View from the top of Old Man of Coniston hike in Lake District National Park, England.
Where are Kevin and Ruth now? Preston, Lancashire, England.

Where are Kevin and Ruth going next? Wyke, West Yorkshire, England on May 29th!

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Dirty. Uncomfortable. Amazing!

When we left you yesterday, we had just boarded the iron ore train in Mauritania, Africa headed west from Choum to the Atlantic coast at Nouadhibou.

The train travels at between 35 to 40 km/h (22 to 25 mph). With a distance of 400 kms (248 miles), and several short stops along the way, it should take around 12 hours to get to our destination. But certainly none of that is written in stone.

(NOTE: There is still some kind of problem with the clarity of the photos on today's post. However if you click on the photo to make it full screen, you get the original quality. Then when you go back to the blog, it is good again. I don't have an explanation of why, but it works!)

Our leader Johnny has ridden this train seven or eight times. More times than any other foreigner in the world. He has had it take as long as 18 hours. Sometimes it is late arriving to begin with. And sometimes the train breaks down.

Us, at sunrise the next morning.

We had packed a few snacks and each car was loaded with a case of bottled water. Once the train is moving, it's difficult to eat or drink though. But, you need to be prepared. If the train breaks down and you're stuck in the heat of the desert during the day in the middle of nowhere with no shade, you'll be wanting that water.

We had managed to finish a bag of pistachios that we had before the train actually started moving, but that was it until morning.

Once moving, there is actually too much dust to make it enjoyable trying to eat or drink something. You really need to keep your mouth and nose covered up as much as possible. When the train stops (and it did, five or six times) you can have a snack or a slurp of water but I just didn't bother.

We shared each others pictures, so I picked some of the better ones to share with you...

Cathy and Aidan.

At sunrise the next morning.


A lot of questions yesterday regarding bathroom facilities.

Well as you could guess... there aren't any! So what we did was to designate one corner of the ore car as the bathroom. You obviously want to have planned your schedule so that you wouldn't have to do a number two. And to pee, you just do what you have to do. I thought it would be easier for a man, and it probably was... but it still wasn't that easy when the train was moving. You couldn't really stand up for fear of falling because the train jostles around quite a lot. I found it easier to get on my knees, but then I still had to work my way through three layers of pants to do the job!

Ruth said it wasn't too bad, but she is pretty used to squatting to begin with due to all the outdoor hiking and stuff that we do. She had that rain poncho on though and when you were moving it was actually quite windy so the poncho was blowing around and getting in the way.

Marissa, looking back.

I took this selfie during one of the stops.

Once the train is moving, the iron ore dust gets literally everywhere. The swim goggles worked well for us though, and we each had a Covid mask as well as the turban wrapped around our faces. When we looked at some of the other people when we got to our destination, we actually fared better than some of the others!

This photo clearly shows the dust blowing over to the left side.

This is us.

We were pretty well dressed for the conditions. The forecast called for a low of 8C (47F) but it may have been a little lower than that. The problem was the wind. We had two blankets like the one that Ruth is wrapped in above, plus we each had a thin foam mattress. The mattress was partly for comfort, but also to insulate you from the cold iron ore.

We did get a little cold around 4:00am. Never to the point of shivering, but my toes were cold and the wind kept blowing the blankets around. Those who had sleeping bags fared better. And it was difficult to share body heat because we just couldn't get comfortable. 

Marissa, Ruth, and Kevin.

Arrived at our destination at Nouadhibou at 8:15am, almost exactly 12 hours later! Johnny said it was the best time yet so we were lucky in that regard. The train never broke down, and only stopped five or six times for between five minutes and maybe a half an hour.

It was dirty. And it was uncomfortable. But it was amazing.

True adventure travel. 

I remember thinking "Wow, look at where I am!".  I couldn't believe that I was riding on top of an iron ore freight train in one of the least visited countries on the planet, in the middle of the Sahara Desert looking up at the beautiful night sky. 

Ruth says she saw four different falling stars and I saw two or three of them. Unfortunately neither of my cameras are good for night photos

With our leader Johnny at the end of the train ride.

Group photo.

From there, we were driven to the nicest hotel in Nouadhibou. In fact, it was far better than we were expecting!

Yes, that bed is looking very comfortable compared to where we just came from!

And a hot shower was definitely on the agenda!

Our room was a full suite with kitchen and living room.

We had a shower and a nap, then we were brought to a coastal restaurant for fish lunch. Back at the hotel, I had yet another nap. 

Slept like a rock that night!

I'm still a couple of days behind in posting. It's now Tuesday morning, and we fly back to Casablanca later this afternoon. It's been a great trip, but we're looking forward to getting back home to Max, and continuing to explore Morocco by motorhome. Next post coming to you from Morocco!

Fantastic deal on this Women's Ski Jacket.

And in Canada...


  1. Wow that’s an adventure!
    Thanks for sharing the photos and the details of your trip. Not a usual one!

    1. Yep, it was definitely a real adventure, we are so glad that we did it. Not a normal trip/holiday that most people would do.

      Glad that you enjoyed the blog post and the pictures.

  2. I think that trip is the all time record for the most amazing (crazy!) adventure you've had. Yet. :cD

    1. I think that we would have to agree with you on that, although doing Kilimanjaro was pretty amazing too!

  3. What an interesting and educational trip!
    The Sahara wasn't what I expected it to be - I thought there were mainly endless sand dunes but it was a lot more varied than that.
    Were there any locals travelling in the iron ore cars?

    1. It was a fantastic trip, both Kevin and I still have huge smiles on our faces when we think about it!

      The Sahara has a very varied landscape, definitely not all sand dunes. We really want to go to Algeria at some point, the Sahara there is amazing too with lots of great rock formations.

      On this particular night there was at least one or maybe two groups of locals in the cars that we could see. There were some in one of the cars between some members of our group and we were told that they were even making tea in their car. The locals are the ones who started the whole riding on the ore cars to get to the city because it was a free way for them to travel there.

  4. What an adventure!! I follow you each and every day and feel like I am seeing the world I would otherwise not see!!! Thank You and Good Travels!! CarlGeo

    1. Thank you so much for following along with us. It is a pleasure to bring you and everyone else along with us through our blog and to show you the world through our eyes. We really try to show you the whole picture of what life is like in other countries with the good, the bad and the ugly.

      This trip was definitely a real adventure!

  5. Now THAT was an adventure! I don't think I'd enjoy it, but kudos to you and your fellow travelers for pushing through the discomforts. I'd be nervous about breathing any of that dust, since I have asthma, but it looks like with all the layers in front of your mouths and noses, you were probably okay. BTW, at least for me now, your photos go back to blurry after I enlarge one and then go "back" to the blog.

  6. My photos were fine (did not need to enlarge).

    1. We glad that your pictures are coming out fine, just wish we knew what the issue was. We have tried reinserting a couple of pictures in this blog post, now that we are back in Morocco and it made no difference. We think it is just some kind of glitch with Blogger and it affects some but not others. Anyway, Kevin will look into it more now that we have some time on our hands.

  7. You guys are nuts. What a riot!

    1. Yep, we sure are! We think doing silly stuff like this is what keeps us young. It really was a blast. :-)

  8. Replies
    1. It certainly was! What a great experience we had here in Mauritania.

  9. How cool! This is the second time in a month I have heard about this adventure. I told my boyfriend about it and he told me to have fun and take photos. Ha! Thanks for sharing!!! :)

    1. It was a very cool thing to do, crazy but cool! We had a guy on our trip that did the trip on his own, his wife doesn't care for trips like this so she stayed at home, which means that if you want to do it, you can do it on your own as well. Johnny has a trip here again in November that I believe still has space. Johnny is bringing his 72 year old mother on that trip and she has Parkinson's, so if she can do it you can too. :-)

  10. Loved the Sahara journey...the dirty train ride not so much. We had a short ride in Ely, Nevada years ago on the coal fired steam train. We sat outside and were filthy when we got back!😁 I can only imagine your ride.

    1. So glad that you enjoyed the trip with us, through our eyes. The Sahara desert is definitely a beautiful place, at least in some of the areas that we experienced. Not everyone is up for a train ride like that, in fact I think you are actually with the majority of people on that, lol. Yeah, I think that this train ride is a whole lot more uncomfortable and dirtier than the short one you did in Ely.


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