On this rather unconventional train hopping journey across the Sahara Desert, photographer Jody Macdonald wished to capture what she calls 'the very fundamentals of exploration' through her camera.
"This was one of those rare times in life where the expectations of your dreams and reality converge and it plays out how you imagined," shares Jody on her Blog.
The photographer and her team chose one of the most challenging trails and began their journey from the capital of Mauritania, Nouakchott. Along with a surfer and a local guide, she travelled to Zouérat , one of the iron mining centres. Together they hopped on to a 2.4 km long train carrying almost 84 tons of iron ore. This incredible train ride is the only way to reach the Mauritanian coast for the people of this country.
Mauritania is a country twice the size of France and battered by poverty, 4% population of this country of 3 million people is still enslaved. 90% of the land area is the vast desert and endless expanse of dunes that are reshaped by strong winds every moment.
Their destination on this route was the largest ship graveyard in the world at Nouadhibou. The region of the west coast of Africa is a unique spot where 300 rotting ships give the isolated coast a surreal character. Due to the financial hardships the government chose to overlook this coastline and ship owners paid huge bribes to dump their used vessels in the harbour.
“My aim was to try and to capture the spirit of adventure and exploration through this incredible landscape. Adventure is not about the destination, but the process, hardship and inevitable beauty in the process of getting there.” writes Jody on her blog.
The national railway of Mauritania consists of a single 704 m long railway line linking the iron mining centre to the port at Nouadhibou. The 2.5 km long train is the longest and the heaviest in the world and supports the export of iron ore via major shipping ports. Locals often hop on this train for a free ride and cover the journey ahead sitting on hard wooden seats in crowded carriages.
The adventurous photographer has been to the remotest of locations around the world but the Sahara desert brought rather unforeseen challenges before her on this project. She prepared for 2 months before taking this epic journey on this freight train. Battling the sandstorm, here's a photograph of a Mauritanian man.
On this unusual and ambitious adventure, the photographer chose a special equipment. She talks about her choice saying, “The Leica X-U is small, lightweight and extremely durable, which makes it a great camera for outdoor adventure photography."
At the end of this journey, there they were at the largest ship graveyard in Nouadhibou. This journey was their introduction to the Imraguen, an ethnic tribe of Mauritania. 'The people who fish while walking on the sea' is the meaning of the word Imraguen and the tribe is known to use traditional fishing techniques unchanged since 15th century.
In this incredible adventure documented through her stunning photography, here she captures 'children getting ready to set sail in Banc D'Arguin National Park, Mauritania.'
After an epic freight train ride and battling endless sandstorms, they were at a destination with a story. Sure it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. Try a new adventure to believe it.