We eventually secured our Mauritanian visas after an 18 hour delay at the border. This is a story all of its own and you can read about it here. We left the border post and commenced a fast transit through Mauritania.
In the north of Mauritania, the authority’s look is quite menacing with green Tourag head gear covering their entire faces, leaving space only for dark shades. They are heavily armed and have set up a significantly high number of controlled check points. But despite the image they were very friendly, pleasant, efficient and polite. Reassuringly, they gave the look of a professional and heightened security outfit.
Tensions are high here and the threat of kidnapping or harm to tourists transiting Mauritania are very real. Well at least according to the British Foreign Office. Our brief with Mowgli is to simply transit as quickly as possible; not stop for anyone except the para military check points and find a safe haven to sleep. We drove until dusk and found a check point 50kms from Nouakchott. We parked up behind the Police barrack house and slept. At dawn, we drove into Nouakchott to visit the Senegal Embassy to collect our visas.
The Senegal Embassy staff were very pleasant and within 15 minutes we had our visas in our passports. Chalk and cheese compared to the border 36 hours previously. As we left the embassy we saw a German and British car whizz past with a friendly wave from the Brit.
We continued south. The check points were less frequent and the posture of the para military personnel appeared to become more relaxed, even horizontal in some cases. We took the new road and then 80kms of heavily rutted track through the Parc National du Diawling to Dijama. For a small exit fee of 10 euros we saw wart hogs, monkeys, pelicans and vultures along the way. Finally we reached the Mauritania/Senegalese border.
After 3 days, 850kms of desert roads, 500 of which were a fast transit through Mauritania in a truck only capable of 50mph, through unsafe territory, 1 minefield, 37 check points, 1 request for kdu and 2 different visa application experiences, we were so looking forward to a few beers tonight in St Louis, Senegal.