Thursday, January 27, 2011

Week One:

I'm trying to assess how long I'll need to traverse the African continent starting in March. I have it roughed into my schedule as needing about 12-13 weeks, but of course, that's not based on much real information.

I sat down last night to try to work out how long I really need.

And only got as far as Mauritania before falling asleep.

Here's how it works out so far.

01 March, Tuesday: Fly out of Newark.

02 March: Arrive Malaga, Spain at 12:30 p.m. The daily ferry to Melilla (the Spanish enclave in Morocco) leaves at 2 p.m. so I won't make that. Overnight in Malaga, which is just as well since I'll have jetlag.

03 March: Morning look at Malaga and last-minute kitting-out. 2 p.m. slow ferry to Melilla. There's no fast ferry in the winter. Set foot on the African continent at 9:30 p.m. Overnight Melilla.

04 March, Friday: Walking tour of modernist buildings in Melilla. Afternoon city bus to the border. Catch train at Beni Nsar at 1925, and head down to connect with the sleeper train at Taourirt. Overnight on couchette ($42) or in private cabin ($73). Seems to be impossible to purchase tickets from outside the country, so I might have to take what I can get. Which might be a seat.

05 March: Arrive Casablanca early morning, transfer to Marrakesh train. Arrive Marrakesh, and transfer there to the Supratours bus to Essaouira, which should get me there for lunch. Overnight in Essaouira. Maybe at Le Grand Large, which is on sale on Expedia.

06 March: Essaouira. Second night.

07 March: Essaouira to Agadir bright and early in a shared taxi. Catch a nice bus (again, I'm aiming for the the top-end but might have to settle for what is available) to Laayoune. There's a 1000 bus out of Agadir that arrives at Laayoune at 2000. Something like Hotel Jodesa sounds fine for a night of a late arrival and early departure. I'm tempted to make one long go of this two-day bus ride, but I think it's too early in the trip and too soon after the night on the train to stomach a 21-hour bus ride. Maybe I'll do it.

08 March, Tuesday: Laayoune to Dakhla. Eight or so hours by bus or shared taxi. I'm supposed to carry about five spare copies of my passport to hand out at checkpoints, to make the process go faster. Overnight in Dakhla. Visit Hotel Sahara to arrange for a lift to Mauritania, about 350 dirham.

09 March: Maybe I'll just sit tight in Dakhla for a day. Sleep, eat, wander around.

10 March, Thursday: Dakhla to Nouadhibou, Mauritanitia. Overnight in Nouadhibou?

or...proceed on to Nouakchott, to Auberge Menata.

This is where it gets confusing. How into comfort am I? How lazy? How much energy do I have? If I stop at Nouadhibou, it will be for one night, and then the next day (March 11), I'll take the (in)famous 12-hour iron ore train to Choum. It arrives in the wee hours, and then I have to bum a ride off someone to Atar. By this point, I will probably be exhausted, but I'll need to find someone--maybe a taxi driver or a tour operator--to take me to the local version of Uluru/Ayers Rock, which is called Ben Amira. Or maybe I'd just see that from the train. I need to read up more on Atar. I'd stay in Atar the night of March 12, when I'd probably be completely exhausted, then head to Nouakchott the next day, staying at Menata on March 13 before heading south 3.5 hours to Senegal.

No wonder I gave up last night. Each step requires a lot of reading. I'm going to have to plan this in stages.

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