we left fes on sat 14th dec to head for ...

Trip Start Oct 01, 2002
Trip End Aug 08, 2005

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Flag of Morocco  ,
Tuesday, December 24, 2002

We left Fes on Sat 14th Dec to head for the desert in Merzouga. We slept rough in tents in the middle of nowhere on the way. It really was freezing and the wind howled. It was so remote and the landscape was quite barren. We cooked for twelve and it was okay but not the most successful. We then could do nothing but huddle around a fire trying to escape the harsh wind. It was nice, the fir cones were glowing in the embers and as long as you remained glued to your seat at the fireside you didn't freeze to death.

We arrived in Merzouga late on Sunday evening, crossing sand to get there. On the way, two Berber children ran after the truck for such a long way. They lived in a traditional tent on the edge of the sand desert far from anywhere and they wanted to sell us their handmade head adornments. We caught our first glimpse of the sand dunes in the distance, glowing pink in the setting sun. The campsite was nice with a hotel attached and hot showers. If you stay in your own tents you camp for free which was an added bonus. The people running the site were also from the Berber tribe and in the evening they lit a fire and danced and played the drums around it. On Tuesday we got up at 05.15 to go for a sunrise camel ride in the dunes. The camels were really smelly and quite uncomfortable to ride, especially for the men in the group when going down hill! The dunes where quite impressive and the sunrise was really nice. We got off the camels to climb some of the more steep dunes, which wasn't the easiest. We climbed a few and reached the top of a particularly large one. The view was spectacular. Really high dunes sculpted by the wind with sharp curves and edges casting shadows and turning orange and pink in the light. There is a really sharp ridge which runs along the top of each one at a sharp angle. Its amazing to see. We stayed at the top for a while, watching the colours change and then made our decent back to the camels. One of the Berber men told Sian to lie down and then he pulled her by the legs to the bottom, she went sliding down the dune rather quickly! Some of the others went for an overnight stay in the dunes and slept in the family Berber tent of one of the guides but we decided it was far too uncomfortable to do an extended trip. We walked back up some of the dunes at sunset and left our prints in the perfect sand.

On Wednesday 18th we headed to Todra gorge where we stayed for two nights. We found a small hotel with just 6 or 7 rooms, which has just been built and is not quite finished. The downstairs is still a bit of a building site but upstairs where the rooms were, was more or less complete. You could also camp on the roof or outside. We stayed for 50 dirhams per person with en suite (luxury!) which is about £3.50 each. The hotel was remote with the gorge towering up on all sides. Some parts of the gorge have just a narrow road with the steep sides of the gorge straight up on both sides. We climbed and scrambled to the top, the red rock is really sharp which aided climbing but to fall would have ensured injury. Throughout the gorge there were loads of real climbing opportunities and we wished we had our harnesses and climbing shoes with us. The place is completely unspoilt and where we were, there was not another building or even telegraph pole in sight. There is just the odd Berber tent on the side of a rockface and herds of goats. The silence was a welcome change from the tourist traps that these places usually turn in to.

On Friday we headed towards the Draa valley but didn't get there as it was further than estimated, so we stayed in a small town called Agdz at the start of the valley. At the campsite we slept with 4 others in a Berber tent and again they sang, played the drums and generally entertained us around the campfire. The toilets were mud huts and the local people were really friendly. We set off on Saturday, making our way north again towards Marrakesh. Sian was navigating and she picked a good day for it. As we crossed the Atlas mountains the views were fantastic and there were just a few small towns and villages along the way. The roads twisted and turned and there were many sharp bends and sheer drops. The higher mountains were snow capped and along the way there were some people standing at the side of the road with fossils and rocks for sale. While Sian was all cosy and warm in the cab, the others froze in the back but at least she didn't get us lost this time!

So now we are in Marrakesh and even though we are further north, the weather is fantastic, really warm. We spent the first day chilling out and warming up as the campsite is 9 kms out of town. We will explore Marrakesh before we head south for Christmas day. We are all going to go to the supermarket and stock up on lots of goodies so we can treat ourselves! Things are generally going well, we like everyone on the truck except one really annoying person but there's always one!

We hope all is well with everyone back home and Merry Christmas to all!!

Kev and Siān.
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