The Western Sahara, Part One

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April 15th 2009
Published: April 15th 2009
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Our First Experiences in…

The Western Sahara

In early March, we found ourselves headed towards the Western Saharian province of Morocco. We set off from Tiznit in the early afternoon, under cloudy skies. It was one of our poorer efforts in hitchhiking in Morocco; we waited fully two hours before we found the right ride. A Casablacan couple with a rather large and luxurious suv finally picked us up, and drove us some 30 kilometres in total, 15 of which were completely out of their way. The drive took us p about 500 metres, into the foothills of the Anti Atlas, and as we got out of the car, we were greeted by a fierce and wintery wind. It harshley reminded us of our last days in Europe, back in January. We settled into a good hitchiking spot, and collectively prayed to Allah that someone, anyone, would pick us up and drive us away from this mountainous wasteland.

In good time, a trucker stopped. To our surprise, he was headed directly to Laayoune, in the heart of the Sahara. Laayoune had a promising port to boot; and as we had not yet given up the idea of hitching a boat to the Canaries, it seemed to good to be true. It certainly was. We threw our bags high over the back cab, and climbed on up to the front. The driver was a talkative fellow with a poor command of the French language. He must have been lonely, since he insisted on conversing with me almost the entire way. He would say “Dit-mois” and ask some question, such as for example, “Pourquoi vous voyagez come ça, vous etes en trouble avec la loi?”(Why do you travel this way, are you in trouble or something?). It was the first time we were asked anything of the sort, normally it would be “Vous n’avez pas d’argent, ou quoi?” (You have no money, or what). He was a strange and friendly fellow.

We saw a taste of what would be to come on the road; an abundance of road blocks and police stops, and a world of corruption and bribery. At each “halte policière”, our driver would be made to stop; he would turn down his Rai music, and roll down his window and would casually slip the police a 10 dirham piece (the equivalent of one euro) or a cigarette. It was therefore a slow ride.The driver explained his work; he habitually drove from Agadir (on the Atlantic coast) to Laayoune to fill up on contraband petrol, and bring it back to sell to service stations outside of tax-free zone of the Sahara. How exciting for us!

As we drove on, the sun began to set, and we began to wonder what the desert landscape would look like. In other words, we didn’t want to continue driving by night, missing all the gloriousness of nothingness. I painstakingly told the driver we wanted to get out at the next major town, and that was that.

Our first taste of the Sahara was one of MADNESS absolute. The driver let us out at a bus and truck stop, at around midnight. It was very much a place of hustle and bustle. The waiter even told us to wait before ordering, since there was chaos with all the bus passengers about to re-board the bus. In all this craziness, we managed to snag some leftover bread. The funniest thing happened next. I woman seated next to us tapped my friend Linda on the shoulder and handed her a fried sardine. We had to laugh afterwards. After we ate, and had a coffee, we headed out to find a camping spot. Thus concludes our first few moments in the Sahara. More to come later…


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