January 27, 2004

Mauritanian Garage

Africa Blog
Mauritanian Garage may sound like a new type of house music, but it is in fact referring to the places in Mauritanian towns where you go to try and get out by public transport. There can't be many countries where there are no buses, but apart from battered minibuses, there are none here. The favourite forms of transport are the Peugeot Taxi (2 in the front seat, 4 in the back seat), or the Toyota Hilux pick-up truck (2 in the front seat, 4 in the back seat, an infinite amount of luggage or people in the back of the truck).
If you want to go to, say, Chinguetti, then you go to the 'Garage Chinguetti'. Garage is perhaps not the right term. Patch of wasteland with trucks, goats, drivers, and passengers in that order, is more appropriate. Because almost nobody lives in Mauritania, then it stands to reason that almost nobody is making any journeys by public transport. This means you will invariably leave after 5pm on any given day, no matter when you turn up.
When I went from Chinguetti to Nouchakott, I left at 9am and arrived at midnight. Almost half of this time was spent at the garages watching the goats eat and shit everywhere.
The scenery was pretty spectacular, not really sand dunes, more like Arizona type desert. I had a travel buddy, Omar, who I met in Chinguetti. We shared a front seat for 8 hours, so were obviously on friendly terms. He was a black southern Mauritanian, and the other guys in the truck didn't talk to him much. They communicated with him in French as they don't share the same language.
Omar was very helpful in getting me a taxi to a hotel when we arrived. It was midnight and I had no idea where I was. Cheers Omar.

Posted by paul at January 27, 2004 08:48 PM