There was a sizeable crowd waiting outside the embassy at 8.30am on Monday morning. Considering recent news I  expected to be the only western face who would be applying for a Mauritanian visa. Instead a colourful bunch of characters, mostly with their own vehicles,  (equally colourful) had lined the road of this Rabat address. Camper-vans, land rovers, trucks, motorbikes – is driving through Mauritania really that popular? It was a comical scene and had me thinking of a cartoon I remember watching as a child.

There was no queue. Application forms were distributed, or rather snatched out of an embassy employee’s  hand on the street and for the next few hours I joined the scrum of increasingly impatient people (French, English, Swedish, Polish, Moroccan, Senegalese..) who surged forward whenever the door to the street opened for a brief moment before  being promptly slammed shut again. Having just arrived off an 8-hour bus journey without a wink  of sleep my energy levels were lacking.

Mauritanian embassy

When my passport and €35 were taken from me I was told to return at 8pm. What embassy is open at this time? Sure enough the same characters were waiting again later that evening and out of a letter-box sized hole in a tiled wall appeared my passport, complete with a 30-day visa.

My other reasons for visiting Rabat have been to speak at the International School here, where I’m hoping the students and teachers will get involved with some fund-raising for the Against Malaria Foundation. Over £5000 has now been raised, which is nearly enough to fund 2000 bed-nets. There is a long way to go, both with fund-raising and cycling.

It’s quite daunting to look at the map and the distance through the western Sahara and Mauritania. Endless kilometres of stony desert I imagine. My bike is still in Tamraght and I’m headed back there tomorrow. A bit more surf might be called for before hitting the road.