Go. Go go go. To go, to roll, to overcome. Inside me toss a lot of thoughts that encourages to continue the path. I had stayed too long in one place, in Agadir. Here there was a great company, but I encounter already familiar itchy feeling seconded my thoughts. It’s time to go.
After long gatherings I finally saddled my feathered gooz and said goodbye to everyone. Under the wheels there was asphalt again, giving me a sense of freedom.
I’ve been waited by Tan-Tan, the next town on the road, where I heading for friends of friends to have shelter for the night. The surrounding area is slowly becoming more like the desert. Conventional border of Western Sahara is approaching. At the entrance to the Tan-Tan I was stopped at a police post. For the first time of my journey. I didn’t knew yet that this post will start a series of stops at each subsequent posts, and not for reasons of curiosity, but for safety reasons. Friendly police representatives asked about the purpose of my visit and the intended place for overnight. Upon learning whom I was going to visit they asked the phone number of the Omar, the guy to whom I was traveling. While one of the policemen calls him on the phone, the other one said that for him is a great honor to invite me to his house. Local people sometimes completely incomprehensible. However, the link was established, and I was told where to go to the meeting point. I met Omar and had wonderful evening in Tan-Tan. Then there was the perfect way to Dakhla, accompanied by unrealistic views. Here, for example, I found in one place the road and the river, and sand, and the ocean:
I would really like to call Dakhla the next point, but again I did not sleep well at night. Dreams do not cease to haunt me. So, I woke up late enough, and decided that a reasonable idea is to stay in El Ayoun. The name of this city – a very strange thing. It officially wrote as El Ayoun, but the signs and the locals insist on calling it “Laayoune”. In this city I had no contacts of friends of friends, but it was good for me. Despite the hospitality and kindness of all those who I have visited as a guest – I began to realize that I slightly tired of the constant communication and that I want to be alone. Thanks to those who support me with finances – I had such an opportunity. I found the cheapest hotel in the outskirts of the city, something like 8 euros per night. Contrary to expectations it was quite decent, freshly built, and with a very friendly staff. I did not need more. I took a stockpiled bottle of local brandy and spent the rest of the day completely disconnected my consciousness, immersed in the sweet slumber of nothingness. In the morning I went to Dakhla, where contrary to plan, I spent two days – because of the peculiarities of the local banking system. Change euros for dirhams – you are welcome. But in reverse order, dirhams to the euro – there is no way. Not that you can not … They just do not have them, those euros. I walked around the whole city on my feet, visiting about 20 bank branches, plucking somewhere for 5, somewhere for 10 euros, somehere for nothing. Seemingly simple operation is scheduled for the morning, before leaving, it turned into some intractable problem. Truly, you never know with some tricks you might encounter. But most importantly started then… I went out from Dakhla.
By the evening I arrived in Barbas. The small village, the last hotel before the border with Mauritania. Mauritania, a country of which the Internet persistently warned by consulates of other countries: “Danger! Visit only if absolutely necessary!”. Hotel Barbas, inexpensive and very popular with travelers, which was very significant to me – because in my journey the most important is to meet people. I decided not to miss this hotel. And that was good idea. While still at the reception, I spotted a looking bored man, European in appearance. Christian was his name. Man of thirty-three years old, overgrown, cheerful. Charismatic, hardened German pirate. «One Man Mafia», as he called himself.
Christian worked up by buying in Greece intercity passenger buses of particular model (the good old Mercedes-Benz) and sell them in Mali. Greece-Mali, 3.5 years of life on the road, which was known to him by heart. This kind of business is very popular here in Africa, where strong demand for older vehicles built for the ages (and others simply do not survive) is very high. Our conversation over a cup of coffee slowly moved into his bus where there were some cans of beer of icy temperature. We chatted about everything, slowly getting drunk like old friends who had not seen each other for many years. We are connected by the Road. The dusty, black and white desert road under the scorching sun.
Christian managed to forget his passport in Tangier at the “transitier”, the man in charge of customs clearance formalities between Europe and Africa. He was very upset about this, as on the horizon comes “Tabaski” islamic religious festival, which lasts for five days. In this holiday nobody works including the bank structures. If he does not have time to solve all the cases with the current bus to the moment of Tobaski – a lot of people who are tied to a chain of bus business left without money. Transitier in Tangier sent a passport with a fair drivers on another lorry. Lorry – a very funny name. They called like this all of the working vehicles larger than passenger cars. Minibus, truck, tractor – it is all Lorry. Drivers, two Senegalese guys was so slowly that it could be assumed that it is not Lorry pushing them but they are pushing it. For three days they could barely get close to El Ayoun. After a little thoughts I agreed with the idea of Christian to throw my luggage into his bus and on the next day to go to meet them on my motorcycle. Thus it was possible to gain at least one day, despite the fact that we have to go back on the road. Because the border with Mauritania closes at six o’clock in the evening, and if you do not catch up to the moment – you have to wait for the next day. Christian gladly accepted my offer, and the next morning we went in the opposite direction, towards Dakhla, then to El Ayoun. We had enough time we thought, Senegalese drivers still go towards us.
The adventure began. The road ran along the coast of the ocean, again painting a landscape wildly to me – a huge amount of water, encountered by the desert.
No life here. The lack of greenery just emphasized by sparse bushes of pale green color. We stopped in several places, sliding down the road to the ocean, looking at the place where the in the future times Christian could theoretically drive through the sand on a bus. One of these stops gave us the abandoned village. Snow-white as if just thrown. The water in the tank at the mosque has not yet evaporated. After, I learned that such villages were built by the government to local wild tribes but they did not want to stay in them rejecting the civilization … The silence and engendered unrealistic feelings. As if I was in a movie after a zombie apocalypse.
The stop again, the long drift on the sand to the overhanging cliffs – and we have not gone unrewarded. Amazing colors that nature gives, I think, could only be found here. Blue-green ocean meets the white sand harboring overhanging rocks. I was ready to sit here forever. The sound of waves woven into color perception like the perfect soundtrack. We stayed there for a very long time just enjoying another great creations of nature.
Kilometers passing by as we slowly drove to Al Ayoun. Our Senegalese counter drivers moving so slowly that the idea to reach Al Ayoun became to not so extravagant. Near the Boujdor we stopped for coffee under the cover of darkness in one of the roadside cafes. Assuming that drivers are just about we were relaxed. After a few cups of coffee a Mercedes-Benz minivan stopped near the cafe with the trunk full of all sorts of supplies. Senegalese guys handed passport to Christian and said goodbye to us moving further. Surprisingly they drove away quite quickly which made it possible to assume that they are not pushed all the way to the bus. The reason for their leisurely progress on Morocco remains a mystery to me.
After their departure we decided to move back to Barbas but fate decreed otherwise. I wanted to move the bike to more comfortable place where we could observe it from a cafe in the coming twilight but could not move it. The reason was the flat rear tire. The compressor and tire repair kit, together with other my things were at Christian’s bus. Cursing, I lit a flashlight to inspect the wheel for damage. What I saw made me not just swear. It forced me to shut up and to approach the Christian and to say «now we are totally fucked up». There was no puncture at the wheel. The tire was destroyed.
One chance in a billion, probably – everything leads to conclusion that between the tire and the part of the swing arm was a stone that cut off half the side of the tire deeper than the cord. Here we go. It was impossible to do anything. All we have left is to hope for help from the road.
We spent the night near the cafe which was shut down before midnight. Christian tried to sleep on the hard ground, but for me it was not possible. I tried to generate positives and be optimistic exactly to the moment I discovered that the tire is destroyed. All the plans and budget for the trip is now lost all meaning. The new tire costs about 200 euros and there was only a small chance to get it in Nouakchott, capital of Mauritania. But most likely only in Dakar, capital of Senegal. I was smashed by heavy headache, probably subconscious reaction to events, so I spent the whole night staring at the stars unable to sleep. The morning did not bring anything new except that we was visited by the camel.
Handsome, tall, slightly menacing, he was grazing nearby, staring at us comically turning his head. Dawn was beautiful as ever, and both of these events a little brightened my existence. In the end, I told myself, when you met the dawn in the Sahara?
Poor Christian slept wrapped in Emeregency blanket which I found in my topcase.
Somewhere in the middle of the day we were finally able to find transportation. Minibus Mercedes-Benz. French license plates. Driven by the Frenchman who converted to Islam, changed his name to Suleiman, but speaks English (a rarity!), and for the last 20 years living in Senegal. And goes to Bissau through Senegal to sell minibus. Isn’t it a good luck ?! We somehow pushed the motorcycle between the sofa and other little things in the trunk and hit the road again to the border with Mauritania …
Back in Barbas we met Senegalese drivers again. “Africa is teaching you to wait”, Christian told me and looking at these drivers I realized that this word of truth assimilated them by 100 percent. Despite our night spent in the middle of nowhere and half day of waiting they arrived only a few hours before us. Christian said that he was struck by the double irony – at first he thought that the Senegalese drivers arrive at the border before him, and then realized the opposite because we arrived a little later then them, and the border was anyway closed for a night time.
After long discussions and plans making, we decided that trying to shove a motorcycle into a Christian’s bus was a bad idea, because even if Christian wanted to show me the Bamako, capital of Mali I had to spend the day in Nouakchott (capital of Mauritania) to obtain Malian Visa. And Christian didn’t have time. Tobaski approaching rapidly. Therefore we split – Christian pulled to the frontier on his bus and I was left with Suleiman slowly riding on his minibus with my bike inside.
The border of Mauritania and the Western Sahara. A special kind of hell. Suleiman called it “10 euro here, 10 euro there…” Several mud houses under the scorching sun. Soldiers in olive uniform with face hided. No pointers. No signs. It will be difficult to cross the border for a man who first came here. If at all possible. Officials sit inside houses to escape the heat. And the only way to see them – use the services of “helpers”, people who will do the formalities for money. Visa is in one place. Luggage examination in the other. Formalities with the vehicle – in another. I was grateful for the coincidence, which cost me the rear tire. Suleiman knew all the necessary things on the border, and the only blow for me was the fact that the price of visas increased from EUR 50 to 120. Yes, to 120. And I’ll explain why is that later. Passage of the border took seven hours.