Wandering around Erg Chebbi

Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Shadow Photo: Ascending Photo: Camel silhouettes

One of the things I was most looking forward to about visiting Morocco was the chance to get some really cool landscape pictures in the desert. So after spending a day working in Rissani I went back to Merzouga to spend some more time wandering around the sand dunes.

I recently saw some pictures from Sossusvlei, Namibia and immediately thought “I want to go there”. I considered trying to do a combo France/Morocco/Namibia trip, but then I looked at a map and learned that Africa is kinda big. So I decided to save Namibia for another trip, and to try to find some cool sand dunes in Morocco instead.

Shortly after yesterday’s camel trek I became kind of ill; I don’t know if it was something I ate, or a result of being chilly for much of the night we spent in the desert, or what. I won’t get into details, but let’s just say I didn’t plan to stray too far from bathrooms for a while.

I found a place to stay in Merzouga that was really well-reviewed online, and I didn’t learn much about it (like where it was located or if I’d be able to work there) but due to being ill I decided I just wanted to get somewhere comfortable, so I called them and had them pick me up in Rissani.

It’s a beautiful place, built kasbah-style like most of the other places in Merzouga but really nicely built and furnished, and located right at the base of the northernmost part of the dunes.

Photo: Auberge du Sud Photo: Internal Courtyard Photo: Dune view

(can’t believe I didn’t take more pictures of the auberge itself, oops)

My room was one of the coolest rooms I have ever stayed in; the walls looked like they were made out of mud and grass (not sure if they actually were or not, I expect not), and it had various fun details like wooden covers over the electrical outlets and big wooden sliding lightswitches.

Photo: My room Photo: My room Photo: My room Photo: Wooden power outlet Photo: Wooden power outlet Photo: Wooden lightswitch

The accommodation was half room and board (breakfasts and dinners included), which was good because there was nothing else nearby. The meals were excellent, some of the best food I have had here so far, unfortunately I didn’t have much of an appetite.

My first night there I was up with a fever until 4am, and then I slept late the next day but when I got up I felt much better, so I decided to go walk around the dunes for a while.

I left the auberge around 2pm, planning to spend a few hours walking around taking pictures until sunset. That may have been a bit too early, because the desert is boring. Really boring.

This particular section of desert has nothing but big piles of sand and the occasional tuft of grass, and after only a few minutes I was out of photo ideas. Usually I try to find interesting objects to include in the foreground of my pictures, but I couldn’t find much to use here.

Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes

So I made some shade with my backpack and had a little siesta, waiting for better light to come just before sunset.

An hour later, still not much was happening.

Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes

I was getting so bored that I actually turned around and started walking back to the auberge, then reminded myself that the point of this little trek was to take some pictures just before sunset.

Another hour later, I found some shadows to take pictures of…

Photo: Shadow Photo: Shadow Photo: Shadow Photo: Long shadow

Starting around 4:55pm the light got pretty nice:

Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Footprints Photo: Ascending Photo: Ascending

By 5:10 it was pretty much done:

Photo: Sand dunes Photo: Sand dunes

On my way back I saw a small caravan headed my way, so I quickly ran around onto the next dune so they’d pass between me and the sun for some nice silhouette shots:

Photo: Camel silhouettes Photo: Camel silhouettes Photo: Camel silhouettes

A few more snapshots on the way back:

Photo: Grass sunset Photo: Sunset

(I think that last one would have been excellent if I had been there 5 mins earlier when there was a bit more light)

That night I had another teleconference, and when I asked the auberge guys how I could get online they said the only way would be for them to 4×4 me to town 30 mins away and pick me up later, for $30. Pretty pricey for a meeting I could easily skip, but I decided to do it — a few extra expenses like that are a small price to pay for the ability to work from places like this.

I had other things I wanted to do in Merzouga, like try skiing and snowboarding on the dunes (supposedly most of the places have gear they will lend out), but due to disappointment with the photo possibilities and difficulty in getting online I decided to move on, and maybe try to find more dunes later in my trip (e.g. at Erg Chigaga.)

Unfortunately due to sleeping in again the next day I missed most of the vehicles that could have given me a ride to civilization; luckily there was an English couple (Chris and Lucy) there with a 4×4 that happened to be going my way in the afternoon, and they kindly offered me a ride — Lucy even insisted on sitting in the back cargo space with their dogs. They were just starting a 6-month trip down western Africa in a 4×4 modified to be kind of a campervan, sounds like a fun trip.

We stopped for a couple pictures on our way across the desert to Rissani:

Photo: Chris and Lucy Photo: Erg Chebbi Photo: Erg Chebbi

In Rissani I worked for a while then caught an overnight bus to Fes.

More pictures from Erg Chebbi…

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