The train left Nouadhibou at four in the afternoon, just one hour after scheduled time. The sun set a couple of hours later and left the whole train dark. Torches started to light up here and there, and the two men in front of me decided it was tea time.
Now we were already sitting very tightly together when the one man put a gas stove in the middle of all of us. After fifteen tries or so they managed to light it, and put an old white small teapot on the stove. The fire gave my legs some well longed for warmth and the light it spread was comforting. The men prepared mint tea and small glasses were passed through all passengers, even when I had fallen asleep leaning against the wall they woke me up “tea, hey, tea, wake up” and I swallowed the second cup of hot, bittersugary drink “merci, merci”, and fell back against the wall.
I left Nouadhibou in one of the passenger wagons of what’s said to be the longest train in the world. I got a seat, how I don’t know, on one of the wooden something-like-a-bench. Next to me was a young man who spoke no English and hardly French, he kept on offering me fruits and drink. Next to him was an old man, chanting the same melody through the whole eleven hour long ride, and every now and then another old man came in and gave the old man a glass of tea.
The train came to a halt and people ran off, talking fiercely with each other. I thought for a minute the train had broken and our wagon had fallen off, the rest of the train continuing without us. But no, it was just another one of those stops in the middle of nowhere where not a single house nor sign was visible, where people got off and some came on.
Sleeping on the train is just to forget. As I reached some sort of sleeping state of mind the train would either brake with a fierceness that made everyone fly half way across the wagon, or bump bump bump and rock hard to the sides.
Eleven hours later we reached Choum, the time was then close to three am and I had slept as good as nothing. After an hour of bargaining a car took us to Atar. I had a seat in the back seat with the couple from the carriage, the man who made the tea and his wife, and as the crazy bumpy ride started I was so tightly squeezed in between the woman and the door I was not able to move. I fell asleep leaning on her shoulder and kept on dreaming we were there, but it took two hours of bumps and more bumps on that not really existing road before we reached town. It was merely some traces in the sand saying cars sometimes passed there and it’s by far my worst ride in a car ever.
As we were in the car the man asked me about my friend. “What friend?” I said. “The black guy on the train. Your friend.” I looked at him, said I don’t know who he was. That I haven’t seen him before. “But he spoke English?” he said. “No, he spoke no English.” I told him whereupon he said the guy had told them in French that we were travelling together. I have no idea why he would do that.
We reached Atar and slept another hour in the car before some taxis came, one taking me to the auberge Bab Sahara. A man met me outside, I was by then so tired my brain had turned into a shallow well and all I could say was “where can I sleep?” and as the man showed me into a room with a bed, I laid down and four hours later I was feeling much better. It was by then lunch time and some people were hanging out in the garden. It’s a very peaceful place here, and everyone except a very few speaks English. Here is full with german tourists and I feel both safe and secure. Here is no mafia, no terrorists and no big companies ready to exploit the land just to make money for the own pocket.
This is the desert. The old peaceful Sahara.