The most humbling of holidays (Part 2)
In this editition of the story, we learn about the real dangers of the trip and what happened when the duo were faced with a vehicle full of armed men heading towards them...
What problems did you encounter along the way?
With a trip such as this you encounter many problems. The organisers make it very clear it is not a package tour and you have no guide and have to think for yourselves. It’s an adventure!
The exhaust needed repairing due to the abnormal abuse it saw and that was largely expected as the exhaust was in a poor condition before the trip started.
Similarly, Mark getting caught speeding in Morocco was expected as we were travelling very quickly to try and catch up with the other teams after having had the exhaust repaired. The Moroccan police we encountered many times on the trip were polite, helpful, genuinely interested in our trip and our welfare.
Of the more unexpected issues, getting into Morocco was interesting to say the least, but a pack of cigarettes and a can of deodorant eased the bureaucracy.
Getting into Mauritania was even more interesting with lots of unexpected fees to pay! Crossing no man’s land between Western Sahara and Mauritania where there are mines and bandits was downright dangerous!
There is a high risk of kidnap on the trip, and more so the further south you head. We were in areas where the Foreign Offices advise against travel.
What was the scariest moment of the trip?
We had arranged kidnap and ransom insurance; however, the offer was withdrawn just before leaving the UK due to the significant increase in risk. This did further a debate on whether to go ahead with the trip or not and we quickly decided to keep quiet to loved ones about the insurance situation and still go.
We were on the beach in Mauritania one afternoon, waved a nearby fishing boat in and bought some fresh fish. We were in the middle of cooking the fish and a Toyota pick-up rounded a bend on the beach a short distance away and in the back were around half a dozen armed men. The problem is due to the way they dress its not possible to tell if they are army or bandits and bandits will want to kidnap you! With Lee busy cooking the fish, the following conversation ensued:
Mark: ‘Have you seen the Toyota pick-up with armed men in the back approaching fast? It doesn’t look good. Is there a plan?'
Lee: ‘Yes there is a plan. Ask them if they want to join us for lunch?’
They turned out to be the Mauritanian Army, but it makes you realise how vulnerable you are and if it had been bandits. Offering them lunch may have worked, or it may have just bought us some time.
We managed to get as far as southern Mauritania, but the southern border of Mauritania and the northern border of Mali were just too dangerous and the risk of kidnap was extremely high. We were also warned off by both locals and by some contacts we had that work in security in those parts of the world so we donated the car and caravan there before heading home.