Crocodiles in Mauritania


‘I…. just…. saw…. a…. crocodile!!!!!!!’


With a pale face and an open mouth I stare into the swamps, pointing at the place where I just saw a crocodile run into the water. Yesterday evening Antoine claimed to have heard one, but I did not believe him. For the better, because last night we had to sleep in a small, straw hut without a door, only meters away from the swamps. I would not have dared to close my eyes.


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We have now really reached the end of the desert. The last days of biking in Mauritania have been spectacular. After staying in Nouakchott with missionaries Sylvie and Hans for six days, we were happy to be back on our bikes. In Nouakchott we had a wonderful time. Staying in a European house, with running water, electricity and even a washing machine is so much more restfull than the most fancy hotel. Of course my body used the opportunity to do some cleaning and temporarily raised the temperature above 38 degrees Celcius.
When we finally leave the capital of Mauritania, which is no more than a dusty city with few paved roads and the craziest traffic I have ever seen, it has become hot. So hot that by the end of the day, when it is almost six p.m., I almost fall off my bike. We put water over our heads but it does not help. When we come across villages, I cannot handle the children anymore who are asking for money. Please go away, please leave me alone. On top of that the road has become a low quality, run rown street. Slowly we hobble on, hoping for the sun to set soon and the town of Rosso to appear around the curve, while I'm whiping off tears once again. Before we even get to the town we run into a hotel, with a shower and on top of that chicken and canned green beans for dinner. In spite of our shape we manage to bargain a decent price and we settle in our airconditioned room. You cannot imagine how wonderful airconditioning, cold Fanta or even a cold shower can be.
Now we start the amazing bike ride along the river. It is not easy. Our wrists and our behinds get sore and the night we spend on the dike is dirty and very uncomfortable, as we first have to empty trash from the little hut we are given to sleep in. The policeman in charge suggests that we will be less visible than if we pitch our own tent. He tells us not to worry because during the night a guard will take his place at the intersection. No guard shows up. I feel horrible and I wake up from every car and truck passing by. What seems to be a difficult biking day ahead changes for the better when the sun rises and the animals show their faces.
Wild boar
As we are biking along the dike, we first see an enormous wild boar appear in front of us. He stands still and looks us in the eyes. All I can think is: Please move on, please move on! After he runs off, I grab my camera and quickly take a picture.
We continue on the washboard path. Just as I am yelling at Antoine how much noise we are making, our bikes and gear shaking around, and that we must be scaring all the animals away, an enourmous sound rises up from the swamps next to the path. Immediately I speed up, but when I look back I see Antoine getting off his bike. ‘Why are you stopping? Let`s go on!’ I urge him to get back on his bike. That is when I become speechless.
The crocodile is about a meter long. He moves away from the path, sits still for a moment by the edge of the water and disappears. A couple kilometers further Antoine sees one right in front of us. With beating hearts we continue. This park is more exciting than the Banc D’Argain, which is much more famous for its wildlife. By this river we see hundreds of pelicans, some pink flamingos, eight wild boars, a herdle of wild donkeys, many many cows and bulls and last but not least two crocodiles.
On top of the incredible wildlive, we experience a flawless border crossing. Now and then we are asked for bribes, but I never take them seriously and laugh at them. Then they smile back and let us through. We made it to Senegal.


Special message for Gijs en Maarten: De hoofdstad van Mauritanie is Noakchott!

2 Reactions to: “Crocodiles in Mauritania”

  1. 1 Dottie Ragouzis

    Incredible! At least you have some remarkable adventures along with the bad parts. What memories you will always have!
    Love to you both, Dottie

  2. 2 Marian Febvre

    Seeing a wild boar eye-to-eye from ground level sounds less “cute” than seeing them from the back of a Land Rover like we did…Your experience is the more real one!
    I love your writing and stories.

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