Passport stamps in Nepal

Now I am getting close to completing visiting all of my list of 197 countries, I have started a nice geeky spreadsheet with all the dates of entry for the different countries and noting which of my various passports has the entry stamp. In the process I realised that I had misplaced my very first kiwi passport. Most of the countries I had visited in that era (ages 14-23) I have already been back to more than once, but not Nepal. Twenty years ago I spent a few weeks hiking in Nepal and loved it, and I am sure I have some photos somewhere but I could only find one photo of someone who looked vaguely like me in front of a stupa in Kathmandu. But, as I was in Delhi for work, I decided I may as well pop up to Kathmandu for the weekend – it’s not far! I could get in at 9am and leave the following evening around 6 – allowing two full days for sightseeing …..(and fulfil my OCD need for some ‘proof’ I went there :-))…..

I had forgotten about the fog in Kathmandu. I was at the airport at 5.40 am, but our flight ended up being delayed for six hours due to the airport being closed in Kathmandu. Hmmm! Not ideal. Looking around the gate, it is obvious that things have moved on in Nepal. While there were a few happy hippies in flimsy embroidered tops and grubby trousers, (two with guitars,) there were also impeccable equipped japanese and American hikers with shiny new boots and even some business men. I was excited to see how different Kathmandu would be after 20 years.

We eventually got on the flight and landed in a wonderful sunny day in the kathmandu valley, which is surrounded by stunning mountains. Obviously air india don’t have great relationships at the airport as they have their own dedicated beaten up bus, and the door wouldn’t even close. I did my usual power walk through to immigration, paid the fee, smiled nicely at the immigration dude (apparently i was supposed to have two copies of something and I didn’t) and was first out of the airport.

bhaktapur

I found a driver and negotiated a fee for the afternoon (the guy I had booked had given up hours before) and headed out to Bhaktapur. When you think of Kathmandu, the gateway to the mountains comes to mind, but I had also forgotten that Kathmandu has worse air pollution than Delhi! .  it was vile, and i wasn’t surprised to see one young girl violently throwing up out the bus window next door given how bad the fumes were.

Taumadhi square
Bhairavnath

Bhaktapur was lovely. I had clearly come late enough in the day to miss most of the tourists, and the afternoon light was perfect. Nepal has a clever policy of charging special prices to tourists – not a bad idea given they need to get foreign currency from somewhere – so it was $15 to enter, but worth it. I wandered around the four main squares (Durbar, Taumadhi, Pottery and Dattatraya).

Bhairavnath

Dattatraya was my favourite, largely because there was an enigmatic goat who kept posing for me in front of the main temple. The streets of Bhaktapur are wonderful and although as over-run with scooters as most of Nepal, they are car free and pretty walkable.

Old house on the streets of Bhaktapur
Dhattatraya Square
Patan

We then headed to Patan. I left the driver in the carpark and wandered up the street. Before long I ran into three lines of what looked like riot police, and behind them a crazy loud crowd. I was mildly worried I had accidentally run into some demonstration,but there were a lot of women around so I decided to follow one of them and we squished past the police and forced our way along the sides of the crowd – quite tough in a narrow street. There were hundred of locals out celebrating some festival – honestly no clue what it was about, and i couldnt’t understand the name of the festival from the guy who started telling me about it (his accent was incomprehensible), but it seemed to be a challenge to haul what looked like 50 metre christmas trees down to the square.

the weird christmas tree pulling festival
the police
soldiers attending the festival at Patan
crowds at Patan waiting for the tree

Patan was badly damaged during the 2015 earthquakes, and many of the temples are still being rebuilt. However I loved it more than Bhaktapur purely because I timed it when the locals were in full celebration. After wandering around and chatting to some of the local ladies, I made my way to the hotel for a much needed shower to get the Kathmandu grit out of my hair

crowds at Patan waiting for the tree
Ladies dressed up for the festival
Patan being reconstructed
Old men gossiping

I am staying in Thamel, the backpacker haunt of the 70s (and for me in the 90s). It hasn’t changed a bit but is also totally different. Its still grubby, full of touts, blessed with unlimited momo shops and lots of counterfeit outdoor brands. And it is still over-run with tourists. But the tourists are much better dressed, everyone has a smartphone and every cafe has wifi (we didn’t even have internet last time the first time I came here). Its kinda odd. I wandered round and stopped for a crackingly good pizza at Fire and Ice and retired to bed in my small but perfectly formed room at the Oasis guesthouse

I managed to sleep in spite of all night construction works next door including concrete laying at 4am. The Australians next to me at breakfast were complaining vociferously about the noise, but in a country with limited regulation, construction entrepreneurs will use all the hours available.

Thamel and durbar square

After an amazing breakfast of masala omelettes and chapatis I wandered through Tamel down to Durbar square. Much of the complex was badly damaged by the earthquake. It is still worth a visit as it is lovely and very much still in public use with crowds of people performing their morning puja to Hanuman (the Hindu monkey god). This is clearly a tourist hot spot as the beggars are orderly and organised. I was amused by an aged wrinkly hippy with his dog who has likely been here since the seventies, who made his rounds giving alms to equally wizened beggars. The sadhus (holy men) are equally out in force to profit from the western photographers who get uncomfortably close to their faces.

Hippy distributing cash to the beggars
Hanuman shrine at Durbar Square
Man selling bird feed at Durbar Square
Tourist taking a photo of Sadhu (for a negotiated fee)
Temple being reconstructed at Durbar Square
Temples at Durbar Square

swayambhunath

Arjun picked me up and we headed out to Swayambhunath temple – monkey temple (so named for the many aggressive monkeys :-)). The traffic was not so bad as it is Saturday but the air quality really is awful! I saw quite a few tourists walking the route from Thamel, but while I love walking, I wouldn’t willingly do it here with all the fumes. Arjun took quite some persuading that I wanted to walk up the famous steps to the stupa rather than be driven up. It was a lovely shady stroll on the hill with lots of devout locals making puja. The monkeys provide tonnes of entertainment and you have to hold on tightly to anything shiny! The stupa is lovely!!!!!!!!

Buddha at the base of the steps to the stupa
One of the many monkeys on the steps
the last flight of stairs (the pilgrims are quite unfit, i overtook most of the people in view after taking this shot)
The stupa from different angles
The stupa from different angles
The stupa from different angles
boudhanath

We then headed across town to Boudhanath. A lovely stupa surrounded by coffee shops. Kathmandu is third world but wonderfully organised for tourists, you are never far away from a flat white, WiFi and a clean loo! It is certainly much nicer than it was 20 years ago. After circumnambulating twice I restored myself with an excellent flat white and a banana muffin :-).

Tourist heaven – muffin and coffee
Boudhanath stupa from different angles
Boudhanath stupa from different angles
Boudhanath stupa from different angles

pahsupatinath

After that we headed to Pashupatinath – one of the largest complexes in Nepal and definitely the most important….it is where local Hindus are cremated and is said to represent Shiva’s head (his other main body parts are in India). The three most beautiful temples are off limits to non Hindus but it is a lovely place to wander around. The more ghoulish tourists spend ages watching burning bodies and trying to get close to take photos….I learnt years ago in Varanasi that I didn’t want to smell bodies cremating as it put me off food for a long time. I also wonder how we would feel if someone put an enormous lens in our faces while were burying our loved ones in the cemetery. I wandered around and got invited to join a family for a picnic. I sat in the shade and chatted to some kids for a while, but my Hindu is limited to two words :-).

Blessings
Small temples at Pashupati
Main temple at Pashupati (no entrance for non hindus) behind the cremation ghats
Kids cleaning in the river
Body being prepared for cremation
Time for a snooze
The three nicest temples were off limits to non hindus

After that back to the airport to head home the long way, via Delhi and Dubai. It was lovely to be back, but reminded me that there are amazing mountains in Nepal so am contemplating signing up to the mustang trail race in 2020. Let me know if you fancy coming

April 21, Kathmandu, Nepal

Additional info

* stayed at oasis guesthouse. Clean, great location, very good management and excellent breakfast

* can negotiate taxis from place to place but I am lazy and found it easier to get a driver. Rate was $45 for a full day

* all the cafes are excellent, I tried several java Nepalese, the local Starbucks and they were good

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Fruit vendors Thamel
Rickshaw rank Durbar Square
Flower vendors Durbar Square
A shrine made out of coins nailed together

Cheeky weekend in the Seychelles

I was off to Dubai for work, and so figured out how to sneak in a weekend in the Seychelles while there.  Hubby wasn’t super keen to come as it is a bit far for a weekend so there I was, solo on a flight jam packed with honeymooners and couples!  Flying into the Seychelles, you can see stunning beaches, wild rainforest, and huge rocks that seem to be falling from the mountain tops into the ocean.   The island survives on tourism, and rightly so!   I was first off the plane, and picked up a wonderfully dodgy rental car.  A crapped out Kia Picanto that  last saw it’s clutch in 2015, and I was going to rue the crappy engine more than once over the weekend.
Hindu Temple, Victoria, Mahe
I drove into town looking for the Larue apartments.  There are no street numbers here, but thankfully google maps knew where I was going.   The kia picanto couldn’t make it up the very steep wet driveway, and I was very embarrassed when I had to call the owner to come and get me – he drove my car up!.  Apparently it happens every time a guest arrives (and don’t worry I got up fine every time after that).  The Larue apartments are basic but lovely – it’s high on the hill in bel air with stunning views overlooking Victoria.   Accommodation is ridiculously expensive here so I was happy to find a whole apartment for 80 Euro a night, it actually had three bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Replica of Big Ben – Victoria, Mahe
The afternoon wasn’t sunny so went down to check out the bustling metropolis of Victoria.  Its tiny, lovely and indisputably African.  I checked out the ‘sights’ – a cute Hindu temple, the church and a replica of the clock tower in London.  And then I followed the local ladies to the market to buy food for the weekend – eggs, avocado, beans, corn, tomatoes and eggs.  I couldn’t resist the bakery either and ended up with some delicious deep fried fish cakes that were so spicy my nose started running, and a ‘coconut gateau’ that was halfway between the consistency of a scone and a rock, but surprisingly good.  I had an early dinner of veggies and eggs, and then passed out as the jet lag hit me like a rock
Church, Victoria, Mahe

I slept a solid 12 hours, and roused myself at 8am to get some hiking in.  I was staying at the edge of the national park on purpose as I prefer hills to beaches.  I had lined up three hikes, which should have taken me about six hours.  The first – Trois freres – named for the ‘three brothers’ – huge rocks which overlook the town of Victoria.  It was supposed to take 2 hours return, but took 30 mins.  It was a lovely  view though.

Trois frères trail
Trois frères trail – steps cemented to the big rocks
Next up the ‘casse dents’ (broken teeth) which was sadly closed due to too much rain eroding the track.  So I headed next to Morne Blanc.  I picked up some local girls hitching on the way.   They were hilarious, as they were ‘hiking’ with their university, but effectively they were walking on the road for the whole day.  They were a bit tired going up the ‘big hill’ so I gave them a ride.  I have to say the Kia picante didn’t do well with four ladies on a steep incline – it was first gear all the way.
View down to Victoria from Trois Freres
Hillside Trois Freres
I stopped at the trail head for Morne blanc and tried not to worry about the two blokes with machetes hanging around the trail head.  That ’90 minute’ trail took 30 minutes, but was wonderfully steep up and down, so it was a nice jog.   To round out the morning, and as I was finished early, I also ran a few km on the Mont d’or trail for good measure  (accessed from Port Gilaud).  All of the trails are well marked, but you can find them on the Gaia app.
View south west from top of Morne Blanc
View north west from top of Morne Blanc
Typical village house Port Glaud

I then headed to the top of the island. I passed a big resort and a crowded beach and kept going until I found a delightful private beach to myself for a swim.   Afterwards, clean and restored, I drove to the end of the road to Cap Ternay, and then turned around to head back to a nice posh resort for lunch  – Constance Ephelia.   It was a nice place but overrun with kids and pink tourists, and out of my budget but I did have a very good lamb kebab!

My private swimming beach

I had no plans for the rest of the afternoon, so I put some good tunes on the car stereo and cruised down the west side of the island, stopping frequently to take photos or to jump in the water to cool off.  Driving here is not for the faint hearted.  Your rental car is bound to be rubbish, mine ground the gears every time from second to third.  The roads are narrow, slippery, and windy!  I rarely got above 40km, and spent most of the time in the mountains in second gear.  Add to that the local kids and dogs who will randomly dart in front of you from nowhere.  I narrowly avoided running over a dog fast asleep in the middle of the road.  Don’t drive here if you have a weak heart!!!  The old local buses belch out black smoke, and you don’t want to be stuck behind one going through the interior or you might suffocate, I pulled over a few times to get further away from the buses and try to breathe.
Port Glaud Church
Port Glaud
It was a brilliant afternoon, I loved the drive.  The west side of Mahe island is much quieter than the east side, and highlights were Grand Anse and Anse Takamaka.   It was a strenuous afternoon driving with one hand on the wheel, and one arm hanging out the window ……with the music blasting I looked just like one of the locals.  I rewarded my effort with an icecream and a nap on Takamaka beach.    After that I cruised back into town, and had another stroll around before dinner.  A perfect day as a tourist 😃
Grand Anse Beach

I would highly recommend the Seychelles for a weekend, and if you love beaches there is tonnes to do for a week – I am just not great at sitting on a beach all day!
Baie Lazare
Anse Boileau Church
That was the last lovely country of the 197…., thanks Seychelles no. 186, just 11 more to go
Victoria, Mahe, 14, April, 2018

Meandering around Mauritania

Hubby was accompanying me on this trip, and he was delighted to see the french equivalent of the FCO had just downgraded the security risk on Mauritania from ‘advise against all travel’ to ‘advise against all but essential travel” – by my standards lately that is like visiting Disneyland.    We were heading to Nouakchott and then up into the Sahara to visit the ancient towns of Chinguetti and Ouadane, which used to be on a well travelled french tourist route, but the tourists stopped coming in after a few incidents in 2007.  Good news is that twice weekly charter flights resumed for the three month winter season from December 2017, so perhaps there is hope to rejuvenate the tourist industry.   Most people I told we were coming kept getting Mauritania mixed up with Mauritius…., its a bit different.  Mauritania is between Western Sahara, Mali and Senegal – 90% desert, 29th largest country in the world, with only 3 million people.  It became independent from France in 1960, and after numerous coups, has been ruled by the same more or less corrupt ruler for the past 10 years.
Downtown Nouakchott
We had another passenger with us – Keith.   I had been following Keith’s global travels on my nutters facebook group of world travellers.  Sadly Keith passed away having only visited 157 countries.  His legendary family made pottery stars out his ashes and are doing their utmost to make sure Keith gets to fulfil his dream of visiting the remaining countries in the world by sending him post-humously off to new countries with a variety of tour guides.   You can follow Keiths adventures here on this facebook page and see him in some of the photos below…
Atar Ladies
We flew via Casablanca (which is a remarkably good airport for Africa fyi….), had a few hours of people watching and then boarded the multi coloured flight to Nouakchott (well all the colours except european).  The visa on arrival process was pretty efficient by african standards, we were fourth in the queue and made it out in half an hour (pity those who were 50th in the queue).   The posh new airport was pretty lovely and the people here are utterly chilled out. The men have lovely white and blue desert robes (bobos) and the women are all colours of the rainbow.  Our taxi was pretty dodgy, but we made it into town – which was much posher than I imagined – loads of brand new modern buildings on well built streets – and passed out at the Auberge Diaguili.
Pastel Tyre Vendor
Up a few hours later to an excellent breakfast of coffee, baguette, croissant and yogurt (yay for the bakery legacy of french colonisation).  And then our driver arrived more or less on time to take us to Ouadane.  We headed out of Nouakchott on the main road to Atar – it is one long endless stretch of tar with barely a bend for 400km.  I am not sure how they stop the desert from engulfing it on both sides.  As we leave Nouakchott there is a curious evolution in architecture.   The houses begin to look more like concrete tents, and sure enough after a few more kilometres, the houses actually turn into multi coloured tents.  Apparently the true nomads don’t like sleeping in towns, so even those that have been forced to move to Nouakchott for work will return to the desert fringes of the city to sleep in these tents at night.
Akjoujt Pastels
Akjoujt Pastels
Akjoujt Pastels
The road seemed endless, but we had plenty of stops ….. the Mauritanians are in love with paperwork, and I lost count of police checks we had to stop for.  My forward planning for this trip had been bit haphazard, and I was reading the guidebook in the car, where they advised us to bring plenty of photocopies of a fiche (effectively your itinerary, passport numbers and visa numbers), as apparently that speeds things up, as they don’t have to take your passports for ten minutes to write everything down.  Oh well….next time.
After three hours of desert we stopped in Akjoujt for tea – three cups as per the tradition.   Nothing is fast here, so we lounged on the cushions on the floor and were amused by the restaurant owners yelling at their pouting son waiting for our tea.  Appropriately restored with tea so strong and sweet you could use it to de-rust the car, we headed off again.  A couple of hours later, we arrived at the beginning of an amazing marscape heading up to the Adrar plateau at Atar.   It was very hazy, but stunningly beautiful.   We stopped in Atar for provisions (biscuits, laughing cow cheese, bread and water) and had a chat with the enthusiastic shop owner, and headed off to Ouadane on the 4wd highway.
Akjoujt tea
Atar shopkeeper
Ahmed our driver persuaded us to stop at the neolithic paintings just out of town.  One of the few downsides of travelling so much is that I have already seen lots of amazing things, and these paintings were underwhelming compared to the rock paintings at Las Geel. However, the young man who lived on site was fascinating and very keen on the history, and he was worth stopping to chat to. We had an amusing chat about dates, as I realised that we always date things in AD and BC, and wondered how they described BC in a muslim country.  Apparently they also say BC, as they recognise Jesus lived…., my favourite comment from the guide was  ‘well you have your stories about Jesus, but the Koran is clear and I know the truth’.
Rock painting guide
Main 4wd piste from Atar to Ouadane
in total it was 550km from Nouakchott to Ouadane. The last 150km offroad but on a pretty good 4wd track which Ahmed was blasting down at 90-100km an hour, which was fine most of the time, but there were a few hairy corrugated corners.   We arrived in Ouadane around 5pm and were honestly a bit disappointed.   The Lying Planet describes it as ‘one of the most enchanting semi ghost towns of the Sahara…with the houses ‘tumbling down the hill’.   Hmmmmm, it is pretty, but enchanting might be stretching it.   In the right light the stones look lovely, but the rubbish was off-putting, as was the smell of baked urine.   We went for a stroll around town!  We had fun watching the local kids learning their Quran, and had a chat with a few ladies, and then we ended up in the new town where we were offered several camel rides and I got told off by an aggressive young lady for not covering my whole body.
Main square in Ouadane
We went back to the Auberge for dinner – delicious pumpkin soup, dense baguette, followed by the amazing local wholemeal pancakes (ksours) and spice mystery meat and vegetable stew .  We were the only guests.   We were staying with Zaida, a ‘famous’ (in Ouadane at least) former slave who runs a guest house.   Honestly, she was worth making the trip for.  In all my travels around North and West Africa, I have never met an African woman so free of spirit.   Zaida has two sons, is more or less my age (though looks 10 years younger), and she divorced her husband many years ago.  She now runs a successful auberge (though challenging no doubt with the lack of tourists).  She chain-smokes Winstons and barks commands at her boys to get things done around the auberge, but she has one of the biggest smiles I have seen in years.   I asked how she got on in Ouadane, given she isn’t wildly traditional, and her response was brilliant – ‘eventually people get tired of talking about you and move on to talking about something else’.    We lounged around after dinner on the cushions, and then headed off to sleep, waking occasionally in the night to the sound of torrential rain.   We woke up to lots of plopping rain, thunder and lightening –  and we had a grand breakfast of coffee, baguette with about half a jar of amazing hibiscus jam, and sat watching the rain come down.
Zaida
The plan for the day was to head through the sand dunes to Chinguetti, passing by the oasis at Tanourchert.  We headed off with Ahmed in the 4wd to the desert.  After about an hour it became abundantly clear he didn’t know where he was, where he was going or where the track was.  Hmmmmm, about that time, I began to question my lackadaisical approach to this holiday.  As a frequent outdoors person, i am rarely caught short, and know that I should have 2-3 days of water, food, a working beacon and a compass when I head to the desert, as well as make sure the 4wd has a shovel and some back up fuel.   In a country where safety precautions are limited to praying five times per day and saying Inshallah a few times for good measure, I should have known better.  All we had was a litre of water and some food – which was more than the driver had.  Between Steph and I, we figured out where we were (his phone GPS was working), and where we were going (the compass on my watch was working), and Ahmed finally confessed he didn’t know where he was and asked where we should go.   We headed in the right general direction and then, inevitably, we got stuck in a sand dune.   We were lucky and managed to dig ourselves out of the deep sand with our hands, and with a bit of pushing from Stephane and I got back on the hard sand.  I wasn’t wildly confident that we were going to get to Chinguetti in the 4wd, but at least we knew where we were, and I was confident that we could walk the 30km to the nearest road with a 1 litre of water provided my compass kept working.    Fortunately, we found some nomads shortly after getting stuck,  and after 2 hours of being pretty much lost, we found the 4wd tracks to follow the rest of the way to Chinguetti.
Camels in the desert
the nomad camp we found when lost
Chinguetti in the distance was a sight for sore eyes, with the lovely dunes of Erg Warane alongside, although up close it was littered with as much rubbish as Ouadane.   We found the lovely Hotel La Gueila, and checked into our room off a delightful courtyard and settled in for some iced tea.  We then headed into town to check out one of the famous libraries – Chinguetti is a famous centre of islamic scholarship.  We went on a tour with Saif the librarian –  a true ‘bavard’ with a knack for drama and embellishment.  The manuscripts were fascinating but we escaped after the ‘short tour’ of 45 minutes.
Saif the bavard

After that we went for a gentle meander around town, or what was left of it.  The sand has started to reclaim the village and it was amusing to see doors and windows half blocked.   The levels of harassment in Mauritania are quite low, but we were still hounded by a few of the boys who were demanding ‘cadeau’, and some energetic women who were keen to sell us some jewellery, and then I got told off by some young boys for showing my ankles (literally i am covered head to toe, and to the wrists), but they are quite conservative.  We had a long chat with Sylvette – another extraordinary woman to find in the middle of the desert.  She has been here for ten years and built the hotel with a local ten years ago.  Its an impeccable hotel, and her food was amazing.  But more interesting was listening to the stories she told – she has travelled most of the world, but fell in love with this corner of it and decided to move here from Paris – which is quite a cultural shift for anyone, let alone a woman in her mid sixties.   I do wonder how you get on with healthcare in the middle of the desert, but I didn’t want to ask.  Sylvette fed us a fantastic dinner – soup, chicken with lemon and olives and potatoes, a pineapple cake for desert, and we retired to bed at 9.30 like old age pensioners.
Kids playing in chinguetti
Buildings getting buried in Chinguetti
Main square Chinguetti old town
Door of Habbot Library Chinguetti
We rolled out of bed at  8 to an amazing breakfast – good bread, strong coffee, camel milk jam (like dulce de leche but made with camels milk), homemade yogurt and tonnes of jam.   We stuffed ourselves with bread and jam, and chatted to the other two guests – two women in their 30s who work for the UNHCR – an incredible job, but they work crazy hours apparently, and have been in Mauritania for 18 months without making it up to Chinguetti as they don’t get many holidays.  They told me the rates of suicide and divorce for women in the UN were extraordinarily high, and the life incredibly stressful, but they couldn’t imagine doing anything else as it would be too boring in comparison.  Power to them!!!!, I couldn’t do it.      We then motivated ourselves to leave.  Staying with people here isn’t really like being in a  hotel, it is more like staying in someones house.  Sylvette and Sidi felt very responsible with us and had even had words with our driver, to make sure he took us on the main road to Terjit (versus the off track – something we had unsuccessfully tried to persuade him against the day before).
Chinese Highway Atar Plateau
Ahmed our hapless driver
We cruised back along the chinese road which descended down from the plateau into the canyon, got harassed for some more bribes by the police, and took the turn off to Terjit.   Ahmed got lost again, but we managed to find the sign to the basic chez Jemal.  There were actually tourists there, albeit they all appeared to be young aid workers or french embassy staff from Nouakchott.  Terjit is an oasis tucked into a steep red canyon.  We ate a huge lunch of goat, rice and dates, drank some tea and napped in the shade with everyone else as it was 40 degrees in the sun, so we decided to leave visiting the Oasis until the late afternoon.   We finally roused ourselves off the mats in the shade around 4pm to get moving. We first had to giggle at the aid workers driver from Nouakchott as he couldn’t get his 4wd out of the driveway – it made us feel better about the complete ineptitude of of our driver.    The oasis was lovely, albeit the only visitors seemed to be men.  We climbed up the canyon at the back of the famous Terjit springs (one hot and one cold, which mix together to make a warm bath at the bottom) and got to the top of the hill, looking down at the oasis.  It seemed like the nicest place to leave Keith, so we tucked him into a sheltered spot with a terrific view.
Keith at Terjit Oasis
Terjit Oasis
Young girl at Terjit Oasis

After that we had another bout of lying around on the floor in the nomad shelter (there is a lot of lying about that happens in Mauritania- it is pretty hot)…  a bunch of local ladies had installed themselves with a gas stove and the tea accoutrements in the shade, and they shared their tea with us with typically islamic hospitality so we were well restored.  Dinner was gritty couscous and carrots, with some soup and dates.

Our accommodation for the night was a little more rustic than we had prepared for (we had no sleeping bags or sheets), but these days I am pretty fine sleeping anywhere  as long as there aren’t too many mosquitos and I have enough clothes to stay warm.  Sleeping on dirty mattresses on the roof tops in Mali and many nights in mountain huts are a terrific apprenticeship to getting used to sleeping anywhere.  We had a mattress on a matt on the sand in a nomad tent.  The mosquito net was too small so we ended up with it being more like a sheet  Sadly two of the young french aid workers were quite enamoured with each other, but too timid to do anything about it, so they entire camp had to endure about two hours of painful adolescent like chatting from their tent about their social awkwardness and anxiety issues.  I got fed up at midnight and yelled out a firm ‘good night, time to stop talking now’  (if i had known the french for ‘just shag each other and stop bloody talking’ i would have yelled that out instead.
Terjit Oasis at dawn
Terjit Oasis at dawn
Both hubby and I woke up about four and put two more layers of clothes on and huddled together for warmth to go back to sleep.    We were up at 7, and  I made plenty of noise to wake the annoying aid workers up  Breakfast was nutella, nescafe and bread.  The light was extraordinary – it was the first time in four days there wasn’t a haze, and the oasis looked amazing.
We finally got moving and then we headed back on the endless road to nouakchott, where we were good tourists and went to check out the main mosque and the fish market.  The fish market is the ‘star attraction’ in Nouakchott according to the guide book – and you could certainly smell it well in advance of arriving.  The fish smell made me heave, but the thousands of boats were amazing to see, although the crowd wasn’t entirely welcoming!   We got to the hotel around 3pm, and went for a walk to round up some food for dinner, an early night is called for after not much sleep in the desert, and the taxi is picking us up at 4.30am
Port au peche
Patriotic boats – Port au peche
Port au peche

Additional info

We stayed at Auberge Diaguili in Nouakchott (aubergediaguili@gmail.com), Auberge Vasque (contact on facebook messenger) in Ouadane, La Gueila http://www.lagueila.com in Chinguetti, and Jemal in terjit
arranged a 4×4 through info@chinguitty-voyages.mr http://www.mauritaniatours.com/  (Which I wouldn’t recommend – next time I would get Sylvette and Sidi at La Gueila to arrange everything for me)
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Nouakchott, April 2, 2018