Kerri Ough - a work in progress...

Morocco Part 3: The Sahara Desert

The Sahara Desert. Where do I even start?

Maybe with the offroading trip from M’Hamid to the campsite in the Sahara? Or maybe with our drive through a sandstorm en route to M’Hamid that has us almost offroading in our rental Creta.

Or maybe with the awkward encounter with a man offering to drive us into camp — which was part of the plan — but the man offering had no papers, names or confirmation numbers identifying him as our guide… and he didn’t speak English. For about 5 minutes I wondered what the hell we were doing even considering getting into his car but John got on the phone with our host Bobo (who was at camp already) and confirmed this was in fact who was supposed to taxi us to the desert.

Once in the car, we were in for a 30km off-road adventure over dunes and gravel through a sandstorm – picture blizzard but with sand. For some reason, any fear I once had during this trip vanished and I was having the time of my life being taxied into the Sahara by a complete stranger. The scenery was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced and that was enough for me to feel excited. But the combination of the wild driving, the crazy sandstorm, and the blaring Arabic music playing on the car stereo and being with these specific friends – it was a perfect mix of insanity and comfort. At the top of one dune our driver stopped and I got out to feel the storm on my skin. It was nuts and my exposed skin was exfoliated within seconds of stepping outside. By the way, 30km off-roading takes approximately 90 minutes.

About 5 minutes later, we came upon four creatures that no one in the car could identify. When we started talking aloud about it, my mind went to: dinosaurs. They were vultures, and they were incredible, prehistoric, ancient looking, and extra ominous in the sandy skies.

vultures-sahara

The Sahara will likely go unparalleled in my experiences of vast, middle of nowhere places. We spent two nights and three days there and I would have cashed in the rest of my vacation time to just stay there. Partly because it was so foreign to me to be in such a dry place. Partly because as I spent more time there, I felt more adventurous. Partly because the daily occurrences of sandstorms limited our outside time to mornings only, so I feel like I only just started to get to know the place. But maybe it’s perfect in my mind because we were only there a short time. The people we met, Bobo (our host) other travellers, couples, singles, added to the intrigue of the place. I just felt something there I’ve never felt before and I want to remember it until the day I die. At night, after dinner, we would sit outside our tent and stare at the sky and talk about the weirdest shit in our minds. Our tent was the farthest from the main congregating area, so we felt like we were out in the desert alone for hours. The night sky was completely flipped from my North American experience with it, and it took effort to find the most common constellations. There was sand in everything. Imagine your most sandy beach experience, and quadruple it. Sand in our teeth, clothes, underwear, in any pant cuff, pocket or book. Sand trapped under toothpaste caps, and in our sunscreen. My skin was the smoothest it’s ever been. My hair shed sand for days afterwards, even after several showers. I want to go back there someday.

The view from our tent. Like we were there alone. It was a dream.
viewfromourtent-sahara

Riding a camel train, me and my baby in the back, yo.
kobo-camels-sahara

Every afternoon, a sandstorm would kick up and we would all seek shelter in the communal tent, where all the water, snacks and beverages were. We would curl up with our books (us and two other couples, it was all very sweet) and intermittently fall asleep between chapters. Erg Chicaga is considered a luxury camp and therefore catered to the western tourist… read: there was much booze in the fridge and coolers in the communal tent. During one sandstorm when I could barely stand being under the hot tent anymore (and when one of the other visitors was insisting that I sing for the group) I went out and took photos of camels in the storm. I love them. It was a risky move bringing my good camera out in the sandstorm, as the fine sand found its way into anything and everything. Still, I’m glad I risked it to photograph that stunning place and that magical creature.

camel-eating-sahara

On our last morning there, we wanted to watch the sun rise over the dunes. Well, I wanted to watch and photograph it, Brian and John wanted to do a “Sahara sunrise dune run.” Everyone got what they wanted. My morning started at 5:50am to John outside our tent chanting that familiar army movie melody: “I don’t know what I’ve been told…”  Up we were, and out into the chilly, stunning silence of the dunes.

dune-silhouettes

They ran to the tallest dune, while I stayed back enjoying a solitary experience on my own dune. I turned and zoomed in on these two Canadians having the time of their life.

bojh-dunerun

I’m a sucker for a good sunrise, and have seen some of the best in Newfoundland. The Sahara Desert is now on the list.

sahara-sunrise

I  didn’t edit any of these photos. I wanted to share them raw and untouched, just the way I saw them. In the morning, while the sun was still climbing the shadows in the dune were perfection. The colours vibrant and contrasting – just the way they were meant to be seen. I’ll always love this shot below.

dunes_sahara-blog

From here we went to Todra Gorge and Fes. Read that blog HERE.

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