Words & Photos by Sarah Caust - atbelyse.tumblr.com
Growing up on the Sunshine Coast, Australia my backyard was a mix of beaches and hinterlands, the kind you travel the world to see. From a young age I craved adventure, dreamed of living abroad and traveling the world. At 19 I moved to Brighton UK. I travelled through Europe and Africa and I'm now settled in Melbourne - until I decide which country to move to next.
I don’t know where my fascination for Africa came from. I understand now that it’s an extremely broad continent, but from a young age I was been attracted to diverse cultures. I think it comes down to how much you can learn from a person or place that's so different to what you know and who you know.
After my first visit to Africa I needed to see so much more than Ghana. Although vastly different, but not so far away, the next destination on the map was Morocco - the vast Sahara Desert; a place that makes it hard to find words to describe it, but here I go.
It was the end of an era. I was bidding farewell to my home in the Northern Hemisphere, and that side of the world. As an ‘au revoir’ to myself I booked a trip to Morocco, not that I needed an excuse to travel some more but I’ll take what I can. I was excited for the culture, meeting the locals and riding camels into the sunset of the Sahara Desert (just picture that). Most of the trip was loosely planned, but flights were booked in and out of Marrakech, so I had all the time in between to learn the backstreets of the Medina (I nearly got there) and drink all the mint tea I could – challenge accepted. Aside from that, I knew I would definitely be visiting the desert.
With thanks to my new hostel friends, I found the perfect desert trip. One night under the stars, in a desert camp plus camel rides at sunset & sunrise with an intimate group; sounds lush - book me in. Being so preoccupied on the fact that last time I tried to ride a camel I had been so scared, I cried and jumped off before he even stood up, I hadn't even given myself time to consider what the desert would be like. Thankfully so, because without preconceptions it left a blank canvas in my mind, to make and take away the most authentic memories.
Arriving slightly behind schedule, thanks to the sandstorm we endured, we scurried off to gather our belongings and wrap ourselves in our scarves, in the case there was another sandstorm - to the camels we go!
Now let's set the scene: imagine for as far as the eye can see, sand smooth like silk, blown into rolling dunes, the odd palm tree, so many camels and the faint sound of a desert camp at the closest oasis – this is Merzouga. Pinch me, please, is this not just a dream? Thankfully, no.
Everywhere you look is orange, smooth sand dunes. It’s like when you smell a delicious lip balm and feel the urge to have a taste, but you know it’s not edible. I imagine if Merzouga had a flavour it would be sweet and smooth like honey, dissolving on your tongue and giving you a sugar rush. Hooking you, with the sensations amongst the peace and purity of such a place found in nature.
I asked one of the Berbere boys how often it rains in the desert? Before replying that ”never, or maybe twice a year for about 10 minutes”, he laughed at me. Funnily enough though, 30 minutes later the skies opened up and the rain fell, hard, but not for long. Enough to chill the air and let me laugh back at this boy.
Although the sunset and sunrise were not what I had in mind, clouded and actually not really there, nothing could dampen the magic from the desert. The tranquillity was contagious, especially when you’re surrounded by camels, in their placid and serene state. I wanted so badly to bottle up whole sand dunes and take them home, to have this slice of heaven at my fingertips. Fortunately for others, it's staying there, for them to learn about and experience themselves, and for me it will always be there, pulling me back, to return to in the future.
For the dreamer - For the adventurer