|Big Boys and Tonka Toys
Our friend Lisa was coming from London to meet us in Dakar in two weeks. Why would you need two weeks to rendez-vous with someone, you ask? Well, we probably didn’t, but couldn’t take any chances. Planning from Rabat, Morocco, we needed to get Mauritania visas, travel to the southern border town of Dakhla (in Western Sahara – technically part of Morocco), and mooch a ride with a convoy for the journey across the desert to Senegal. Convoys departed twice a week (we weren’t sure which) and getting on one was never a sure thing. The traverse across the western edge of the Sahara desert would take a minimum four days.
It was exciting. Our first land crossing into another country, and I was excited for the desert. Dakhla was a bit of a dump, so we weren’t too keen on staying long. We spent one entire day figuring out where and when to find the next convoy. We managed to find the guest house/camp site where most were, and showed up early the next morning. Most everyone had already headed out. A party of two cars was either running late or had come back for something. Their engines were revving and they were about to leave. I must have charmed them with my broken French – they would give us a lift. Epatant!
Our French ride had vehicles equipped with stereo, CB radio, GPS, 4WD, and AIR-CON. Monsieurs Roger and Thierry were in their late 40's and had bonded during expeditions in the Sahara in Mauritania and Algeria years ago. Roger was an old hand at this--it was his third timeand Thierry's second. Laetitia, Thierry's 20-year old girlfriend, was along for a joyride—more ride than joy.
Our convoy of about 30 vehicles was mostly Mauritanian and French in make-up; Gregg, Tanguy (the Belgian biker), and I were the only 'voyageurs' there for the sheer adventure. Most of French were selling beat up white Mercedes euro-bangers to pay for the trip; the Mauris seemed to be trading goods. Apart from a few female Mauri passengers who never got out of the cars), Laetitia and I were the only women. The average frequency of crossings amongst the group was 2 or 3 times. Eurobangers hardly turn a profit. So then what was it that made these guys come back year after year?
On the road from Dakhla to Nouadibou, Mauritania, I‘d made up my mind that convoy-ing thing was a guy thing. I don’t mean that only guys are tough enough or that gals wouldn’t find it a satisfying adventure. It’s just that everything about it reeked of machismo.