Banc D'Arguin Desert, Mauritania, Oct 16- 17, 2007

Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
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Trip End Jan 05, 2008


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Flag of Mauritania  ,
Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Banc D'Arguin National Park is a reserve designed to protect coastal scenery, traditional local fishing lifestyle, and the wetlands environment that is one of the most important wintering areas for migratory European birds.  Although Banc D'Arguin's main reason for being is its seaside marshes, the reserve spreads inland into a part of the Sahara Desert covered with the Dunes of Doom, my name for the soft sandy country that had us spending the better part of two days becoming experts in using Daphne's sand mats each time she got stuck in a soft spot. 
But it could have been worse, though.  For the three days of navigating the desert from Nouadhibou to Nouakchott, we had with us an expert local guide named Ahmed.  Ahmed "The Finger", as he is known for his sitting at the front of the truck with his long arm always pointed toward the exact spot with the firmest sand for the driver to aim for, was intimately acquainted with every sand dune in the featureless landscape of the Mauritanian Sahara.   
These three days on the sandy track through the desert and the beach were once the only route across the Sahara.  For us, though, they involved a conscious decision to take the adventure route south now that there's a newly paved highway the entire way between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou.  And adventure it was - our three days through Banc D'Arguin were as exciting and enjoyable as the three previous days crossing Western Sahara were dull and uneventful. 
Our first day out of Nouakchott was entirely through the featureless Sahara sand dunes well inland from the coast, but our campsite that night between nearly white sands dunes under a clear sky so brightly lit by the nearly full moon that we cast shadows on the ground as we walked was one of the most spectacular of the trip.  I'll remember it fondly despite my severe hunger pangs that night, a torture inflicted upon us all by two members of a cook group who had not the slightest clue how much food to make for twelve people.  Perhaps they thought they were like Jesus, that somehow they could miraculously multiply a half kilo of ground meat, two cans of tomato sauce, and a bag of pasta into enough food for a meal for twelve large adults.  Jordan and Ed weren't able to perform such magic, however, and I spent the rest of the evening sitting on a dune trying unsuccessfully to fill my stomach up with beer and thinking, "I'm so hungry!" as I stared at the moon.  In only a few hours it would be time to get up again, and I had making rice pudding on my moonlit breakfast agenda.
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