When you are travelling on a highway surrounded by the vastness of Sahara, one wonders if the vastness will ever end. And as a rude shock it ends – in a border between two countries. Without sounding political – it just goes on to show the absurdity of the imaginary line drawn on maps dividing people into countries, and spreading hatred.
Anyways, Day-5 of our journey brought us one such line – “Morocco-Mauritania border”. Did I just say Morocco though it is Western Sahara. Well there is a reason for it. The last check point before the border corssing is manned by the Moroccon Gendermaerie, and the relationship Morocco-Western Sahara-Mauritania is too complex, just read the wiki here.
Driving alone on the higway came to an end as we neared the border. From here the procedure is simple and listed below:
- Get our passports exit stamped
- Cross the border into the UN-Buffer zone
- Drive through it
- Enter RIM territory
- Get our passports entry stamped
- Customs check of the goods (if we have any thing illegal)
- Get tourist permits
- Get insurance for the car
- Drive away into RIM
So to the step before the first step… get ourself at the end of the queue – and wait, and wait, and wait.
Apparently the computers broke down so we could not get the passports stamped. Some how after a three hour wait, it was done – I will not go into the details, but being a vetran of this route, Abdallahi got it done which involved a shouting match, emotional blackmail of the guards by showing Mohammad, and some “GIFTS”.
So time to kiss the asphalt tarmac good bye for the next 2-4 km. There, infront of us is – what is called “No Man’s Land” or “UN Buffer Zone”.
We could see the Mauritanian flag – our destination…
This strech of road is not maintained by anyone. And we could see “the way” littered with vehicles stripped to the chassis. If a vehichle breaks down here and cannot be repaired, then the only way is to save all you can.
Did I say about landmines – ohh, yes there are landmines. Check out this collection of landmine information. If we dont wander too far off we must be safe, say every one. As we started out unfortunately there was no one in front of us to tail them. So we were to chart our own way. Abdallahi took the wheel and Murat was directing – locking ourself to the destination, but keeping an eye only for the next 10-20 m.
After about 45 mins, I guess we took an extremely strange route, we were suddenly right infront of the RIM gates with all the vehicles that reached there before us waiting in the queue behind us. The RIM border police had a huge laugh about it, and let us in immediately after the initial formality.
That is the “No Man’s Land” or the “UN buffer zone” part of our journey. It was a thrilling 45 mins drive, passing by vehiches that could not make it.
In all the thrill I didnt manage to take sufficient pictures or video, and had a total of 35 sec video and some pics which was plugged into iMovie trailer project to elongate it… resulting in youtube video at the beginning of this post.