Where We Be
|It wasn't easy getting a steady shot of this camel train
as I was jouncing around on my own camel!
|Tour Day 3. Sahara Desert -- Full Day
Sahara Tours 4x4 offers both 3- and 4-day desert
adventures; we chose 4 days, and today was our
bonus day. Described as a complete desert day,
it gave us the chance to catch our breath and
enjoy the local scenery before rushing off. We
were grateful for the (somewhat) slower pace
after two exhaustingly busy days.
Our morning started off in spectacular fashion
as we watched the sun rise over the Sahara. All
around us we could see tracks left in the sand
overnight by desert foxes, gerbils, beetles, and
sandfish. After mint tea we mounted our camels
for the hour's ride home. Showers and breakfast
made us feel human again, then we met up with
our guide and spent the rest of the day making a
huge circle around the Erg Chebbi desert. The
highlight was drinking mint tea in a nomad's tent
while chatting with a local Berber family. By the
way, if it sounds like you drink a lot of mint tea
when you're in Morocco, you do.
|Our secluded Berber camp looks
particularly lovely at first light
|Anyone in love with the color orange simply
must come to the Erg Chebbi Desert
|Time to reboard our ships of the desert and return to Merzouga
|Did you know camels can gallop up to 40 mph
in short bursts? (We didn't go quite that fast!)
|Shadows and sunlight played across the dunes as we made our return journey
|Eventually we passed the big group we'd seen on the dune at sunrise. Some were
sandboarding, others just rolling down the hill with youthful abandon. We counted
ourselves lucky not to fall off our camels in front of such a big group of onlookers.
|This blurry shot wasn't on purpose but I like it anyway
|Notice the awkward gait of the second-to-last camel? They sort of lunge downhill,
and you have to brace yourself to keep from toppling forwards. Two hands on
the pommel is always wise, but it's hard to do that if you're holding a camera.
|The pool at Hotel Mohayut looks awfully inviting after a night in the desert. But I
went for a swim later on and can tell you the water was still VERY brisk in mid-April.
|We began driving in a circle around the Erg Chebbi Desert and stopped early on at these linked
wells near Merzouga. They transport water a great distance from the High Atlas Mountains.
|Idir looks pretty fierce in his black turban but don't let it fool you -- he's as friendly as
can be. Speaking of which, the Moroccan people in general are incredibly welcoming,
so please don't let fear stand in the way of coming for a visit to this amazing country.
|Is it just me or does this lone outpost in a vast
desert remind you of Tatooine in Star Wars?
|The best part of our loop trip was stopping at this nomad's tent where we
got to chat with a local Berber family, sip mint tea, and pet the baby goat
|Being nomads ourselves these days, we felt right at home
|If a place can be beautiful and desolate
at the same time, this is the place
|Parts of this road were formerly used for the Dakar Rally, an endurance event for off-road vehicles
covering as much as 500 miles per day. The race started in Paris and ended in Dakar, Senegal.
|We came quite close to the border with Algeria during
the day and joked with Idir about popping over for a visit
|"Whatever the queen desires," Idir would kid whenever Robin requested anything at all from
her back seat throne. Whether it was a photo stop or yet another cup of mint tea, Robin was
queen and her every order must be obeyed. "Just don't get too used to it," I'd remind her.
|Near the end of our tour day we paused to listen to gnawa music. Gnawa is the
spiritual music of formerly enslaved black Africans who integrated into Moroccan culture.
|We even got a chance to try out the instruments ourselves
|We'd been hoping to try Berber pizza, a local specialty, and Idir kindly treated us to
one at lunch. It's like a covered pizza with savory stuffing and hot sauce on the side.
|We were dropped off at Mohayut Hotel at 4:30 pm -- early by tour standards -- and
had the rest of the day to ourselves. I even took a solo walk into the dunes at sunset.
|We could see a big group of people standing on a distant dune, but we
and our five comrades sat on our own dune and quietly greeted the day
|"Date with the sunrise" is how the Sahara Tours 4x4 brochure puts it. "If you are in the middle of
the desert, it's absolutely worth getting up early to contemplate the most spectacular sunrise you've
ever seen at the top of a dune close to the camp and enjoy this landscape that is a gift of nature."
|Our guide, Idir, is Berber himself, so he chose to
wear Berber clothing for our "complete desert day"