Having arrived in Choum, on the ore train, at 0230 and we wandered around a little until we were kindly pointed to the ‘taxi office’ where about 20 men were arguing over space and luggage on the back of a pick up. Like them we too wanted to go to Atar, a desert town, three hours away. We were too late to the party but were told the next truck should arrive in the next hour. Neither of us having gotten any sleep on the train due to the noise we both got out our rugs and tried as best as we could to get comfortable.
Unfortunately for us the bus didn’t turn up until 1000 later in the day and even worse was that I didn’t get any sleep again and a litre and a half of water had emptied itself in my rucksack, I think it must have split when I dropped my bag off the train. Either way not a great start too the day.
The pick up was loaded with bag after bag, so many that it came well above the level of the loading bay and had to be tied down with a large net. On top of which sat 13 men, including Nick and I. We were only held on my our fingers looped through the net and due to being slow off the mark to climb on we had the worst seats, right by the edge. We spent the next 2.5 hours literally clinging on for our lives. The first half was off road and every bounce felt as if it would send us flying, I even had a nice local holding onto my shoulder to help me not die. The second half was on a metalled road which if anything was scarier as the driver drove flat out, at over 70mph with the two of us struggling to stay on with our legs hanging over the side. However when we were dropped off in Atar both of us agreed it was probably more enjoyable than the train and certainly equally exciting.
Atar had promised to be a gateway into the desert with a number of tour operators running their outfits from there as well as a flourishing artisan trade selling silver objects. Both of these were impossible to find despite searching the whole centre of town, clearly in the not too distant past when there was a greater flow of tourist traffic and these might have been there but having met just 1 group of other travellers (at the Mauritanian border) it wasn’t that surprising that there was no evidence of these tourist driven activities which is a huge shame as both of us agree that Mauritania is one of the most beautiful countries we have ever been to and the people are almost certainly the friendliest. I would recommend it no end for people to visit on their next holiday.
Instead of hanging around in Atar where nothing was going on we carried on along the road four another 6 hours, passing through yet more breathtaking scenery, to the capital Nouckott.