I've found a way to (fingers x'd) let you see more photos than in the diary...
Copy and paste the link below into your browser:-
There are 2 more albums from the journey so far,
Album 1 https://goo.gl/photos/juxaqQKjHRSGdyKF9
Tues 9th May
I've completely forgotten to put the basic info down in the beginning so will have to put it here.
Ray is the owner of Desert Detours, and their website is easily found on the net. He's been doing it for almost 40 years. He is 73.
Hammed is his trusted second. He speaks several languages fluently, is very helpful, friendly, interested in everyone and everything. He's married with 2 boys,and is in his mid thirties.
Steve and Jade are in their American RV, 17.5 tons. We're the next in size, then John and Barb ( in their late 70's) in a new "A" class Carthago, with Dave, mid sixties, towing his caravan, driving a Land Rover.
A small but great group, we vary in age from 29 to 79.
Our wedding anniversary. Still not feeling good, but managed soya yogurt breakfast. Feel like I want to go back to Spain today but maybe the desert will change that. Off at half 8, first stop after couple hours was a restaurant for early lunch of Maroc pancakes and local honey & coffee/mint tea. Then away south, temp hit 39°, too hot for comfort, but while we're travelling, aircon keeps us cool. Scenery incredible, including a beautiful bright turquoise reservoir, where we stopped at a viewpoint to
buy little straw camels, cute, and such work gone into them, for less than a pound.
Arrived campsite at Meski village, south of Erfoud, mid afternoon; very, very, hot; we couldn't risk taking the Lady down to the site, the entrance was too tight, steep, with a slippery surface. Steve & Jade had definitely no choice but to stay on the outskirts of the village, behind the football pitch, so we stayed with them, whilst the other two outfits went down to the site. Ray, our leader, has told them they couldn't stay with us, which is a shame as we've all got on so well, they wanted to stay up top with us..but at least they got electric down there. But they're weren't happy, it is not a good site at all, noisy and dirty, Dave spent most of his time with John and Barb as he doesn't have aircon at all. They were also worried about getting back up.
No electric at all but we shared S&J's generator power so we could at least get weak aircon. At 5pm Hammed fetched us to go to the site for a look around and see the natural pool and little shops there. It's called the Source Bleu, a natural spring water swimming pool which sounded and looked like heaven in the Desert Detours brochure. NOT. Awful. Very dirty, loads local children, dads and young men, very few women. Smelly, shops were VERY PUSHY and very expensive.. Roy had stayed at home, I went with S&J, they bought 4 outside mats for their RV. I didn't buy a bracelet that I loved because.... it was gazelle horn, (which is ok and legal to buy apparently) inlaid with silver but at €80 was a ridiculous price. Ate at home. Very disappointed with this place as it had been built up to be idyllic.
Started with a tour of the local primary school at 9 am....which was SO lovely, the children were all clean, well dressed, all had lovely backpacks on, and did their exercises in the wooded area outside school before singing and going into class. They all said a rhyme to each of us in the group to thank us for what we'd brought with us for them...we had brought bags of sweets, bubbles, drawing pads and crayons, pencils, rubbers, sharpeners, balls, toy cars. We all sat on benches at the back of the room and watched as they performed a traditional dance. As Roy sat down the loose change fell out of his pocket. The wee boy at his side scooped it up and pocketed it almost before it hit the floor! The dance was similar to a Scottish reel, the music came from cd player but four of the children stood at the front, playing air guitar or tapping bongos. No register or assembly as such, but each child has a 4" square laminated card with his/her photo on it + their name, spread out on a table in the entrance hall. When they come in they take their own card and hang it on the appropriate hook in the classroom so the head master can see quickly who has arrived or is absent.
We left to a chorus of goodbyes and then our guide took us on a walk around his village. The poverty was obvious. No running water except in the best houses, maybe 2-4 at most. 5 wells serve the rest and are so deep you can't see the bottom. A plastic bucket on rope wound up and down by hand is the normal for all villages like this. The families all have animals and again, the animals sleep inside the door of the house, on straw and dusty floors, the people live alongside in rooms next to them. If they can afford it, and the family consists of more than 2 generations there is a second storey. The streets are just earth and rubbish and dust. Waste water is thrown into the streets. The houses are made of mud and straw, some with a few breeze blocks, and some even with glass in the windows, but most just small square ish holes. Flat rooves, with a chimney somewhere in the centre. The women's dress varies dramatically, from the several layered traditional full length hooded gowns with over skirts of heavy woven fabric, to western dress of jeans and tunics with a headscarf, thru to strict Muslim. All their washing is done in the river by hand and the rest of the day is spent collecting animal food from the fields, bringing it home on tired and sad looking donkeys, cleaning?, cooking the family's main meal and looking after the little ones.
Our guide. Benni, was proud to show us his house, the best in the village by far, built of breeze blocks and as yet unpainted. It had a double door leading to a Roman type interior, a tiled entrance which went left and right, around a square garden with massive palm trees and other trees, almond and fruit. Rooms led off this area, a kitchen, a winter sitting room, but they always sit on the floor, as the summer area which is part of the tiled square surround, piled high with rugs and cushions galore. A modern dining table with 4 chairs is also arranged here, but think it's for European guests. Past the kitchen are several rooms, bathrooms and bedrooms, all very sparse. Benni has earnt enough money to build a second storey, all breeze block, with cables loose everywhere, but there are about 4 bedrooms which will be ensuite when/if finished. He hopes to take in holiday guests. There is a further storey reached by treacherous stairs which will one day, be the roof terrace. His wife and 4 girls all look very smart the two younger go to the village school and the older two go to the school in the town, which is a long bus ride away. We had lovely mint tea and fresh nuts before he tried to sell us various articles, without success. By this time there were just 5 of us, Barb and Dave had given up half way round, exhausted and sun beaten.
We left there and got back to our m'homes for a late lunch. Really interesting, but tiring, morning.
That night we went across to the village cafe for a meal of soup, then chicken tagine couscous, followed by fresh local melon and oranges. We took our own wine and glasses as there is no alcohol to be had anywhere except in the more European larger hotels. Lovely evening.
Off by half 9. First stop, a viewpoint of the valley and oasis, stunning....second stop at a granite, marble, and fossil factory/shop. Really marvellous to see and very interesting, loved that. Next was coffee stop....not a good one, loads flies, had to wait ages for an odd tasting tea, the place was grubby and we wished we'd had coffee in the Lady.
Got to edge of desert by lunchtime, roads fairly good. Very very windy now, miles and miles of grey barren ground stretching as far as we could see. A real God-forsaken place. After a long drive we arrived at the hotel in the desert. By this time the wind had turned into a sandstorm and we all struggled to manoeuvre on flat ground between dunes. Could hardly see the hotel next door for the sand swirling around. Very depressing actually it was, and as it got worse over the evening, it found it's way into every single millimetre of the Lady and ourselves. Our mouths were so dry and gritty that when we spoke we could feel the sand in our teeth. Horrid. No electric of course here, so no air con, spent the afternoon by the lovely pool where it was sheltered.
Evening in when it had cooled.
Temperature went sky high. Spent a lazy day by the poolside, the wind had dropped but not gone, so it was the only option unless we'd gone for walk in the desert. Don't think so...
5pm prepared for our 2 hour camel trek into the desert to stay in Berber tents. We only took our own pillows, water, and bottle of wine as our return trek was to start at 6am, to arrive back at the hotel for a breakfast at 8am. The wind had all but gone by this time which was so much better. Barb didn't accompany
us, at 79 she thought it would not do her sciatica any favours at all. Quite rightly....getting on was easy, but then the camel had to get up off its feet, back legs and front legs separately which threw you forwards then backwards, but once up it was fine and easy riding. The views were unique, the dunes so huge and impressive, and so red. There was just the six of us with another 2 French ladies....fantastic experience, so glad we did it, only difficult bit was when we went up and down the steeper dunes, then it was just hang on tightly and put your trust in the animals. On arrival at the oasis, dismounting was hilarious, as the camel kneels down first so you're thrown forwards quite violently before becoming upright again, then because it's been 2 hours in a position none of us had ever been in prior to this, we were all walking like bow legged zombies, with knees uncontrollably shuddering....we were shown the toilet tent, complete with porta-potty, and loo roll! And then thru the dining area with white linen table cloths and covered chairs, ornate cutlery, napkins, candles and glasses set out. Lovely. Into the camp fire area with large fire pit, surrounded with a big circle of single mattresses set on rugs of differing shapes, sizes, colours and condition...surrounding these were the tents, again different sizes with varying quantities of double and single mattresses. We chose a double on its own, put our bags down, went back to the fire pit and opened the wine.... Our meal was superb, lovely vegetable soup, followed by the best chicken tagine we'd had in the whole 3 weeks, with fresh melon, pineapple and banana sliced for us to eat with fingers. Moroccan coffee afterwards. By this time at least another 20 young Moroccan tourists had joined us, and came to sit around the fire. The bongos in a corner of the area were brought out and the dreadful monotonous, depressing sound of their traditional music began. One guitar would have been great, but drums on their own with toneless singing was just diabolical. Even more odd was the fact that they all loved it, and were laughing and clapping too. No way could you even go to bed out of the way of it as the beds were adjacent to the campfire, so 3 of us went to bed anyway, and 3 of us stayed up chatting till after the youngsters had all gone to bed.
The loo was actually not bad, been in far worse in India. At half five next morning we got up, quickly dressed, had cup of coffee or mint tea then onto our trusty steeds once more. Up and away to see the sunrise over the dunes. Wonderful.
Back to the Lady for 8 am, quick wash and over for buffet breakfast of fresh fruit, bread and jams, pancakes, odd little cakes, hardboiled or scrambled eggs if wanted and juices, mint tea, coffee.
Back to bed till lunchtime.
So hot today, Saturday, stayed by pool, kept having a dip even tho it wasn't very clean....it was cleaned yesterday, but considering the amount of sparrows and pigeons using it for drinking and using the whole pool area for their social life it should be cleaned twice a day. Lots of feathers, dead & dying insects, leaves, bird poo floating on the surface don't make for an enjoyable swim, but it was cool, just don't put your face anywhere near.
Stayed in and had a simple meal that night, and early to bed.