Peter Gostelow cycling out of the Sahara into Senegal

Posted: Mar 03, 2010 07:54 pm EST

We are a desert people, we dont like the sea, a Mauritanian told Peter Gostelow, who thought the 5 km rubbish filled land from the sea to Mauritanias capital would be prime real estate in another country.

Peter has pedalled 9000 km since he left London in Aug 2009. 2000 km of his cycling was through the Sahara in Africa.

We dont like the sea

Peter said the sea is invisible from Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania. There is not even a hint that its 5km away.

In any other city this 5 km would be prime real estate. In Nouakchott its a wasteland.

The city dumps its rubbish here. Plastic bags find a home against thorny vegetation, until the wind changes direction and they trade places.

I cant think of another capital city in the World that is so close to the sea, yet so detached from it, Peter commented.

While he was driving in a car in the city he asked the driver why this was so. He said he lived by the coast, but really his house was on the fringe of the city, before the 5km buffer zone of wasteland.

We are a desert people, we dont like the sea. The land is also prone to flooding.


Peter continued about Nouakchott. [It] isnt likely to feature any time soon on a recommended weekend getaway list.

Its central landmark is a Saudi-financed mosque that sits opposite a sprawling mobile telephone market. The two slender minarets reach higher than the rest of the ugly concrete construction here.

There is no park and the only greenery appears to be that surrounding the Presidents Palace. What a surprise. Just like Nouadibou the pavements and many of the roads here are filled with sand, although there are less goats, and at least in the centre, less visible rubbish.

Love your neighbour counties

Peter observed about how people talk about their neighbouring countries. Bad-mouthing the people who live in your neighbouring country seems to be commonplace all over the World.

Moroccans will warn you about being kidnapped in Mauritania, just as Indians will happily tell you Pakistanis are all terrorists and the Chinese might attack the Japanese on the subject of war crimes.

Im struggling to think of a country Ive travelled through where someone has remarked about their neighbours You will love it there. The people are so kind and friendly.

Entering Senegal

When Peter neared Senegal the vegetation changed and he said it is more like how he imagined Africa before this trip.

It was about 40°C when he entered Senegal he reported. A documentary on penguins was playing in the immigration office. The immigration officer was reclined on a foam mattress on the floor and totally absorbed by the TV.

Tie your bicycle

Peter is currently in St Louis, the capital of Senegal's Saint-Louis Region located in the northwest of the country.

Make sure you tie your bicycle chain around your ankle when you get [to Senegal], alerted Peter Gostelows Nouakchott guide him when he left Mauritania for Senegal.

He remembered these words when his camera and then his wallet got stolen in the past days in Senegal. The wallet was stolen while Peter was sleeping and he saw only a dark figure running away.

Peter went to the police to make a declaration for an insurance claim. The officer on duty turned his attention away from a football game on TV and asked Peter to identify the wallet thief.

It was too difficult to say for sure. They looked pretty much alike black, shaven-headed, torn jeans, t-shirts.

An hour or so later Peter was led into another room in a separate building. A dusty PC was resting upon an old wooden desk, along with several stacks of paper. It wasnt until I sat down that I noticed my wallet was also on the desk. I picked it up and opened it. Empty. No surprise there.

Peter came to a decision, After a week here in St Louis I can think of no better escape than the open road.

Peter Gostelow, who lives in Dorset (UK) when he is not on his bicycle, was born in 1979 and became an English teacher and long distance cycler. During 2005 to 2008 he cycled from Japan to the UK, a distance of 50,000 km. Currently he is cycling from London, through Africa, to Cape Town; a 20,000+ km distance which will take two year to finish. He started on 16 August 2009.


Only the increasing number of soldiers standing at random outposts in the desert and signs warning me of land mines indicated that I couldnt be far [from the Moroccan immigration post] (click to enlarge)
Image by Peter Gostelow courtesy Peter Gostelow, SOURCE
Images of picture post-card dunes may romanticize the idea of travelling across this vast landmass, but in reality it is a harsh and inhospitable place, much like other deserts Ive cycled across (click to enlarge)
Image by Peter Gostelow courtesy Peter Gostelow, SOURCE
Sahara Desert dwellings (click to enlarge)
Image by Peter Gostelow courtesy Peter Gostelow, SOURCE
When Peter started to get out of the Sahara Desert he observed: The desert finally started to change. Trees, yes trees small and sporadic at first, slowly became larger and more numerous. (click to enlarge)
Image by Peter Gostelow courtesy Peter Gostelow, SOURCE
The desert had finished but the heat had increased. I stopped to rest under the shade of an acacia tree and remained there for a good few hours. (click to enlarge)
Image by Peter Gostelow courtesy Peter Gostelow, SOURCE
Sahara star gazing (click to enlarge)
Image by Peter Gostelow courtesy Peter Gostelow, SOURCE