Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Driving from Boujdour to Dahkla part 1

We arose at the crack of dawn to head out to Dahkla, both because we really want to get there in time to get organized for the sand crossing and because our hotel was pretty damn bad. Communal toilets that had seen better, and cleaner, days. Small beds in dirty rooms with sheets of unknown origin. Ed felt that we were roughing it, and I tent to agree, although I have to admit that I have saayed in worse places before.
Dinner was the sole bright spot in that pretty dismal town. Fresh roasted chicken and fries, and a really friendly waitstaff.
We heard from Benny, te desert guide, through our new cell phone last night. He’s going to meet us at the camp site in Dahkla, and all our questions, and prayers, will be answered. We’ve been wondering whether we should take the desert crossing, or the new road – whether we need a guide or not if we do take the road, if we need to cross on the road with a caravan of other cars, etc. Clearly, we are leaning towards taking the road rather than the open desert, as we would rather make it to Banjul (and dar-es-salaam) than have fun driving a bus through sand (or, better yet, have fun digging a bus out of sand).
The bikes on the roof are still generating an incredible amount of interest from the locals. We are accosted b at least 2 or 3 separate people every time we stop, asking us if we’d be willing to give them, or sell them, the bicycles. Older men have offered to buy them all off of us, and youger kids have asked for a single bike. There must a huge demand for simple modes of transportation around here. We’re thinking that there might be a business opportunity for some enterprising individuals who want to finance their next vacation. Used bicycles from Europe and tshirts from the us would go a long way towards paying for travel costs.
Don’t worry, Jacques, all the bikes we have are still accounted for. We’ve been guarding them with our lives.
Yesterday was a long drive from tan-tan to Boujdour. The terrain has become much more desert like – rocky, with small scrub brush scattered about. It’s not the sand dunes that one envisions when one hears the word “Sahara” – it’s more like the desert out in death valley and the sourthwest us. Except we’re following a rocky cliff face that drops into the ocean. There are occasional shipwrecks (we’ve seen 3 so far). Very few people. Very few towns, and the few that we passed through or drove around seemed desolate.
WE just stopped to take pictures of a pack(?)/pod(?)/herd(?) of wild camels. They’re one humped here, if you’re interested.
The hotel the night before last in Tan tan wasn’t much better than the one last night, although it was better and had cleaner bathrooms. No hot water, though. It is almost camping, except we don’t have to erect our own tents, or break up camp in the morning, and there’s running water, electricity, and a sturdy roof over our heads that won’t fly away in a strong wind (which there’s plenty of out here). I think that we’ll be spending a lot more time camping from here on out. That should be interesting.
We’ve been getting stopped by the police checkpoints much more frequently than before. In Moroco, we were generally waved through. Here, in Western Sahara, we get stopped at every one. Everytime, it’s the same questions: “where are you going? Why are you going there? What’s your name, what’s your occupation?” It gets a little repetitive, and can take up to an hour to deal with, but we haven’t had any real problems with the guards as of yet, they haven’t asked for any bribes as of yet, and they’ve mostly been very pleasant people. I don’t think that we could have asked for any more.
The roads have been much nicer than I expected, as well. We’ve been driving on 2 lane blacktop through most of western sahara. It’s not well paved, but there aren’t many pot holes. The sides are cumbling and it’s fairly narrow, which makes passing semis or passing oncoming traffic an experience, but the road is not very well traveled, so that hasn’t been a problem. I was expecting graded dirt and potholes the size of houses.
This hasn’t been the tough, roughing it experience that we expected so far. Then again, the tough parts of the challenge are still ahead. Maybe I am seaking, or typing, too soon.

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