Day 20 – Nouakchott | Saint Louis, Senegal

Nouakchott-Rosso Border Crossing

September 21st, 2011
Set out early after another brekkie of baguettes and croissants. In usual fashion there is little in the way of signposts to get out of the city. But thanks to the odd policeman we make it out. Long flat roads and in comparison to the north of Nouakchott it is quite heavily populated with many villages along the road. This off course makes it more problematic to recycle the lukewarm water from the top of the pannier that we’re going through to stay hydrated. But at least the temperature is not scorching, only mildly melting. It’s 200km to the border and we’ve got a fixer, Pape Fall, to meet us at the border as I understand that this border is a bit of a zoo and pretty chaotic. We also have to cross the Senegal river on a boat to reach the next country. Better than a minefield at least!

The road becomes quite bad, the worst I’ve seen, as they’ve been generally good up until this point. We finally get to Rosso on the border about lunchtime and meet Pape Fall, a large jolly Senegalese man who clearly takes his job seriously and has seen a few Maersk people though the border here. The paperwork and waiting begins. After much queuing and checking we have the paperwork sorted out but now we have to wait for the ferry. It’s supposed to leave at 3, but as 3pm rolls around there’s no sign of movement. Finally about 3.30pm I’m told to ride the bike through the water up onto the boat. OK. Looks like Justyna will have to wade across … but fortunately a Moroccan reefer truck driver gives her a dry ride onto the ferry – impressive. Turns out the ferry only runs a couple of times a day, but it’s the only way across if you have a vehicle. Most people seem to come across by Pirogue, all day long these large wooden canoe type boats float back and forward across the sluggish mud brown river ferrying people. One woman emerges drenched, apparently slipped off into the river during the disembarkation process. I decline to have the bike put on one, despite the offer of a good price!

Rosso – St Louis, Senegal

We finally reach the other side and are greeted by chaos. Pape navigates us though the confusion. There is even a pack of some 20 camels and a small herd of goats that is being customs cleared. This is certainly a place of extreme commerce. It reminds me of one of those bars on the dusty outer worlds in a star wars movie. Everything is for sale and tradeable. The only thing missing is Jabba the Hut!

Offers abound and one african guy can even speak fluent Polish and reasonable Dutch, it’s extraordinary.

We find out that we’re in but that the Customs will only grant the bike 48 hours in the country rather than the requested 10 days. So in theory I have to get the bike out of the country by Friday 4pm or I will have to go haggle with customs in Dakar, which could be quite a time waster. So I’m thinking option 1 but this, off course, limits time spent in Dakar.

We finally get though and settle accounts with Pape some 10km outside the town and head south. The landscape is now much more lush and green and sugar cane grows everywhere. It’s now about 5pm and the 1st 60km of the road is terrible, but after that it’s excellent. Decided that Saint Louis, the old capital of Senegal, will be the stop for the night as Dakar is just too far and don’t want to risk night driving on unfamiliar African roads, no matter how good they are.

We reach Saint Louis on the coast before dust and find a cheap Lonely Planet hotel on the island, which also, conveniently purports to have one of the best restaurants in Saint Louis. Which it does. several Pastis and a tasty stew later and it’s time for bed. The border took some 4 hours to cross. Tomorrow Dakar 🙂

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