Friday 20/10 Back on the road.
Setting out. Driving away from home always intails a feeling of senselessness.
The car, a Hyundai Galloper V6 Automatic makes problems from the beginning. Later at night in Germany temperatures drop to 4°C, it starts raining.
The electronic causes the engine to shut off repeatedly. Is it the sparking plugs, the petrol pump/filter, wrong fuel, no idea.
The Hyundai coming from Iran was in a customs depot for 9 month.
I stop often, check what ever I can check. The cause for the repeated intermissions though will remain a mystery for the entire journey.
(PS. 2007/01 It was as assumed sand in the fuel tank and filter.)
Still these first days I worry and seek assistance when possible. An it slows me down.
When the first day is always a "why am I doing this, why am I not at home in my wife's bed?" questioning, it only takes a 2nd (day) to find the answers: This is my life. I am so much better when on the move. Out and about.
In Strasbourg I meet Michel, who I climbed the Toubkal with and met subsequently in Marrakech. In Tours I meet Birgit a old, old-friend Austria related.
Weather is sunny, nights are getting colder though.
In Clisson, in the Nante region, in a blue festival tent I remeet and have a series of wonderful days and evenings with Nico who worked for Festival sur le Niger, Mali, which helped me much getting into festival photography.
And I meet many others, in Clisson Raphy, Patrice and Christine in Nante, Henk and Moran, Philip and Caroline/nowadays Cornelia in Gaillac. And last but not least Julie in Toulouse and Daniel in Madrid.
A word on Andorra as my route BDS takes me through here. It is probably the ugliest place in Europe, at least in summer. I do not even want to stop for a coffee (same as last time really, 9 years ago). Architects have stopped progressing after the 70s. Building sites everywhere for businesses catering to those that come to buy cheap cigarettes. I won't come back.
Catalunya then in Spain, Spain has identity. Madrid is always on the road BDS. "That's why it was so powerful 200 years ago!" On the road to Africa and the Americas.
After a week on the road I am very happy now to be on my way to Africa. And happy that I now can say I have family in Morocco. I am ready for the new adventure, whatever it may bring.
3 days with my new family in the Casablanca region. Maybe Hasna and I will base ourselves here for a while once the babies are born. There is still a lot to be discovered about/in Morocco.
Onwards I drive the 31st of Oct further BDS. The non availability of 98 octane petrol poses further problems for me and the Hyundai. Switch to leaded Super. -- Toujours des problèmes.
All saints day, past Tan-Tan I hit the coast, there is a police post, some drizzle. I take a couple of hitchhikers first to Tarfaya then Laayoune, we don't talk much, the straight road, the overcast sky, all gives the space in time, inspires to think, ponder away.
The cafe opposite the Al-Massira Hotel in Laayoune, Nass-Nass (half espresso/half milk), a cigarette. Memories from my Western Sahara trip last year come up, Smara, El Hagunia, Galtat Zemmour ...
... girls are beautiful in Melhwas, the sovereignty/autonomy issue, the UN, the Saharan Series/Santana Land Rovers, a friendly/relaxed atmosphere, some rain. Now I am "half" Moroccan, married to an Arab.
Not much it seems has changed for the Sahara, Moroccan or Occidental, but it is being discussed. You can raise the topic. But it always ends with who lies? Who has the older rights? Who manipulates? Or who's brain washed? Morocco has been pouring too much money onto this desert country to let go easily. "And those Saharawis will never express gratitude."
Further south near Dakhla, Hassan and friends set up a little cafe, with virtually no funds/help. To few customers. They invite me to the Nescafe and the 3 cheese. In return I bestow them with 2 cans of beer. You can make friends so easily here. The cafe is on the sunny side of the street/road. In a year a proper terrace and parasols. I a few years a hotel.? "In-challah!" (With the help of God!)
Another 3,400 km later I reach the last stop before the border. You come here, spend the night and leave for the border post in the morning. Always. "On a bien fait!" I want to say to Hasna, as if she was here. Down here from Casa in less then 2 days.
Within a year I have been here 3 times. The station, petrol and hotel/restaurant has developed nicely. No more rubbish all-around, tasty food is being served to quite a few customers/over landers/pensioners, tourists on their way to Mauritania. And the espresso machine in morning works (not so last time) and the waiter wears a white shirt.
I reach Nouakchott at 3 in the afternoon on the 2nd of Nov. It is dry and hot. Mid day temps are 46°C. There is a gentle breeze at night. Sleep outside on the terrace of Auberge Sahara. Not many mosquitoes this time.
And again it is the blend of cultures that fascinates. Arab, Moorish, Bedouin on the one hand, Black, African on the other and the mix is all to obvious in colours, music, food and - attitude of people.
And we manage to party, Sans Souci (next to the Israelian embassy) is the place to be, Herman from Auberge Sahara, Mohamed Ibrahim, the Scottish covert who came to walk the desert with camels, and Antoñio from Peru, on a round the world trip.
A top band of African musicians is playing Africando, but also lots of Bob Marley, Cheb Khalid, Ali Farka Toure and Jimi Hendrix. There is at least twice as many musicians then instruments, so the set-up and voices change all the time. And they serve beer. ;-) The bar is crowded (tourists, expats and prostitutes) and hot just as elsewhere in Africa. We never thought that possible of conservative Mauritania.
Sunday and Monday we take to the markets, Marché Marrocain, Marché Capital. But market people are less easy to have their pictures taken. Just manage sneaks.
Monday evening we all go to the Isabel Fiadeiro vernissage in the Centre Culturel Francais Antoine de Saint Exupéry.
Artist Isabel Fiadeiro, daughter of French and Spanish parents lives and works in Nouakchott, speaks 6 languages among them Hassaniya, the language widely spoken in Mauritania. She has travelled the country extensively for some 3 years now, encountering its traditions, nature and people. And she photographed and painted them.
Having met with Isabel on former visits to Mauritania, I saw her putting down graphical designs with coloured pencil on her notebook. I was not aware she had been working on and already going a full portfolio of large scale coloured paintings.
Her favourite surface is paper, whose texture blurs with the paint, which she lets run out in columns, leave stains elsewhere at the same time calligraph over it rendering sharpe, dramatic expressions to portraits and landscapes. Her style invites to step closer to the painting look at the details and question yourself: what is behind the image?
Yes it is difficult to take photographs with a flash (no tripot avail) of paintings behind glass.
Road to Mali Impressions.
I leave Nouakchott the next morning for Bamako. Clear skys, the end of the rainy season. Vegetation in plenty. Cattle and Camels gather at waterholes.
In Bamako late evening Wednesday the 8th, at Relax a large Castel, Kefta, Homos, Taboulet. The Lebanese hang-out kept me driving all day. Really really hungry. Peter and I, both we are happy I arrived savely with the Hyundai after, well yes, some 8,588km. So Nouakchott/Bamako another 1,500.
See you later.