Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hitch-hiking, far away and in a hurry. Or a account on how I got from Spain to Senegal - Third Part

    This is a chronological account on how I traveled hitch-hiking (or auto-stop) in September 2013 from Toledo in Spain up to Saint Louis in Senegal; and my adventures with the rivers, the borders and the visas. Since it is pretty long, I will do it in several separate articles. If you are looking for a story, I hope you enjoy it; if you are looking for advices, you can look for them through the text or wait until the last part where I will summarize everything I learnt.

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     Mauritania, country of deserts and police controls:

     The first thing I remember when entering Mauritania, beside my hunger for not eating anything since early morning, was that I wanted to change vehicles. With Kaba I was feeling comfortable any more, and the fact that his truck moved so slow added up on my lack of comfort since it was taking too long to travel the road. It was my luck that after eating, parked outside, was the car of the French woman who we had encountered in the road. She was with her son now, and they were going straight to St Louis, the first city inside Senegal, and they had room in the car. Given they had just said no to a Senegalese girl, they were a bit reluctant on taking me, but they agreed in the end; and me, happy of being able to share more than just simple talk and a faster speed, I climbed radiant of joy inside their Citroën truck and we left.

     The trip was fast really. There are a few hundred kilometer until the capital of Mauritania, which we did with some good talk and at a nice speed. I would talk to them about why I wantde to get to Dakar fast, and the told me how they had made the decision of leaving France to go live in Saint Louis. It seemed just like a moment, and we arrived at Nouakchott, where because of talking to a guy who was offering his restaurant in a police control, we ended up eating and sleeping in his home. Facing the street they had their restaurant, and what we thought was a good price for a hotel room for 3 people, anded up being 3 persons sleeping in the same mattress on the floor, in waht seemed to be the main room of the house. Welcome to Mauritania!

     The nest morning we left early after a light breakfast. Going through the road of this country imply finding a police control every 50km approximately, and we all wanted to arrive early to the border. Luckily Kaba had given me a head's up, and I was prepared with photocopies of my passport. And since for the car they had done the same with the registration and insurance, in the Controls we would simply hand over "les fiches" and we would be on our way. Like this we were soon in Rosso, the border with Senegal, from where you take a ferry to go to the other side of the river Senegal. To do all the paperwork at the border they had given Sebastien the number of a boy that could help us, and hastily for a fair comission (according to him) he quickly got us on the ferry boat.

     Entering Senegal, pay for everything:

     At the border we encountered two problems. The first one was that only since few months before it wasn't possible to get the visa when entering the country, not even for Europeans, and it was compulsory to do everything online. This was apparently my problem. But as a second problem we encountered that with the document they had saying they were living in Senegal, documents issued by France, they weren't allowed to get neither. So the problem of having to get a tourist visa became a shared group problem. Of course that it being a city in a difficult border, you can get "inside the country" to go to a cyber and get the paperwork done online, you just have to leave your passport with the Police. So we went in, went to the cyber and filled the form, and we waited. Because the can take up to several days to authorize it!

     And after several hours, when the situation had made us look for a hotel room for the Mother who was really tired, Sebastien called another of his Senegalese friends, and this one recommended him to go to Saint Louis, sleep there, and go back few days later to finish the paperwork of the visa and to get back the passports. I was dubious of leaving my passport, but on the other hand it was already clear that what the Officer was looking for was a "fix" to make the thing go faster. So we went to sleep at the house of the French family, spent two nights, and came back to regain our passports... having paid the special fee for "fast track paperwork"... of bribe.

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     After this adventure, summarizing my experience, I've learned that preparing oneself sometimes is neccesary and that full improvisation, althoug fun and adventurous, it is not very recommendable when one is travelling with a dead line, whatever the reason. And although I got along fine, it could have saved me some drops of sweat if I had done my research in advance. It is because of that that I want to put here the thing I've learned, because even if they may not be a lot, they will be able to helpo those that reached this place looking for information. And I want to make clear that this information is valid up to my best knowledge up top September 2013, and I give it with no warranties of any kind.

  • You can hitch hike your way across, but only with truckers in my experience. Going to the barrier of entrance for the trucks, just besides the SPIF parking lot, and asking the drivers directly. 

  • The Visa must be gotten and the Mauritanian Embassy in Rabat, where you are allowed to hand in your papers from 9am to 2pm, so I recommend going around 8. It is neccessary to take: 340dh + 2 photos 4x4 + 2 photocopies of your passport.
  • The Embassy is at 6, Rue Thami Lamdouar, Souissi RABAT (next to Av Mohamed VI - Av Mehdi Ben Barka). And the telephone number is (+212) (537) 65 66 78. From the center you can take bus 26a in Avenue Patrice Lumumba.
  • Take several photocopies of your passport in the country, to accelerate your passing through the Police Controls.

  • Es necesario tramitar la Visa antes de llegar a la frontera, pero cuando yo pasé si no estaba ya en el pasaporte desde Europa, el único lugar para tramitarla era en la frontera de Rosso. Es necesario entrar a y pagar los EURO 50 por internet; y luego esperar el mail de aprobación (el primero confirma el trámite, el segundo mail confirma la aceptación de el visado).

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Y así termino mi relato. Fue un viaje movido, lleno de incidentes y aventuras, del cual no me arrepiento ni un poquito. Espero que a quien lo lea le sirva de inspiración y algún día nos crucemos por el camino.

Dejen sus comentarios si quieren, y no duden en preguntar si piensan hacer algo parecido!

Saludos desde un rincón del mundo,
Nos vemos por el mundo!

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