So with alot of time on my hands, I have been trying to teach myself French by using the Rosetta Stone computer course, and also French lessons with Michel Thomas on audio CD. The two use completely different techniques. The Rosetta Stone one uses words and pictures which you learn by rote and the other urges you to relax and try not to remember anything! Which I am quite adept at , so you can imagine which I prefer!! It is actually quite effective and has helped me do my shopping and get around without much ado. Now I need to work on some Bedroom Phrases!! (Raises eyebrows in wifes direction, le horr horr horr !) (*Editor: tee hee hee!*)
I was fortunate the other day to been driven to the coast by my Chief pilot, for he too is a coastal dweller (from Portugal) and needs a dose of the Atlantic from time to time in order to keep it real! We were however pressed for time that evening and only managed to have a look........on top of which, there were tons of locals trying to sell me 'very goot Rolex watch' and various other made in Taiwan craft items....there would be no relaxation, so I went home emotionally confused..........and determined to find an isolated stretch of beach accessible by our trusty 4x4 Cherokee Jeep. Driving in Mauritania is a phenomenon in itself. Anything goes. Although they drive on the right, like in the USA, this extends to the sidewalk, over roundabouts in the wrong lane, overtaking donkey carts, one car per side.. havoc... fortunately,they drive fairly slowly, so you sorta have time to anticipate and jump out of the way when stepping out of the bakery! It is truly Mindblowing!! Thank goodness for Google Earth.
With a mental map and some local advice today, we made an early afternoon trip to 'Auberge les Sultan' which is about 13km north of town on the Noadhibou Rd, then west across the desert trail. On the way we had to pass thru a police post and the Militatry 'Gendarmarie' check points. The officers were very friendly, I had a chance to practice my french.. 'Je voudrais aller à la plage'... Auberge les Sultan'?????... Which was met with the smiling reply 'Avez-vous porter un autre sprite pour moi?'..... slightly confused, I looked over to my travel companions (Jose from Spain and Markus from Austria) who depend on my French speaking ability to help with the shopping, and said 'I have not a fucking clue about what he just said!!', when the officer smiled at me and said in the Queen's English, 'Next time you bring another Sprite for me, ok? Have a good time at the beach!' .... What a relief! We continued along the highway until we spotted the sign 'Auberge les Sultan' :
with an arrow pointing west to the desert, so off road we went. We drove past various forms of desert life including short green scrub plants aswell as a variety of beautiful little birds... and of course camels.
Big ones, little ones, brown and white even some dead. This road is used by the gravel miners who basically dig holes in the sand and toss the dirt onto a frame of chicken wire (like a giant sieve). The sand spills out on the other side, and the gravel, grit and sea shells.. (yes, seashells in the desert) are caught in the mesh, which is then hand loaded onto great Mercedes-Benz trucks and carted off to be sold as aggregate for mixing concrete and asphalt. Incidentally, all the paved roads contain a maze of assorted seashells, very grippy and pretty, but a nightmare to skin your knee on if you fell off your bicycle. We finally caught sight of a boxy looking building in the distance... the only structure around for miles, which revealed itself to be the home of some crazy French people,
living in the middle of nowhere (maybe that's what the sign should have said...' Middle of Nowhere'...), we drove alongside their home and soon came to the shoreline.... the amazing, beautiful, secretive, wonderous and powerful Atlantic Ocean.
The beach is all white sand littered with seashells of every manner and the remains of cuttlefish, whose soft backbone is used by bird-keepers as beak sharpeners, especially popular with parakeets and lovebirds. Hundreds of little sandpiper birds run along the receding shorebreak, picking out sand worms and chip chips, petrels and gulls hover over the riptide diving for smallfry and bickering on the wing. I look to the north where Morocco would be 300 kilometers away, not a soul in sight and also south to Senegal, about 200 kilometers away..............then I search over the horizon to the West were my home lies over 5000 kilometers away and I get lost thinking about my three little boys and my brave and beautiful Noodle...The cool, fresh and salty sea-breeze fills my lungs.... and makes my eyes water........... So maybe I was crying just a little....so what!