It has been described as "one of the world’s most dangerous border crossings." I figured it would be an interesting 45-minute stroll.
02.05.2016 - 03.05.2016 29 °C
There are plenty of exaggerations and wild rumours when it comes to travel stories. Admittedly, I don’t hold back bragging about any credible danger I might face. That’s, however, nothing compared to the bad reputation that the border crossing between Western Sahara and Mauritania has among travellers in this corner of the world. The official name of ‘No Man’s Land’ only adds to the mythical stories. While a German traveller was tragically killed in 2007 and another seriously injured when their car hit a landmine, the dangers of the border crossing do not merit the stories in my opinion. I’m not one to talk ill of the dead, but only the careless and the ill-prepared have anything to fear from this hopeless corner of the planet...
I’ve always preferred to walk across borders. Many are determined by rivers, mountain ranges or high walls. Moving across these at a walking pace gives me time to feel and reflect over the transition from one country to another – and often from one culture, one languish and one mindset to another. No Man’s Land might just be one of the wildest such passages I’ve ever done. The four kilometre trip is not just a walk through the Sahara Desert along a web of unpaved desert tracks; it’s a walk through what is, essentially, a good illustration of what the post-apocalypse will look like. It’s a scenery that I’ve never come across before during my travels – and for me, places that don't remind me of anywhere else are rare. These are gold.
Thousands of cars and, weirdly, television sets litter the desert here. It’s as if civilisation had been destroyed from one day to the next and the desert had taken over. Add to this the claimed danger to your life from those tens of thousands of landmines. Scam artists warmed me as I began my walk. "It’s dangerous, you'll need a guide" they told me. "There are mines." Some even yelled "BOOM!!" after me. But trust me on this one. It’s a scam, nothing more. Sure, a few of the cars looked like they’d been blown up, but most had been abandoned here for one reason or another. But these tracks are well worn and even though it, at times, can be difficult to figure out which track that is the most direct, all lead between those same two border posts. Stick to the tracks, and there’s no danger what-so-ever.
Though it is still very, very cool to brave this walk alone if you ask me… It can surely be turned into a good story. But for once, I am not in a bragging mood.
What shouldn’t be done, is what the Germans did. They drove off the tracks. Not just a little. A few kilometres off the tracks. Either they didn’t know about the mines or they didn’t care. Regardless, their fates could easily have been different – something that’s only make their story even more tragic.
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