The timing of my sickness was kind if ironic since for the first time in ages I was in an African capital city that I really wanted to explore. The city just had an energy that appealed- some interesting buildings, a crazy central market, and supposedly some great music venues. Unfortunately, I could only manage to get out the hotel long enough to deal with getting my Mauritian visa and once I was feeling better I really just wanted to get back on the road.
The roads going up towards Mauritania through eastern Mali were in decent condition, even towards the border when I left the tar, the gravel roads were well maintained. So, unlike in the past, it wasn’t the road conditions that made for an uncomfortable ride, it was the change in the people and the increase in the military presence that kept me from relaxing and enjoying the scenery. There wasn’t any overt hostility, but more just a feeling of being unwelcome. The military check points started asking more detailed questions about where I was going and why I was there. Doors would close as I passed by. Conversations would stop and the people would stare unsmilingly as I rode through town. I suppose my thoughts were also affected by simply knowing that this was a problem area for foreigners and so I started reading more into the smallest gesture than I really should have.
Either way, the most surprising thing was that I was really looking forward to Mauritania. A country with the worst slavery rate in the world, where rape isn’t even codified in law, and beer is illegal. From the outside it just doesn’t sound like they can get anything right. But, despite this, they have the desert- and that was what I was really missing. Well, that and the chance at a really spicy falafel sandwich with a side of mint tea- the prefect desert lunch!
So, on a sunny afternoon I crossed the border at one of the smallest, most ramshackle crossings I’ve seen and got my wish. ish.