53km Erfoud – Merzouga
Morocco has two main areas where tourists go to ride camels and watch the sunset beside huge sand dunes: Merzouga and Zagora. We have always been fans of the latter, where you travel further to see the dunes but are also likely to spend days without seeing another soul, aside from the odd nomad family. Already having fallen in love with the desert around Zagora, we hadn’t planned to make the trip to Merzouga from the nearby town of Erfoud but changed our mind at the last minute. After a coffee and a shopping trip at the market, where several locals begged quite aggressively for dirhams, we headed out on a paved road marked simply with a sign that said straight ahead to the “Dunes du Sable”.
That was the first and just about the last sign we saw and the road slowly deteriorated, first narrowing, then becoming filled with potholes and finally changing into a dirt track. Our map was of little use so instead we latched onto the water line, reasoning it would probably head to the nearest town, and hoped to come up in the right place. For the first time in our trip we wondered if we were truly crazy, out in the desert, with no real road or map to follow – just random 4×4 tracks. But we were always confident of finding our way back if necessary so we carried on.
Some 30km down the track we finally saw dunes rising up in the distance, stretching out in a long line as far as the eye could see. As we had lunch in the shade under a rare tree we still couldn’t see a town on the horizon so we headed for the dunes, reasoning that any camping spot would be fairly close by. En route we met two teenagers on their bikes and they happily led us to one popular campsite a few minutes away while telling us about what they were studying in school and their jobs selling fossils to contribute to the family income. They dropped us off at the door of the campsite without demanding a cent. Perhaps Moroccan hospitality has returned now we are in the desert!
Our last surprise of the day came as we were putting things away for the night – a scorpion next to our stove, obviously drawn by the heat. We eased away slowly and left him to his own devices, hoping he wouldn’t choose our shoes as his next resting place!