Adventures in Morocco Part 2: Camel Trek
The next morning, we were off on the excursion of a lifetime. We met our tour guide and driver, Omar, and four other folks who we were about to spend a very long road trip with and set off to the desert. This excursion took us through tiny berber villages, along very windy roads, breathtaking viewpoints, over snow-capped mountains, rocky desert, scrubby desert, to ancient kasbahs, to the largest film studio in Morocco, oasis and ruins, and deep gorges. I know you want to know about the camels, so I’ll spare you the details on all this. Really, we saw so much. Anyway, on to the camels. If you missed Part One, click here.
The first night, we stopped in the middle of nowhere at a little inn for dinner and to spend the night. Our tour group was awesome, and we shared dinner out of a big clay pot and laughed and told stories about being an expat. Everyone in our group was living in a different place than their home country: An couple from Seattle living in Geneva, an Indonesian woman working for her embassy in Berlin, and her German friend studying chemistry in New York.
We camel trekked into the Sahara Desert the next afternoon at sunset. There aren’t really adequate words to describe the entire experience, really I can only tell small parts to give you the general gist. Like this:
- Camels are weird. They have terrible breath, are very awkward to ride, make gross noises that sound like gagging and burping and don’t bite or spit. Their feet are huge round soft pads that are obviously better at walking in sand than human feet.
- We left the camels and climbed a giant sand dune right before sunset. The sand was so incredible. Imagine a very fine powder, now imagine it burnt orange color, and imagine the largest amount of it you can, multiply by 1000. That’s the dune. This sand fills your shoes and is impossible to climb. Like climbing water. When we go to the top, and, I’ll admit, I was quite winded from the exertion, the view took my breath away again.
- The sky goes for as far as you can see, 360 degrees. I swear, I could see the earth bend on the horizon. It’s hard to describe. If you’ve ever taken a picture during that “golden hour” when everything is just glow-y and perfect, it’s like that. The sunset on the dunes turned them from sand to huge orange tidal waves agains the almost-purple sky. This moment, and it was only a few minutes, was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.
- After the sun dropped, the temperature did too. We ran down the dune, filling our shoes, pants and hair with fine powdery sand. I’m telling you, it’s not that annoying sand that you try to leave at the beach. This is the sand that you should lay on with no towel, that you should ski down, roll in, jump in. It really feels good in your shoes.
- We rode the camels further into the desert until we arrived at the camp. It’s a permanent camp that consists of a handful of big tents made of camel hide/fur. We had dinner in one of them. Delicious.
- We went out under the stars and sat around the campfire. Our hosts played drums, sang, told jokes. They let us try the drums, we sang a Christmas carol, and couldn’t come up with any jokes of our own. The moon was out, and almost full. It was so bright, or maybe because we were so far away from any other light, the moon was enough to see by. Margaux and I climbed the dune behind the camp after the campfire staring at the stars. Even with the moon, there were more stars than I’ve seen anywhere.
- The next morning, we woke before sunrise. I walked out of the tent, looked up, and almost fell down. The sky. The moon had gone, and the stars. Oh my lord. The stars. I almost broke my neck looking at them. I’ve been places where you can see stars, Southern Utah, Big Bear, the middle of Maine, camping places, you know. But this. Incredible. BILLIONS… This lasted only 15 minutes or so, because as soon as the sun was thinking about coming up, the stars began to disappear. The pre-pre-pre-dawn slowly erased the starts one by one from the sky.
- We watched the sunrise from the top of another dune. We rode the camels in silence. The quiet is almost deafening. The sunrise was exactly the sunset in reverse, just mindblowing. We watched as the sun gently kissed the top of every dune in sight until the entire sun-side of the dune was lit up for the day.
- We said goodbye to the camels and packed in for a long 10 hour ride back to Marrakech. Though the ride was long, the views of desert, mountains, towns, cities, people, rivers, and all the animals and plants we passed kept me staring out the window the whole way. Poor Margaux, the windy roads were a little much for her, but we made it!
I know I’ve been a little over the top with this description, but seriously, I’m not adequately prepared to explain it in any other way. Just look at these pictures.