The Sahara Desert is almost indescribable.
Imagine, rolling dunes of sand as far as the eye can see in warm saturated hues of orange, a view that looks as if it’s been painted with a filter. Camping beside camels under a starry night sky, with the mood enhanced by the beat of African drums, Berber music, chants and singing.
The anticipation of today’s adventures, had kept me excited all day. Images of sweeping sandy plains and breath-taking views were distilled in my mind from the countless articles that lead me here. The photos display views that have the appearance of a film set, and I was eager to see whether something that seemed so dreamlike could be real.
This was to be the highlight destination of my trip. From the moment we arrived at our hotel, an overwhelming sense of excitement cursed through my body, bubbling into smiles and cheerful chatter with my other adventurers. Sand dunes the size of houses were before us. The horizon blended into disappearance as all there is to see for miles beyond eye sight is the orange hue of more and more sand.
The hotel opened out to the desert on one side, with the architecture of a castle; turrets and pillars perfectly framing the view of sand, for miles and miles. This scenery was alien to me as I had never seen a desert before.
At 5pm, after the heat of the day was gone, we departed for the desert with only the essentials for a single night camp. Wandering down the steps off the balcony to the edge of the desert, I took my sandals off to feel the sand between my toes.
Merzouga was beautiful and I was overwhelmed with the scenery and eagerly started taking pictures of everything in my sight. Every photograph was perfect. All appearing oversaturated with colour due to the intense orange pigment of the sand.
While some of my group members chose to board camels, myself and two friends Sam and Stef chose to experience the Sahara by foot, using no animal labour and exhausting only my own energy in the most epic hike of our lives.
At first it was easy, every step followed another, while we chatted about the view and the night before us. But as the minutes passed the chatter grew quieter between us and our breaths, louder. The psychical exertion could be heard by my fellow walkers as we braved the tail end of the blazing heat and sand dunes.
Walking in the Sahara Desert is like walking on a granulated ocean. Our feet became heavy, heaving sand with each step. The moment my feet would touch the sand it would expand out through the web of my toes, an odd feeling to experience so intensely. It was like walking on beach with the density of snow. We ran down the dunes with momentum at such high speeds and walked back up them at the pace of snails.
After an hour, the abrasion of the sand started to tingle as each passing step deeper into the Sahara dragged me into the mouth of the desert. Without the hotel in the background and dunes all looking the same, if it was not for the camels, now well ahead on the horizon, I would have thought we were lost.
Our trek lasted an hour and a half before we wandered into our camping grounds. Our camp site, was delimited by carpeted areas, with a large sitting area around a fire pit and a huddle of large black tents. Although the campsite amenities were basic, our tents were fitted with a simple mattress and pillows, quite a luxury for a camp site.
That night we gathered for dinner; vegetable tagine, bread and a fruit platter were devoured while fellow travellers shared stories of their adventure into the desert. Later we celebrated the night with traditional Berber music played by our guides, which we all sang along to when they sang Africa Zina. A potent song that describes the beauty of Africa, which from our vista was never truer.