20,000 leagues under the sky, 2004- travel blog

Ready to leave

Entrance Shack

Kite surfer

Unidentified dead thing


Need a haircut


Pelican crossing

Take off



Hotel Iwik

Sahara United

Jan Joost of Arabia




Beach drive

Taking pictures

Getting to Banc D'Arguin involved going halfway back to NDB and then turning off towards the coast but at least this time I wasn't cramped into the back of a merc with 3 others, I had the whole back seat of a 4-cab to myself. A few minutes after turning off the main road onto a sand track we pulled up at a wooden shack where we got out but didn't really know why. The midday wind was horrendous which may have been the reason for the stop so we sheltered inside the buffeted shack for a while and then found that this was where we had to pay the park enterance fee.

Eventually the driver deamed it a suitable time to carry on and headed off into the sand. I think he was having the time of his life driving over sand dunes and rough terrain, sometimes following other tracks but quite often with no indication that any route existed. What I found really bizarre was that evey now and again a short section of tar road appeared out of the sand, I guess at some time there was a road all the way.

The first place we stopped was a small bay where a couple of French kite-surfers were practacing in front of 4 cute groupies, maybe I will take up kite-surfing. There was a small camp site there but we only stayed for 10 minutes before heading on to our destination for the evening, the "town" of Iwik. First stop in Iwik was the local store where we had to book and pay for the extortionate Piroque trip for the following morning. We were told not to worry about the cost as the boat could carry 7 people and others would turn up in the morning to share. Yeh right. We had our choice of rooms, big tent of enormous tent and took a big one. The driver then took out further along the coast to where we could see lots of birds and abandoned us there. Jan was in his element but after walking for a while I sat down on the edge of a dune and chilled (figuratively, definitely not literally) for a while. The driver never came to retrieve us so we walked back to camp.

Supper by candlelight was predictably fish, fish and chips actually, with a form of bread that was 80:20 flour/sand. As it happened to be a full moon and with bugger all else to do we decided he head directly into the desert for a walk. We walked for about an hour ovr varying terrain and then found ourselves back at the sea as we'd forgotten that we were on a perinsular. Finding our way back was not as easy as expected as everywhere looks the same, cue GPS rescue.

The highlight of the trip was the piroque trip which as expected was without other people to share the cost, there was a French group but they took there own boat, why sell one boat when you can sell two instead. We sailed with the wind to the islands off the coast and then lay there under anchor for a couple of hours. It was an unbelievably peaceful stop and the bird spotting was good except for the French had great bird scaring qualities. We waited until high tide and then started to head back, this was more interesting and harded work for our boatmen who had to tack all the way. We started off in a bit of a race with the French and it was neck and neck for a long time then we did them on one of the tacks. They then seemed to slow down and dissapeared in our wake. We only found out later that they hit a sand bar, got grounded and didn't get back to shore until 2 hours after we did.

The original plan was to move to another campsite nearer to Nouakchott after we got back from the boat trip but the driver convinced us that although the other place had better tents the food was much worse so we stayed another night. This was Jan Joostºs 60th birthday and we were honoured for the occasion with a tablecloth and two candles instead of one, the fish tonight was a different variety, much meatier and a more interesting sause to accompany it. They couldnºt come up with a bottle of wine or a few beers though.

The next morning, paying our bill cleared us out to the last 1000 Ogs between us (just over 2 pounds), the driver said something to the owner and he reduced the bill by 2000 Ogs saying that it was Jans birthday present. We packed and left, the plan was to drive back along the beach most of the way to NKC, the first hour or two were off road and costal but not beach. We passed through some good sand dunes and desert scenery, stopping a couple of times for phõtos, the French were nearby, having been rescued from their sandbank they were following a similar course. We exited the park at another small ramshackled town and gave up our tickets then drove straight down to the beach, the tide was high and still rising and the beach unpassable. Our driver hen took us back a kilometer or so and dropped us at a nice mangrove/lagoon area to wait for the tide. THe birdspotting here was great for Jan but I spent most of the wait sitting in the sun on the beach watching the tide. It got extremely hot so I decided to head back to the shacks where I could see the car to find some shade, just then the car came back to us and I sat behind it hiding from the sun while the driver joined Jan along the coast. Eventually the tide started to go out and we set off again, the drive along the beach was interesting as we passed a few fishing villages and a convoy of overland vehicles. At one point the beach was impassible so we cut inland to the main road where the driver stopped at a roadside shack and told us we were out of deisel, filling up cost the exact 3000CFA we had left. A big arguement broke out between Jan and the driver as we believe that he had sold the 25L spare container of deisel which was now empty but we hadnºt seen it being put in the car and having both been watching the fuel level neither õf us had seen the gauge go up.

The driver blamed the off road and beach driving for using it more quickly than expected but then wanted to continue back to the beach. Although we had 100km left to go we made it on the extra fuel and got back to NCK just after dark. Being Friday again everything was shut and this time we had to deal with street money traders to get some money.

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