Thursday, December 16, 2010

Juan Auld Jose and Tia Mint Jill

We always love being welcomed into a country by cheats.  Although, to be fair to the cheats, they came highly recommended…  When we arrived in Nouadibhou, Farron announced to the truck that our campsite/hostel would provide the best exchange rates.  So we took our remaining Moroccan dirhams (approx. US$110) and exchanged them immediately upon arriving.  Getting lost in the cross rates in the moment, we accepted the Mauritanian ouagiyas and went back to our room to double check the rate.  We were completely shocked to find that we lost about $27 on the transaction.  When we complained to the hostel owner we found that the man who made the exchange didn’t work there— in fact, he was nowhere to be found.  Farron (who changed his money elsewhere!) compared this to taking him up on a restaurant recommendation and not checking the prices.  Upon which Tia retorted, “No, it’s like you giving us a recommendation for the cheapest restaurant in town and it turns out that every other restaurant is cheaper.”  And even then, no, because you can still expect an expensive restaurant not to take your money and run away!

After this fiasco we only had a few hours of daylight left, which we spent drinking contraband beers in a strictly dry Muslim country.  How, you might ask?  Only one wily Australian (read: Amy) and the owner of a nearby Chinese restaurant will ever know.  Then we were off to Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania.  We arrived at the Auberge du Sahara around 5pm and immediately hopped in a taxi to head for the fish market.  Every day in the early evening, fishermen bring their catches to shore and we walked across the rough concrete floors thick with fish scale slush while cutting a wide path around the cleaver-wielding men to avoid being sprayed by entrails.  Behind the market stretched a picturesque beach lined with brightly colored boats, parked as close as cars for a mile.  Men worked in lines, rolling their boats into their spots atop old helium tanks and wrapping up nets as long as fifty of them.  Women with impossibly good posture sauntered by, balancing buckets on their heads, while adorable children stumbled alongside gawking at the white people.  The night ended with Amy treating us to a joint birthday dinner of surprisingly pleasant sushi and fresh fish (and cold beer) at La Salamandre.  Things were beginning to look up…

Unfortunately, Tia woke up with hundreds of bed bug bites from the mattress and when she confronted the hostel owner was told, “Many people complain about them, but what am I to do?”  Incensed and working on little sleep, we were starting to get sick of not having the power to do anything since she was already paid by African Trails.  Meanwhile, it was our turn to cook for the group that same night.  So we ended up buying pizza across the street and concocting a plan…  

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