A very unusual New Year's Eve. Sitting outside in shirt sleeves, drinking pastis, whisky, Heineken and Vin de Pays d'Oc with French people. We eat lobster and duck and I make them listen to AC/DC all night.
Note for ex-colleagues - a Mauritanian sound effects album will need at least the following:
-Squeal of brakes/anguished braying, as yet another euro-banger smacks into a donkey cart.
-Crunch of teeth meeting sand in a mouthful of fish.
-HHWWAAGGGGHHH of mucus being propelled into mouth. This can be used for anywhere south of Portugal as well.
1 Jan 2005. NKT.
Traditional New Years Day mal a la tete shared by all at the Auberge. Later my little Dutch pals Robert and Mariska return from a week in the desert. We head off to Sans Souci for beer and live music. I step out to buy some fags and mistakenly turn left towards the Israeli embassy. For the first time in my life I find myself staring down the barrel of an automatic weapon, brandished by a very nervous-looking sentry. Hands up! Turn around and walk away! No argument from me, pal.
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 06:14 PM
Ain't No Fun Waiting Round To Be A Millionaire
12th Nov 2004. Nouakchott, Mauritania.
A week is a long time in politics, according to Harold Wilson. Four days in a Mauritanian hospital is much much longer. If Harold Wilson was a hummingbird, a single beat of his tobacco-stained wings would equate to a week in politics compared to ninety-six hours of grainy Spanish TV with no sound, and being unable to get out of bed and switch it off.
I had an accident, d'you see. I hit a lump of sand in the desert - the things people leave lying around - and broke my collarbone, and, depending on which doctor you believe, several, a couple, or none of my ribs. I lean towards two ribs myself.
Seven days have passed at the Auberge Sahara. It'll be a while before I can carry on but St Louis in Senegal is only 200 kms away and it's beckoning...
The point is, you can't expect to try and ride a motorbike across Africa and not fall off at some point and break something. (Well done if you have actually managed it). It's all part of the adventure. Owchhh.
The day before the accident, I met Nadia, Arno and David - mad Frenchies in a battered Merc - at the Maroc/Mauri border. We got lost together and hired a guide, then camped in the desert. The evening's entertainment was provided by tea made accidentally with gin instead of water, and later, Francois' bottle of Calvados.
Sometime during the night we saw the (second) longest train in the world go by.
Morning came and we headed for Nouakchott. Also present were Kikuchi, Bob and Jean-Claude. Rumours of a road to NKT have been greatly exaggerated, unless our guide was deliberately taking us off-road to make himself seem worthwhile.
Somewhere along the way Bob found a kitten and, somewhat effetely, called him Benin. Jean-Claude managed to turn his car upside down. I fell off.
Kikuchi - from that day forward known as the Desert Samurai - rode my bike the next 400kms to NKT, without falling off. I rode in the Merc, hungrily swallowing Arno's excellent painkillers.
So - blah blah blah ouch oohyah etc - I end up here at Auberge Sahara. It's great and cheap and the perfect place to sit and wait for a few weeks while me bones mend. Kania, who runs the place, is like a mum, but, er, younger than me.
I've renamed Bob's kitten Stewart. I think it suits.
He's dead now. No, really.
Disgusting Smells Of Our Time #1:
Locusts cooking in a motorcycle engine.
3rd Dec 2004. Nouakchott.
The tumble was four weeks ago today. 15 days to go until they can take the steel pin out of me collarbone. Progress is slooow but life is easy and cheap. Fags - proper ones - are 40p.
Some fine people have passed through the Auberge. Godert* and Anke for example. He fixed my shattered headlight while she fixed my dinner.
Andy and Ivan from the UK, riding to Cape Town, were good enough to drink beer to excess with me. Andy even had the decency to look shocked when Kania and I explained that we had hit Stewart over the head with a shovel, as there was no room at the inn for an orphaned kitten. (We hadn't).
*pronounced "[hawking noise] ode [hawking noise] t"
Current guess by medics is that I'll be able to head off (for Mali or Senegal) early in the new year. Come on you bones!
29th Dec 2004.
I've been here nearly 8 weeks. My ribs are certainly heading in the right direction. Coughing, for example, is possible once more. Steel pin comes out next week in theory.
Days tick by and people pass through. Larry from Wexford for example, who spent Christmas here and - well done Larry - likes drinking beer. On Christmas Day he brewed up some very strange tea using Christ knows what. We sat on the roof in the afternoon being very strange, and in the evening the Auberge turned in to Disco Sahara with the assistance of Curtis Mayfield and a fat stack of Chinese beer.
Pre-accident, I rode through the locust swarm in the southern tip of Morocco. It was a revolting experience, and as with so many revolting experiences, I'm very glad I had it. I knew it was coming and wasn't keen, but when the first one hit my visor like a rubber bullet I yelped like a kicked puppy. After 10 miles of hitting - say - 1 locust a second, they began to thin out. After 15 miles they were gone, but an insistent voice in my head began to tell me, as I plucked their broken bodies from my lap, that that may have been only the advance party.
30 swarmless miles passed. Then *THWACK* - I hit one. Then a few more. Within 2 miles the road changed from tar grey to locust red. That would have been OK if the bastards had stayed put on the road, but the noise of the bike made them jump to head height just in front of me. Consequently the next 40 miles were 5-locust-a-second territory, riding with face screwed up against the horror. And oh Jesus the stink...
Last week saw the return of the mighty Thomas Meisner. While I've been sitting here eating camel kebabs and scratching my beard, he's ridden to Togo and back, picking up Miss Sierra Leone on the way. (I've seen the photos and there's no doubt in my mind). What a great bloke.
Andy and Ivan have made it to Namibia somehow in six weeks, although Ivan's managed to break his wrist and lose all his clothes in the process. Ivan is, however, a man of solid iron, and rode 1000km after the fall to get to a hospital.
This week I became, at 49 days, the longest-serving resident of Auberge Sahara. The previous title holder, at a meagre 48 days, was a whisky-for-breakfast French alcoholic who left here for Bamako, where the hospital promptly gave him a complete blood change.
My camera is irreparably buggered. The dust and grit thrown up by the ore train (the night before the accident) is mostly to blame, but my attempt to mend it can't have helped as I had two small pieces of plastic left over when I put it back together.
Turns out Stewart is a girl, and not a very clever one. I have suggested renaming her Stupina.
Things you can't get in Nouakchott:
a/ A game of darts.
b/ A pork pie.
Things you can:
b/ A ride in the worst taxi in the world. All the taxis in NKT are the worst taxi in the world.
c/ Excellent fish.
e/ Interestingly, constipation.
Posted by Simon Fitzpatrick at 05:02 PM