Monday, June 16, 2008

Trek Through Africa: WESTERN SAHARA (Day 31-35)

Day 31 : Wednesday 23rd December - Dakhla

Went into town to get permission to travel south, the army said that our papers weren?t in order and to come back later, sounds like they are on the lookout for a payoff. Drove back to the camp and sat about for a few hours. Back in town, we all had to be interviewed in a military police station, in the most over-the-top procedure imaginable. This took all day, we did not get back until 10:00pm. Just had toast for supper, quite a few people got pissed on wine bought in the town.

Day 32 : Thursday 24th December - Dakhla

Went a walk on my own across the sand flats to the sea about a mile away, met some fishermen then walked back and sat around while the girls cooked the Christmas dinner. Used the oven for the first time to cook roast potatoes and chicken. Had an excellent meal in the sun with the truck decorated with balloons, Lars even made a Christmas tree. We all had loads of beer and vodka. At night we joined the Hobo truck people for a party.

Day 33 : Friday 25th December - Dakhla to Bir-Gandouz

Got up still pissed at 5:00 to get our place in the convoy through Western Sahara. Two other trucks came along together with three big mercs, but they weren?t allowed to join. That left our truck on it?s own with a Moroccan soldier in the cab to guide us through the mine fields. Not very happy with the situation as the guard can?t speak English and looks a bit dim. The mine field we went through was covered with vehicle tracks, but the guide explained in French that some of these are artificial and are mine traps. There are also a lot of stone markers where the track splits in two. By aligning up the nearest one to at least another two further away indicates which way to turn. I sat in the dog box for most of the day looking for these markers with a pair of binoculars. Stopped for lunch and we all had to keep to the tire tracks that we had just made. Finally got to an army camp at night having travelled 70km through the mine field and put our tents up on a football pitch in the sand that we were not allowed to exit. Going to the toilet in the night, I missed the goal posts and kept walking into the mine field, it took me twenty minutes to get back 100 yards, stepping back on my footprints in the pitch dark with all the guards watching me. I was not sure if they were taking the piss or not, but I didn?t fancy just running back. Did not sleep at night as the guards were all stoned and made a noise all night long.

Day 34 : Saturday 26th December - Bir-Gandouz to Mauritanian Boarder

Drove back all the way through the mine field again to the point where we were at 2:00 yesterday, and no-one knows why. Near the Mauritanian boarder, the truck started to sink in fine sand and we had to use the sand mats. This is done with the truck moving very slowly and teams of three on each of the four mats picking it up from behind the truck and running with it to the front and laying down just in time for the truck. Had to do this several times, with the longest stretch about ? mile, just about the most exhausting work I can think of. At the boarder we were ordered out of the truck and made to stand in a line while the boarder guards tried to read our names from our passports. These blokes are very dark skinned, like half Arab, half Negro. They emptied all of our lockers looking for any alcohol which is illegal and God knows what else. This took over two hours while they were holding out for a pay-off, gave them sod all. After all this time they did not bother with the tents on top of the cab which contained our smuggled bottles of wine. They still would not let us travel on so we just camped there, our tent would not stay up in the fine sand so we slept outside.

Day 35 : Sunday 27th December - Mauritanian Boarder

We were all up for 7:00 to be ready, but they still will not let us through for some reason. Ended up sitting about for most of the day playing board games with Lars, Charlie, Bobbie and Julia. Left the boarder through yet another mine field to an isolated customs post. Same routine again with us all having to be interviewed in a hut which took another two hours. It went dark and we were not allowed to carry on, so we camped there under a giant sand burn. Ran out of fresh food so we opened a giant tinned steak and kidney pie.

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