I am alive and well and returned to Morocco from my travels to the end of the world in the heart of the Mauritanian Sahara desert. In one word, it was AMAZING! I ran alone in the cool mornings through the desert and slept under shooting stars on sand dunes and in perfect oasis surrounded by trickling water and glow worms. I lived for a short time with a peaceful desert family and trekked up and down plateaus looking at ancient petroglyphs. I cooked, relaxed, thought, talked with other travelers, and siesta'd during the hot afternoons. Finally, I hitchhiked from the police post back across the border to Morocco the day before my visa in Mauritania expired, and also my 35th birthday. I will write more when I return home and can upload my photos.
Some notes from Chinguetti, mid March:
I sit here watching the mice come out of the kitchen and the spaces in the stone wall to eat from the dog's bowl of rotten scraps and amazingly I am not bothered by it. The kitchen is full of mice, bold ones that come out all hours of the day. One jumped out of a pot I grabbed and landed on my arm in broad daylight. What Cher needs for his auberge is a cat, not a damn dog! My first days here another traveler, Kevin, and I removed everything from the kitchen and cleaned years worth of mouse shit-important because we are doing most of our own cooking. Cooking without refrigeration, which means going to the market before each meal, a task fortunately done mostly by Cher. Cher, who watched questioningly while we scrubbed his kitchen and whom I told he needed a wife. He did not agree, and said that women talk to much! A few days after scrubbing down the kitchen, Kevin waged war on a mouse that was invading his room night and day. During my siesta one afternoon I suddenly heard Quebec French curses from the hut next door. Something like "Stab ah neck". Shortly after, Kevin came and showed me his kill, which he held dangling by it's tail; he had jumped on the mouse.
What I am trying to get at is that Africa is a bit more difficult of a place to travel than other places I have been. I laugh now when I think of how I traveled all through Asia and other parts of the world checking the sheets for cleanliness!! WOW, what a wussy I was!! In the whole of Mauritania I have not seen a sheet, much less a clean one, only grubby mats that are tossed onto the ground of a dusty tent or rustic hut. If you are unlucky enough to not have a sleeping bag, you will be tossed an even grubbier, dustier blanket. Fortunately, a kindly soul I met in Nouakchott, Ibrahim, has lent me a bag. And even more fortunately I have ceased to be bothered by these things (this written as I pick a fly out of the milk I am drinking, milk that has sat overnight on the counter). All this actually contributes to the experience of being here in the heart of the desert, in a place that feels like the end of the earth, in a place full of open space, in a place where nature still reigns supreme and the people must be gritty and self-sufficient, in a place that reminds you just how little you actually need to live in this world.