This blog entry is a sort of desert special and reflects the three days we spent in the Sahara between the 17th and 20th. We did originally plan to go in on the 19th for the new moon and eclipse but the weather forecast looked pretty grim so we contacted Moha at Le Petit Prince and re-arranged. As luck would have it we were the only two people on the hastily arranged trip which was perfect.
We left in gorgeous sunshine at about 4PM in the afternoon and headed East into the dunes of Erg Chebbi, the highest in Morocco. The getting up on a camel for the first time is a bit of a jolt as they go up in two jerky stages. Once up they feel more stable than a horse, less fidgety even serene like. A couple of pictures of us mounted.
We trotted some 7Km into the desert to reach our home for the next two nights. Within the first couple of steps on sand you feel confident with the beast between your legs. We did not detect the rolling motion some mention when ridding a camel. The only rule seems to be to lean back when descending a dune. The camels were expertly led through the desert by Mohamed, a sprightly 28 year old father of two. It is surprising the amount of idle chit-chat one can have as you plod along. Just as well we were not doing the full 62 journey to Tombuktou. Here we are midway to the camp and still smiling. I am now finding it easier to play the part I was born for; move over O’Toole here is the real Lawrence. As a point of useless information I once got sent off in a football match in the town where Lawrence lived. Yenbu in Saudia Arabia.
We arrived at the camp after a ninety minute trek across the bundhu. It was far better equipped than we imagined with framed beds and mattresses atop, fully carpeted and all warm and cosy. We sat down for some chai before heading up to the nearest dune peak to watch the sun set across the sea of sand. One might say romantic. After tumbling down we had some great food with starters, chicken Tagine and fruit for desert. After we were thoroughly entertained by Mohamed, Nasser and the gang around a camp fire as we joined in on drums and a Berber version of the spoons. I, being a Londoner was a natural on the spoons.
For me the next bit was the highlight of the trip, not just the desert trip, but the whole kit and caboodle we have been on. The guys got us some mattresses and we laid down on the dunes and took in the desert night sky. This is going to be difficult to explain but I will give it a go.
- Pretend you are an owl. Any sort will do as long as you can turn your head through 180°
- Get a goldfish bowl and paint it black
- Put millions of white dots of various sizes on the inside of the black painted bowl
- Stick your head in the bowl and swivel it round and round like the owl you now are
I think the big thing is the stars come right down to the horizon and fill your entire vision. We also managed to spot four shooting stars. They appear like the spots in the machine that tests for glaucoma and always in your peripheral vision the little sneakies.
After a good night’s sleep in our comfy abode we were woken to watch the sun rise over the mountains of Algeria. Is it just me or sunrises just not that impressive compared to sunsets? A picture for you all the same.
We returned back to the camp for a hearty breakfast, not a full English hearty but loads of fruit based offerings. Refreshed we mounted our trusty steeds and headed off across the black desert and in the direction of Algeria. This was quite hard work as the dunes of Erg Chebbi lie East-West and this meant we had to cross over dune after dune in our trip East. Mohamed kept us entertained, not only with his cheeky comments but also with his knowledge of the environment. His party piece was to find Sandfish in the dunes. These critters bury themselves into South facing sandbanks. Mohamed was able to see where roughly they were buried and then plunge his hands into the sand at one foot spacings. Within a couple of shuffles, hey presto, a Sandfish.
After crossing the black desert, a desert so called as the make-up is mostly volcanic ash we arrived at a Bedouin camp for chai and a chat. Next we headed back towards a restaurant set within Erg Chebbi for lunch. What a treat as we were served a Berber Pizza, a dish so complicated that I will explain with pictures in a separate post. The finished article can be seen here.
After a siesta we got once more on to our camels. I forgot to say the camels were named Colin and Shakira. Colin I get, but Shakira seems an odd name for a male camel. Crossing the dunes was hard work on the way back and my bottom was mighty relieved to reach the camp.
However, no rest for the wicked and I attempted to snowboard down a dune. Now I might be a mighty fine skier and so I used the logic that a slope is a slope and a board is a big ski. Let’s just say is was a Humpty Dumpty moment.
We had another great evening provided by Moha and his team before leaving at 7AM for the safari home. I will leave you with some pictures of this truly wonderful experience we shall never forget. We have also made a cheesy video for you to enjoy.
You can watch it on YouTube, from the Menu or by clicking here: Midnight at the Oasis
Love to all