About 150 kms from Boulanoir, on the way to Nouakchott is the only real rest stop on this road. Called the "Gare du Nord" it is worth stopping, if only for a coffee, as there are still another 200 kms at least before NKTT. You can also fill your tank here.
This is the road to take if you're on the way to Mali. After the initial sand dunes after leaving Nouakchott there really is not much to see or do along this road. Restaurants and hotels of poor quality make this 800 kms to do as quickly as possible. This is translated as the road of hope but not for the animals lying dead along the roadside. Many are thrown out of lorries as they die in atrocious conditions but many are purely and simply roadkill !!!! Keep your eyes wide open and your concentration up as there are literally hundreds of, dromedaries, goats and cows wandering all over the place, and that's not counting the kids in the villages you go through. Be very, very careful.
Iwik is the place to be if you want to go out in a boat for the day. You have to go to the village to reserve a "lanche", the local fishermen take it by turn to take the tourists out and it is strictly run by the association in the village. Cost is about 15000 Um (45/48 euros) for the day, and usually includes a fish lunch cooked on board. In some cases you may be expected to catch your own fish !!! Tea, as always is given away. Depending on the season you can see pelicans, pink flamingos and perhaps spot some dolphins. But it is more a relaxing way to spend the day. Don't forget the sun-block, hat or cap and sun-glasses.
This is perhaps the only place that I went to in Mauritania where I would go back to with pleasure. It is possible to get out to Iwik without a 4x4 but is certainly not recommended. 30 km mainly on hard sand but certain passages warrant the 4 wheel drive or you might find yourself pushing quite a bit. It is also recommended to take a guide with you but not necessary if you have a good sense of direction. Conditions out here are very basic, no electricity and no drinking water. All has to be brought in by truck. Iwik is due some solar panels in the near future so things could be looking up for the few people that try to make a living by running the "campement". Your mobile phone won't work either (a boon say some) although at the park headquarters there is a satellite 'phone. A night in a tent in either Cap Tafarit or Iwik costs 1500 UM. Bring in your own food or as we did, order fish with the owner of the camp at Iwik and he'll see to it that a couple of women come up from the fishing village to cook for you. Tea is free, as always !!!
Looking for a place to spend the night, Baba, our guide brought us to to a place a few KMs from the track. Behind a hill we saw some more trees and vegetation. And at this place, sheltered by the small trees, a nomad family had their tent, the traditional khaima.
Our guide preferred to spend the night in this tent with the local nomad family. We used our own tents. After we heard that for the promised mezroui the goat was not slaughtered yet, we decided to prepare our own food.
Normally the silence of the desert is a very unique experience, but near this nomad tent we heard bleating goats during the whole night.
Driving in the soft and solid sands for many hours, you can hardly imagine there could be something else on earth. I think it's a bit hallucinating.
And then all of the sudden you wake up from your sandy dreams or hallucinations and realise you are on a rocky surface. So we had to cross a very rocky area with lots of stones at our second day. Allthough there was a track leading us through this area, it was rather bumpy.
After we had finished almost our route of 350KM and approached Chinquetti, we crossed again an area with sanddunes. At both sides of the sandy tracks we saw 20 M high red-coloured sanddunes. It looked like this area close to Chinquetti is visited a lot by cars from there. Anyway we saw a lot of tracks in the sand.
The next part of our trip with visits to Chinquetti and Atar is described in the ''must see activities'' tips
Most people who think of the desert or Sahara, think of sanddunes. People also ask me often ''why do you have to go again to that 'sandbox' ?''
At this trip we allready encountered a lot of sand, like sandy tracks, a single or maybe a double smaller sanddune, but what we saw here.... a very large area with high sanddunes and even more higher sanddunes !
And yes, there was no doubt we had to go into these sanddunes and to conquer them. We all felt a lot of excitement and also a little stress coming into our bodies.
Though we didn´t believe surveying the rocky surface, it seemed to be possible to cross the rocky area according the opinion of our guide. So what else we could do than believe Baba. We came out of the car and found out that the sand between the stones was very soft and deep. It would not be easy, so we had to look very good and to drive very slowly and carefully.
Finally we managed to reach the plain at the other side without any damage or getting stuck in the sand between the stones. It felt like a victory.
Crossing the Sahara desert doesn't mean, that you have to drive in the sands or at flat gravel plains only. After driving in the rather easygoing wadi north of Rachid for a long time, we reached suddenly a very rocky area ahead. We had to cross these rocks to reach the plain at the other side.
To go there by foot, OK. But to bring there our cars? The first car with our guide Baba drove very carefully into the rocky area. At first sight it looked like it was really impossible to drive our car down there......
After the first sandy tracks in the flat empty landscape with small trees and bushes north of Tidjikja we were surprised to see a lot of black rocks. There was a good track between the rocks. Slowly we climbed into a mountaineous area.
I was surprised, how quickly the scenery changed within every hour. The desert boring ? Not at all I can you tell.
After we picked up our guide Baba, we finally started our deserttrip from Tidjikja to Chinquetti. One of the main reasons for me to come to Mauritania, was that this area intrigued me allready for a long time.
Entering the desert, we saw this large empty area in front of us. Here we would travel for the next days till we should reach the desert towns in the north. I felt excited, but also curious, if we would manage.
The track looked rather clear, but within a hour we didn't see the first car with Baba anymore and took the wrong track. We looked for a small dune and from here we saw the dust moving ........ the first car was coming back to look after us.
In the meantime we got stuck in the soft sands near that dune and we had to push our car out. Luckily it was the first and last time, we had to do this .. The only problem was, that we forgot to turn the 4WD pins in the wheels. The inclined car was also leaking diesel in the sands, but after it was straight again, the leaking was over.
Baba said this was no problem and so we continued our trip ......
From Ouid Yenjé at the Malinese border we could easily follow the tracks in the grasslands. We drove first in the west direction and bended later more to the north. The only thing we knew, we must be somewhere between Sélibabi in the south and Kankossa in the north.
It was really pleasant to drive in this grassy ondulating landscape in the late afternoon. More to the north in the direction of Kankossa the landscape changed into sandy plains with small trees without grass.
We judged, that the distance to Kiffa was still about 100 KM, but Kankossa must be near. We decided to drive till dusk. We didn't reach Kankossa or maybe we missed it, so we made a bushcamp somewhere between the trees beside the track.
We got permission and headed to Gueltat Zemmour with army 4x4 on the front of us. Due to much sand also in this part (no road exists, or many parts are really in bad shape that is better to go into the sand), again my friends had to jump off the car and be transported on the army Toyota until Layoune.
I hope this will help someone travelling to this region. Be careful and enjoy.
You get to the wall and you have to deliver your passport to the Moroccan authorities. You stay under Moroccan army custody maybe even for a few days. Don’t go out of the asphalt as it has lots of land mines. You have to wait maybe up to a few days to get the permission to go inside morocco with army convoy just for you until Layoune to get a stamp from the airport costumes.
This Moroccan army people are gentle polite and love to talk to someone, as it passes weeks in a row where they don’t see nothing exiting or new like a group of scared tourist coming from Mauritania hehehe.
We were given water (which was already over for many hours), cheese, fresh bread and very tasty olives. WELCOME TO MOROCCO AND WONDERFUL PEOPLE!
we camped in a small area free of mines.
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Fortress on the border with Western Sahara -> “Le Mure”
NO Man’s LAND. BE careful be careful be careful. mines, pirates… old asphalt road broken by explosions at least 4 times until the “WALL”. 2 of the times was quite hard to pass. about 36kms.
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Avenue de Nouadhibou 2e carrefour, BP 3176, Nouakchott, BP 3176, Mauritania
Good for: Business
Cite de la Concorde (sebkha), Nouakchott, Mauritania
Good for: Couples
10 Rue Mamadou Konate, Nouakchott, 5219, Mauritania
Good for: Business