After a refreshing lunch, we drove to Merzouga, on the edge of the Sahara desert. Our adventure really began as we then switched to 4-wheel drive off road vehicles (Toyota Land Cruisers) for a bumpy ride across the unpaved, unmarked desert floor to a Berber camp with facilities for tourists. We were shown to our private Berber tents on the sand, with carpets on the floor and low beds (no A.C here!), and almost immediately "hopped" onto camels for a 45 minute ride into the dunes and then back again. Most people enjoyed it, but Anne never did get truly comfortable way up high on a camel hump padded with blankets, and a little bar to hold onto. When the camel gets up or down, it first springs up on its front legs, so one is pitched backwards, and then it abruptly pitches forward as it pushes up it's hind legs. Then with each camel tied to the next, led by a Berber guide on foot, we set off at a slow (less then 4 kph) but steady and bumpy pace. Anne never got over feeling that she was about to fall of sideways, especially going up or down hill. About halfway through, we stopped and got off to climb a huge, steep sand dune to watch the shadows creep across the landscape. Then we climbed or "skated" back down, and were back on the camels. Our shadows on the sand looked straight out of "Lawrence of Arabia". Upon our return, we had a Berber meal in another big tent, and walked back to our tents in the pitch black to sleep. Anne's cough (from Greece) started to improve when she began wearing a dust mask over her nose and mouth, but Tom is having an upset stomach problem so, although we are doing fine with the group activities, we are both trying to either eat carefully or breathe carefully.
On Wednesday monring, some of the group got up about 5:00 AM for another camel ride, but once was enough for us, so we slept a little longer before breakfast and departure back to Merzouga and return to our van. By now our bodies were all covered with red sand that penetrated our clothes and shoes and socks, and felt quite gritty! Nonetheless, we drove to a very lush and green oasis where we walked for awhile - a really nice walk. After another drive, we walked along a deep river gorge (unfortunately very congested with tour buses). Finally, we ended up at a very comfortable hotel in Quarzazate (pronounced "where was it") where many movies have been made, and we were all extremely eager to enjoy the luxury of hot showers, dinner, and bed.