At last it's time to trudge to the appointed spot, somewhere out in the darkness.There's a faint glow on the horizon, a distant hum in the air.With an unerring nose for a tourist trail, nomads popped up everywhere, bearing little bundles of trinkets.The goods themselves were disappointing: cheap imported jewellery, little in the way of local crafts."Nasrani," I manage to catch, followed by "billet, billet," and I get the drift: "The foreigners can't get on without a ticket! He's trying it on – tickets are sold on the train – but time's running out. Back at the start of my trip, I'd joined an Explore trip going deep into the mountainous Adrar region for a four-day trek.Someone distracts him and I hurl my rucksack in Bekhayr's direction. En route, we passed the dunes of Amatlich, which rise like a sand tsunami from the plains; a nomad and his camel wandered by in a photogenic sort of way, dwarfed by the gravity-defying slopes.
It's the only stop between the iron-ore mines of Zouérat and the refinery.
Three of us are playing Scrabble in French; one of the Moors (as they're known) is winning hands-down, while his countryman brews sweet green tea.
We're random acquaintances, thrown together by bush-taxi chance, and we're waiting for a train. I'm on Mauritania's northern frontier, in the town of Choum, whose only claim to fame is its railway station.
Our train comprises 2km of iron-ore wagons that carry 20,000 tons per train to the coast, with just a couple of passenger carriages tacked on.
We finish our game of Scrabble, then pool our resources for dinner: bread and sardines, biscuits, squashed bananas and the ubiquitous frothy green tea.