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Offline Joey.JonesTopic starter

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« on: November 26, 2018, 09:09:31 am »
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Hi guys
If you did read my presentation topic, you know that I travel a lot, and especially to Africa. I think Mauritania is so far my favourite and most epic journey to date, so I wanted to share that experience with you.
Also, if you did read my presentation, you know that metal detecting is kinda complicated in Africa for both legal and safety reasons. Detecting
A bit of context : in March this year, I was asked by my company (we manufacture spare parts for digging/mining equipment) to jump in a plane to Mauritania, provide some technical info about our products, train some local sales guys and come back.
Unfortunately, the agenda was interferring with my daughter's birthday, so I had to cut the business trip a couple of days short so I could be home to celebrate with the family. That meant that I didn't have proper time to wander around and be a tourist, but nevertheless I had some kicks out of the trip !
Plan was to fly to the capital city of Nouakchott, sleep there for the first night, meet our local distributor in the morning and have him drive us all accross the Sahara desert all day long, until we arrive at the city of Zouerat. We sleep there, and we get to work on the following two days, then drive back through another road, leading to Akjoujt, meet another customer for the day there, and finally drive back to Nouakchott where we would take the plane back to Europe.
After a 6 hour flight, my workmate and I arrive at the Nouakchott airport, nothing special, we arrived at night time and we weren't able to see much of the Mauritanian capital. After a 50€ visa, some pictures of my face, finger prints and questions about the purpose of my trip, we can finally exit the airport (you get to keep the nice pictures they take, they are printed on your Visa and stamped inside your passport, rather funny  Great )
So we meet the driver appointed by our hotel, and hop in a beaten up yet always reliable Toyota LiteAce  Waveing
We then arrive at the Casablu hotel, it has a small entrance with christmas lights in front of it (that's a thing in fancy places in Africa   Grin ) The hotel however has very nice and spacious rooms, and we set in for about 60€ each, for the night
Next morning, we have the breakfast, and - as always in Africa, and especially in muslim countries - the coffee is outstandingly good. The rest of the food is not worthy of mention, it's rather standard stuff that you'll find in any hotel.
Our contact arrives, rather surprising guy. He's a native Mauritanian but he met his wife during the 2008 Juniper shield operation, she was in the US military. They then moved for a bit to the US, Washington DC before coming back to Mauritania to raise their kids. He kept making jokes about how he is a genuine Washingtonian, I tell you, one of the most sympathetic and genuinely nice guys you can get to know  Pray
He drives an old J100 series Landcruiser, which is in surprisingly good condition for a work vehicle in Africa, not a single scratch and the interior looks new, I have no idea how he managed  Grin
So we hit the road, and very soon we are in the middle of - F - nowhere. I mean, visibility was rather good, but you could see an infinite horizon of sand, and the only item besides the sand was the black strip of the road we were driving on.
We came across wild camels and some Touareg tents in the middle of that - F - nowhere, but other than that, first hours were not that interesting, just endless desert in all directions.

After some hours, we start to see rocks. First small, then car-sized, then we come across huge mountains. You can bet that if you fell from the top, you can scream your lungs out …. At least twice  No no!


Muslim hospitality mandates it, the oasis guardian takes some carpets and cushions out so we can have a picnic just a few steps from the wall of the broken mountain and the crystal clear water that arises from it (you may have to pay a small fee, but whatever they charge you, you need to negotiate, and it will be worth it)  it also comes with Mauritanian tea, served in shot glasses. Tea is rather strong, so they compensate with huge amounts of sugar - not recommended for diabetic people  Grin -

During the lunch, we meet some religious men, they come from Pakistan and they tour the world to promote the "good" islam as they call it, which is the moderate branch, don't remember which one exactly, the whole conversation went in arabic with our Mauritanian colleague, and I didn't get subtitles  Crazy But the Pakistani were very nice to us, they even offered to pay for lunch, which we refused, because we just ate and still had a long way to go.

If you ever find yourself in Africa, your host will always do his/her best to make you feel as comfortable as possible, they want to give a positive image of their country, and you are always warmly welcomed.

Toilets being visited, we hit the road  Mad

After more gigantic mountains, with cliffs over 250m high, we start off-roading and we follow the path of the mine train.


The SNIM mine train (SNIM stands for Société Nationale Industrielle et Minière --> National Industry and Mine Company) which once was the longest train in the world, with a length of over 3km (2 miles)
We had to deviate a bit, to avoid entering into Western Sahara, but our Mauritanian friend was still flooring his Landcruiser, that was scary as hell, I've never been so fast while offroading  Shocked  Amen

We also got stopped at many of Mauritania's military checkpoints (There are still some military stress zones with the neighbouring Western Sahara, and Mauritanian authorities closely follow the foreigner's movements inside the country)
Although it can be scary for a westerner (for me it was my first military checkpoint ever) the soldiers are relaxed and they just check that you have a valid reason to go where you're going (we had an invitation letter from our customer for that matter)  They will even offer you sugar tea and ask you about your work, health or family while they check the papers (regular muslim countries politeness Cool )

With sunset closing on to us, we finally arrive in Zouerat, in the Lyezid hotel. Pretty decent 4-star hotel, but we were warned that in Zouerat, credit cards don't work, so you need to bring cash with you. We stayed there 3 nights, paying about 60€/night, which is pretty nice, breakfast and dinner included. (They don't have a kitchen, but have some arrangements with a small restaurant down the street, so they will charge what you eat in the restaurant to the hotel) I also had one of the best chicken ever Smiley lamb shawarma was pretty decent too. Pity that you can't find bacon in Muslim countries, I bet they would know how to cook it  Grin

The next day, we drive all the way to the mine, on the road we see the rejects from the mine, they make man-made mountains, not that high, but impressive by their amount and length ...

As a car enthusiast, this is what i could catch along the way :

Once at the mine, we came across this bad boy, I'm the one on the right, and I'm 1m82 tall  Teach

We also came across some African-style recycling :

Thais started it's life as a van, probably as a Citroën HY imported from France. Then, when the engine blew, they cut it in half and still used it as a trailer. Once it got too worn out to serve as a trailer, they just stabilized it and left it there as a tool shed behind the offices  Grin

After our work was done in Zouerat, we headed back to Nouakchott, stopping first in the city of Akjoujt where another customer was based. That was another 5 hour drive.

After the visit to our customer, we hit the road again. Our Mauritanian friend knew an offroad shortcut, through the Sahara desert. And of course we took it  Grin

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Watch a bit of the offroad section here

We stopped in the middle of the desert to have lunch, and I took this picture for my company's  website :


Believe it or not, at that moment I received a phone call from my mobile operator to ask me if I was satisfied with the service  Grin

We then hit the road again, to finally arrive in Nouakchott at night

For the last night, our host had prepared us a surprise : he had his family cook up a nice dinner, this was the first plate, called Russian salad :

Then the main course, grilled goat stuffed with rice and grapes (was super good  Great )

After a very short night, I took the plane back home very early in the morning  Coffee Coffee Coffee and I will always remember Mauritania as one of the best business trips I've ever had Wise



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https://i.imgur.com/0jQg9gr.jpg[img]hNoon is approaching and our stomachs start to feel it. No worries, our Mauritanian friend got us covered !  [pray]We stop in the only place that has water in about 200km round, the Oasis of Terjit, one of the main landmarks of Mauritania. The Oasis is a wonder, between two halves of a broken mountain, you have to walk for about 15 minutes because there is only a tiny path between the palm trees that will lead you to the main Oasis area, a tiny hidden paradise, just as big as a football field.[img]https://i.imgur.com/3mT2Y4Q.jpg

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« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2018, 04:31:40 pm »
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That was a neat trip!


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