I’m back home in Belgium, with perhaps a slightly melancholic feeling about the past month. I returned a bit sooner than anticipated, back to the cold and grey November winter months of Europe. Here’s what happened the past few days.
Right as I finished the previous blogpost, I asked Lukas how far he was planning to drive. He replied “All night, to Dakhla”. Dakhla was still 550 km away at that point. I realized things would suddenly speed up a bit. I’d been contemplating perhaps going back slightly sooner, and Dakhla was the last place to do so before my originally planned departure city of Nouakchott, in Mauretania.
While in Dakhla, which has a bit of an “outpost city” feel to it, I thought things through a bit. There’s been some amazing highs, which I hope always shine through in my posts and pictures, however I do not often write much about the lows. Mostly because I stay positive, and thinking things over makes me realize it’s not all that bad. That said, 7 people in a makeshift camper with scrounged gear is not like my usual way of travelling. Compared to most of the others, I wasn’t that used to the lack of comfort (we camped 80% of the time), and issues tend to develop in the group. Almost all of us were experienced travellers and had a laid-back approach, but Brad’s behaviour wasn’t always appreciated by the rest, leading to some harsh confrontations in Dakhla.
There was also the additional factor of the Mauretanian visa cost, 120 euro to get into the country. If you’re spending two weeks there, and have to drive your car through, it’s an acceptable expense. But for me, it seemed like a steep price to pay for 5-6 days in the desert. I was also slightly worried about the crazy desert excursion they were planning: if something would go wrong there again (like on the previous offroading adventure), I could miss a very expensive flight. I decided then and there to rebook my ticket, and to fly back from Dakhla. If I hadn’t booked in advance that would have been cheaper, but at least I didn’t lose anything on the rebooking. Live and learn.
It all felt a bit less upbeat at that time. The weather was unusually gray and cold in Dakhla, I had a bit of an upset stomach again, and my announcement probably led to some extra tension. Andi was also, as planned, leaving the group behind at that moment. I would spend one more night there after the others had moved on.
On the last afternoon, the sun came out a bit more, and we found some rare but expensive beer being served. Brad, in a moment of clarity, had decided he would travel alone for a while, meeting up with the rest again in Mauretania’s capital. While I didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye with him, I thought it was a good decision, and I respect his courage for trying it. As an American that speaks no other language than English, who goes around with a leather hat and handbag, heading into a very strict Islamic republic is not all that straightforward I imagine.
As they geared up to depart, I snapped a last picture of the truck cabin we’d spent so much time in. Over 4000 km and at least a dozen nights I’d spent in there made it feel a bit strange to finally say goodbye.
And that was that, the firetruck rolled on with three people less on board. Andi and me heading back, and Brad taking a time-out by himself.
I’d planned a one-and-a-half day stop in Casablanca, Morocco’s biggest city. In hindsight I’m not sure if it was worth it. Being alone was nice for a moment, but Casablanca was so big and expensive, at times it felt like a Western city, with Starbucks and McDonalds readily available. I much prefered the smalltown countryside feel we experienced with the truck. On top of that it rained a lot, which didn’t contribute to my enjoyment much. At least it prepared me for the return to Europe.
I’m really happy Lukas gave me the chance to experience this trip, and I don’t regret going back a week earlier, at least it gives me some time to prepare for some of the work I have lined up next month (I need to make a bit of money after this trip). That said, I’m almost certain I will go to Gambia in a few months to see the guys again when they have sold the truck. Lukas and Max have a property there, obtained from a previous car-sale, which they’re building a house on. Plus they own a donkey and a cart there. It sounds too good not to witness all that!