April 15, 1998

No-man's-land, Morocco-Mauritania border

In sight of the shattered remnants of a Land Rover that must have strayed onto a mine. Not surprisingly, no one is exploring the area. About 10K up a winding desert trail with more bumps and surprises than a roller coaster, but we're on a sort of pavement - well, hardpack - now. The convoy is being inspected by the Mauritanian military.

Woke up last night to patter-patter on the tent fly and assumed it was a Lariam dream. Rain in the Sahara, who'd'a thunk it? Stopped now, but the sky is still a bright poisonous gray.

Dakhla is a hideous military anthill of a town, but I like desert more and more, in its many faces - windswept dunes, straggling chains of rock, endless plains pounded absolutely flat by sun and wind. More life than I expected - tufts of thorn and cactus are speckled everywhere.

Camped outside of Dakhla by the ocean for two nights. First was by the beach, a much-appreciated swim. Watched the sunset from the edge of a laser-beam-level stone plateau perched on a sand dune like a graduation cap. Had to dig the truck out to get there, but sand is much easier to dig than previous olive-grove muck.

Then to Dakhla: stocked up on drugs, food, dry goods, trinkets, anything to spend our last dirhams. Camped next to a fisherman's cemetery in a small green enclave cut into the desert by the ocean.

Hurry-up-and-wait yesterday morning, sewing off the ends of our newly purchased plastic mats as the convoy slowly assembled. A couple of checkpoints en route, but fewer than the police stops the previous couple of days.

Just interrupted by passport check: two serious men in khaki, in a building made of piled stones, flipping through passports.

Night in high wind at a cheerless border compound, miserable rainstrewn desert morning, and here we are, spirits much improved. Noudahibou by nightfall.

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