Transport in Mauritania

I don’t rate Mauritania’s mini van service all the highly. It’s usually a slightly traumatic process where confusion is prioritised. The engine is turned on, which would always evoke a little excitement in me, ‘Yes, we might be leaving. Finally!’. Little do I know the engine will be left running for half an hour as we play musical chairs. The guy behind me suddenly lunges forward, yelling something in Arabic. He jumps over the seats trying desperately to open the door. The people on the outside try to open it. Eventually 5 guys are trying to prise open the door. It eventually opens. The guy yells something to, well, I’m not exactly sure who, and then climbs back in. The door is closed. Then it opens again (this process continues indefinitely) and a guy points to me. ‘Who me?’. I’m being transferred to another van. Oh for fucks sake. I was happy with that seat. I eventually get another window seat, so I’m still relatively content, if a little irritated for being rudely forced to move (like when you ask a sleeping cat to get off the couch).

A guy comes to do roll call. People are moved around a few times before they construct an arrangement everyone is happy with. I never could work out exactly how they figured out who was to sit where, and why it was so important. The whole time a dishevelled peasant is standing right in the middle of everything (right in the middle, again, like an arrogant cat) observing proceedings with his hand out. This sounds really bad, but watching his hopeless desperation, he reminded me of the donkeys. The donkeys have a truly horrific life. They spend all day lugging heavy carriages, being endlessly beaten with a stick. The stick is supposed to act as a makeshift steering wheel, but the driver will generally just bash the donkey with it – instinctively and unrelentingly. When they have finished their shift, their 2 front legs are tied together so they can’t move. You can see the pain in their eyes, they just wait to die. I would’ve given the peasant money, but I actually didn’t have any left. I spent it all on the trek through the Sahara with the nomads. And there are no cash points up here. It meant I had to point to my bankcard at the bus depot, and gesture that I will pay for my ticket at Nouakchott. I don’t know what I would’ve done if they insisted on cash up front. This is the only bus to Nouakchott today, and my flight home is 7:00am tomorrow. Turn on the Starsky and Hutch music, The race begins.

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