If you have never been to the Sahara desert and you get an opportunity please add it to your list.
This is the second time I have been blessed to see it, all be it in a heat wave which wasn’t planned. I had a beanie and a puffer jacket packed…… It is a long way on a small group tour but so worth it.
36 degrees called for linen pants, lots of water and soft drinks ( it was a “dry” desert) and not that there were any fridges to pop a slab of beer in but I could have so killed for one or three.
Our tour rolled into the Mezouga area for fossils, dates, souks and lunch. The fossils aren’t my thing – I kinda wish they were, but the Berber guide at the fossil factory was a hottie so I listened in.
The small town souks were just divine, it was like a local growers market from home, where all the locals shop for meat, produce, a little animal fodder perhaps or a new Kaftan and grab a fresh juice. Yum!
Then it was on to a cute little traditional restaurant, where they’ve greeted you with what I have noticed is “Berber humour”, please take the Berber elevator (stairs).
Please and thank you for eating with us and we hope you enjoy our local Berber pizza, called a Medfouna. I had had this before and forgotten how yummy it is. It’s like a calzone type dish.
Round bread with stuffing of either meat or veg. I had the veg and it was truly delicious. It is served as a slice, hence the pizza reference and just delicious.
The breads here in Morocco are spectacular. Baked in local little ovens often as a community collective. Where you pay the baker a small amount to bake the bread you have prepared in your home. I have tried to limit the bread I eat, but it’s so hard when there is muffin style, roti style and of course the breakfast lunch and dinner style.
Anyways from Mezouga we left our big travel cases and our 16 seater bus, took over night bags via four wheel drive. As there was 14 of us including our local guide Idriss, we travelled in 4 cars and headed out to the Sahara.
The Sahara desert sits close to the Algerian borders, so there is a lot of military towns along the way, and no drones allowed!
We headed towards a town called Erg Chebbi the gateway to those magnificent dunes with red earth that just sparkles in the afternoon sun, its so funny to watch the change to the scenery.
As I said it was a very hot day, I think 36 degrees as we arrived at 2.00pm. The sand was hot, the shade was hot, we were all hot, so we all sat under a small shaded area.
Our group had already been told we would be doing a sunrise camel trek which for me was brilliant, I love sunrise and as the afternoon was so hot I couldn’t imagine going anyway.
As the day cooled down, we ventured a little more through our camp. We sat outside our tents. It was a little bit like a caravan park feel at Christmas, all sitting outside our tents, saying silly things like “how was your day today Deb”? “Good thanks -how about you” ?
A sense of humour in the heatwave, who would have thought. We genuinely had a great arvo laughing and watching other people head out to either sand board the slopes or go on an evening camel ride.
It was a photographers dream, watching the sunset with camels and sand boarders to photograph, while some of our crew climbed the closet hill to watch the sunset, before we all went to our tents to get ready for dinner.
We all had our own Bedouin style tents which were the perfect temperate sleep in at night.
Double beds, separate toilet and shower with a bathroom sink area, but no air conditioning, just solar power for USB chargers. Simple yet stunning as the lanterns outside all our tents came on the light up our camp. The sunsets late around 7.30pm it truly was such a special evening.
Seeing solar in the desert is just incredible, it ran the kitchen, kept the drinks cool and prepare an exquisite banquet dinner.
After dinner they lit a fire ( it was still 30 degrees) but the drummers beat and dancing around the fire was a pleasant way to end the day before we all headed to sleep for our sunrise camel ride.
I’ve never been to Morocco in the spring…… yes it’s only spring! It’s has been a drought for 2 year and there is only a small amount of snow on the High Atlas Mountains.
Daylight savings resumed after the end of Ramadan and so the sun rises and a very civil hour, our wake up call was 5.45am and we walked out to the camel train, which wasn’t very far. It was still 18 degrees so no jackets required.
Our two local camel boys -Youssef and Muhammad have obviously already figured out which camel we will go on, depending on our confidence and sometimes our size.
Then we were off on a gentle, little bumpy camel ride. Hold on ! We ambled along through the sand dunes and watched the sky change colour, before we stopped and dismounted our camels.
All the camels were male, so there was lots of chat about what everyone had called their animal. Rupert, Wally, George, Habibi, Guido, Baby and Bert and of course there is always a “Kevin” ……
Last one to the top of the hill gets more foot holes to walk through. I powered up that hill thanks to my personal training and got a couple of cracking photos, before we all calmed down, sat on the ridge and watched the magic happen.
A few of us video called home and shared our excitement, joy and happiness with loved ones of sunrise in the Sahara, before we got back on the camels and headed back to camp for a yummy breakfast, showers and back into the 4WD vehicles to Mezouga to meet the bus and try and jam 13 overnight bags into the bus that pretty much has a full boot. Now that’s was hilarious.
We left and wound our way through beautiful stunning oasis palmeries.
Wow! In some areas, there is 500 kilometres are this stunning oasis that contrasts against the red desert. Just exquisite farming, some terraced, some date palms. So incredible to see.
We were on our way to The Todra Gorges and going to have a walk here. So we were all pumped and excited to see these narrow gorges.
Ahhhh this would be an instagram vs reality stop.
Thousands of people, buses, and rubbish floating down the stream, local men urinating into the stream, it was a WTF moment and honestly I couldn’t do it.
After our our spectacular Sahara experience I was shocked at how busy it was with both tourists and locals setting up tented camps to protect from the sun.
Change the way you think change the way for feel and suck it up princess, I took off my shoes, and crossed one stream carrying all my stuff, got wet pants in the process, so I could sit at another stream where no one was and listen to the water running view the gorge straight up for 40 minutes, while some of our crew walked to the narrowest part of the gorge.
Ahhhhh the things dreams are made of, I hope they clean this area up and perhaps limit how many people at a time can visit here, a bit like they do in Hawaii so it can be enjoyed as it should be. I was happy and content that I had sat “this one out” so to speak.
From here we went into another spell binding destination, the beautiful and stunning Dades Valley. 1500 metres above sea level, where ancient villages are perched between more palmeries, rock ledges and sand hills. At the end of this big arse day was a quaint hotel that has been at the top of the town for 25 years.
It was quite eclectic, and you forget sometime you are in Africa, so to see artefacts everywhere blows your mind. The pool was calling and we spent a few solid hours in the sun cooling down and enjoying beers and cocktails a well deserved afternoon off.
The following day was just as amazing, through more gorges and valleys that appear untouched. We had a road side stop not long after leaving our hotel, for mint tea, spectator views and a toilet! Too much food for some at the buffet perhaps!
Our day had started with roses….. Each year there is a rose festival and it has started early because all th roses are blooming. There is fields and fields of them that are used to make rose water. Along the way, the locals sell these beautiful heart shaped fresh rose hangers…..
I had to have one and so did a few others on the bus. Im not a massive rose water fan and the bus was quite perfumey oh well that’s what Panadol is for.
It was on to the town of Ait Benhadou, for another local lunch, with a view and again it was so hot, we spent the afternoon at our stunning hotel/Kasbah by the pool with a few beers before dinner and left our hike to the Grand Kasbah a fortified village for sunrise.
It did not disappoint at sunrise, cool temperature, a stunning walk with some local dogs, steeped in history and amazing architecture, this area is big, hug movie set area. They are currently filming Gladiator II.
A great start to our day and you won’t believe this, but the shops were opening up on our way back down from our climb and boom I went shopping at 7.15am ! A true Lynda Watton moment right there. I bought a small hand painted artwork that is painted with tea and sugar, indigo and saffron. Then the artist lights his gas cylinder, heats the paper on the back and the colours are amazing.
Our little tour actually got bumped from our original hotel and as a way of apologising we were all offered Hammams at our hotel Kasbah- but that’s a whole other story I cant wait to write about, insert winky face,
Till next time