Sleeping in the Sahara

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Joey of Arabia
Joey of Arabia

Joseph Tafuro

Adventure Traveller

  1. Age: 24
  2. Nationality: USA
  3. Where was your adventure?: Morocco
  4. How many days was it?: 3
  5. What type of adventure?: Basic Tour
  6. Give us a general overview of your adventure:
    I recently did a 2 week solo trip to Morocco. For about 3 of those days, I joined a tour group from Marrakesh with 8 people on a trip to the Sahara. We got together in a mini-van and headed through the High Atlas Mountains catching some great panoramic views. The total cost of the 3 day trip was about $100 USD and it took us through some of the most beautiful terrain in Morocco. After passing through the High Atlas Mountains, we were to spend a night in a hotel nestled in the Dades Gorge, a quiet valley cut into the mountains splashed beautiful pink oleanders, lush greenery and a pleasant stream that carved its way through. The second day we found ourselves visting a small Berber village where we learned much about the work women put into making carpets.

    After an enjoyable morning with locals we headed off to the Todra Gorge which is Morocco’s most impressive gorge strickly for its size. After a quick lunch, we were on our non-stop journey to the Sahara.

    The mountain scenery quickly changed to arid flatlands. No more greenery and definitely a lack of the presence of life. Villages were few and far between and the heat was creeping through the windows as we could feel ourselves becoming dehydrated. We stopped off at Rissani, the last town before the desert to stock up on water. The driver advised us that 3 1.5L bottles would be sufficient. The closer you are to the desert the more expensive the water is. We eventually left the main marked road and began our off-road journey to Erg Chebbi, Morocco’s largest sand dunes. The desert isn’t completely comprised of those rolling dunes you picture from movies, a large percentage of the Sahara is just dirt and rock.

    We arrived at Erg Chebbi around 5 pm and quickly joined with the camels and headed into the dunes. The journey only took about 1.5 hours and we were guided by 2 nomads who brought us to their camp. We arrived just in time to catch the sunset over the dunes. A few of us decided to try and climb one of the tall dunes right next to our camp. It looked a lot easier than it actually was and about half way up, myself, along with a few others had to rest. I continued on toward the top having to rest my legs a a few times. The dunes are incredibly steep and I made the mistake of starting off the first 40 feet or so running full speed. Your feet slip backwards with every step so it feels like you have to walk twice the distance than you actually do.

    It was worth the energy it took to reach the top. Once up there, you can’t hear anything but the wind blowing, the sun had already set and it was beginning to get very dark, so I decided to sit down for a minute and walk away from some of the other people in the group to get a feeling of seclusion. I sat down and just took the vastness of the Sahara in. After a few minutes the nomads at the camp turned a flashlight on so that we could find our way back. I could barely see in front of me but walked toward the camp. I wasn’t afraid of stepping on anything dangerous for some reason, I had forgotten how dangerous the desert can be but my only conscern was enjoying the time I was spending there.

    After getting back to the camp we pulled blankets out from the tents and all gathered around a lamp and ate Tajine and listened to traditional Berber music that the nomads were performing for us. We all chatted for a bit and then laid down to stare at the stars.

    It was obvious everyone planned to sleep outside of the tents since it was a beautiful night. That quickly changed. About an hour into sleep the wind started picking up and sand began blowing through our camp. One by one people started getting up and going into the tents. I don’t know if it was the fact that it was dark in there and I figured that there would be 10 spiders waiting for me to lay down or that I just felt like being a bit adventerous, but I decided to wait out the wind outside and brave the elements. One other guy in our group had the same idea. He said it best when he said, “If you close your eyes, it is all the same anyway.” So I pulled the blanket over my face and wrapped myself up cocoon style and hoped for the best. It was pretty amazing. The wind howled and the sand blew over me and I would occasionally stick my head out just to get a face full of the Sahara. I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I was laying in the Sahara outside of a tent with sand blocking any sound or sight, at this point I couldn’t even tell if the guy next to me was still there, for all I knew I was alone outside.

    The wind eventually stopped after a couple of hours and the sky cleared up. The sun crept out around 5am at which time most people in camp woke up. I decided to do a mini hike up the dune and go about half way just to get some more time to take in the view. The sun was rising over the dunes to the Algerian east. I could imagine the adventure that could be had if I stocked up on some water, took a nomad and a camel with me and headed in that direction. Unfortunately we had to head back out of the dunes before it got too hot.

    The trip ended with a long 12 hour drive back to Marrakesh with stops along the way for lunch.

  7. Was it difficult?: no
    Why or why not?
    It just wasn’t that difficult due to the fact I was with a group of people. Maybe if I embarked on this journey alone my answer would be different.
  8. Would you recommend this adventure trip to someone else? Why or Why Not?
    I do recommend seeing the Sahara and all the sites of Morocco. However, maybe at a much slower pace and not with an organized tour group.
  9. What do you wish you would have done differently?
    If I could do it over again, or better yet, when I return, I will go at my own pace. I’ll rent a vehicle and hire a guide to take me to the desert and then go day by day so I have more time to enjoy it. The tour was nice since I only had 2 weeks and if I got held up anywhere or lost I could have missed my flight home. Also, there are lots of checkpoints where driving alone as a tourist could cause issues.
  10. What kind of advice can you give to other travellers going on this adventure?
    Just go for it. I don’t think someone needs too much convincing to see the Sahara if they are in Morocco for any period of time.
  11. What type of gear did you bring?
    I brought just my daypack with me on the 3 day trip. I packed 3 shirts, 1 pair of pants, 2 pairs of socks, 3 boxers, a flashlight, journal, reading material, sunglasses, camera, extra batteries and water was purchased along the way
  12. Where is your next big adventure? Why?
    Summit of Kilimanjaro on New Years Day and Ngorongoro safari. Why? Because BootsnAl offered a really good deal and I can do it with some really neat people I have met over the last year.
  13. Did you travel before or after your adventure? If so, where?
    I have traveled before but nothing on this level and usually to Europe. This was my first time in Africa and plan to return many times.
  14. On your adventure, what person did you most identify with?
    Indiana Jones

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