Ampara and I have returned to Atar from an excursion to Chinguetti, and have given up on the possibility of arranging a visit to Ouadane without gushing forth money. Instead, we have in mind visiting the oasis of Terjit not so far away. As we pack after a night spent in slightly too much breeze on the roof of a building associated with restaurant Azougui, brats knock on the shutters and the door, repeating “Cadeau!,” but they don’t get any gifts from us. We go to the restaurant, which doesn’t look at all ready for breakfast so we return the key and pay up. We then head for the main vehicle area to inquire. On the way we encounter a cluster of vehicles, and one fellow is ready to convey us, but this is not the shared taxi place for Terjit.
When we get to the roundabout we’re first pointed to the scattered vehicles on the far side, then a kid takes us to a Land Rover parked outside a nearby shop. This is the place for Terjit it seems, as confirmed when the driver wanders back. He asserts that departure might be between ten and eleven. Ampara goes off to the PO to try the telephones while I watch our bags, then I go for some breakfast, finding that although the restaurant I’d been directed to is closed, there is a hotel restaurant adjacent. This is just around the corner from the Land Rover, and The Kid says that there is an Auberge Azougui near here where one can sleep on the roof. This might be Helene’s place as I doubt that she would have stayed at the restaurant Azougui, just as we didn’t.
I quite like the look of this restaurant, where bread and butter, tea and milk and sugar cost U200, if only because the walls are painted a bright cheerful yellow. The cook/front man is also a friendly fellow who refills my canteen and serves up a bottle of chilled water. Even so, I have a coke from a shop, partly to get some change, and partly because I am curious about the price: as last night the price at another shop was U90 rather than the 50 I recalled.
Back at the Land Rover, we are to load our stuff shortly. Haphazardly as usual, but to my surprise we are not going to wait until we have a crammed-full load and speed away at ten-thirty. A suburban pause proves to be only to fetch a cauldron, then we’re out of the town. We stop at the checkpoint, but once it is stated that we will be coming back this way, we’re waved on and soon leave the main track to Nouakchott.
I’m standing on the rear, comfortably enough, and a local is sitting on our bags. We’re on a plain, with mountains visible to the left, and when we come up on a Toyota, we race it awhile. Then the drivers stop for a chat. There is very little traffic so stopping in the road is normal. Then another stop in nowhere and a request for my water “for the radiator.” What! No-one else is carrying any, especially not our fool driver. I refuse, but Ampara passes over her remaining bottled water and I’m annoyed. If the radiator leaks, aside from fixing it, it is not difficult to carry a water cask on a vehicle.
We continue a while, approaching the mountainside, then pause at a turnoff. Two passengers walk off into the void along one lightly traveled track, while the other track heads towards a valley. At the junction is a decrepit building and although there are no officers at the checkpoint, our diver scrounges some water from a barrel. He refills Ampara’s bottle with dirty water, but later on it bounces out the back of the Land Rover so there was no need to waste sterilizing tablets on it. Shortly we arrive at a village in a narrowing canyon. The “source” is said to be only 450 meters further, but I count a full thousand paces along a sandy track to the gateway to a palm grove.
The walls of the canyon have closed in, the floor is covered by date palms crowding against the cliffs. A gate attendant guides us a fair way on along a footpath beneath the palms to where some tents are set up besides a small stream of free-flowing water beneath a dripping, moss-covered cliff. Family groups lounge around on mats and mattresses in the cool moist shade amongst greenery. This is the dream of desert dwellers, and will do us nicely. A bit further upstream comes the sound of splashing and kids yelling, doubtless a pool.