The Dunes of Erg Chebbi (1/3)index | prev | next

At 10am we had scheduled a "tour" of the Saharan sand dunes that were about an hour drive into the abyss from Erfoud. Landon and Heidi opted not to tour the dunes and instead took a bus to Fes. Vic, Yang and I hopped in the car with our guide (I think his name was Mohamed, that was a popular name in these parts) and he proceeded to drive us out of town and into the desert.

The "tour" of the dunes cannot be properly appreciated unless you realize how singly the town relies on dune tours for its income. No sooner than we had arrived in Erfoud, some guy came up to the car and offered to set us up in a hotel and take us on a tour of the dunes. We finally evaded him and went somewhere for dinner, not without bumping into other people offering us a tour. The waiter started talking about something in relation to our check and I finally discovered that he was offering us a tour of the dunes. Various other random Moroccans came out of the woodwork to offer us tours. The desk clerk at the hotel offered us a tour. The hotel manager offered us a tour. I was afraid to use the toilet in the hotel room for fear someone would pop their head out of the drain and offer me a fucking tour. By the time we actually went on our "tour", we could barely think about it without giggling or bursting out in a fit of rage.

The desert was a whole lot of what you see here: barren rocky ground with tire tracks criss-crossing it in every conceivable direction.

As we approached the dunes, they looked amazingly like they do in the movies, only fuzzier.

Once we arrived and set out on foot, we were chagrined to discover that most of the dunes were covered in footprints. How was I going to do an authentic Lawrence of Arabia style photo shoot where we crawled convincingly across bare dunes as if we'd been days without water?

Footprints aside, these suckers were pretty cool.

Just for comparison with the pictures I took in New Zealand. I got a close up of the rippling sand.

As you can see, this New Zealand beach doesn't look too convincingly like the real McCoy.

After much searching, I finally found my pristine dune!

Neither Vic, nor Yang seemed to be able to appreciate the humor of crawling shirtless around in the sand, so I had to hand the camera off to Yang and ham it up myself. Apparently the glare was something to behold.

No longer needing my pristine dune, I decided to stamp a message into the sand with my footprints. It didn't come out very visibly in the photograph, but if you squint just right, you can see it. Hi Mom.

By this point, Vic had grown tired of just walking around in the dunes and he proposed we play a little game. The object was to come running down a dune as fast as possible and to leap at just the right point so as to maximize your horizontal distance down the slope.

We had great fun with our new game and dubbed it "Moroccan Dune Jumping". Keep an eye out for it at the Athens Olympics in 2004.

In the end, Vic proved victorious. Try as we might, we couldn't pin his victory on some nuance of the rules that he made up, so we had to endure a bit of gloating on the walk back to the car.

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