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Morocco - South Western Sahara

Laayoune. Hotel Nagjir. GPS N27 09.010’ W013 11.88. Located in central Laayoune, the hotel is used by the UN based in the city; this also means UN prices! Free WIFI available in foyer, the staff were very helpful. A bad time appreciation meant that we ended up staying overnight; the breakfast was good and included the best dates we have had in Morocco and the best pancake/crepe ever!

Boujdour. We only stopped here for a late morning coffee, but if we had not overstayed in Laayoune we could have used the beach side campsite. The campsite is well signposted in the centre of town.

Dakhla. The run to Dahkla is long and, with the seemingly unending, flat, featureless Western Sahara, VERY tedious! We ended up staying at the only 2 campsites in town:

Pat’s Surf and Peche. GPS N23 46.072’ W015 55.473. A small site that is in a great location right by the sea and signposted about 200m before the Dahkla police checkpoint. Unfortunately the site has seen better days and is really aimed at sport fishermen wanting overnight accommodation in the huts that are available. There were no kitchen facilities and the shower and toilets were adequate (just), but the biggest drawback was the never ending, tent flapping, wind from which there was no shelter on the site. We really enjoyed Dahkla, but this wind seems to be a feature of its peninsula location and is present most days; fine if you want respite from the hot sun, but not so good if you want a good night’s sleep. We stayed one night here.

The second site is on the left hand side of the main road as you approach the same police checkpoint and about 800m before it. I’ve ‘misplaced’ the name, but the GPS is N23 45.852’ W015 55.473. This site is geared to provide for the needs of the overnight camper and most importantly has shelter from the wind. There is also a sheltered beach where you can swim. The site also boasts a motel; the rooms looked very basic with a communal loo and wash room.

Free WIFI in Dahkla is available at the Regency Hotel. However, as the internet has only just arrived in the area, the whole system goes pear shaped from about 9.30am to noon and then again when school’s out, after 5pm!

Dahkla Junction and Beyond. The ‘y’ junction at the beginning of the Dakhla peninsula gives you the choice of flogging on to the border and yet more rivetingly, tedious landscape, or diverting to enjoy Dahkla. There is cheap fuel at the junction (and in Dahkla), as well as a police check point. After this junction there is one more cheap fuel stop before you reach a small village some 80 kms north of the border. Here are 2 (higher priced .. but not Mauritanian priced!) gas stations, one of which has a motel; thus you could overnight here either in the motel, or in their car park, using the motel restaurant’s combined loo and shower and leave at early o’clock to get to the border as it opens.

The Border. We arrived at the border at about 6pm with the intention of overnighting there and thus being able to begin the border formalities early the following morning. There is an Auberge (GPS N21 21.851’ W16 57.664’) at the border. It has rooms and Khaimas available, as well as a cafe/ restaurant. We parked, sheltered from the wind, right by the Moroccan border post and slept in the roof top tent. There was no problem making use of the Auberge’s ‘facilities’ (wash basin and loo).

The Border Crossing. If you have read all the posts, etc about the crossing, like us you may be somewhat anxious about what the process will involve, the route across the border, dealing with the Mauritanian side, etc. Don’t be!! The whole thing is very time consuming, but straight forward. We’ll go into a bit of detail to allay any fears.

We allowed the maximum time possible to ensure that, even in the worst case, we could arrive in Nouhadibou in good time. The queue begins to build from about dawn, but there is no need to join the back of the queue as, in the main, it consists of lorries, etc and cars are given priority; in effect there are two queues, so drive to the front of the main (lorry) queue and the Moroccan official then lets you through or at the very worst join the cars already queuing there. There will be a chain across the road until the border opens at around 8.30/9.00 am. However if one of yesterday’s vehicles is stuck out in no man’s land and has to be recovered, this time could slip; it did with us.

The chain is across the only entry point into the walled processing area, about the size of 4 football pitches, where the Moroccans will process all those wanting to cross south
and all those coming north from Mauritania. You will be directed to the area to the right of a central reservation; from here you should visit the police post, leaving your passport to be checked, etc and the customs post, to have your temporary vehicle importation paper checked, signed and one copy returned to you. It’s best, if you can, to leave one person at the police post so they can hear when your names are called out and the passports can be collected.

Once you’ve completed this process, return to the vehicle and you’ll then be waved forward by a Moroccan soldier. After about 100m you will be stopped by another soldier, told to join a line of cars and vans and the driver asked to take all the passports to be checked by the Moroccan army. Once this is done you are free to drive across. We waited for the vehicle in front of us to move off, and followed them! If you use this ploy then try to ensure they are locals/Senegalese, etc. Quite frankly we needn’t have worried, the route across is very clear and well worn. When the car route was found to be blocked by sand, the locals just hoofed it onto the commercial/lorry route! The trip across takes no more than10 minutes.

Mauritania (25th February - 17th March)

The Mauritanian Gendarmerie building (no longer a hut) is the first you will see once through no man’s land, it has a gate-cum-arch on the minefield side, go to the entrance and wait to be called forward. You will then begin the Mauritanian process! The Gendarmerie took details from the passports and made only a cursory search of the vehicle and at no time asked for any ‘cadeaux’. You then drive all of about 300m to a collection of very ramshackle huts. Here the police will check your visa, stamp and sign your passport and ask for 10 euros pp. Initially this seemed to be a ‘charge’ of 10 euros covering the two of us, but when asked for change for a 20 euro note ...!! Ensure you have small euro denomination notes! The French man in front of us had obviously been through this before and pulled out about 40 dhms in notes and then his pockets to show that was all he had! 40 dhm duly passed under the table to the ‘banker’. Next the customs hut, the Carnet was checked and another 10 euros demanded; change for a 20 euro note was given, but the exchange rate was derisory. We were told by ‘a very kind and helpful’ young man that, since the French deaths, the Nouhadibou ‘governor’ was insisting that all foreigners had car insurance before leaving the border. The insurance was duly bought at the nearby insurance hut. It was for 10 days and the rate was that asked for elsewhere in Mauritania, but at no time were we asked for proof of insurance in the Nouhadibou area.

So after over 4 hours we were through! There is asphalt all the way to Nouhadibou, neither of the two police checkpoints asked for a ‘cadeau’ and we arrived at the campsite in Nouhadibou at about 4pm.

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