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A bucket of fish

With festivities over for now, the next day we headed out of Azougui further into the desert, this time with Alioune and Ryan squeezed into the back. The day passed without event except for a near miss with a charging goat. The goat, bounding across the road ever so much slower than its friends saw the Toyota at the last second, and skidded to a stop on its side like a four-legged baseball player sliding into home base. I’d not given much thought to this before, but it was obvious that goat did not want to die. This leads me to believe that goats do not like being eaten, so I have magnanimously vowed never to eat goat again.


Leaving Atar on the way to Oudane


With Alioune out of Atar


We visited an old (1200s) town called Oudane and wandered through some ruins, ate dinner with Zieda at her auberge and hit the sack.




Zieda’s son and auberge







Unfortunately I was not to sleep for very long before I was awakened by the disastrous working of my stomach and intestines, which threatened to evacuate themselves in a most unromantic fashion. Actually, there was no threatening, the scene was severely unpleasant, with me spending most of the night with my head down the toilet.

The only saving grace was that I’d escaped having the whole affair in Kassim’s toilet by 24 hours.

The next day was miserable. While the others were happily getting stuck in the desert on the way from Oudane to Chinguetti, I was feeling nothing but nauseous. After a few hours we found an oasis, and let me tell you, an oasis is not a cooling palm tree ringed pond with cute, exotic wildlife sipping the water and maidens offering dates and waving palm leafs. Oh no, an oasis is just as hot as the rest of the desert except that there are one or two scrubs offering little to no shade as a teaser of what might have been. As for the cute animals, the oasis was surrounded by a fence, rare here, specifically to keep them out.

On the other hand there were a few women there, in their homes of sticks and colored sheets. They were welcoming and kind, they offered us tea, but I was so ill I just lay myself down in the middle of their tent on a mat on the sand. They must have been rather surprised, but they and their children took it in stride and covered me with a sheet which I curled up under. While they spoke no English, turns out sign language for vomiting and diarrhea is universal. Fortunately the latter had abated but the nausea was coming on strong. Yes, everyone made comments about this being my baby girl as a result of the marriage night.



Ah! The generous ladies told me (via Alioune), ‘we have a medicinal cure for what ails you’, but that I couldn’t take it if I was planning on going to the hospital. We are 250 miles from a hospital, no I wasn’t planning on popping by for a checkup. On Alioune’s recommendation I opted for the potion, forgetting that I had taken an anti-nausea pill, which is generally not recommended because it stops the body’s gag reflex.


The potion turns out to taste nearly as disgusting as the time I tried Chinese medicine, boiled burdock root, many years back to cure eczema (no surprise, that doesn’t work). In addition, after swallowing the vile concoction I was required to eat some gum arabic, which was even worse than the potion. But, they assured me, it was guaranteed to work, I just needed to vomit again. Oh no! I’ve drunk/eaten a completely unknown and barely edible series of ingredients, and I have the anti-nausea pill in me making sure I can’t get rid of it. What was I thinking? This could be bad news.



As usual, I needed the toilet. I think the answer to my question was, ‘there are no toilets in the desert, use a dune’. I stumble outside and fall to my knees in the blazing sun, and no worries about the anti-nausea pill, that has nothing on Mauritanian medicine. My stomach heaves and I throw up a combination of day-glo yellow Barocca and the magic elixir. I’m about to curl up and die then and there and the tableau is like those desert scenes in movies like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas where there’s a brilliant ball of white fire in the sky and nothing but sand and eeiry music, when a woman with a bucket of fish walks up and beckons me. Is this what death is like, my overheated brain asks? There’s a bright light and a woman with fish? I follow the beckoning woman and her fish, prepared to meet the hereafter. Why is she carrying fish in the desert 1,000 miles from the sea I wonder. Do they have a fishing pond at the oasis? Is the fish-woman my talisman, sent to guide me to the next world? Or in my case, a shallow grave in the sand. I think yes. But no, she is leading me to a toilet. She waits and leads me back. Each step in killing me, as if gravity were pulling me deep down into the bowels of this sandy earth, and the blinding light, the searing heat, nothing quite describes it. I’m about to pass out when Rick appears and helps me back to the car where I wallow in misery for the next few hours.

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