I got it into my head one summer that I wanted to ride a camel across the Sahara. I called up two friends and asked if they wanted to join and to my delight, they said yes. And then the research and planning began. For this trip, because we were all on relatively tight budgets, we decided to couch surf. I emailed back and forth with a guy who had room for us in his apartment for awhile and then locked it in.
He offered to drive us out, into the Sahara, as long as we rented the car – he didn’t own one of his own. And that is how, a few months later, a few countries later, I found myself riding in a car with a man I didn’t really know, into the Sahara. Now, let me backtrack just a moment, we had been in Morocco for about 24 hours before we actually made our way to the Sahara. In that time we had traveled to our host’s parents house, outside the city, learned to cook couscous in a traditional manner (with people who spoke such little english that they literally took our hands in theirs and showed us how to do most of the things they wanted us to do), and had henna tattoos applied by berbers in the living room of their candle lit house. I think the moment where we realized we were really having an experience of a lifetime was when we were eating the couscous, using our hands as our utensils, in the backyard with the stars as our only light.
The next day, we said our goodbyes to the family and made our way up and down winding mountain roads until the only thing in front of us was sand. Bright orange sand, in every direction. My friends and I were low on water and had asked to stop before we hit the actual desert but our host had forgotten. So here we were. At the edge of the desert, hot as hell but never-the-less excited.
I have absolutely no idea how our host navigated. There was sand literally all around us. There were no markers, no roads, no maps, nothing … and that, that moment, that is where I got a little nervous. We were hot, really hot, and beginning to get dehydrated. And then our host stopped the car. Without a word, he got out and began digging in the sand.
Now, we didn’t really know this guy. Without even thinking I said to my friends- Well, this is where we die. I am so sorry. Of course that didn’t happen, because, well, I am writing this. It turns out he was uncovering a well for us to drink from. Which we all did, again, probably not the best move, but when you are in the Sahara and you don’t have water, you drink from a shady well in the middle of nowhere and you are happy about it.
A bit after that, a car came out of nowhere, and we followed it to a hotel. Yep. A hotel. Again, no signs, no markers, no roads, no landmarks, just shifting sand dunes. At the hotel, which was absolutely amazing and gorgeous by the way, we picked out our camels.
I named mine Walter. And Walter, well, he was tall. Very tall. Getting on him was an experience. Camels kind of lean forward, making you feel like you are definitely going to fall off before they even stand up. But Walter and I, we made it. Definitely not the most comfortable ride ever, but man, it was cool. Really cool. Our train of camels made our way about 2-3 hours out from the hotel to a camp. We stopped once to catch the beginning of the sunset, which was just crazy beautiful.
Walking was definitely an experience when we got to camp. I found myself walking as though I was bowlegged, new found respect if you, yourself are bowlegged. Anyway, at the camp, we found thin mattresses on the ground for us to sleep on, short tables for us to eat dinner, and hookah. After dinner, my friends and I climbed a sand dune (harder than any climbing I have ever done) and then made it to bed. I don’t know if it was all the excitement or climbing the sand dune, or how dark the desert gets with no city to offer any light, or just being so completely relaxed, but we all slept amazingly well.
The next day, we made it back to Marrakech, hit up the market (complete with dancing snakes, hand crafted goods and spices) and then began our trek home. A trip for the books for sure.