January 4, 2020

Western Sahara – Dangerous?

In my entire life I have never been to a desert. Neither in Europe nor elsewhere. But if I’m constant with one thing on this trip, then probably driving south. The consequence of this is that you will probably reach the Sahara at some point. So no miracle that I was really afraid when the sand dunes will exactly start to appear at the horizon. Literally I had no idea how this is going to happen. Small dunes first? And then later bigger ones? Or just from one second to the other sand as far as you can watch? Little Spoiler: In the end it happened slowly. At first the amount of sand on the street I was driving on became more. Sand that traveled from left side of the road to right side of the road. It was still very rocky but I started to see little sand heaps beside the road. They looked like mini dunes already. I started singing loud in the car. It was a nice feeling to finally come to an area which was different then what I know. My back mirror showed a desert like scenario already. And then they’re it popped up. The first sand dune of my life. Still in Morocco and 100 km from the border of Western Sahara. It was a really unreal feeling to see sand dunes, same time knowing that you drove here.

I didn’t went surfing in Morocco what some of you might consider as dumb (Morocco has some excellent spots). So I was trying to enter the water before I cross to Western Sahara. I stopped maybe 1h before the Western Sahara border and went in the water, for like 5 minutes. The waves were nothing but bad. I saw it before but still went in because I really wanted to surf. Kinda “depressed” from the surf I was about to start sleeping early when someone knocked at my van. Andi from Austria saw me standing here so he wanted to say hello. Soon after we started our evening filling chat we recognized that the both of us were watching this ferry ship wreck up north earlier the day but with the same stupid idea. Surfing that spot would be epic but way too dangerous, haha. I told him that a few days before an 80+ years old grandma called Maja gave me this magic pendulum to help me making hard decisions more easily. Andi suggested to ask the magic device if we’d die trying to catch that bloody wave.  It said “no” so we went for it. For sure currents were fucked up, Andi and me were washed out like 1 km and we didn’t even come close enough to the ship wreck for surf. Funnily, when back to shore, a little Moroccan fisherman came around and brought us back with his China scooter. One after the other.

As the wreck waves were still bad the other morning we decided to drive further to Western Sahara. It was a one hour drive. Andi with his rental car and me in the van. I was super bewildered that there was no border controls from Morocco to Western Sahara. I mean the German government consider this country dangerous, but you can cross from Morocco to Western Sahara just like that? This made no sense to me. You maybe remember that I don’t google anything, I just drive. So I had to find out by myself that Western Sahara belongs to Morocco somehow.  It’s actually a part of Morocco. The people have Moroccan passports. Lol. And there we were. A City Laayoune in Western Sahara and again no waves. Andi said he’s gonna sleep in the desert just by himself to have a spiritual night. Maybe he touched the magic pendulum too many times the other day, I don’t know. But I said sure, go for it. So I slept in the city near a football field. It was crowed, bright and central. Good features for a place to spent a safe night. 1h later the football game was over, the place became dark and now one was there any longer. Which is definitely not a good place for sleeping. Things can change quick here in Africa. Probably that’s why the local police came around in the night and bought me to a safe fuel station with WiFi, westernised toilets and a shop. For an unsafe country the police did a very good job.

The next morning Andi and me met again and had breakfast at the same petrol station. He said that he got invited by locals yesterday, but I could be happy that I didn’t join. They served him camel brain, eyes and tongue. Come on, even as a non vegan… how disgusting is that, hug? Andi enjoyed it somehow. After breakfast we said bye bye. Sadly I forgot the magic pendulum in his car. I hope this doesn’t have any effects on my life, like a bad omen or something. Fingers crossed! What ever, I drove further. The distance from fuel station to fuel station became bigger and bigger. Meanwhile 150 km of just sand, dunes and rocks. I thought of filling my extra fuel tank for the first time but didn’t as I checked on maps for the next fuel stop. Should be alright. What I didn’t count in was that some stations don’t sell Petrol (Diesel only). Actually I was trying to go to Dakhla but I said maybe check out this random beach here. The town called Boujdour then unexpectedly didn’t let me go for another 4 days.

When I checked the beach in the super hot afternoon sun without seeing any god damn wave, two guys popped up on a scooter. Zakaria and Mohamed. They were ridiculously kind. First words were: “Can we maybe have your WhatsApp so we can show you the city when you come back here next time”. I said: “Actually I’m free right now.”. This sentence was enough for them to invite me to sleep in there house for 4 days. They took me with to what they call “The association”. It’s basically a school and further more a teacher was missing that specific evening. So Yenzi had to give a spontaneous lesson in photography. Back at their home I get to know Zak’s brother and his dad who gave me a Mecca cap as a welcome gift. We ended up looking at family pictures and having food together. What was probably the kindest thing is that they took care of my vegan life style. So I got vegan food in their house, even if they didn’t really understand my joy of it, haha. The living room was also the sleeping room, Zak and his dad quickly transform it from a dinner room into a bed room. I’m not sure but I think they sleep there every day. Kind of cozy. It’s regular to sit and sleep on the floor with some pillow and blankets in Sahara, how the locals call Western Sahara. I really enjoyed the time with my Sahara friends. Later Zakaria took me with to his teacher. A very wise man who studied Islam and lived a long time in The Netherlands. Talking to him was like a short introduction into the Koran. The teacher Abd was trying to excite me for the Islam, but I not religious. What he also respected. Abd didn’t want to get photographed as this is against the Koran. But I can tell you that he did speak to a blind man in front of me which made the blind man smile so big. Abd translated later and the words he used to speak with the blind person were extraordinary beautiful. I could see how this man started to be happy the more Adb talked to him. Abd is a nice man even if we believe in to different things. Him Allah and me nature. His house is btw full of crazy Arabic books. It’s a little private library. I’ve never seen any place like this before. When I think of my Boujdour time I think of this city which is considered boring by the local teens but also of full of love and hospitality.

After my days with the Boujdour boys I went off to Dakhla, a peninsula in the south of the Western Sahara. Dakhla is perfect for surfing and kiting. I straight went to a spot called West Point where I met Ismail. He and his mate were super in a hurry to get the last wave of the day after work. I asked him if I could take some pictures and he later invited me to come to his work place. It was a super beautiful resort for kit surfers and surfers. I stayed some days at his work place, in my van, for free on there parking. Ismail took me with to a yoga course where I met Soukeina, a very talented yoga teacher. I went surfing with the both of them at a private surf spot. All in all really nice days with these two and maybe my last westernised place for a long time. So after 4 days in this cozy paradise I said bye bye to Soukeina and Ismail and slept in a village with 10 km distance to the next country border. On my trip I heard a lot of bad stories about the country below Western Sahara already.

So a new world was obviously calling. Mauritania.