On 13.10. we started our adventure to the far, far north, with the first destination being Mauritania. For days Monika was having nightmares about the border crossing we have to take. Rosso, the border post between Senegal and Mauritania is famous for being the worst one worldwide. In the famous WCMCTCO (Worldwide Competition of the Most Corrupt Team of Customs Officers) the team from Rosso has successfully defeated it’s 1st rank for the last 78 years – number 2 being a team arrested by now in the jungle of Congo. Unfortunately we did not have any choice, as the Mauritanian visa only will be issued in Rosso. In addition, currently, there is no detour around Mauritania with all Jiddhies waiting behind the sand dunes in the neighbouring north of Mali and Algeria.
With a heavy heart we drove towards the border. In CBD Rosso we were followed by plenty of “helping hands” knowing how to pass formalities in exchange to lots of banknotes.
On the Senegalese side things were easy: the unfriendly guy stamped us out. We did not bother for whatever they felt important to do as we were about to leave. So no opportunities for exchange of banknotes, therefore no long discussions and after half an hour we were on the ferry.
A few minutes later in the Mauritanian immigration office: a bundle of Euros against a 30 days visa – all biometric, with a photo of Martin’s uncle Wladimir, the date of the 1st kiss and the fingerprints of the dog we had 15 years ago. After that we received a beautiful sticker valid for 30 days and another page of the passport has gone.
After this proof of efficiency we went to the customs office. Immediately we could feel the prevailing unsolvable conflict within the Government of Mauritania. On one side the MMoTaONI (Mauritanian Ministry of Tourism and Other Nice Ideas) promotes a lot of interesting activities for the odd tourist: sand treks during the hottest month of the year, braai your own goat competition for newbies, cross the Mauritanian Flats by bicycle, get an initiation to basic Jiddhi activities, etc. Accordingly, tourists are granted with a 30 day visa to get the maximum out of these offers. On the other hand the MMoFCaNF (Mauritanian Ministry of Finance, Customs and No Foreigners) – no intention to have any strange foreigners walking around in the desert. So they tried not to give us any permission to drive the car in the country; eventually they were ready to provide an escort to be paid by their victims, meaning us, to the Moroccan border. Prior to all we had to wait for the superior of the superior customs boss to get his honourable decision. So we waited for 4 hours – in front of the closed office doors until this all important personality finished his siesta and was ready to give us 3 days to leave for Morocco – and that all without a single beer on the way. So far, our experience about coherence within this Government.
We left the office by 5 pm, suffered an in-depth search of the car for bottles of rotten grapes and then we finally had officially entered the welcoming Islamic Republic of Mauritania.