Saturday, May 9, 2009

Golden Sands of Erg Chebbi
Dani took this one, probably one of my favourite photos from our entire trip.

After our encounter with Mr Riad-owner, even stuffing ourselves into an overcrowded taxi was a relief. Unfortunately to get direct transport in Morocco, you need to fork out, so instead we had a three stage Grand Taxi ride to Merzouga for the next step in our Moroccan adventure.

Todra > Tinehir > Erfoud > Hassi Labied (Merzouga)

Tinehir and Erfoud are poor towns, and we spent far too long in dusty grand taxi lots trying to negotiate with unreasonable drivers trying the same money-grubbing tricks we've experienced a thousand times. After politely telling them where to put it, we got to our accomodation in Merzouga.

Merzouga is in the middle of no-where.

It really is. It's where a prominent river from the High Atlas finally gives up and disappears into the earth. The townships are dusty and poor and there is little agriculture, but what makes Merzouga such and incredible destination is the enormous golden dunes just east of the city. Some of the dunes are over 300m in height. This area is known as the Erg Chebbi desert, and its a much photographed and visited attraction in Morocco.

Erg Chebbi, Merzouga, Morocco
Dani getting dwarfed by the enormity of the landscape.

Beetle Tracks
The tell-tale tracks of a scarab beetle - one of the few obvious living things in the dunes.

We stayed at a choice little place called Kasbah Sable d'Or, which is run by a French lady and a Moroccan man, Isobelle and Rachid. Isobelle cooked up some amazing food, although I missed out because of tummy-trouble. Dani did report, to my disappointment, that it was the best she'd had in Morocco thus far. In the afternoon of the next day we departed on our overnight camel trek into the dunes.

Fellow travellers John and Kim from Oregon, US, were to join us on the overnight camel trek.

If my memory serves me correctly, I've never actually seen a camel in the flesh before. They are the most disgusting, improbable looking creatures imaginable. They have too many joints in their legs, and they ooze some kind of black sludge (which Dani's still trying to get out of her trouser legs). They can make a cacophony of disgusting noises from several orifices simultaneously, and they are horrible to ride. Despite having a saddle, the camel's hump jabs you right between your man-bits and your wazoo and it doesn't take long before you're wincing with every step.

Camel, Erg Chebbi, Merzouga, Morocco
Not as comfortable as they appear.

Our trip was an hour into the dunes. Once we'd established new thresholds for discomfort, we managed to enjoy the surroundings. There are thousand upon thousands of sand-dunes cascading into the distance. Apparently scenes from Star Wars - Return of the Jedi were filmed here and its not hard to see why.

We crested a dune to see our camp hiding in the trough between us and the next dune. We awkwardly dismounted our camels and attempted to walk normally for a few meters to our camp. As the sun set, we got trigger happy on the camera as the light created shapes of light and shadow all around us.

Erg Chebbi, Merzouga, Morocco

Erg Chebbi, Merzouga, Morocco

After sunset, I ate another dodgy tajine (Dani abstained, it was now her turn for tummy trouble) and chatted with John and Kim about subjects as varying as US politics and poo, and about how farts unite the world. (Kim has earlier that day shown some locals the "Fart App" on her iPhone which had them in hysterics). A good evening was had, it reminded us of an evening in the company of our friends at home, Gail and Dean!

John and Kim
John and Kim - good company!

Just after we went to bed, a nasty wind picked up and blew sand EVERYWHERE - in the bed, in our ears/nose/mouths and eyes. This coupled with an irrational fear of meeting a scorpion kept me awake for most of the night. We finally got some peace just before first light but then it was time to get up and take some more photos before reluctantly getting back on the camels to return to Merzouga.


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