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Monica Dispatch

The Ingredients of crossing the Sahara desert: Sand, Water and Landmines???

The Sahara, the biggest desert in the world
Northward bound, that is what we are! The only thing that stands in our way is the Sahara Desert!!! There are many challenges associated with crossing the Sahara, which, if you look on your map, stretches out across Mali, Western Sahara (southern Morocco), Mauritania, Algeria, Niger, Libya and Chad. One challenge is water, which you have to carry yourself, up to 10 liters a day for a passage of at minimum one week. Another challenge is getting lost. If you are going south to north, as we would, it's wise to hire a guide from Noukachott, in Mauritania, who can safely navigate you through the never-ending sand dunes. The biggest challenge, though, is that crossing the Sahara through Mauritania and into Morocco is... ILLEGAL!!! OFFICIALLY FORBIDDEN!!! HIGHLY NOT RECOMMENDED!!! (But when has that ever stopped us before?)

Mauritania and Morocco have fought for years over the disputed territory of Western Sahara, which you can learn more about in Abeja's article. There's a dangerous land-mine zone in the territory between the two countries, an aftereffect of the fighting between POLISARIO and Morocco. Land mines are no joke. Just read this quote I found out on the internet: "Remember, keep to the most-used tracks, even if it means getting stuck as there are mines all around. As recently as '98 a Land Rover hit a mine just a couple of metres from the piste and the driver was killed... Stick to the tarmac as there is still a danger from mines on either side of the road. This is not the place to practice off-roading!"

Most people who cross between Morocco and Mauritania do so in the opposite direction, coming from Morocco in the north and heading south, following the coast all the way down into Senegal. The officials are less stringent about this crossing, and it's a popular route for travelers going overland from Europe to Africa. For example, the annual Paris-Dakar Rally happened a few months ago. It's a crazy contest where people drive all the way from France to Senegal in all manner of vehicles: 4x4s, trucks, cars, and motorcycles. It's fine to go south, and it can even be really fun. However, going north is so problematic overland that we trekkers thought we might go over the sea... in a boat, maybe a cargo boat or passenger ferry. So, we bid the Sahara farewell even before we got there.

Off we went to Dakar, Senegal, a thriving port, hoping to get to Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, or possibly find a boat directly to the Moroccan coast. We have a time constraint: our trek in Cairo begins in late October. We also have a money constraint: we're trying to do the whole trek backpacker style, on a limited budget. So, we are trying to catch a ride on any of the boats that ply the West and North African coastline, maybe through Europe, to the Mediterranean, and into Egypt. Stay Tuned!

-Monica

p.s. - Please e-mail me at ...worldtrekker@internettreks.org

 

Abeja - You think you've got problems? Try getting across the Sahara Desert sometime!
Team - Kevin Gets a Souvenir from Africa: Malaria
Jasmine - Lac Rose
Kavitha - Jammin'...Groovin'...Diggin' the tunes!
Monica - The People on the Bus Go Up and Down, Part II
Monica - Trying to sail the ocean blue!
Team - Bittersweet Recollections: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of Mali
Making a Difference - Abeja gets M.A.D.-- she's Making a Difference

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