When the ferry pulled into the busy port of the city of Tangier, I was greeted with a completely new world. Having grown up in a third world country in the wilds of Papua New Guinea I was used to things being different but this was certainly different to any other place I had visited. The hustle of men in dresses coupled into the new experiences of an old civilization had me keen to hit the road and get out of the city.
Fortunately after a little bit of shopping that’s what we did, hit the road. Now I could go on about all the traveling bits but if you’re like me you’re more interested in the exciting stuff so lets get down to the boarder with Mauritania.
Morocco and Mauritania had been a war for quite some years and were now in a peace fire. What this meant for us is, we had to cross a section of no mans land along their boarders. This section of Africa is a gateway from Europe into the heart of Africa and as such there are numerous guys who travel into Europe and buy cars to drive down into Africa to be sold. When we arrive at the boarder post we find all these OLD Peugeot’s lined up waiting to cross the boarder. The way the crossing worked was that on a certain day both boarders would be opened into the no mans land section so that crossings could be made. So everyone had to wait until that day arrived. While we we’re waiting we meet two guys who we’re definitely left over french hippies on their way to set up a sowing clinic in Africa. They had an old Landrover same as ours and in the end we invited them to travel with us for safety. I can’t remember their names so I’ll call them Bill and Ben the flower pot men.
The day arrives, the boarder gets opened up and all of a sudden it’s like an off-road rally is on as a hundred or so cars, trucks and 4wds take of into this No Mans Land. I must admit we got caught up in the hype and hooked into the crossing at a speed that was probably a bit fast but we survived. This part of the world is mainly desert and soft sand is the norm so knowing how to drive sand was a great skill to have BUT remember the old Peugeot’s? Yeh! Well some of the guys had never driven in sand let alone in a 2wd car so within a couple of Kilometers we started seeing cars broken down, bogged and struggling. Somewhere along the way we learned that the Mauritanian boarder wouldn’t be opened until all the vehicles had made the crossing.
Watching all the vehicles struggling I realised that this was a great opportunity to have a heap of recovery fun. I let the tyres down to a much lower sand driving pressure allowing me to drive wherever I wanted without getting stuck and went back out to help those in trouble. The first guy we came to had his front wheels pointing in opposite directions because his steering had busted, after a bit of thinking I was able to strap the broken bits together so that he could have a bit of steering. Hooking our Snatch strap on we began pulling car after broken car onto some harder sand where they could drive. Then we found a short wheel base late model Nissan Patrol stuck with the driver scratching his head wondering what to do. After a bit of a chat I said mate do you mind if I drive your Rig because I believe I can drive it out of the sand without any trouble. He’s happy as for me to do it. Well to say I was having fun now would be an understatement. This Patrol had a big turbo, big fat muds (tires), factory diff-locks and was made to eat sand for breakfast. It didn’t take much to get the Patrol free, air down and just a little bit of back and forwards packing the sand and out she came. When Old Mate saw I knew what I was doing he said I should use his Patrol to go and help the others, so with one of my mates as my offsider hooking up cars and overseeing the FUN we hooked in again. I was buzzing I was made for this.
All this took a few hours and by the time we got the the Mauritanian boarder there seemed to be a few pissed off people. Pissed because we had taken too long to recover everyone??? They could have come and helped! By the time we got processed across the boarder it was nearly dark so we settled down for the night camping in the desert. A stiff breeze had come up and so we decided we would set up our canvas tarp between the 4wds as a shelter from the wind and blowing sand. Rather cozy with 12 of us in there but the funny thing was that with the wind blowing the canvas all over the place the sand was being forced through the canvas and made the whole inside of the “tent” like a calm dust storm. When I woke up in the morning my eyelids were full of sand and so before I could open my eyes I had to roll over and tip the dust out of my eye sockets. Ahh the adventures of Africa.
Next week I’ll tell you about the soldiers that point guns and land mines.