|Had to finish in a hurry last update as I forgot that it was the finish of Ramadan fot the day and they needed to close the shop so that they could eat!
In Fes we arranged to take a four day tour and it was with much doubt that we stood outside the pension and waited for our 0630taxi to arrive. However all doubts were dispelled when w nice tidy Mercedes stopped and Haji our driver loaded our gear into the boot, then Shanes surfboard inside plus us and drove to the station to drop Shane off. He was headed to Tanger and Spain while we were headed south. It was really good spending a few days with Shane- funny thaty we had to come half way round the world to do it!
Our driver then headed to the Police station to register our journey and our passportys- another bit of peace of mind/security for us, then we set off for Merzouga- a 7 hour journey with stops enroute. First was a coffee break at a place known as "Geneva Morocco"- high in the Middle Atlas mountains a village that you would swear you are in Switzerland, along with lakes, beautiful treeladen parks and chalets. There is a major university here and all wealthy Morrocan children come here to study. This area has forrests of cedar and oak, ski fields, and barbary apes on the side of the roads. Also on the sides of the road are people selling fossils and minerals, fruit and so on. Along the way were orchards and date palms, plus heaps of donkeys and camels. Such qn interesting day which really only began in earnest when we arrived at our destination- out on the edge of the orange/red sand dunes of Erg Chebbi, at the Hotel de les hommes (the Blue men). We had left the taxi at Ressin and driven by 4 wheel drive to this hotel in the desert. Left our luggage in the room and went to the lounge area for mint tea. The building looks like something out of a movie and the linge are was all low tables and brightly covered cushions, with blankets and paintings covering the walls. We took a bottle of water and a jacket and went outside to where Mohammed and his two camels waited. Our heads were wrapped in turbans and then we mounted our camels and sauntered off into the dunes to watch the sunset.
Camels are interesting creatures to ride- OK going uphill, not so great going downhill. After an hour Mohammed stopped, unwrapped a package and handed us a few dates- Ramadan was over once again for the day and he needed to eat and drink. Brians' camel decided he wanted dates as well and tried to grab them from his hand much to my amusement. It was the first food we had had since 0900 that day so they were very well received. We sat on the edge of a dune and watched the last rays of the sun disappear behind the distant mountains, then plodded on through the dunes until we came tupon a nomadic camp set up by some date palms- we were joined by another small group of two Kiwi girls and a frech mother and daughter. There were other camps with tourists nearby but we pretty much had the place to ourselves. Joined some Czeks aroudn a fire for some drumming and singing with mint tea until Mohammed announced dinner was ready. We sat on mattresses around a low table and ate out of three communal dishes, one of the nicest meals we've had- meat tajine, grilled smoky flavoured vegetables and a mince dish, eaten with a round of crunchy bread. A clear evening sky with lots of stars and satellites going by overhead, great conversation. Afterwards Mohammed and Yosef made up beds for us- this was when Brian and I realised that we were sleeping here the night and not back at the hotel! Yosef and Julie (one of the Kiwi girls) provided us with much entertainment dancing and learning each others language- Berber and cheeky Kiwi.
A cosy night qnd next thing it was early dawn, and we clambered up a steep 150meter high sand dune behind the camp- completely exhausting- and watched the sun come up. The colours of the sand, and the shapes caused by the wind leaving sharp black edges- how to capture it on film. Finally we got back on our camels- oh God- and agonisingly plodded back to the hotel for a shower and breakfast. A really enriching experience ( byut we turned down the offer to do a 14 day camel trek....)