Why don’t I stick to promises I make to myself?
It was still dark when I woke up in anticipation of the day ahead. Day 1 of the road trip was really memorable for me: the landscape and the people we met. Spending time with the nomadic family was the highlight for me. It was great to find out a bit about their life and experience their hospitality.
After the men (our guide, my friend, and the owner of our hotel) push-started the car, we set off on your journey. We stopped in Tinerhir briefly for a glass of tea and continued on our journey to Gorges du Todra. Yes, another Gorge! This was just a very quick stop on our way to Merzouga. It was a very long drive but really interesting as we passed a number of small towns and villages en route. In one of the villages, the women wear black and cover one eye. I didn’t find out the reason for that.
Flatter land, sand and our first sightings of camels indicated how close we were to the desert. We stopped for some lunch before arriving at a hotel. Was this luxury-looking hotel our destination for the night? No, of course not! This was where we were meeting our camels for an overnight desert experience. As we sat in the sun enjoying our tea and the desert view, the camels arrived. I loved the idea of spending the night in a tent in the desert but not the camel trek. I had previously been on a long camel trek about 20 years ago in Egypt. Did I say 20 years ago? OMG, how time flies! It’s just one of those things I thought I would do once but the lure of sleeping in the desert was stronger than my potentially sore bottom in a few hours time after the camel ride. Anyway, it might not be as bad as I remember, I told myself.
The first time the camel (dromedary) stood up was the scariest for me, as it was 20 years ago, because I felt as if I was going to fall off. Not being a horse rider probably doesn’t help! Then, off we went as part of a small camel train into the desert with a local guide walking beside each lead camel. At first, I kept slipping forward so I had to keep pushing myself back. I found it difficult to stay in that position because of the movement of the camel, especially when it walked on the edge of dunes. I did manage to get into the rhythm as time passed so it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. The endless view of red sand as the sun was setting coupled with the deafening silence made it all worthwile.
I have no idea how long we were riding for but it was over 2 hours. When we started seeing camps, it was obvious that our trek was coming to an end. I was looking forward to getting off the camel at that point. When we kept going passed all the camps, I was beginning to wonder when we would reach ours. To my glee, we eventually arrived and headed into the camp. It is supposed to give us the experience of living like nomads but the camps are kitted out for tourists. To my surprise, there was even a western-style toilet.
The guides made a fire so we could sit outside for some after-dinner entertainment where they played the drums, the krakebs and sang. Being in the desert with a clear sky enabled us to marvel at the stars and the planets. We saw Venus, Jupiter and Mars, as well as a number of shooting stars. I’m glad I didn’t stick to my promise of never riding a camel again. It was worth it.