|For all the trouble we went through to get our Mauri visas, we sure weren't going to spend much time visiting the country. We always knew it would be a transit country for us and at least we were able to spend a few extra days in Nouakchott. This morning we are on our way to Senegal, crossing the border at Rosso, which we have heard can be a nightmare. But this time we are ready; we've counted our US cash to the penny to match our declaration form and have plenty of San Francisco postcards to spare.
It is 7:30pm and our taxi driver is bringing us to the "garage" where we can find transport to Rosso. Our driver stops at the entrance of the dusty car park full of mini-buses and Peugot 504 bush-taxis to talk to another driver who will take us to Rosso for less than we anticipated. Good, it's too early in the morning to haggle and he is willing to leave immediately. Usually buses and bush-taxis will only leave when every seat is filled. The bush taxis have three rows of seats and officially accomodate seven passengers, hence their other name "cette places", though I have yet to encounter any driver that observes the limit.
Within five minutes we are one our way. We stop at a gas station to fill up and pick up another passenger, a teenage boy in a boubou being sent off by his father. He climbs into the middle row next to me, looking scared the way he is clutching the door handle as his father waves goodbye.
We come to the first police stop where Gregg and I have to get out, present our passports and answer the usual missive of irrelevant questions. We have no troubles and I would even describe the officials as being friendly. So far so good. The boy has moved to the front seat, riding shotgun, so Gregg and I climb back into the middle row. Further on, we pick up two more passengers—one man has thick specs so I will call him 'Lunettes', the other I name 'Beads' because of the string of prayer beads he has dangling from his hand. Lunettes squishes in front with the boy though there is plenty of space in the car, and Beads takes a place in the backrow. The driver is passing people on the road who are trying to wave us down—apparently he can tell by looking at them where they are headed.
Eventually we come to another stop, this time it's the Gendarmes. Formalities are casual and can be handled from the car window. Meanwhile, an elderly man is escorted to the front of the car. Extended greetings are exchanged between him and the driver and soon the boy is demoted to the back row. The man is wearing a long dark boubou and despite the temperature, he has on a cotton scarf that is curiously labelled in large lettering '15 meters'. As soon as 15m is in the car, he begins raving non-stop. Lunettes' body languages tells me that he feels very priviledged to be sitting where he is.
We are now five in the car, but with two riding shotgun, we still have room for at least three more passengers. The next stop we make is for a woman with a large load of boxes. She is with four other women who have come to see her off. After a bit of haggling over the fare, she climbs in beside me while the drive loads up her boxes.