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North Africa Topics specific to North Africa and the Sahara down to the 17th parallel (excludes Morocco)
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Trans Sahara Routes.

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  #61  
Old 25 Aug 2016
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Pity you were forced to do it, Karim. Certainly a caravan is not the most efficient way to get from a to b.
Others have found that something happens after a week or two in the desert. Perception of time and space start to change. Cant happen in a few days.
A life changing experience for many. That is why some people cant stay away from the desert, they have to return for more.
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  #62  
Old 25 Aug 2016
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priffe, it's been safe in the areas where most people go which are under heavy surveillance these days. This being the coastal route and not much than this. Maybe the road from Nouakchott to Atar but even the Atar tourism never recovered from the troubles. Who knows how things are further east? I don't think any westerners ventured east of Ouadane or even east of Chingueti in the last years.

Maybe Chris can help here. When did you last have notice of westerners venturing east of Chingueti overland?
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  #63  
Old 25 Aug 2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plooking View Post
priffe, it's been safe in the areas where most people go which are under heavy surveillance these days. This being the coastal route and not much than this. Maybe the road from Nouakchott to Atar but even the Atar tourism never recovered from the troubles. Who knows how things are further east? I don't think any westerners ventured east of Ouadane or even east of Chingueti in the last years.

Maybe Chris can help here. When did you last have notice of westerners venturing east of Chingueti overland?
I havent been east of Chinguetti or Ayoun but there's been a few stray tourists as far east as Nema and some are riding the dunes. Security was very strict for a couple years but less so now. I have been told (by a colonel) I can go anywhere, Tidjidja and Tichit and even Oualata if I keep in touch with the gendarmes. We normally exchange phone numbers and they do call when I am on a piste, if I dont call in before night.
No incidents for several years means Mauretania is safer than Orlando and Paris. How safe do you need?
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  #64  
Old 25 Aug 2016
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What's there to see beyond Guelb anyway? Just dunes and tussock fields all the way to the Taoudenni piste. No one ever went there even when they could, unless heading right across (when that was possible)
The most interesting places in RIM are south or west of Guelb, IMO.
I'd be happy to explore that area and don't mind a nightly check-in if it means no escort requirement. No need to go all J-C Van Damme about it
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  #65  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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I've been surfing the web and reading up on the situation in Mauritania. Luckily I read/speak Arabic, so I can get different points of views.

Apparently the Mauri government is desperate to be taken off the travel warnings list, especially the French Foreign Offices list, as they're keenly aware of the consequences of being on it.

Tourism has plummeted just as they wanted to expand the sector. Every news article has some Mauritania government official telling how safe the country is and how terrorism has been suppressed, and they're campaigning hard with the French to change the country's status. Officials from the Mauritania ministry of tourism have also participated in fairs/expos to draw attention to what the country has to offer.

Personally I'd take everything with a grain of salt. I don't believe the Mauritania government painting a perfectly safe picture, just as i don't take our governments travel warnings literally. Sometimes the foreign offices use the broadest red paintbrush they have on the country maps.

On another note, I found this article in Arabic about rumors with AQIM striking a deal with the Mauritanian government.

Found a English version too. Thought some of you might find it interesting.

http://reut.rs/1oMv6f0
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  #66  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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Originally Posted by priffe View Post
I havent been east of Chinguetti or Ayoun but there's been a few stray tourists as far east as Nema and some are riding the dunes.
In my post I stuck to areas in the North for a reason. It is my understanding that the situation in the South improved a lot and security is much better here in this region now than in 2012-2013. I would venture myself to Nema passing thru Ayoun if necessary and keeping my eyes and hears duly open. But I would consider it, ok, I would. I'm not so sure if I'd feel confortable enough to go thru Tichit to Oualata but I've never been to that region so I don't have a personal feeling. Nevertheless I wouldn't consider going east of Chingueti or even, maybe, Atar, depending on my feeling on the spot.


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Originally Posted by priffe View Post
Security was very strict for a couple years but less so now. I have been told (by a colonel) I can go anywhere,
Even in the North?


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Originally Posted by Chris Scott View Post
No need to go all J-C Van Damme about it
There is a recurrent discussion in the nautical community about carrying weapons on board yachts on long passages or not. Laws and regulations are very different at sea and there are several countries where anyone can register a yacht which allow weapons on board private pleasure vessels. Also, the arrival at most countries worldwide, even if it isn't hassle free and require a lot of mambo-jambo, is possible with weapons on board provided that they are duly declared, at the latest, on arrival, something which is not possible overland. Now, I've always found myself on the pro-gun side. I'll explain why.

We may speak all night long, we may argue until hell freezes over. Bottom line: if you are armed and show unequivocally that you'll use lethal force not as a last resource when you're about to be boarded and realistically there isn't much to be done but as a regular line of defense when the bad guys are a quarter or a third of a mile from your ship, 99% of the time they will just turn around and look elsewhere for an easier prey. On land it's the same. If you shoot first, ask questions later, your chances of a safer passage increase a lot in these regions.

It's not a matter of going all Van Damme here or there. It's just giving oneself the best possible chance of departing from A and really, effectively arriving at B. Unsurprisingly someone close to me, some 4-5 years ago when the piracy in Somalia was going on at full steam, when invited for a trip from Hamburg to the Maldives by way of the Suez replied to the friend who invited him that he would do it only with me on board. This illustrates both my views on the subject, my mindset regarding allowing myself to be attacked and also what an added security to those around something like this can be. Please note that it's not just a matter of being duly armed as required by circumstances. It's that together with proper assessment of risks. After all the best defense is the one which in the end is not needed and most fights are not worth being bought, anyway. At the same time we can't lock ourselves in our bedroom for fear of something bad happening. So, one assesses risks, takes precautions to avoid trouble but if, in the end, the worst happens so, by all means, let's be ready for it.
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  #67  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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Yeah a lot of people are saying Mauritania is pretty safe so this is encouraging. Seems border crossings is hard, especially with camels, however am looking in it further.

Also, what does "RIM" and "IMO" mean? I see it dotted everywhere and can't figure it out. Am coming out of my noobness
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  #68  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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In the UK they call this 'The Silly Season'

Well, its a warm morning - no chance of frost today.

Quote:
On land it's the same. If you shoot first, ask questions later, your chances of a safer passage increase a lot in these regions.
Nice fantasy, isn't it. I might see it working at sea against some guys in a nicely pressurised RIB.
In the Sahara, when two sand-smeared jeeps full of AK-equipped jihadists rock up out of the dark, you'd better flip into a well-trained killer, real quick! And with your undeclared arms you'd better hope they're bad guys, not some dressed-down special forces snooping about, as I read of in Egypt on time.

Just about all the kidnapped of the Sahara since 2003 were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It happens - less so now. If you think you need to travel overland with guns to feel safe, you're travelling in the wrong area. It's a big planet full of safe destinations and the risky areas in the Sahara are well known. SPOT trackers and the like can reassure those back home and have an SOS button, fwiw in the Sahara.
Having said that, I did ask a guy on a course which way the safety works on an AK. But I've forgotten already. It's either up or down. So despite my teenage aspirations and my annoyance at being kidnapped or robbed, I really wouldn't be much good, would I! Like most normal Sahara travellers, I suspect.

Forget Saharan borders Dan - they're an unnecessary complication, these days more than ever. The few recommended Saharan countries are way big enough to have a satisfying camel experience.

RIM = Rep. Islamic of Mauritania
IMO = in my opinion
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  #69  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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RIM - Republique Islamique de Mauritanie
IMO - In my opinion

IMO, all this is good & well TODAY ... however as I've said before, tomorrow things may change (but I hope not!), always keep your ear to the ground!

If you contact me nearer the time you intend to go, I can ask my former colleagues there, I was working as a consultant to a government dept. and still have close ties
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  #70  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Plooking View Post
In my post I stuck to areas in the North for a reason. It is my understanding that the situation in the South improved a lot and security is much better here in this region now than in 2012-2013. I would venture myself to Nema passing thru Ayoun if necessary and keeping my eyes and hears duly open. But I would consider it, ok, I would. I'm not so sure if I'd feel confortable enough to go thru Tichit to Oualata but I've never been to that region so I don't have a personal feeling. Nevertheless I wouldn't consider going east of Chingueti or even, maybe, Atar, depending on my feeling on the spot.

Even in the North?
Certainly in the north, as far as Zouerat. You can go further, as dear Florence did a few years back http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/hub...th-mauri-60924 but then you will be lonesome.

The division is not north/south but east/west. All the roads have frequent check points. Roads are in the west. In the east there are pistes and less control. I plan to go Chinguetti - Oualata as soon as I get the chance. And before they build a road.

And I concur with the Canadian president, for chrissakes leave your guns at home. Chances are you'll hit a friendly fisherman, a camel herder or a family member. Wont protect you from a dozen guys on a pickup or a Technical.
Stop that fantasy right now before you get someone hurt.
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  #71  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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Originally Posted by PropTP View Post
On another note, I found this article in Arabic about rumors with AQIM striking a deal with the Mauritanian government.

Found a English version too. Thought some of you might find it interesting.

Al Qaeda leaders made plans for peace deal with Mauritania: documents | Reuters
Perhaps there was some kind of deal, or not. What we know is that AQIM isnt much of a threat anymore. Nor are there any kidnappings. The problem now is the threat from cells or individuals or new groups that has lead to attacks in Ouaga, Cote d'Ivoire, Bamako, Marrakech, Hurghada.... Next could be Dakar, Accra, Nouakchott or just about anywhere. Paris, Brussels, Stockholm...which means there is little we can do except be vigilant when travelling.
The Olga Bogorad mentioned in the Reuter's article is a good source for correct and up to date information https://twitter.com/bogorad_olga
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  #72  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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Nice fantasy, isn't it. I might see it working at sea against some guys in a nicely pressurised RIB.
Pirates at sea don't wander around in nicely pressurized RHIBs. That would be too easy... although harder than you may think for hitting what you want to hit is not an easy task at all at sea. They move in very fast steel-hulled things, sometimes at speeds over 40 knots.


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Originally Posted by Chris Scott View Post
In the Sahara, when two sand-smeared jeeps full of AK-equipped jihadists rock up out of the dark, you'd better flip into a well-trained killer, real quick! And with your undeclared arms you'd better hope they're bad guys, not some dressed-down special forces snooping about, as I read of in Egypt on time.
Chris, if you read my original post on the subject I wrote "let's also assume that...". I perfectly know that overland it is not legal to carry weapons. That's why I made it hypothetical to illustrate to Dan my reluctance in going to certain areas even if certain conditions were met.

The RPGs were on the list for a reason. They are a second line of defense precisely against motorized bad guys in jeeps. As a first line they are dubious due to their effective shooting range.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Scott View Post
If you think you need to travel overland with guns to feel safe, you're travelling in the wrong area. It's a big planet full of safe destinations and the risky areas in the Sahara are well known. SPOT trackers and the like can reassure those back home and have an SOS button, fwiw in the Sahara.
I've never traveled overland with weapons of my own, of course not. It can land you in jail very easily. For this reason there are places where I didn't venture but where I would had, maybe, if I had them.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Scott View Post
Having said that, I did ask a guy on a course which way the safety works on an AK. But I've forgotten already. It's either up or down. So despite my teenage aspirations and my annoyance at being kidnapped or robbed, I really wouldn't be much good, would I! Like most normal Sahara travellers, I suspect.
It is a matter of personality. I've always liked guns and shooting. My first experience seeing an AK up and close and being explained about it was in Angola, in the early 1990s, when I was a teenager and was there visiting my father who lived there at a time. In a police checkpoint, while my father talked with one of the policemen, I had the other right in front of my window with his AK so I started asking him questions about it. He was very nice for it wasn't usual for him to have white kids asking him about his weapon so he made sure to explain all the details on the thing. Now, while I was at this, my father was getting uncomfortable by the second for he is one of those who, like you, doesn't care much about guns and much prefers not having them around. After we left he scolded me harshly and, after a few adventures of my own he ended up putting me on the first available plane back to Europe like if I was a parcel which can be shipped by DHL.
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  #73  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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Originally Posted by priffe View Post
And I concur with the Canadian president, for chrissakes leave your guns at home. Chances are you'll hit a friendly fisherman, a camel herder or a family member. Wont protect you from a dozen guys on a pickup or a Technical.
Stop that fantasy right now before you get someone hurt.
A gun in the hands of someone who knows how to use it, the damage it can do and all its intricacies is a very useful tool. In the hands of someone who thinks that it is just a matter of pulling the trigger and things happen on their own is a sure receipt for disaster for its owner.

Of course you won't hit a friendly fisherman or a camel herder or a nomad family. That is very unlikely to happen if you know what you are doing. People are not all that crazy and no one who really knows what a gun is shoots happily at any and everything that moves. First you assess, observe and only when satisfied that there is a real threat you defend yourself. A dozen guys driving fast at you in a pickup with guns showing qualifies as a threat. The objective then is to prevent them from getting too close.

And yes, in the proper hands it can defend you of a dozen bad guys on a pickup, even if your group is outnumbered two to one or maybe even worst. It depends on the particular circumstances. Not if you're alone and that's why I'd do it together with other like-minded friends and not alone.


On another note, I've ventured as far as Chingueti but back then my hosts found it dangerous to go from Atar to Chingueti overland so we did it by air. They didn't want to go further east even in an helicopter for, it seems, at the time Ouadane wasn't particularly safe for us to stay there for a few days. Regretfully. We also went to Zouerat but that was going and returning immediately after and it had been scheduled that way.
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  #74  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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Those people who actually live and travel in insecure parts of the world have the right to do so without being "observed and assessed" at long range in the gunsights of some needy and ignorant gun loving tourist. "Shoot first and ask questions later." Really someone should take your passport away.
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  #75  
Old 26 Aug 2016
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If some day you find yourself in dire need of assistance have no doubt. You'll be asking for those needy ignorant gun-loving guys to go risk their lives in order to save yours.

On another note, I didn't say that I would do any overland travel armed wherever in the world. As a matter of fact I specifically stated that I never traveled overland with weapons of my own. But I also said that I would venture to some places only if duly armed and after proper assessment of security conditions on the spot in an hypothetical case for it isn't realistic to do so at this moment. I believe I also mentioned that the best defense is the one which is never needed.

And, yes, have no doubt. If a threat is positively identified than it is really a matter of shooting first, asking questions later. Otherwise you'll be the loosing party. Piracy in Somalia coasts ended when this position was adopted both with weapons on board civilian ships and with the navies which gathered together to patrol the area. It became harder and harder for the bad guys to do whatever they used to do previously and they ultimately gave up. There remain some hot spots at sea, though, with the worst being the Strait of Malacca. It is finally in course of being solved, once more with strong armed action being used.
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