By Barney Riley via SWNS
A travel blogger has documented his journey across western Africa's Mauritania after train-hopping on the 437-mile stretch of railroad.
The route, popular with adventurous tourists, starts in the country's mining center of Zouérat and connects it with the port city of Nouadhibou, transporting iron ore to be exported globally.
To help with the journey, Tom employed a local fixer, who provided equipment including goggles, sleeping bags, and protective clothes.
Despite it being a Mauritania Railway, the railroad travels through the heavily disputed territory of Western Sahara, which Morocco claims as its own, and partially occupies 80 percent of the country.
Tom, who would prefer not to use his surname, and other passengers initially hitched a ride on the train from the bare bones station in Zouérat.
The train consists of open-top freight carriages, forcing passengers to sit, stand or lay on the dust-like iron ore during the 19-hour journey.
Tom, from Croatia, said: "The first hours were extremely hot and there is no place to escape the scorching sun.
"Then when it cools off around sunset the colors of the landscapes around you change and when darkness falls the unbelievable night sky appears.
"Riding the train through the Sahara Desert never was boring, even not when the wind picked up at night and temperatures dropped significantly.
"Survival mode on and making sure to get through these cold hours and make it until sunset.
"Riding the Mauritania Iron Ore train really felt like living the adventure instead of being the adventure.
"You can literally sit back and relax, the train ride will take you through different stages of the day through constantly changing landscapes."
Being a seasoned traveler, Tom explained that there were still things that he didn't expect on the journey.
"I didn't expect the rough night. We were warned that the nights wouldn't be that comfortable, but that is what was challenging that we didn't expect.
"It was cold and the winds were strong.
"Because of the strong winds the iron ore and the Sahara sand were blowing in our faces like little needles.
"I was ready to watch endless stars laying on my back but unfortunately you had to wear goggles to protect your eyes constantly."
The trip is accessible to regular tourists but Tom's traveling experience helped him a lot.
He added: "It is a pretty standard thing to do. However, years and years of travel experience definitely help a lot.
"It is just how much can or are you willing to 'suffer' or be uncomfortable to experience such incredible adventures.
"We used a local guy that helped us with the logistics.
"It made it all much easier for us as he arranged goggles, protective clothes, sleeping bags, drop off at the train departure and pick up at the end station and he stayed with us during the whole night.
"You can do it yourself, but by hiring a local fixer you also support the local people and I always try to make a little difference when traveling and giving back to local communities so that is what I would encourage other travelers to do as well."
Tom quit his job in 2012 to become a full-time travel blogger, setting up his website and has since visited 138 countries.
He said: "Traveltomtom started with a passion for traveling and that is still what is my main inspiration these days for exploring the world, 10 years after it all started.
"After several year-long trips around the world in the years 2006 - 2010, I quit my job again in December 2012.
"I saved a lot of money to travel for a couple of years on a budget and that is where it all started.
"The first years I was living the adventures around the world, spending my savings.
"However, I was already creating content before social media was a thing.
"Then with the rise of social media platforms, I was already an influencer before even realizing myself.
"Having a lot of Instagram followers on @traveltomtom resulted in nearly free travels for a couple of years, but not making decent money.
"To get a more substantial income from traveling I started my travel blog.
"As of today, I have visited 138 countries".
Tom is planning on traveling to every country on the planet and told SWNS of his future travel plans that center around Africa.
"Just before the pandemic I came up with the idea of visiting every country in the world.
"I had already traveled to more than 100 countries by that time and of course, it was the worst timing as the pandemic made travel very difficult.
"Now that the world is slowly opening I like to visit countries I have not yet been to before and most of them are in Africa.
"So, in the next year, you can expect a lot more trips to lesser-known countries in Africa: Libya, Algeria, Mali, Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia, Congo DRC are part of my upcoming travel plans and I am very excited to show my followers on social media what life is like out there."
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