Western Sahara is a disputed territory fought over by Morocco and the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. There is a huge military presence, with around one third of the Moroccan army stationed here. There are many land mines (an estimated 5-10 million!), more so to the East but also close to the coast heading south of Dakhla (where I caused Tanya much concern by taking a little “shortcut” or two when heading off the road to get to the beach we were wild camping) and around the Mauritanian border.
We travel through this vast area on the west, where the tens of thousands of miles of near empty Sahara desert come to a dramatic halt as it reaches the rugged Atlantic coast.
Our first stop in this region is the city of Tantan. After a late start from Mirleft we arrive in the evening so quickly find somewhere to stay, eat some food and get our head down for the night. In anticipation of a night to be spent in the desert, we raise early and purchase eggs, veg and bread for that evening before we start the walk out of town, thumbs halfheartedly stretched out as we go. Before we reach a suitable hitchhiking spot a car pulls up. Enquiring in broken French if he will be driving toward Laayoune he smiles and gestures us into the car talking excitedly in a mixture of French and Arabic. We soon realise Badr is in fact not going anywhere near Laayoune, or even leaving the city. He takes us to his mother’s house where we join the friendly family for breakfast.
After some time we eventually communicate that we must be getting on the road. Once every member of the family has taken photos with us and made sure they have my phone number. They present us with gifts of jewellery and Badr takes us to the police checkpoint on the edge of town where himself and the police arrange out next ride.
We spend 2 nights in the beautiful Bedouin camp, where we are the only guests.
And, again, the rain has followed us!
Upon leaving the camp we are quickly picked up in a car packed full of people, luggage, misinterpreted conversations and laughter then soon find ourselves invited for lunch in the family home, not before a tour of Laayoune and even a quick nap.
We spend the following days covering hundreds of kilometres of arid desert as we head south to Dakhla where we meet a friendly Swedish-South African couple and spend many days camping out under the stars with them in the region.
The kindness of strangers is extended once again where Tam, a keen outdoors adventurer and collector of many travel gadgets and accessories, begins gifting and trading his belongings to make our kit more practical for our lengthy trip. So after four days of fun, hiking, wild camping and one sunset skinny-dip we sadly part ways with our new friends, promising to meet up somewhere around the world in the near future.