Monday, September 22, 2014

Oasis to the desert

For one and half hours on the journey out and then returning the next morning I spent a significant amount of time looking at the view below, of my camel's head and the back of our camel guide.

 

When we decided we were going to Morroco the first thing Andrew said was that he wanted to ride a camel. Never mind it was the end of hot season (which in reality turned out to be hot, but not unbearable, being high thirties during the day and mid twenties in the evening) and disregarding the decidedly uncomfortable ride, this was something he really wanted to do: Ride a camel and sleep overnight in a desert camp.

 

The drive from Skoura to Hassilibed was a solid 7 hours. We had one little navigation slip when we turned right at to town of Rissani and ended up in the weekly market. So we drove away from the market and ended up in a residential area. A boy about 10 years old, on a bike, rode in front of us to guide us back to where we needed to be and earned himself the equivalent of 1 euro from us, for his services. We didn't have a GPS navi in the car and have been downloading offline google maps to supplement our paper Michelin map - with great success - except for this town as it looked straightforward so we had turned the phone off.

Hassilibed, 5km out of Merzouga is a desert town that appears to be completely dependent on tourism. It was unpaved, houses were all mud-brick and there were rather a large number of camels about.

Through our hotel we had arranged an overnight trip to the desert followed by a night in the hotel. We were a party of four, with a nice Austrian/German couple in our camel train.

Hamid, our camel driver was a character, cracking jokes about Camel chocolate (droppings) and cooking an evening meal for us


All the camels were kneelling on the ground to be mounted. Then in sequence from back to front, they stood up one by one as the rider got on, as demonstrated by Andrew 'Lawrence of Arabia' demonstrates below.

 
 
We set off at 17:30pm and arrived at our Berber camp 90 minutes later. That's a lot of lurching around, atop a camel. On the flat and heading uphill they were super steady. But when it came to a downward slope, they certainly felt a bit precarious, even though they were still steadily plodding along. There were no problems, we didn't fall off and we arrived at destination in one piece.
 

 


After dinner there wasn't a lot of nightlife so it was pretty much straight to bed. We all elected to sleep under the stars but about 12:00am the wind picked up and started sandblasting us and both couples relocated into our respective tents. We only saw dung beetles and camp cats, no foxes or night scorpions.

 

In the morning, after a rather low key sunrise, we remounted our camels and plodded back to town. At the end of the journey the camels all lay down, heads on the sand pleased to be relieved of their rather heavy humans. We humans, slightly saddle sore also breathed a sigh of relief.

These "attractive" animals are expensive to purchase for the locals at €900 each and they eat a fair bit each day. Needless to say there isn't a lot of feed out in the desert and a large amount of hay is trucked in. Nothing like making the load as big as physically possible...and we have seen plenty of these trucks on our journey.
 
 

We rather enjoyed the experience and a look at the desert.

 

 

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