Another ride

This morning I overslept. I was supposed to wake up at quarter past five and go to the embassy, instead I woke up at quarter to eight and threw on the clothes before running to catch a taxi. In the car the driver and one of the other passengers said “she’s crazy to go to Mauritania now. You’re not staying there are you? It’s fine for transit, quickly through, don’t stop.” “Well I am stopping, I’ll be there for a month or so,” I said. “Crazy. Crazy.” the driver sighed.

By the embassy the line wasn’t as long as the other days, but still long. I met Cristian from Holland, a young guy driving his motorbike to Senegal. “You could have gone on the back, but there’s no space.” he said, but when the embassy closed he gave me a ride to the medina where we had a late breakfast/early lunch.
In the line I also met a man from Italy and another from Pakistan, the later one and myself will hitch-hike with the Italian to Mauritania tomorrow when we have our visas, inshallah. We’re meeting outside the embassy at four am.

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Getting a Mauritanian visa

It is possible to obtain a visa for Mauritania in Europe, but it’s both cheaper and simpler to do it in Morocco.
Here’s a guide on how to obtain a visa for Mauritania in Rabat, Morocco:

What you have to bring:
– Your passport
– A copy of your passport
– Two passport sized photos
– About 350 Dirham

visa-Mauritania At the embassy you will get a form to fill in. There is a guy outside selling them for 10 dirham, but it’s also possible to get one for free in the small room by the counter. There are two sides to the form and both has to be filled in correctly. There isn’t any in English so if you don’t read French or Arabic you’ll have to ask someone there. Now there’s always lots of people there to get visas: Europeans traveling to either Senegal or Mauritania, Senegalese people with European passports who no longer can cross the border without visa and so on. There’s more people than one might think traveling through the desert.

Be there Early. The embassy opens at nine, but be there at half past seven or earlier. The line is long and they close at eleven no matter how many people are left. They might just as well close right in front of you.

Today I went there to get my visa. I had forgotten to bring two photos and went to the small photobooth down the road, right opposite the petrol station. It was broken. So I went down the road to the left of the booth and crossed another big road, then shortly on the right hand side there is Wafa Photo. The store normally opens just before nine and when I came in there were already five people waiting for their photos, and it took almost an hour for the printer to warm up so we all could have our prints. But its rather cheap, 20 dirham for eight photos.

The time was then quarter to ten and we all hurried back to the embassy. After another hour in the line they closed, and we have to come back tomorrow morning at seven. But the waiting wasn’t all bad. In the line I managed to organize a ride all the way to Nouakchott with a Frenchman driving down in his Renault. According to him we will have our visas tomorrow at three (the last thing I know is that it takes 24 hours, but he says not anymore). We will see tomorrow. Maybe we’ll leave in the afternoon, maybe we’ll have to wait another day. I’ll keep you updated.

Africa, oh you dear love

”That’s Gibraltar. And you see the land next to it? That’s Africa.” Ana pointed to our left as we went down the coast of Spain.
We had half an hour left to Algeciras where she would drop me by the port.

The highway was nearly empty. ”It’s because you have to pay, the other road is full of cars. But it goes through the cities, traffic lights all the time.” she said. We talked about polices (when two suddenly stood there) and the crisis, work, surroundings… I’ve always said I need to become better at small-talk, and I think it’s slowly getting there.

In two hours I will be in Morocco. And my stomach is tickling with excitement. I’ve got a host waiting for me in Rabat and in a week I will be on the road to Mauritania.

Hitching strangers

Of course I was worried about the hitch-hiking. Spanish people are known for not picking up strangers. I could be standing in Malaga for hours, not arriving in Morocco until long after dark.

I stood by some traffic lights, calculating my time as the lights switched between red and green. A sign was counting the seconds between the two. 137 seconds of green light, then I had a 40 seconds break while the pedestrians crossed.

Half an hour I stood there. Counting the seconds, waiting. Then Ana  picked me up.

It was her third time picking up hitchhikers. We stopped by a petrol-station, had a sandwich and some coffee. Her two dogs having a short walk, stretching their long furry legs.

Time to close this year

“But hitching didn’t die a natural death — it was murdered. And there’s little evidence that it was as dangerous as we think.”

Said the New York Times earlier this year. And during 2012 I have done a lot of hitch-hiking. My thumb has taken me traveling in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, France, Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania, Zanzibar, Malawi and Zimbabwe. All in just one year.

Most of the experiences has been good, only one man turned out to be over-sexual (and of course it was in Switzerland, where else but in the rich of richness?). During the year I’ve met people born into slavery and refugees trying to get into Europe, but failing.

While sorting out old diary-notes lying around I found this piece:

“I was sitting behind him on his bike. He was going so fast down the hill I couldn’t bare keeping my eyes open. ‘There’s Malawi!’ he shouted. ‘What?’ I screamed back, slowly opening my eyes. ‘There’s Malawi!’ He screamed again and pointed at the lush green hills in front of us. I was awestruck.”

Three days later I found myself trekking up the hill to Livingstonia, monkeys chatting in the trees for company and an old man who spoke no English to show the way through the shortcuts. There was more climbing than walking and at one point my backpack pulled me down backwards, down the cliff, and balancing on a root and grasping for another one to cling to, I was ok and got myself back onto the track. I will never forget than nerve-killing moment.

2012 was also the year when I got malaria for the first – and hopefully the last – time of my life and nearly died. I’ve met the best couch surfing hosts I’ve ever had. I got a bachelor in journalism at the Mid Sweden University, freelanced for radio and magazines, got my heart broken for the first time and I buried my cat who’s been with me for sixteen years. I was homeless and spent five months on couches and mattresses at different friends. I also found a home, a place to which I want to return to after trip after trip.

And thanks to all of you who has read my blog. You who has been with me from the beginning, and you who dropped by during the year. Thank you. Now I look forward to a new year with travels, challenges and friends. Happy new year!