Erg Cherbi - Poos And Piles

Trip Start Mar 03, 2005
Trip End Mar 04, 2006

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Saturday, January 14, 2006

Dave is at the wheel of the Corolla.

We are driving away from Tinerhir, skirting the mountains thankfully and heading towards the desert. The landscape changes again, from rolling hills and Utah style tabletop mountains, to the plains of eastern Morocco as we journey towards the Sahara. The journey is somewhat uneventful compared to the other days, but long. The views are worth the trip though. Annoyingly in the lead in towns to our destination, the locals cross out the name of towns on the roadsigns so you will need to employ them as guides. Except if you are intelligent like ourselves and are aware that that is what they do.

We have been recommended a hotel by the one we stayed at yesterday. From the main road we can see the nearby Erg Cherbi sand dunes, and a sign for the Hotel Kasbah Mohajut. It points towards the dunes via a very rough stone road. Lets see if the two wheel drive Corolla can handle it. After all, it is a rental, and in rental cars the line between 2WD and 4WD is often confusing.....

The hotel is an old style Kasbah, but only 4 years old. It is a veritable oasis in the desert. Amazing Moroccan salon-style rooms are beautifully decorated with a local touch. Even though it is mudbrick, it is 4 star mudbrick if that makes sense. I am spending more than I would as a 'traveller' because I am hanging round with those on 'holiday', but it is a fair compromise and still exceptionally good value because it includes food.

We are only 30kms from the Algerian border. The backyard of the Kasbah is Dunes 100 metres high. The others want to do a camel ride into the dunes for sunset. After my groin separating Indian camel experience (quote unquote 'like a chicken wishbone') I decide to save some dosh, and Osteitis Pubis surgery and walk.

The camels are slow so I end up walking with the group, being the official photographer. Walking on dunes is a good workout, and I am soon wishing I hadn't gone the third layer of clothes. It is sunny but mild still in winter, and late in the day.

The camel train stops. Mike leaves his camel, who he has called "Lawrence" (as in Lawrence of Arabia), a growly male. Linda's is a cute female (we think female but are not willing to gaze closer) that has been named Olivia. She has long eyebrows (Olivia, not Linda) and slowly chews her cud in a feminine way somehow. She may be smelly, sweaty, have matted camel hair with other camel's spit on it, but she is very beautiful. Perhaps you had to be there but we end up doing vocal impersonations of her voice, or what we think her voice should be. The desert is sending us mad perhaps. Olivia stares at us transfixed.

Here we are in the Sahara, on top of an enormous Dune watching the sunset.

The guides encourage us to run down the dunes back to the camels once it is over. I am carrying more cameras than the paparrazi, so I can't run. Mike sprints. Doing the maths from Year 11 Physics, I decide it is going to end in tears. His upper body goes faster than his legs.....

Mike does one of the greatest face plants I have ever seen.

Sand shoots in his ears, eyes, nose..... Tears stream down our faces as all we can do is laugh. It was hysterical. He pours water into his mouth, spitting out kilograms of sand. Mike will spend the next few days sneezing granules out or wiping his eyes free of sand. Poor bastard, but it was funny.

We wander back in the semi darkness. I stop to take photos of the full moon as it rises across the Sahara. Eventually I turn round to see the camel train way in the distance in the dark. You can see how people get lost out here at night. I am not far from the Kasbah so all is well.

A grand experience, again.

Dinner at the Kasbah Mohajut is superb, especially the Cheesecake style dish for desert. Kat has two slices and we think she has worms. The coversation again turns to Poos and Piles. Linda thought we might go through one meal without it, so we deliberately bring it up. Poos and Piles. Piles and Poos.

They are a fine bunch really. Mike is an old mate of Dave's, from Manchester in England, and is genuinely funny. They met while backpacking in Seattle in the mid 90s. Both were younger, and perhaps less wise, as some of their stories and adventures from that time are ridiculous, and ridiculously funny. I have done things differently on my trip, probably because I am 10 years older than they were then. But as someone told me before I came away, "it will be better doing it at 32 than 22, because at 22 you spend the whole time pissed, see nothing, and return home with every STD under the sun....."

Not a bad evaluation really. We can't even get a glass of red here out in the desert, nor a cleansing Ale. And unless I get friendly with Olivia the camel, the chances of an STD are slim.

We are up early in the morning to go on a 4WD expedition with the Kasbah owner, Hassan. He takes us to a variety of weird and wonderful destinations, including an abandoned French Kohl mine (apparently used in the production of Mascara in years gone by), Fossil hunting (weird snails in the volcanic rocks scattered in the sand and we found many, plus a somewhat bemused junior Scorpion), and tea drinking with a traditional Berber nomad family in the desert.

But the highlight for me, being a sports nut, was driving along some of the official Paris Dakar Rally track through the desert here near Merzouga. I have wondered what it was actually like, the terrain that the Rally Drivers have to contend with. Now I have seen it and driven on a smidgeon of it, it confirms in my mind that they are mad. The Motorcycles in the race are speed limited to 160kph. We were going less than half that in a 4WD. Sadly an Australian died in the race, somewhere near here just over a week ago, when the race recently passed through Merzouga and the Erg Cherbi dunes.

Returning towards the Kasbah, Hassan asks if we would like to see one of the shops. We thought we were being taken to a shop owned by his mother that sells the hooded coat that the local men where in winter, which makes them look like a mixture of a character from 'Star Wars', the Grim Reaper from Monty Python's 'Meaning of Life', and the Gobbledock from the old Smiths Chips commercials. Instead it was a carpet shop.

Mike and Linda were very interested in a couple and were thus taken to another room so they could be shown them 'on a floor with no other rugs on it', which is actually a ploy to separate customers. Dave too was taken elsewhere to be shown another. I remained behind casually sitting on a couch telling the owner how I was travelling for a year and had little money for such extravegances, showing little interest.

I saw one I liked, and said 'I like that one', thinking that the meagre amount I had to offer was never going to be close to acceptable. Minutes later I actually lowered my offer on a slightly smaller rug, and they accepted eventually. The owner told his staff to sell it to me at that price because he personally had established that I didn't have much money because I was travelling long term. I suddenly had bought myself a Berber Rug in Morocco.

I wanted one as my major 'souvenir' from the trip. I considered it in Egypt, but in the end I am happier to have bought it here. For years to come I would not have wanted to say 'yeah its lovely, I bought it in that toilet of a country Egypt'. Instead I now get to say that I proudly bought in a country that I have really grown to like.

And as I pointed out to Dave, if there is anyone in the world who needs a Rug, with this haircut its me.

Returning to the Kasbah, me with my rug (which Kat and Dave have generously offered to take home for their Pugs to poo on in the interim), Mike and Linda with two, our final hurrah was a 'light lunch'. Four courses later we were ready to go. Lunch in the sun on the edge of the desert. What a fantastic spot. Another highlight from this trip around the world. Dave you have done it, again.

I think we actually managed to get through lunch without mentioning Shit or Haemoroids.

OK I have never advertised a spot previously, but if you want to do something remarkable, come to Morocco, come to Merzouga on the edge of the Erg Cherbi dunes and stay at the Kasbah Mohajut. ph 0021266069185 email
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