Yasmeen E. Awaja, CNN
When planning a honeymoon, many couples go for obvious destinations like Paris, the city of love, or the Maldives, with its stunning azure waters.
Few, unlike Croatian newlyweds Kristijan and Andrea Ilicic, opt for a freight train carrying wagons of dirty iron ore across the baking hot deserts of Mauritania in northwest Africa.
The couple hit upon their unusual post-wedding experience having already visited scores of destinations around the world as travel influencers — Kristijan has clocked up no less than 150.
“We really saw a lot,” Kristijan told CNN via email. “This time, it had to be something completely different. And we found it in… Mauritania!”
The climax of their trip was a daring photoshoot on top of the iron ore-laden train as it rumbled across the desert on its 700-kilometer (435-mile) journey from the mining town of Zouérat to the Atlantic port of Nouadhibou.
The photos were later posted to Instagram, racking up more than 40,000 likes.
In them, Andrea’s dress can be seen stained with the iron ore carried in the open-top rail wagons.
“Everything was full of ore,” Kristijan said. “Clothes, air, food, everything. It was really a miracle we kept the white wedding dress (mostly) white for the shoot!”
Riding the iron train across the desert has become something of a rite of passage for extreme travel influencers in recent years, regularly cropping up on YouTube and other social media sites.
It’s not for the faint of heart though. The 20-hour ride involves temperatures reaching more than 45 degrees Celsius in the day and and below freezing at night. Winds also whip up iron ore dust.
Clambering aboard the 200-wagon train can also be fraught with hazard.
Despite the hardships of their honeymoon photoshoot, Kristijan says the trip to Mauritania exceeded expectations as a welcoming and “underestimated touristic destination,” despite attracting few tourists.
“It really has a lot to offer,” he said.
“In a village we visited, local people managed to surprise us with a wedding ceremony in accordance with their local, traditional rituals. Andrea and I were dressed in their traditional wedding clothes, and it was a two-hour dancing, drumming and singing experience I’ll never forget.
“Looks like Andrea and I got married twice!” Kristijan added jokingly.
“It was really not a typical honeymoon, but it was also the trip of our lives!” he adds.
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