September 25, 2012 GMT
Western Sahara

Next day I made the relatively short trip to Laayoune, crossing the (invisible) border to Western Sahara which is claimed and administered by Morocco but disputed by the UN. You could see the impressive amount of investment in infrastructure the Moroccan government is making to consolidate their claim on this territory. I shortened the day because the heat was both impressive and oppressive and I was ready to stop. My little temp guage read 40C. For a Canadian guy that's hot!

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A couple of hours earlier, looking for some lunch I had stopped at a place called Tarfaya. It was a rough looking town which was built around a phosphate mine. From the stares it would seem a stranger hadn’t stopped in for some time. At this time of day it was impossible to get food as the numerous cafes were serving only coffee and tea to men having their morning social. I assume the women are at home preparing the food and tending the children. No street food either. I am missing restaurants.

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Anyway, back in Laayoune and hungry I spot a chicken fast food place next to the Hotel Jodesa where I booked a room. I was not really enjoying the over-priced fare when a bubbly young ethnic Chinese woman comes in asking about the bike. Turns out she lives in Toronto but is travelling the West coast of Africa with her Portuguese boyfriend, Pedro, on a 125cc Yamaha. She says we should get together and discuss the trip that evening and I agree. I also found a card on the bike from “Flora” complete with a smiley face over her signature. They had spent the last 3 weeks in town while Flora recovered from a bike spill. They have a blog whichcountry.blogspot.com where you can get all the gory details. Seems Pedro needs to work on his motorcycling skills. They didn’t show up to talk so I took the fatherly approach and sent Pedro an email suggesting he needs to acquire some motorcycle protective gear (they have nothing) especially some boots for Flora and maybe he should be a bit more concerned about crossing the Sahara totally unprepared. But I believe that he is an artist so they should be OK. I wish them luck.

An early start was needed to make the 500km trip along the coast to Dakhla. This was the “real” desert now. Lots of emptiness with a constant crosswind and of course the high temps. The 40C+ range is becoming normal. Although empty with very little traffic the scenery was constantly changing so it was interesting. And in the middle of nowhere where the road passes close to the Atlantic coast you will see the tent-like structures used by fishermen to surf cast from the rocky shore line.

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Then a big surprise as a cloud drifts by and it rains for a few minutes.

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Dakhla was a welcome site. It is located on the end of a peninsula 40km off the main road. The whole peninsula is sand which made for some pretty spectacular beaches. With the high winds you could see a good crowd out windsurfing and kite flying.
I spent the night at Moussa Camping (actually a row of motel type rooms next to a beach) which was very basic but OK. There seemed to a lot of families living there as well as a few travelers. It cooled off a bit after sundown but fortunately the wind persisted. So we all left our doors half open to allow the breeze through as it would be otherwise unbearable.
So far on this trip security seems to be a non-issue. You can usually tell if the risk of theft is high by how the locals behave. If cars and bikes are not locked, there are no bars on doors and window, etc there is likely a low chance of theft.

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The next stage was 310km to the border of Mauritania and another peninsula city, Nouadhibou. Approaching the border the desert became so stark in its emptiness it reminded me of the Mars Rover photos. I don’t think I have ever been in such a lonely feeling place. The border formalities leaving Morocco (claimed) territory were easy enough. You then must cross a no-man’s land of about 3km to get to Mauritania. It was tough going as there had been no effort to make a road. Just the tracks from the cars and trucks struggling through the rocks and sand. For a bike it was not too bad but I did get caught out once by some deep sandy tracks and fell. No problem, I arrived safely at Mauritanian customs and immigration. No photos allowed at the border for security reasons or it could be that they are embarrased at how shabby the place is.

Posted by Ross Davidson at September 25, 2012 06:28 PM GMT
 
 

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