This is an authorized translation in English of a post in French by @terresco: D'Abidjan à Carcassonne : La Mauritanie
As my primary language is not English, there are probably some mistakes in my translation.
Remember that the person who speaks here is NOT me, Vincent Celier (@vcelier), but @terresco, a French guy.
On our way to France from Abidjan where we were working, our project for the day was to leave Mauritania to go to Morocco. The border was officially closed and the crossing forbidden, a small complication inherent to the movements in Africa. Our strategy was to get as far as possible in the desert, to less supervised places, to cross fraudulently and to pretend to be incompetent to the Moroccan authorities.
We had a lot of good time in the Banc d'Arguin area although we suffered from our incompetence to drive in the sand. At the end of the evening, we had just crossed the track that connected Nouakchott to Nouadhibou where we had an appointment with a contact we had never seen, who would serve us as a guide.
Our new companion, I forgot the fake name he had given himself, was nice. He became my co pilot. This is how I learned that the color of the sand gave indications of its hardness, that the wavelets drawn on the ground taught the prevailing wind as a natural compass, that the distance is more difficult to evaluate than it appears and many other tips making my driving smoother, easier and less tiring for everyone.
Villages and encampments were avoided. Regularly we paused so that the drivers keep their concentration and avoid a mistake with heavy consequences. The breaks were punctuated by the ritual tea, three in general, very hot and increasingly sweet. The men of the desert love to tell, their childhood, their adventures, their environment so hard and so loved at the same time. This day passed quickly, the evening under the starry sky around a fire soothed us. We were still at a reasonable distance from the border, no risk at the moment, everyone was thinking of tomorrow but no one was talking about it. Tomorrow it would be a different story, so let's take advantage of the present moment.
At sunset we set off, we had to cross the railway line nearby and go towards Morocco. The border would not materialize but once in Morocco we knew that some areas were mined. The guide did not escape the stress, he pushed me constantly to accelerate. I did not even see the track of the train, this huge train loaded with minerals, I jumped over at full speed, fortunately the cars were solid. I watched the rear view mirror not to lose our friends in the second 4x4 who struggled to keep up with our hellish pace.
Everyone went to bed on the cold sand, keeping his doubts for himself. Not the best night of my life, waiting for the light of day that would reveal us if we had placed our trust well. By the light of day no sign of post, moment of anxiety and loneliness. A panel attracted my attention, approaching cautiously I saw that it signaled a zone of mines, those that explode when you pass on it. Not great. Finally a little later, the day becoming more intense we saw a small hut whose color was confused with the sand.
Goodbye Mauritania, hello Morocco
As we advanced two soldiers came out, visibly angry and armed, ordering us to wait beside our cars. First contact missed. Three hours later one of the two or another came to confiscate our passports, without any sympathy despite our efforts. And always one word of order, wait, we'll tell you.
It was only towards evening that the leader came, after a few moments of morality and questions he informed us of our fate. Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, a soldier would get in the car and escort us to the coast at the headquarters who will decide our fate. We had to be ready at 6AM each morning. Accustomed to African schedules, the next day we were not ready near the time said, when the escort arrived. The chief sent him back to the next day, too bad for us they were not at our disposal. One more day of waiting; the wait is perhaps the most difficult.
The next day at 6 o'clock we were in the cars, all loaded, ready to go. The escort arrived alone, he got into the car, I offered a cigarette, he accepted it, first sign of relaxation.
We drove for several hours on a track that criss-crossed the desert like a mountain road. Easy and well drawn, to avoid the mines placed there to protect the border. The soldier was just checking that we were not leaving, either by car or on foot. Easy control since it was not our intention.
Walking quietly, multiplying the breaks, we enjoyed this relaxing day. So at the end of the day our guide abandoned us next to a huge military tent where we should wait and sleep. For how long ?
01: From Abidjan to Carcassonne, the first crossing, by @terresco
02: From Abidjan to Carcassonne: Guinea
03: From Abidjan to Carcassonne: A break in Dakar, by @terresco
04: From Abidjan to Carcassonne: North Senegal, by @terresco
05: From Abidjan to Carcassonne: Mauritania, by @terresco
Encounters with Africa series:
01: Encounters with Africa: Ivory Coast, by @terresco
02: Encounters with Africa: Abidjan, a daily pleasure, by @terresco
03: Encounters with Africa: The Tuaregs of Agadez, by @terresco
04: Encounters with Africa: The Tuaregs of Agadez, part 2, by @terresco
05: Encounters with Africa: On the way to the Dogon country, by @terresco
06: Encounters with Africa: Among the Dogon of Bandiagara, by @terresco
07: Encounters with Africa: The Gold Coast, by @terresco
08: Encounters with Africa: Where was born a desire to go elsewhere, by @terresco
09: Encounters with Africa: The time of failures, by @terresco
10: Encounters with Africa: The Promised Land, by @terresco
11: Encounters with Africa: The Land of the Upright Man, by @terresco
12: Encounters with Africa: From Bobo to Ouagadougou, by @terresco
13: Encounters with Africa: In the Voodoo country,
From Cape Town to Mombasa series:
01: Africa, the long crossing
02: From Cape Town to Mombasa: South Africa
03: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Namibia
04: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Botswana
05: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Zimbabwe
06: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Zimbabwe, part 2, by @terresco
07: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Zimbabwe, part 3, by @terresco
08: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Zambia, by @terresco
09: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Malawi, by @terresco
10: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Tanzania #1, by @terresco
11: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Tanzania #2, by @terresco
12: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Tanzania #3, by @terresco
13: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Tanzania #4, by @terresco
14: From Cape Town to Mombasa: Kenya, by @terresco