My Austrian friends

Mauritania border

At Mauritania border I met this middle-aged Austrian couple, with that floating happy hippie look. They were heading to Mali and Senegambia for vacations. Do you see the beige van in the photo, just in front of my Fly scooter? In spite of the German flag, it’s theirs.

We met at the border buildings, while we were jumping from one building to the other, trying to have all the papers signed and all our fees paid. I helped them with the talk, as they didn’t speak French and Mauritania officers didn’t speak English, and I speak a little of both. They helped me with the ease of someone who had already done that border crossing, more than once. They were like an anchor to whom I held on to, to take an example of how to behave. Not that it was too difficult, or even that Mauritanian people were difficult to deal with. They weren’t. They were very polite and willing to help. It was just easier that way. We know that, in these odd situations, if we find someone to hold on to, we just do it.

I was astonished when I had to explain to them in English what the border officials explained to me in French. That they had to declare both, the car and motorcycle, just as they were both passing the border: He in the car and her on the motorcycle, or vice versa. I was surprised because I only saw this old beige van outside.

When the formalities were finished and we happily said goodbye and wished each other a good trip ahead, another border official would come and told us to move to the next building. That happened three or four times, and we were very amused with the situation. We always have to find these kind of situations an amusement or else we better stay at home. Meanwhile my new friends explained to me what they were doing there, where the motorcycle was and what were their plans. Of course, I explained my goal and just like everybody else I met during the trip, they were also amused by the fact that I was doing it alone, on a 50 cc scooter.

They described to me what I would call a great vacation. The motorcycle was inside the van, and it was, because I just had to confirm, which I did. Their plan was simple. They just bought an old used van and they were using it to go south until they reached their destination, which was Dakar, Senegal. In between they were going through Morocco, Mauritania and then Mali. They would spend some weeks in Mali and then return to Dakar. She had to return by airplane to Austria because she was starting work soon. He would stay, sell the van, would not forget to take the motorcycle out first, and stay some more time. For two months he would travel around by motorcycle, mainly in Gambia that he didn’t know very well. And when he had had enough, he would take the motorcycle and travel back north to Austria. That’s easy and that’s what I call a vacation. I’m sure that after that he will be a new man. I know I would.

During the trip to my next stop at Nouadhibou, I thought to myself: Why did I bother about what to do with my scooter at the end of the journey? These guys were completely right and those kind of problems have simple solutions, like the egg of Columbus. Although that problem didn’t torment me anymore, I was then sure that I would find a solution for that conundrum at the end of the journey. Why do we make simple things more complicated than they really are? They gave me also that gift: To know that there are much more people doing this kind of trip then we imagine, without worries or problems, and away from the standard tourists circuits. There are still people who really travel in the XXI century.

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