Where is Tabesbast? Well it’s here:
We have moved away from the dunes of Erg Cheebbi and the further reaches of the Sahara and are now making our way over the next few days to Marrakech. This post, to use corporate language jargon, is a wash-up of all the bits I forgot to write during our time in Merzouga. But before that. Today we have driven 160Kms across the South East of Morroco via the N13, R702 and the N10. The roads today have been great apart from within the cycle city of Rissani. I do not know what the people of this fine place have done to those in power but just a tad of Tarmac would make the world of difference.
Tourist Tip: Have you ever wondered what it must be like in China to through drive and dodge the thousands of cyclists that clog every city, every day? If the answer is yes then save yourself the airmiles and wiz off to Rissani. It has all the Sino based chaos you could wish for without the jet lag.
Merzouga 16/03 – 23/03/2015 The Missing Bits
Looking back I can see I was a bit light on the coverage of the Black Desert part of the trip which on reflection was more fascinating than the days spent on the Erg. Here in this ash covered wilderness Bedouin tribes’ eke out a living from a few goats and the odd camel. This is a tough existence in an unforgiving environment. We were here when the temperature was a tolerable 25C and we found it tiring. Trying to imagine the conditions in mid-summer when the mercury rises to the mid-forties makes me dream of having an ice cream in an ice bath in an air conditioned igloo in the depths of winter.
Firstly here is a picture of this barren wasteland.
The ridge of mountains seen in the background are in Algeria. We were not allowed to go closer than this point as the border is shut and the area becomes militarised. We had some chai and had a chat with a Bedouin family but did not overstay our welcome as they were fishing for some help to finish digging their new well. Unfortunately we learned while we were there the well as salty and of not much use meaning the moving of camp to find a fresh source of water.
One of the sights you see here is nothing ever goes to waste and everything is recycled, including animals that have been eaten. See picture of goat-based water carrier.
A thing I hope that never gets recycled is my best friend Colin the Camel who carried me across the Sahara for three days without fuss or complaint despite the constant buffeting from behind by Tracy and the equally mischievous Shakira. I am happy to report that Colin took no notice of this horseplay, or should that be Camelplay? Anyway, as a way of saying thank you to my cameline hero I post a picture of the handsome brut here. Love ya Colin.
Before we went on our desert trip we were a bit worried about the conditions. Somebody had posted on a Motorhome Forum that the whole expedition was a complete misery, with bad food, no blankets and you even slept on the floor sans bed.
Homie Help: Be wary of statements made on Motorhome forums
by people who have ‘heard’ things. Here are a couple of pictures of the chillin’ and eating parts of the camp.
We struck up a friendship not only with Colin and the pesky Shakira but also with our guide, Mohamed and after we finished our trip we went to Mohamed’s house to meet his family and have lunch. The hospitality of the people of Morocco never ceases to amaze. These are people who do not have two ha’pennies to rub together but will share everything they have with you without thinking there is something in return. The spread laid out at a moment’s notice for us was truly impressive and consisted of an orange and carrot puree, lentils and eggs, a meat Tagine and prepared fruit. Here are a couple of snaps of us at Mohamed’s. A great day with great people.
The last missing part of our Merzouga based jigsaw, and our final bit of this blog, was our trip to the Salt Lake, Dayet Srij. This turned out to be our first ever off-road experience on our electric bikes. A quick whizz round the campsite before leaving showed the heavy weight, thin wheels and uncontrolled power inputs were not the best design for eloquent sandy travel. Never mind our trusted guide Mohamed, yes the same one, assured us all would be fine. The lake is about 3Km West of the town and apart from a couple of squiffy moments dropping off a small scarp it was a relaxing ride.
Due to the dense mineral content the lake is a wonderful shade of aquamarine and shimmers magnificently from the bright desert sunlight. Bird life is abundant in numbers but sadly not in species and apart from a Great White Egret we spotted nothing of note, even the famed flamingos were not present.
On return we had one final BBQ before packing the van away for our departure.
While we basking in the never ending sunshine the Sahara has to offer the rest of Morocco has been having a bit of the ‘Old English’ metrologicaly speaking. This has resulted in the stony desert now even more awash with colour than when we left and the purple foliage has now been replaced by a carpet of green sprouting bright yellow flowers as can be seen here.
Mid-way along the R702 is an area where the farmers have cultivated an area which has no right to be cultivated. On one side of the road are the advancing dunes of the Sahara held back by flimsy wicker fences and on the other the hard stone Hamada. To enable them to grow their crops they have dug hundreds of wells as far as the eye can see to provide the irrigation. Inspirational.
The main reason for leaving Merzouga was due to the weather forecast showing heavy showers for the next two days. Rather than sit around we would use this window to drive the 500Km to Ouarzazate, home to the Atlas Film Studios. After my performance as Lawrence of Arabia in the sand I am salivating at the thought of stepping into the shoes of ‘The Crowe’ and outperforming him as Gladiator. Back to reality, we stopped here as we didn’t like the look of the weather ahead and we were right as the winds have blown and the clouds have delivered mud-squelching, sock stinking portions of rain. And with that thought we will leave you with a picture of the storm that delivered.
Love to all