The coolest couch I’ve ever surfed

It crossed my mind, belatedly, that this may not have been the best decision I’ve made. It wouldn’t even rank among the top 10. Here we were, two 20-something girls hurtling further and further away from any forms of modern civilization. Sure, we had cell phones and emergency data plans but how useful would they be? It would be hours before whatever authority could come and rescue us… and by then…

Well, it was too late to do anything about it. Might as well see it through.

It all started on Couchsurfing, like so many of my adventures do. His profile was seriously blinged out… and although he’d only gotten 22 reviews from his previous surfers, everything looked good. Originally, I’d been looking for a host in Marrakech, planning on spending all of the 6 days we had there. However, I was looking for adventure and found a host that lived in the last village before the Sahara Desert. The only downside was a straight 11-hour bus journey from Marrakech to his village.

On the way, however, we were treated to such a variety of Moroccan landscape that I never imagined to find here! We saw parts of the High Atlas Mountains, valleys, oases, great stretches of nothing but sand—it felt like every time I fell asleep, I woke up to some new scenery, all equally amazing. It often felt like it was part of a dream… or that we were in part of Disney World’s Epcot or Animal Kingdom.

morocco scenery bus ride The stops we made at cities en route were also a treat. Everywhere we looked, we found culture so different than anything either of us were used to—people sitting sideways on donkeys hauling huge wooden carts, dirty in-ground holes used as bathrooms, oranges arranged into one large mound and sold for 1 cent each.

DCIM105GOPRO 9 hours later, Sayaka and I were reaching our limits. Every time the bus stopped, we’d look back hopefully at Hicham, our host, who would always laugh gently and shake his head no. And then dejectedly, we’d sit back in our seats for another hour… but it wasn’t too bad because we were distracted by the stars. Although the bus had lighting inside, they shone so brightly they were still visible.

When the bus stopped for a final time, reaffirmed by a nod from our host, I looked outside to a small gathering of cloth-covered bodies, and exited the bus to an open street with a single string of streetlights. But it seemed our journey was not yet over. We huddled by one of the dim street lamps until a 4×4 pulled up and took us about a mile from the outskirts of the city.

“What is this?” I asked. We stood at the entrance of a stone hut, the interior illuminated by one flickering candle from which I could see the orange reflecting off two figures crouched on the ground.
“It’s a family home.” He stepped inside, beckoning for us to follow. We did, taking our shoes off as is the custom, and seated ourselves on the patchwork of carpets lining the ground. Dusty, sandy pillows were propped all along the wall.

Immediately, a silver platter holding a silver genie-like teapot and three small glasses appeared on the lopsided table. His cousin started pouring it, holding the teapot far higher than necessary; we would learn later that this is part of the tea ceremony done every time we had a cup of tea. After such a long time spent on the bus, this tea was the most delicious thing I have ever tasted. Strong, yet balanced out by the immense sticky-sweetness. And, because we had been on the bus for 11 hours, our energy was flagging. Hicham noticed.

“Here, I’ll show you where you’ll be sleeping.”

We followed him outside, where two box-like shadows stood. Berber tents. Inside, we found only mattresses and blankets. Looking around, I saw only the expanse of… nothing. It felt a bit like being in a snow globe; at a certain point of bare scenery, the earth starts taking on a globe quality—the sky turning down at the corners to meet the sand, the stars following the spherical horizon. This is where we would be spending the next three days. No bathroom, no shower—nothing except what was to be provided by our host. We didn’t even know where to get food. 

berber tent under stars sahara desert mhamid morocco “Um, where is the bathroom?”
“Everywhere,” he spread his arms and laughed. Got it. First thing tomorrow morning, we were buying toilet paper.

Sayaka and I settled down quickly, eager to finally drop off the huge weights that we’d been lugging around the whole day. We were also eager to sleep—but first, we headed outside to soak it all in. Sitting in silence under the stars, we reflected on how lucky we were: we were in Morocco, camping in a Berber tent for a few days in a village that few people have heard of at the gate of the Sahara Desert.

“He seems like a really trustworthy guy,” I casually mentioned to my friend, trying to gauge her state of mind over the plans thus far.
“Yeah, but it’s only the first night; our stay isn’t over yet. Only time will tell.” And on that ominous note, we both tucked ourselves in on our thin mattresses. Sleep came easier to Sayaka, who usually had less energy than I did normally. For me, however, I was restless that night, eager to see the desert in the daytime and impatient to begin promising adventures.

The next morning did not disappoint as we woke up to views like these:

sahara desert morocco mhamid moroccan adventure So we had a little fun…

jumping on sahara sand dunes morocco
Jumping off what we thought was a sand dune… we didn’t know what a sand dune was until reaching the SAHARA DESERT
berber tents morocco sahara desert moroccan adventure
The busy life of a nomad
inside berber tent morocco sahara desert
Inside our Berber tent

Looking back now, I’m so happy that I chose to Couchsurf with him. If I were to do things differently and if I hadn’t booked anything for the entire time I was in Morocco, I would have gladly spent all 6 days in his tiny village, soaking up the slow rhythm of their lifestyle. But, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from traveling, it’s that so much more can be experienced by moving forward. And so we did. The following days, we would sleep under the stars, climb Erg Chegaga to watch the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever witnessed, and visit a few families still living in the kasbahs nearby. Much much later on, I would go on to experience the fling of a lifetime… also in Morocco. But shh, there’s still a lot to tell before that.

Linking up with Bonnie!

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  • Dannielle @ Chicadeedee

    This would scare me a bit at first, but looks incredible!

    • Mishfish13

      Hahaha, that’s exactly how I felt ! It was so remote, but that’s what made it such an experience :)

  • Arman @ thebigmansworld

    This, my friend, is life experiences.

    Your blog is like an epic travel novel. Never stop. Keep travelling. Embrace it.

    • Mishfish13

      Thanks, Arman! I don’t plan on stopping… well, for too long, at least :p

  • Jennifer Smith

    Once again – you are so brave! I would have been freaking out! But I’m seriously loving this story so far. Keep it coming. :)

    • Mishfish13

      Thanks Jennifer :) I was distracted by how amazing the view was!

  • Melanie Fontaine

    This sounds like such an incredible experience! And sometimes you just have to go with your gut and do something that scares you a bit or that makes you a bit nervous. And after all, if he had turned out to be a total creep, your gut would probably have told you so right away – and you wouldn’t even have to go on that 11-hour bus ride! ;) Jeez, eleven hours on a bus don’t seem like fun! As always, can’t wait to read more about your adventures!

    • Mishfish13

      It’s one of those things I won’t ever be able to forget, haha. And yeah, I like to think that in truly bad situations, my gut would tell me immediately—actually something like that happened in Turkey. 11 hours is longer than the flight back home! It’s crazy now that I think about it.

  • Aryn (Driftwood & Daydreams)

    That is the coolest! I love genuine cultural experiences like this!

    • Mishfish13

      I agree! Nothing is more amazing than totally being immerse in another culture :)

  • Karlie @ Miss Wanderlust

    So glad you decided to go for it and had such an incredible experience! Looking forward to your next posts about Morocco.

    • Mishfish13

      Thanks Karlie! I feel like a broken record, but it really was amazing :)

  • Van @ Snow in Tromso

    The views of the desert are amazing though it would have been too adventurous for me! A bed and a bathroom are essential when I’m travelling :D But I have no doubt that this was a really cool travel experience and who would expect this when searching for a couch on couchsurfing?!

    • Mishfish13

      Hahaha, I’ve traveled solo before and this was by far the most unique experience I’ve had. It was a bit overwhelming at times, sure!

  • Kaelene @ Unlocking Kiki

    Taking those risks seem to lead to some amazing experiences! Sounds awesome.

    • Mishfish13

      It was… but I’m glad it didn’t go the other way! Thanks Kiki :)

  • Sammy @ Days Like This

    Amazing!!! I am going to Morocco in August and I can’t wait. What a unique travel experience. Thanks for sharing, you wrote this beautifully

    • Mishfish13

      I am so excited for your trip!! If you need any help planning or finding a guide for the Sahara, don’t hesitate to ask me! :)

      • Sammy @ Days Like This

        I would love some tips!

        • Mishfish13

          Yeah, definitely! If you have any questions about anything, just email me at :) I would say to DEFINITELY try to make it to the Sahara though. You will never regret it!

  • Jessi @2feet1world

    Wow what an incredible adventure! I love hearing fabulous stories like this :)

    • Mishfish13

      Thanks, Jessi! I’m glad you enjoyed it :)

  • Andrea

    This is so cool! I live for adventures like this. Some people think we’re crazing doing stuff like this, but it must have been so worth it! Spending the night in the dessert? How many people can say that!

    • Michelle @ Mishfish13

      Have you ever been?! You should definitely go! It was phenomenal! Haha, yeah, that was part of the thrill for me :) Thanks, Andrea!