top, room and khaima is available. The Mali embassy is a (hot!) 15/20 minute walk away. Also close by is the Nouakchott branch of the French Paribas Bank which is the best and easiest for changing euros. The staff said that shortly they would be accepting Visa backed bank/credit cards. Further away, but still within walking distance, is the city’s main (only?) post office.

Tourism. We are only too aware that the tourist season died with the French family in December. We have had campsites and auberges virtually to ourselves, never having to worry about arrival time and space available. This freedom will in all probability cease with the arrival of the next season in Oct/Nov. We would also like to challenge the perception that all officials in Mauritania ask for a ‘cadeau’. Apart from those at the border, they don’t anymore! The only thing we have been asked for at the many checkpoints is the Fiche D’Etat, some 12 copies each to date, and then waved through with a smile and a ‘bon voyage’. We hope that this attitude continues.

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