There’s a train in Northern Mauritania. It’s the longest train in the world. Not like, the length of the journey, but length of the train itself; it’s over 2km of cars! And it’s travelling back and forth to bring iron ore from the mines to the port.
Now this in itself is kinda cool, I guess. But the real reason people like me end up on this train is because you can ride for free… if you ride in the iron wagons.
When I told my dad what I was doing, he thought I was a little nuts. When I called him at 3 in the morning (8PM for him) when I was getting on this train, he thought I was definitely nuts.
There’s a few ways you can do this train thing. If you’re travelling overland from Maroc, many people hop into the empty cars in Nouadhibou in the afternoon, and hop off about 12 hours later in Choum; then take regular road transit to the capital in the south. But there is a big empty vs. full debate, so others say it’s best to do the reverse, so you actually ride on top of the iron ore.
Originally this was my plan; Choum to NDB, in the full cars. But then I realized that the train kept going to the actual mining town of Zouerat, and that that was only about 5 hours from Choum. So I decided to make it one long day by getting in the empty cars in Choum, spending the morning in Zouerat, and then returning again once the cars were full; that way, I was getting the taste of both experiences, without making a full 12 hour commitment.
So, I caught a ride from atar to Choum, in the back of a 4×4 (alongside 3 dudes and a goat, naturally).
Then I somehow landed myself in the home of Barkar, a fellow passenger, with his wife and daughter. They fed me, dressed me, and the wife had her girlfriends over for a Choum-style spa day (henna, hair braiding, face masks, etc.)