Day trip to Mauritania

Trip Start Apr 02, 2006
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Mauritania  ,
Monday, November 6, 2006

St Louis is the most northern highlight of Senegal. From this colonial town of faded grandeur and plastic palm trees, it's a mere hour and formality to cross into Mauritania.

After my rush to book the groups tour with Sahel Decouverte in St Louis I was relieved to see the vehicle show up, as agreed, at 9am.

The most nerve wracking part about tour leading is the first trip, and the never knowing if everything will run smoothly as promised to the group!

Mauritania conjuers visions of immense dunes and fleshy dark skinned ladies swathed in fabrics. This southern area of Mauritania is scrubland, but closer to the coast there are the beach dunes of the Atlantic coast.

Our guide is a smiling faced Berber man, deeply tanned, turbaned and proud owner of a mobile phone. Places in the shaded cabin of the ute are few, so five of us sit in the back of the ute, shading eyes against the glare of morning sun in an effort to spot warthogs.

These hairy tusked creatures are my favourite but I suspect that after a month of spotting them, enthusiasm might wear a bit thin!

We stop at a tent for tea, a welcome and shady break, in a small camp. Children converge on us, at first hanging back and giggling. Their faces are testament to the different ethnicities of West Africa: african faces, berber and arabic.

While tea brews and neckalces are displayed, games of Hokey Pokey and Ring O Roses entertain the knee high masses. The children demand to hold hands, shrieking as we Oh Hokey pokey pokeeeey! and when we All fall down!

Bumping over white sand dunes to the beach brings us to another tent and instead of tea and beads, a fantastic lunch of fish after which we lounge on mattresses in the shade.

The sand dunes are scattered with enormous shells, mostly broken. Walking through the sand dunes takes stamina as we sink with each step, and it;s a relief to finally get to the sea.

While one of the group swims, I try to overcome my Australian need to 'swim between the flags'. No flags here, so I paddle barely deeper than my knees, still managing to get soaked by unexpected waves.

One of the downsides of being a tour leader, no matter how much fun an activity appears, if there's the slightest doubt about safety I can't partake or encourage. However, it's actually a bonus when you're scared of heights or not comfortable swimming without flags!

So I try to ignore thoughts of being swept out to the Atlantic coast and stay happily knee deep as a compromise.
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