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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The mining boom - or is that kaboom?

Now don't berate me about the wonky horizon! I know I'm terrible with horizons. I even have a little doodad that fits into my flash hot shoe to let me know when my horizon's crooked. Doesn't seem to work unless I look at it first. :)

But that's not the topic of today's post. We're still talking about dodgy situations and this is one of the dodgiest.

You see that little track that all those people and that truck are on? That goat track leads from the Moroccan town of Dakhla down through the disputed territory of the Western Sahara to Mauritania.

Nothing particularly remarkable about the road except you can only travel along it one day a week, and even then you have to have a military escort.

The reason is that there's a war going on over this little corner of desert and either side of this little track is heavily mined. Now I'm not talking about looking for gold here, I'm talking real exploding landmines! Nobody wander to far to go to the toilet.

It's a two day trip and on the night of the first day we camped in the middle of the minefield, outside an old abandoned fort. We sat very close to the fire when out of nowhere a Moroccan army guard took a seat, machine gun and all. He looked at all of us and said with a very stern face, "Any of you have hash?". No, no we replied. Nothing like that. "Well I do!", he cheered and brought out a huge hunk of decidedly illegal substance and started rolling his own.

The next day we reached the border of Mauritania. At least it was supposed to be the border but it was like no crossing I'd ever seen. There was no guards, border post shack or any sort of security to be seen. Weren't we in a DMZ?

Then all of a sudden black-clad men with machine guns started crawling out of the ground. Literally popping up left, right and centre out of trapdoors in the sand dunes. This was our border crossing. We made it through no worries but on the truck behind us there was a lady with a t-shirt of a cartoon character with spinning eyes that said 'Stoned in Africa' or something like that. Our Moroccan army friend from the night before probably thought it was great but they got searched from top to tail and were there for hours!

Stay tuned for more dodgy photography adventures!

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