Dual Sun 30 July 2017

Mauritania 2017… finding Nega’s pass

Our trip started with some difficulties: the container with our motorcycles arrived some days delayed and the whole company  had to do long walks around the dusty streets of Nouakchott or by the seashore, where thousands of boats of fishermen, with their gaudy colours, screamed joy of life despite the sea’s effort.

You could already feel a tense and irritable air when, thanks to the enterprise and the determination of our leader Federico Milighetti, we could get rid of “problems” with African bureaucracy, take our vehicles and, finally, we could leave.

In front of us, Mauritania desert with its thousand faces deleted all our inquietudes.

The company included old, nostalgic desert navigators of the Paris - Dakar like Federico Milighetti, Paolo Paladini, Andrea Tritarelli, professional travelling lovers like Fabrizio Rovella (Saharamonamour) and some followers in love with adventure and with Africa.

The itinerary was first directed towards north east, direction Akjoujt, then, crossing towns and hard stone uplands it took us to the soft hug of the sand, until reaching the big Azoueiga dunes where we did the first camp. It was impossible to resist the majesty of the dunes, which at the sunset are crossed by games of shadows and slide quietly in the breeze… and we went for it, first with the motorcycles up to the top, and then barefoot, to get inebriated by unforgettable images and sensations. From there our itinerary took us towards Terjit crossing Trifoujar pass. The oasis was our second camp. Under the fresh shadow of the palm trees we went back up long the torrent, reaching the rocky hills which dominate the canyon, to admire the immense valley which extends from the red cliffs in the direction of Atar. We slept one night in the Auberge of Terjit, where we even had the luxury of having a shower, then we took the way towards the south, following the old footprints of the official itinerary of the Paris - Dakar, which remains among the memories of some lucky ones (like our Paladini, Milighetti and Tritarelli). From here the route twists and turns towards Aujeft El Faraoun across a ours full of reservoirs, where groups of women dressed in colorful clothes and of guys run happily towards us. Then, almost suddenly, tall rocky walls stand on our sides and close until the El Anouk canyons, where also Tritarelli (my super professional pilot) couldn't resist the uncontrollable desire to stop and take some pictures.

The next day we went on towards Cippo Fabrizio Meoni (realized in April 2006). As always this approach is painful and makes us feel melancholic… it seems impossible that this arid and banal flat space was fatal to our champion, yet those rocks remind us that it's true, that in this specific place Meoni ended his race forever. “Tidying” the rocks and looking dismayed the final meters of his life are the only attentions which we can still dedicate him, and this makes us feel close and familiar. We leave a bit astonished through a sandy desert made of small scattered dunes, which move transported by the wind interposing to the tracked itinerary, but without causing big problems, then we venture into an endless expanse of dunes and “camel grass” for a hundred kilometers. Here the itinerary becomes really demanding and hard; the ground has no visible tracks and the horizon is  low and unreadable.. even the patience of my methodical pilot comes to an end. Gladly, cloning the roof of our Toyota we saw the endless expanse which extended not that far from us and, with a lest effort, we reached that place beyond the dunes, where, dead tired, we camped for the night (in the nearby of the ghost fort of Tamassoumit). The next day we went on towards Moudjeira, passing through Ksar El Barca, then we continued towards Matmata Guelta, where we saw last Sahara’s crocodiles. The itinerary to reach this place crosses cultivated fields and super populated towns, where groups of guys run towards us barefoot, on their slight legs. Then the rocky rise starts and, emerging from the sand, becomes more and more black and rugged and like a boiling plate raises and raises. The rocky houses standing on these boiling plates look like places of suffering and pain… the last stretch is a unique formation of rocks which extends till the peak of the hill. We get off the cars with caution, we look diffidently at the path we have to walk, and we look for our bikers mates who arrived before us.

We start interpreting the ground and understanding the geometry of the place when, suddenly, the big waterfall opens in front of us: almost a 60 meters drop separates us from those waters, where we could count 12 crocodiles, which arrived till our days from immemorial times. Reassured by the distance, we enjoy the view from the top of an amphitheater made of colorful calcareous rocks. But the day has not finished yet: our most beautiful camp, on an upland decorated with pinnacles of rock, and a roasted goat (bought from the local shepherds) wait for us. The next day was the great day: we were finally going to cross Nega’s pass, which at this point we were believing a mythological place. But it really exists, and our navigators Paladini and Milighetti made us discover every detail of it. First a break by the waterfall: 50 meters in a cleft full of dark stones, where you can't either see the water or hear it, because, moved by the wind, it flies towards the high and it nebulizes in small drops which surprise and refresh you. We then go up on a sandy path, which expands and become sore and more sliding, till a plateau of pink sand. From here a jump on the motorcycle down the slope let out all the enthusiasm of our “never full of emotions” Scardina. Our day comes to an end after crossing Kiffa, where we run along an endless plastic landfill which shocks us because of its brutality. Our trip has almost finished. In front of us asphalt until Boutlimit. Thankfully, the next day, the desert still waits for us and we travel the track towards west till the sea, which we meet in the nearby of Tiguent. Yes, it really ended! We already miss the desert and our company which in these days built strong and true bonds also thanks to the atmosphere offered by the desert and by the fire of the night camps. Tomorrow towards north we will teal along the sea till Nouakchott…and the mind travels in the direction of the next journey, when we will be back again.

Bikers:

  • Federico Milighetti KTM 350 EXC-F, Paolo Paladini KTM rally 660, Stefano Scardina KTM rally 660, Fabrizio Zappitelli KTM 690

Car drivers:

  • Toyota hdj 100 Andrea Tritarelli, Lara Bacci and our guide Hassan

  • Toyota pick up Luca Gazzini and Antonio Accordi
  • Toyota Fabrizio Rovella

Total km: 2600.
Off-road km 80% sand 20%

Text and photo by Federico Milighetti