Stuck in Nouakchott, the infamous Rosso border and chilling out in Senegal (October 2013)


Having planned to be in Nouakchott for about two days, life decided to do it differently again. We spent 10 days in total there waiting for our Senegal visa approval. Endless e-mails and calls seemed to change little of the fact that African bureaucracy is stronger than reason. For anybody planning to go to Senegal any time soon we highly recommend to apply online for the visa in your home country already or at least in Morocco to allow enough time for delays.

As with every place we spend more time at we got to grips with Nouakchott quickly. It always feels a bit like home once everything around us is familiar even in the most unlikely places.

Nevertheless we were a bit on edge after 10 days of heat, mosquitos and flies and no way of telling when we would finally be able to leave. So once we got the approval we drove of as quickly as possible towards the infamous border post Rosso. Delayed by having to find a print shop and meeting our Banc d’Arguin National Park guide again by coincidence (which was very nice indeed) we eventually left Nouakchott. It was way too late to hope to arrive anywhere close to the border at daylight so we tried to find some wild camp on the way. As it is our habit we did not manage before sunset and drove further south over a terribly potholed road with plenty of camels, goats and cows crossing as well as broken down vehicles marked with only a little rock a meter in front of them.

A toilet stop at the side of the road left us stuck in the sand which did not look half as soft before as it turned out to be. Before we could even start to let the tire pressure down three young men already appeared, gave us light with their mobile phones and even took the spade away from Fabian to dig us out. Just moments later the major of the nearest town appeared out of the pitch dark to see if he could help. Needless to say we felt a bit ashamed being stuck only two metres away from the tarmac and not even being allowed to free the car ourselves. During the recovery a quite big scorpion started running around our feet until one of the men stepped on it. After being freed we decided to follow the major back to the next auberge instead of pushing on in the dark. Once again the Mauritanians showed us their outstanding kindness.

Rosso is the border post between Mauritania and Senegal and consists of a little village on each side of the river Senegal. It is commonly known as one of the most annoying borders in Africa full of fixers, crooks and thieves.

At Rosso we were supposed to meet a fixer recommended to us by our auberge in Nouakchott. He was no better than the other crooks there though and previously agreed on prices for his service changed constantly again. Fabian had to make pretty clear that we would not deal with more than one person, only pay what we see a receipt for plus the fee for the fixer (12€) and not pay an all in one price for both sides of the river. Our fixer lost interest as we were not juicy enough and gave us to another one. Abdul N’Deng (00221776355549 – Senegal, 0022246135429 – Mauritania) turned out to be a calm but funny guy who was absolutely correct in our dealings with him. He lives in Rosso-Senegal with his wife and 9 children who we got to meet during the border lunch break. Of course there is no guarantee that he stays that correct forever but for the moment we can highly recommend him!

Crossing the border took us 6 hours in total as it was very busy on the Mauritanian side and only one ferry for salon cars was running. We were chatting with a lot of the other people waiting, witnessed huge arguments about who is aloud to drive on the ferry first and got a three weeks old water bottle stolen from us. 🙂

Luckily for us we had a good day, the officials were correct and the feeling to be driving on the perfect tarmac road towards St. Louis surrounded by animals and green in the evening sun was plain brilliant.

All in all Rosso was not even close the horror we were made to believe before. We were probably lucky but watching the whole ceremony on both sides of the Senegal was very interesting for us.

We had heard about a new German run campsite ( south of St. Louis just at the Atlantic and arrived there late in the evening. Christine and Sven have built a little paradise here and we were welcomed to join them for our first beer in weeks and barbequed tuna. Initially planning to spend only a couple of days before heading on to Dakar we have been at 7Palava for the last 10 days now. Spending the days with our new hobby bird watching (especially Jasmine), swimming in the Atlantic, reading books on the terrace, fixing and organizing loads of little things that we pushed ahead of us and enjoying the evenings with Sven and Christine and brilliant food (grilled warthog with fried sweet potatoes, scampi-sticks with couscous salad, fish in mango sauce with rice and even Königsberger Klöpse just to name a few) let the time fly.

The 7Palava is highly recommended for the beautiful surroundings with loads of animal life, friendly and communicative hosts, brilliant food, immaculate ablutions and absolutely reasonable prices.

We were especially happy to be able to convince Annette & Andreas to drive a bit north again and join us once more. Thanks again to you two for the relaxed days and rounds of Hearts and until next time!

St. Louis was visited quite a few times as well during our time here. Being spread over two long islands and the mainland it is a pretty enough town apart from the rubbish. Loads of colourful pirogues are laying along the river and the markets are as busy as they come but very expensive. The main bridge to the first island was built by Gustave Eiffel.

Unfortunately we had a near accident here as well when a taxi on the opposite lane sped out to overtake just three metres in front of us. Fabian pulled hard right as well as the taxi driver who crashed sideways into another taxi so we could barely avoid a frontal crash.

Soon we are heading for Dakar for some visas and catching up with people before hitting the Petite Côte.

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