London

Change of base – from the calm and quite of Paderborn, Germany we have moved to glitz and glitter of London. The reasons for the move are a challenging job among others.

Having done the move, the obligatory sightseeing, and here are some of the pics from our day out in London.

Camel Herd in Sahara

Desert and camels – where there is no surprise in that. But what was surprising to me was how the herd was taken along in the caravan and how they were managed.

During the day the herd grazes along what ever green is available and share the oasis with the other animals. During the night the camels are collected (well actually forced) to stay at a place. The way the camels are prevented from wandering away is by tying one leg of the camel at the knee – this would prevent the camel from straying away from the herd – Well small trick with a small piece of rope and you have the camel completely at your control.

Now, we were lucky enough to observe one such resting ritual for the night. This also gave us the opportunity to milk the camel. Wiki say some thing about the camel milk -but I can say from my experience – it tastes wonderful, very much unlike the cow/sheep milk. What amazed me what that we could dring it straight after milking the camel – directly from the pot collected.

Check out the video which we managed during out PAD-NKC trip.

Mauritanian Tea – Atai

Mauritanian Tee – is not just a beverage but has an entire tradition attached to it. As a guest you are served three times. Each glass of tee that is served is prepared from scratch, i.e. fresh tee, water, mint and lots of sugar.

Qualities: Sweet, foamy, less, 3 glasses as tradition, wait between serves

I think the video explains better than words.

No Man’s Land – Morocco-Mauritania border

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:

  1. Get our passports exit stamped
  2. Cross the border into the UN-Buffer zone
  3. Drive through it
  4. Enter RIM territory
  5. Get our passports entry stamped
  6. Customs check of the goods (if we have any thing illegal)
  7. Get tourist permits
  8. Get insurance for the car
  9. 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.

Weekends Mauritanian style

The city dwelling folk in Nouakchott have a favourite pass time of driving to the ourskirts of the city with the entire family and spend a nice few hours under the sky.

There are some spots where a lot of people flock to. In such spots camel milk is sold, and the sellers entertain with some songs. Here is one such song which I recorded. The only musical instrument that I could make out were parts of a plastic canister.

I have no idea what they are singing about – but it was good to hear it. I will try to get it translated and update this post. Meanwhile if any of you can translate it then add it in the comment.

Lamb grill and Porridge & bread

Our lunch during our “Day out in desert” was a nice three course meal:

1. Appetizer – Lamb grill over coal

2. Main course – bread with porridge

3. Dessert – Mauritanian tee is sweet enough to doubles as a dessert

And here is the recipe for the grill, porridge and bread. For the Mauritanian tee I will dedicate a separate post.

Course-1 Grill:

After the Lamb is prepared, the pieces were separated for grill and porridge. The grill pieces were the legs and shoulder. Remember we dont have big knife to cut the bones, so the size of the bone was the size we could get to. Now this grill is pretty simple, we used salt-stone to salt the meat, and what else, throw in the fire. There you have the best grill – smokey.

Note: The fire was kindled on a heap of sand, using the dry twigs – The reason I mention this, you will know shortly when you read about the bread.

Course-2 Bread with Porridge

Preparation of the porridge must begin along with the grill, as the meat will take longer to cook.

Porridge:

The rest of the pieces go into a pot with water and salt and cooked till the meat is tender. The baked bread is crumbled into small pieces and mixed with the porridge. That makes for the healthy meal.

Bread:

Here are the steps.
1. Flour with water
2. Make it into a nice smooth dough
3. Clear off the ashes till you get to the sand
4. Make the kinda small pit in the sand
5. Lay a piece of wet paper (the paper is only there to protect the dough from the sand)
6. Spread the dough in flat and lay on the wet paper
7. Cover it up with another piece of wet paper
8. Push back the sand and ashes over the paper
9. Leave for a good 15-20 mins
10. Clear off the ashes and sand to recover your bread
11. Now remove the paper which is now dry, if it sticks to the bread wet the paper again to remove it
12. Remove the big pieces and spread them over a plate
13. Crush the bread into the porridge and spread the crumbled bread with the porridge over the meat pieces

That is the the recipe for self made bread in a self made oven in the middle of a desert.