The Sahara

Trip Start May 11, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Wednesday, August 16, 2006

We caught a night bus to Rissani on the expensive bus company (CTM) although the bus driver only sporadically put on the aircon so it was like an oven inside and none of the chairs reclined (for our 10 hour journey). From there we were picked up in a fourby with a couple of other guys and taken out to the base of the sand dunes. We saw the sun come up over the dunes, but that beauty was quickly forgotten when I couldn't keep my eyes off the driver who was picking his nose with both hands very enthusiastically.
We were taken into a place we had arranged beforehand to look at. The rooms were cheap, but when it came to bargaining down the price of the camel trek, we got nowhere. They were asking over 100 Euros for a 2 night journey into the desert. We knew it cost not even a third of that and after a while of trying to let the guy knew we weren't idiots and him not coming down much in cost and totally lying to us - we walked out. That's right - we walked out into the desert not knowing what would happen next. They chased after us and agreed to a lower price (first the bosses' son and then the boss himself), but by then we thought they were dishonest and told them so and apologized for wasting their time. There's a few places out there albeit a fair distance is between them, but we were approached by more men after we hadn't walked far. They agreed almost to our price.
They drove us to a nearby village to stay with a family till the evening when the camels would depart into the dunes. Their was a wedding ceremony taking place in the village where the women sang constantly the entire day and would spontaneously break out in crazy sounds (like what Kurdish people make). I was feeling quite ill and we were in the middle of desert in summer (yes we are crazy), but I still managed to doze off. Around 5pm we tied a few things on our saddles and hopped up on to our camel caravan.
We spent the 1st night under the stars while our Berber guide cooked us some Tajine (mosh pot of usually vegies and chicken). Ben was late for dinner as he was off somewhere in the dunes with a sore stomach (Ben here... I was shitting my brains out it the worlds biggest litter box. I must admit the stars were out and I could see the milky way as I unleashed my unholy anal fury onto the destert sands... The dung beetles loved me)After dinner one of our group got stung by a scorpion. We had asked if there were scorpions here and had been told no. We tried to tell him he'd be ok and they weren't poisonous, but come on he was English and probably didn't even know what a Scorpion looked like before he was bitten, poor guy. It's not like the English get a lot of experience with scarey insects before they travel. Anyway a guide from another camp came over and luckily he spoke French so he conversed with another guy in our group. He wanted to cut the foot and suck out the poison. We told him that was a bullshit remedy and he grabbed Luke's foot and put the knife to it anyway. It was all very dramatic being out in the Sahara, not far from the Algerian border (very dangerous) while someone is trying to cut someone else. We ended up convincing them not to do it and everyone went to bed. All night the sand blew on us. When we woke up in the morning our blankets were covered with sand. Sand was in every orifice and inside our sleeping bags. Needless to say that was the 2nd night in a row with no sleep. The next day we ran up and down the dunes taking pictures before heading off for a few more hours into the black desert.
Now if you get the chance to do this tour I would suggest not going to the black desert. It is a fairly flat desert with some rocks on it. We were taken to stay with a Berber family (a mum and 2 kids). We sat in the tent next to their little mud house and stewed from 10am with nothing to do. We entertained the kids with music and photos and a frisbee then we tried to sleep. We also got visited by a baby goat and a cat. (Ben here... I just donkies and chickings for shits and giggles and to alevate the exterme bordom)It was pretty boring really and I would have been so mad if I had have paid more. The camels were allowed to wander and we watched more sand get blown into everything. When it got cooler we ventured out and saw a couple of other guys who'd been taken to the same place as us in the beginning. We went to their Berber family house, but the guides told us they weren't there even though we'd seen them. The guides were quite aggressive looking and very suspicious. They did not want us there. The English guys had heard us and came out for a chat. The guides kept telling them to come back inside the tent for dinner even though no food was visible. Basically they didn't want us discussing the fact that we had walked out. These guys had done the exact same tour as us and even stayed in the same places despite the fact that we were told if we paid less we'd go to a more touristy part of the desert (oh please) and they had paid the full amount.
We left with a couple of local children who had decided to beg from us for the rest of the day and try and get us to give them our jewelry. They were better company than those guides. Another sleepless night as a something like a sandstorm kicked our butts all night. The family slept outside while sand whipped everything around.
I was happy to get on my camel the next day. A different saddle had been put on him though and it was broken. I tried to show my guide, but he told me it was ok. I decided to get off and walk rather than fall off and have to limp. Then we all got off. We all walked a few hours through the Sahara - up and over the dunes until we got very close to the village again. When we saddled up again Ben took my camel and agreed the saddle was broken. He walked the rest of the way.
So that ends our Sahara adventure. Although the sand dunes are massive and beautiful they truly are no-mans land in the heat of the day.
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