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The Road Unpaved: Sand, Dirt & a Martian Terrain!

MOROCCO | Thursday, 3 March 2016 | Views [240]

The Road Unpaved: Sand, Dirt & a Martian Terrain!

 

Marhabaan, it is the first trip for the year, and the first to my road unpaved. I've never been to Marrakech, but it is a trip I had been looking for too for months! Everyone I know who has gone to Morocco have only gone to Marrakech and have spoken about their experience, in Marrakech. I am about to do a 5 day trip around Marrakech, Morocco. It's going to be intense but no doubt it is going to be an awesome trip.

I am doing the trip with a group, called Solo Traveller; there is about 14 of us going and none have ever been before.

The night before the trip, the usual routine starts to kick in, the hope feeling of being packed and ready, so I could just run out the house and into the car. But this wasn't the case I started to pack 5 hours before departure.

 


 

Saturday 27 February: Day 1 - Gatwick, London to Marrakesh, Morocco

 

Nothing special happened today day, the flight was mid-afternoon. I had finished work half way through the night shift. I thought it would be a good idea, to finish at 1am, sleep for a bit and then head to the airport. I was to travel with Darren, but he hopped a lift with some family. So I met him at the airport, had a coffee and then skipped along to find the others.

No one said much and everyone just gazed and had a smile or a smirk. Darren and I collected our tickets and then jogged on to duty free. I went snooping at the Pandora shop, where I found the charm I had been looking for since my cousins wedding in Turkey. No other Pandora shop had it nor could I find it on the site. I just had to buy it there and then

The fact that Darren and I, hadn't seen each other in months and spent the whole flight time talking; our seats on the flight were next to each other and we also seemed to be the loud ones. It kind of stayed like this until we got to the hotel in Marrakech. But it was one of those conversations where you don't remember what you was talking about but it contained laughs and vibes of happiness, yet at the same time it was as if we were never apart. The flight to Marrakech wasn't too bad, about 4 hour flight time, goes quicker when you have the gift of the gab.

Our tour guides picked us up from the airport and took us to the hotel, where we meet our roommates and fill our bellies.

The hotel was lovely. It felt like a kasbah, it has balconies which looked like they were made out of clay. On entrance to the hotel, past the metal detector there was a huge chandelier, light prisms lighting the entrance; looking up was like looking into thousands of hanging diamonds. The lobby had column to hold up the hanging balconies. There were coloured lanterns, they gave the atmosphere a warm colourful glow, allowing you to forget what the weather outside was like. The air was silent but light. The soft Moroccan voices blending in with soft atmosphere.

We found our room buddies and we got one key per couple - to say. I was paired up with a partially deaf lady called Sue. We went into our rooms and I gasped and thought "Shit it’s a double bed! I have to sleep in the same bed with someone I don't know!” Luckily it was two bed joined together. 

The food was a buffet style. We got there late, so the food wasn't too fresh. The couscous was nice though, I don't think I'll ever be able to make couscous like that. We had one big table, shaped in a T, to fit all 14 of us. This is where all the barriers disappeared and everyone started to talk. Funny what a bit of food and drink can do. The age range of the group was quite good, ranging from 23-60+. Even though there was an age difference it didn't seem to affect anyone. We all got on perfectly well for the first night. 

After dinner, about 10pm now, we thought we'd go for a walk and see where it takes us. Well lets out it this way, that walk didn't last very long. It was raining; six of us had expensive cameras around our necks. We started to walk down on road and noticed a group of men standing outside. It was dark and wet the atmosphere seemed to have shifted. We all looked at each other and nodded and silent words we all agreed on. Turned back around and headed back to the hotel. Four of them went back to their rooms where Darren and I sat in lobby drinking. I asked for a small glass of red wine and ended up with half a bottle of red wine; and Darren took a liking to beer, which may be his friend for the rest of the trip.

Out bar tender looked so young, we asked him how old he was - English failed all three of us. So I asked in French. I am pretty sure he said 15 followed by raising his hand three times. Failing to understand why a 15 year old would be working at these times. Maybe I don't know how to count or he doesn't know his fingers.

The wine slowly seeping into my bloodstream, my eyes begin to feel heavy. I guess this means good night. I crept into my room hoping not to wake Sue, then I remembered she can hear anything without her hearing aids. So I can clash, bang, fall, snore and nothing would be heard. Sweet!

 

Good night!

 


 

Sunday 28th February: Day 2 - Marrakech to Dades Gorge

 

Incase you have noticed, there are two ways to spell Marrakech. One ends with 'sh' and the other with 'ch'. There is no correct way of spelling; I did ask, but the response was "to-may-toe/tom-ah-toe". I didn't bother question it again.

The plan: Travel over the Tizi n’Tichka Pass (2260m) while enjoying superb views of the mountains and of the Berber Villages on the way. Stop for lunch and tour in the World heritage site of Ait Benhaddou. (This famous Kasbah was used as a backdrop for more than 20 films.) Pass through Ouarzazate and continue towards the Valley of Roses and the Dades valley, the valley of a thousand Kasbahs and the Dades Gorge. Stay overnight at a hotel.

Rise and shine was at 7-ish. The room was cold but the sounds of the birds made the surreal moment feel real. I think now that I travel quite a bit, it doesn't feel like I've actually travelled. Last night didn't feel like I was on a plane heading to North Africa. This morning I woke up, almost disorientated, wondering where I was, but that could've been the contribution of the wine.

Today we are supposed to go over the Atlas Mountains and see many things. But, unfortunately for us, it decided to snow heavily over the mountains and the road were closed, one way in one way out. Which meant we had to turn around and take a different route - which also meant it would take a slightly bit longer, slightly may be a bit of an understatement but we will see. At first, the day started off rainy and cloudy, then overcast; clearly this couldn't have been said for the Atlas Mountains. As the day went on the skies became blue and the sun shone the brightest.

A decision had to be made, whether to take a diversion or head back to Marrakech and spend the whole 5 days there. The tour guides kept calling 'someone' to see if they would reopen the roads. By going over the mountains the journey should have taken about 4 hours (I believe). Thinking it would be a short trip I chose to sit at the back of the jeep, the smallest space known to man, is what it felt like. The seat was practically on the floor; there was no space for my feet to be placed. Next to me was the luggage from the people in the car. Then I found a position which was somewhat comfortable, sitting with my legs crossed. I'm about 5'8"+ and that seat wasn't for me. Every time we had a break from the journey I would have to get Darren to help me out and pull me out. I would be sandwiched between the open chair (in front of me) and the car door frame. It was like a cartoon, when my bum broke free it was as if there was 'pop' sound, we would look at each other and just laugh.

Since it is somewhat of 12 hours driving to look forward too. I find myself gazing, wandering what Morocco, so far reminds me off; or even how it feels. When we think of Morocco we associate it to the desert and the hustle and bustle of Marrakech. But have you ever looked at the landscape?!  

As we climbed the hills and mountains, our ears popping from the altitude; the air smelt crystal clear and fine. The sky became rich baby blue. The ground varied in colours and shapes. Mother Earth has no boundaries and no restriction. Her ground, her skin changes from orange, brown, red and purple tones.

Her shape cannot be justified. In one look, your eyes you can see the jagged edges of the cliffs. The deep crevices which look like wrinkles from where she's aged; yet in the background you see the soft smooth curves, just like a baby’s bum. At times she becomes flat and lifeless as if she is tired and yearning for life. But I see it as a place or ground given for people, animals and other inhabitants to live, to explore, to discover. 

It's amazing how the land is so dry, thirsty and hungers for some water. When it receives water, it still looks as if the water never touched or left a mark.  Thanks to the rivers which run deep, allowing the oasis to form and allow the crops and trees grow. The environment is hostile, but not hostile enough to defy life; a strange circle no?! Life finds other ways to live and survive; as if saying "I will not take no for an answer!"

Sitting in the car and taking in the contrasts from one side to another. One side being rocky, sandy, dry and flat; and the other side, the soil is slightly darker with trees and shrubs.  The side which is dry and rocky; the ground is yellowish with random patches of healthy green trees. Whereas, the other has more shrubs than trees but the mountains are dark brown and rough. As if the giant has run his fingers through the rocks and sand. 

A common thing you see when travelling outside the cities are incomplete/derelict buildings. They are not always part of a village or town, but randomly placed on the middle of the desert. To me it feels like it would have been a huge family home, where not just one family will be but multiple families would have lived before it fell to destruction. Or the more logical response, maybe lost funding to continue developing on the plot.

Today I learnt that the houses/buildings are a red toned, is to absorb the heat from the sun. Also, if you look at the buildings you will see they have small windows. This is to reduce the amount of heat entering the building and also it is better for the AC.

It's time for lunch, our guides have ordered lamb kebabs. Oooh my goodness, I ate so much. There were a round loafs of bread cut into four, each basket had about 5 in each; I practically ate one and a quarter loaves of bread. Then opened it out and put three koftas in each and demolished it. Only to be washed down with a bottle of Coke, in a glass bottle. Coke only tastes nice ice cold and in a glass bottle. There is no room for dessert. I have now invested in a food baby. Now to wash it all down with some Moroccan tea.

With only 4 hours left of the drive we had to stop for a toilet break. The only thing is that the toilet is a squat toilet. And I hate them. I always feel as if I'm going to piss myself; well I didn't exactly piss myself, I pissed on my shoe, my shoe probably picked up other people's mess as well. #grim! Too much info?! it wouldn't be authentic then would it. The toilets are like a concrete room with a tap and a hole, not even toilet paper, just a bucket of water; not a flush nor a sink. Luckily, remembering my trips to Asia I walked with wet wipes. But I guess that's what you get when you go to places where not many tourist are, or when you’re in the middle of Berber village. I washed my shoes under a tap (at least my shoes are waterproof) and then gave it a wet wipe clean. Even after all that, all I could smell was that toilet. And with 4 hours to go, sitting in the back, it’s the last thing you want is to smell a toilet!

It is 19:36, we have been on the road for 11 hours and we have about one hour to go. We didn't see anything we were supposed to but it's okay; I got to see stuff we would have never have seen and visit villages which weren't on the list, so I got see more of Morocco.

It’s not late but the sun set some time ago and at this hour, the night sky is dark, almost a pure black but I know it'll only get darker. There are no lights, no lights lighting the road but I see diamonds glistening above me; the jewels of the night sky, these diamonds thousands years old glisten brightly in the sky tonight. The constellations are bright and are calling for us to solve their eternal riddle. I sit here (in the car) thinking, us, you and me don't often appreciate the simplest things, how often do you look up? There’s so much and many things are bigger than what we think. I know it’s hard it lit up cities like London; but tonight, as cold as it may be, I want the night sky to swallow me in its darkest of nights. Let the stars play optical illusions; let both sides of my brain run riot trying to solve the night sky. When I say the world is my oyster, that isn't just visiting counties, that is sea and sky.  

We all arrived at the hotel, tired and exhausted, I had creases were creases weren't meant to be, legs unable to straighten. But we arrived at the hotel, it was in the mountains. And oh my goodness was the hotel lovely. It is called Chez Pierre. It has free Wi-Fi in the lobby and in the restaurant area. The lighting made the cold air feel warm, for a brief moment. My room was pretty basic. But a nice basic, there isn't a TV, not that I'd watch it. The toilet is in a separate room; the shower room was kind of weird if you want to call it a room. It was like a hole had been cut out, well a cove in the wall, there was a sink and then next to it a shower. The only thing is, it didn't have a door. And the curtain for the bedroom didn't cover the whole window, so if you were having a shower anyone could peep through as my room was near the stairs. 

The room as lit by electric lanterns; the lanterns had stained glass panels on them. When the main light was off, it lit the room nicely. It gave just enough light to see, not too over powering.

Right, enough about the room, its dinner time. I’m a foody and I loooove fooood. The hotel was nice and we didn’t know what to expect for dinner. We were having a four course meal, and gourmet looking style too. The restaurant was lit by lanterns on a low light and the table had lit candles. It felt so warm and cosy. 

​​The group had two tables, I sat on the longer table. Our first dish came out, it was a pizza, but a mini pizza, bitesize infact. We all looked at each other waiting for someone to have the first bite. The pizza was made with pastry, the filling was meat and the top was a square piece of cheese. I took a bite, the pastry just melted into my mouth; the filling didn’t even taste like meat; the tomato taste, dominated the taste buds and the slice of cheese wasn’t over powering. I ate it slowly so I could try and savour the taste; after two more bites it was gone and was looking for more. We waited in anticipation to see what was going to follow. Course two was eggplant soup, I didn't have any because I don’t like eggplant. But everyone said it didn't taste like it and was absolutely amazing. Dish three, was nicely presented, so nicely done, done so well I didn't want to eat or touch it. On a square plate, was quail, on top of the quail was a thin net of fries, with couscous with mixed veg on top and a dollop of something on the side. I have never had quail before but I must say the whole third dish didn’t last too long. And for dessert was crème Brule, I didn’t have it because I don’t like. But by the sounds off it, it sounds like I missed out. The dish was fresh out, and everyone on the table was testing to see if it was the real thing or not. If you know what has to be done then you know what they were doing. One by one they began to hit the top of the dessert, to see if the sugar was hard and to hear it crack. As they each dived into their dish all you heard was the of “mmmm” sweep around the table. And this was the night when everyone really bonded. Wine, beer and spirits roamed the table. I asked for a whiskey and to my surprise, the response from the waiter 'Whiskey makes you frisky'; we all laughed and repeated the words.

As the night moved on, my thoughts of staying out and watching the stars became a myth. The food and the whiskey made me all warm and sleepy. It just seemed too much effort to stand in cold temps. Talking about temperatures, I had looked at my phone for the local weather and it was minus three, yes, minus three. The fact this was a minus number, made my bones cold and my mind go “off to bed then!” and that was it for the night.

 


 

Monday 29 February: Day 3 – Dades Gorge to Merzouga

Breakfast at the hotel. Depart to the Todra Gorge: a massive fault, rising to 300 m in a narrow valley thick studded with palmaris and Berber Villages... You will have lunch in the Gorge, travel further into the desert to the tiny village of Merzouga, where you will camel trek into the beautif Erg Chebbi Dunes. You will spend the evening in a bivouac (camp), enjoy a Moroccan dinner, and sleep in traditional Nomad camel hair tent. 

Last night I K.O’d, I don’t remember sleeping. I did wake up about 6, as the some of the group was going to take some pictures of sunrise. I looked out the window and said “we’re on the wrong side of the mountain!” so I reset my alarm about went back to sleep for an hour.

For breakfast was pancakes, I had honey with bananas and strawberries, mmmm.  Shoved a few of those down washed it with water and i was sorted. We set off at about 8. We  were heading off to the Sahara, again another long drive but not as long as yesterday. Today, is also Darren's 12th birthday (you do the math) and its the magically day that only appears once every 4 years.

I refused to sit in the back of the jeep. So the coin toss was between Katie (trip organiser) or Rohit. Rohit won and was placed in the back. They were the smallest people in the jeep so it was only fair to be unfair. Hassan (driver) was going to try fit in some of the stuff we missed yesterday into the trip. We looked from from the top of Dades valley. I went right up to the edge and just sat there, with my feet dangling. The others shouting, "Fils are you mad you may fall!", "no, I won't fall, and if i do this would be the last view!"; and my doctor telling me I have vertigo. I sat there looking down, thinking what it would be like as a bird to fly and see views like this. Where we stand is almost desert like but below us was an oasis. vibrant shades of green crops, trees and bushes. The sun peeping over the mountain top, lighting up the valley below.

Bit by bit, as I moved the other moved closer to the cliff edge and took snaps similar to mine. The morning was clear not a cloud in the sky. Feeling the cold crisp air whipping around you. The colour of the mountain a tanned yellow as the sun was rising. And then there was us peeping into a magical moment with Mother Nature.

Next stop was the gorge. I didn't think much of the gorge. Maybe because we had a quick 5-10 mins, I spent most of my time trying to snap a pic of water moving. Then I found Darren hustling a little stall, then we found some geoids, and was trying to barter the price. This our jeep came looking for us and we went. But we did buy the geoids. 

We briefly stop in a random lookout point, can't remember the name. But here is where we got our scarves for the dessert. Everyone chose the dark blue, but I wanted a different colour, so I went for the lighter blue. They told me the one I chose was the colour of one of the tribes. He then asked if I was Moroccan. I was like "no."

Rohit was next to me - He (the Moroccan) then goes "oh you’re the right colour brown to be Moroccan and your eyes too."

Rohit says "but wait, I'm brown too!".

The guy continues "Yes, you are but not the same shade as us!" #awkward silence broken by laughter#

We now have our head scarfs, they even wrapped it for us.

Now the drive to the desert - Erg Chebbi Dunes. When we arrive my first impression was... this is the Sahara. There were no dunes, the sand was not red, it looked yellow and stoney. I felt my heart sink for a moment. We were the first car to arrive, while we waited for the others to arrive. I went to look at the camel. And like a tit I didn't realise there were two types of camels. I thought all camels had two humps and there were a few which were disabled and had one hump. Well these camels are the dromedary (one hump camels). So then I started to think, how on earth am I going to balance on this one humped camel. But that is where all the cushions and chairs come in.

My camel was called jerry, he didn't have a name and the other camel I was paired up with was called Tom (I think). So, I thought of a name that was easy to link. The girl on the other camel is called Andrea. My camel was ruthless and misbehaved *rolls eyes*; we tailed behind the group. As we began the trek, the desert I dreamt and thought of became a reality. The curves of the red/orange sand against the bright blue cloudless sky. The ripples, shifting down the dunes, like the ripples of a pebble falling into water.

The camel meanders over the sand, securing a stable point, like water and the mountains. The slightest miscalculation can cause the camel to go off balance and fall. The trek continues as the sand get deeper and steeper, the camel can go no further. The rest of the journey must continue on foot, until we reach the top.

So, the journey to the sunset point I saw a Berber person running the dunes like it was nothing. When we go off the camel and had to walk up the huge dune, I thought I'd run up full power. Dang, was that a mistake I made it three quarters up and ran out of fuel. Everyone was laughing and then our camel guide put my arm over him to help me get up the dune.

His name was Idris. For the longest time I could not breathe properly, my legs were weak and chest was hurting. So my advice to you is, if you see someone running across the desert very easily; its an illusion, he's a pro and you're not. 

But before the run, Idris, told us to remove our shoes and socks and said it was easier to walk in the sand rather wear our shoes. I was like okay. But little did I know, my skin was pale, but when I took my socks off, that was a different story.My feet look like a I had white socks on, no, my feet look like they were made out of porcelain. I tried to hide my feet in the sand in hope that the colour of the sand would darken my feet they only made it worse.

As we waited for the sun to set Idris, wrote mine and Andrea's name in the sand. I told him he had to write his name too because he walked with us and was only fair! We sat on the sand, watching the sunset for another day. As the sun went down, almost instantly the temperature changed and a chill which wasn't there before was now noticeable. Now for the trip down the dune. I told to Idris I was not going to run down the dune, I had done enough dune running to last me a lifetime. He had a better idea. He pulled out a magic carpet. Told us to sit, then he was off. He pulled us down the dune, it was a sand slide. I put my hands in the air and waved them like I don't care. The mixture of sand and wind intertwined in my fingers. I would say hair but my face was pretty much wrapped up. We left our print on the Sahara sand; this imprint was our butt marks from where we were pulled down the sand. 

Before we head back to camp, Idris was showing us stuff to buy to help him. He said 'that the camels are not theirs and the majority of the money goes to the hotel to hire them. Sadly, the stuff he had to sell I already had them and in addition he was selling them 4-5 times the price of what I had paid. I declined to purchase anything and then he asked for money. But it weren't no small money he was asking for it was like £30 or so. The trip back to the camp was quiet on his side. By the time Andrea and I arrived it was completely dark and the stars were very visible. We could no longer see the group. I go to Andrea, We are the only ones out here with him, what if he doesn't take as back to the camp. She just said she wouldn't mind. My response to my own question was 'I wouldn't mind becoming a nomad. Living free under the stars and sun'. The Idris told me he was single, which made Andrea laugh, she said I proposed to him, I don't think so, hmmm. Then I continued to quiz him about the stars and navigation and he said it was easy. I told him I want to see the Milkyway and photograph it. He said 'not tonight the moon is out'. From what I remember we left the full moon, so there should be no moon; therefore it should be visible.

Taken back by the silence of the desert, I started to sing Aladdin's beat; my camel started moaning and trying to throw me off *screams*. Idris, calmed him down quickly.

We finally reached the camp, my camel didn't want to let me down or off. He moaned when he was told to sit. Then when he did, he got right back up again. The camp was surround by bamboo fencing. The entrance had a big inviting fire with chairs around it. There was another group, but they were moving on. I wasn't sure how our tents would look like. We stuck to our pairs. In mine and Sue's tent had four beds, single beds so that's how big it was. We placed our bags down and headed down to the fire. Our guides and host sang songs from their village/culture, while banging drums. The flames of the fire coming alive, small palm leaves raising into the air like little fireflies.

While we waited for dinner to come, they asked us to sing a song from the country we were from. The majority of us were British. But if you didn't look white you couldn't sing an English based song. So, we went back to our roots. It was so funny that even though we sing songs day to day on auto pilot, when it came down to it no-one could remember a song. So I represent Jamaica, that was the only West Indian island they knew, then they told me the artist - Bob Marley. Then I had to remember a song, he has so many statement songs. But thanks to the group, they helped me sing, three little birds and buffalo solider.

It's now dinner time and the food wouldn't stop coming. It was plate after plate after plate. As soon as we thought we had finished off a plate a new one would come. But don't knock, it food was fantastic and tasty; the strange thing was though all these cats started to come looking for food. CATS?! in the middle of the desert!!! Their eyes were glass like, where the pigment had been lost/burned out from the sun. For dessert was fruit, I said I won’t have as I'm allergic to it. And as soon as I said that someone opened an orange, instantly I had to leave the table as I started to flare up and grab a tablet, to ease the reaction.

While I let the tablet kick in, I walked out into the desert, not far, but far enough to not have the glare of the light affect my sight. I stood out there for about 30 mins before going back to the camp to grab my camera. Grabbed my camera took a few shots then went back into camp to show others. We sat around the camp fire again. Our tour guides bought Darren a cake, so we sang him a happy birthday. Then they began to sing around the camp fire again, the drums were drumming, everyone was clapping and singing. I turn to Andrea and Rohit, this feels rather shamanic, then I was in mid-conversation and my tongue got tied. So I spat (not physically) the tangled words and continued talking. Both Andrea and Rohit looked at each other and said "wooo, what is that? Don't make weird noises and continue like we aint going to notice!" I was like "huh" with a confused face. Then they repeated what I done, and we burst out laughing. The type of laughing that hurts your belly and brings happy tears to your eyes. I think they thought I got taken over because I said the feeling in the atmosphere was shamanic.

As the night continued, and as it happened, I started to give an astro-photography little workshop. Totally, blagging as it was my official one out in a good sky. But it went well, well I think so. We ended up with some good photos. First, I got them to find the correct iso to suit their camera, where it didn't generate too much noise. Then I got them to work out the correct exposure time, bulb, 30, 20,15 seconds etc. oh made sure they had a wide-ish angle lens on. It was me, Darren (of course), Terry and Kala. Terry was a new fanatic to photography, he was basically carrying a studio on his back. He had a world of lenses, some I didn't even have but he said he got them for a few quid. Then said he bought a 64GB U3 class 10 memory card worth £60+ for only £5. Both Darren and I looked at each other and looked at him; his response "you can't go wrong with that price!” immediately we both said "yes it can the card can corrupt and you lose your photos". 

Before bed we said we'd get up and watch the sunrise. As we said that, we got asked if we would like to go on a camel ride for sunrise; of course we said yes. We didn't have to pay anything extra either. Now bare in mind we are in the middle of the desert and we all know that the desert can drop below minus in the night. Let’s see how we sleep tonight.

 


 

Tuesday 01 March: Day 4 Merzouga to Ouarzazate 

 Wake-up to a spectacular sunrise in the desert and enjoy breakfast. Bivouac trekkers will return by camel and continue to the small town of Rissani where you will visit the Ksours and Kasbahs of Tafilalt, stopping in the Tafilalt Palm Grove on the way. You will visit the zaouia of Moulay Ali Sherif (mausoleum of the dynasty’s founder) and experience the local market day in Rissani to see the traditional souks. Next, continue to Ouarzazate via Alnfe, Tazarine, Drâa Valley, Agdz, visiting the Tamnougalt Kasbah. Overnight in a hotel where you will have the opportunity to visit the amazing Kasbah of Tourirt that is located in front of the hotel.

Last night was freezing... FREEZING!!!! Like OMG, I went to bed with my head scarf, woolly hat, scarf, two jumpers, a fleece, a coat, two pairs of leggings and trousers plus socks, oh and two blankets. Everyone was laughing at me from day one with the type and amount of clothing I brought, but today and last night I had the last laugh. Everyone was saying how cold it was and people began to borrow clothes from me. During the night my mind started to play games, even though it works out I was in bed for about 3-4 hours. I kept thinking something was crawling up, down and over me. Then every time i heard someone walking to the bathroom, it felt like someone was in the tent and breathing over me. I had the blanket over my head, so there was no chance in hell I was going to look over the blanket and see. I was thinking well if there was someone I guess they would get sue as well but if she doesn't scream then I'm not moving! I got awoken by my name being called, it was Kala. Waking me to go for the camels. I went to the bathroom to brush my teeth but the water was like ice. It was even too cold to shower. Later on, someone went to have a shower, and one of the guides told them to wait. He went around the back and lit a fire under the pipe to heat up the water. 

Anyway, we woke up about 5 to meet and greet the camels for our morning stroll into the dessert to watch the sunrise. We trekked about 15-20 mins to our point. The air was cold, the night sky beginning to wake. The stars beginning to disappear from east to west. The red, orange, yellow glow as the sun says hello. The sky becomes alive with colours; midnight blue shifting to pale blue; purple to lilac and red to yellow. The little clouds in the sky reflecting the changing colours. The sand changes from cold to warm just like the air, intimidate to the rising. We roam the dunes, moving with the curves. Until its time to head back to camp for breakfast. 

You won't believe it! We went for breakfast and we discovered wiki! WI-FI!!! Wi-Fi in the middle of the desert. How is it possible that I have WiFi in the Sahara but struggle to get WiFi on London underground?

We plan to leave about 9-ish and plane to arrive in Ouarzazate around 5-ish. I went back to the room to collect my stuff to put in the Jeep. Sue goes to me why didn't you wake me up? My response was going to be... “the alarm has been going off for the last 2 hours!" but that would be quite insensitive since she is deaf. I just wasn't even sure if she wanted to go for the sunrise trek, so I didn't bother.

We head to Rossani to learn about the traditions there. We walked around the small village. There was a beautiful mausoleum called Zaouia de Moulay Ali Sherif. The mosaic patterns and the colours. In the middle was like an oasis, green lush trees. Their tribal colours was the blue I was wearing, the Berber blue; it represents the blue of the sun lit sky. I got asked quite a bit if I was Moroccan and a Berber. But the group just called me the blue smurf, or that was the common response.

When we left the mausoleum, we were taken to a tap that was pad locked. The reason for it was to monitor the water supply. In this location water is hard to get. The lock is taken of the padlock at certain times throughout the day or for a duration in the morning and in the evening. It actually makes you realise how privileged we are to have ready access water and not having it rationed. 

The women hide their faces; photos are not allowed to be taken of them due to religious reasons. They look with curious eyes and slowly drawing their scarf to hide their face, or hide behind another. We walked around the Kasbah, its like a maze, one path looks like here while the other one looks this, that and so on. There is no lighting, not even natural light can pierce through. A sense of claustrophobia kicks in. The guide afterwards takes to his shop, he shows us the different type of rugs, how long it can take per rug and how one lady can only make upto 2 rugs in a life time before the eyesight goes. I didn't buy anything, even though I was contemplating on getting the nomad compass, to complete my nomad style.

Then we headed to the hotel; everyone can't wait to get in the shower and wash off the Sahara sand. The need to feel like. Be in fresh clothes. To feel water and soup on your skin and cover yourself in cream. My skin just felt dry, grimey and dirty.To a point where it makes you miserable. So didn't help sitting in a car for so long. 

We reached the hotel, and it is lovely. I sat on the bed and didn't move. I took my boots off and urgh what a smell. I think my feet haven't been in a pair for so long. Sue jumped in the shower first, well bath actually. I was thinking, seriously if you were going to have a bath I would've gone first. I sat there struggling to remove the layers, struggling to find the energy to move.

My phone was so dead, I thought I'd put it to charge; it refused to charge. It wouldn't even acknowledge the power. Sue finally came out and I went into the shower. So tempted to wash my hair. But thought I'm going home tomorrow no point it can wait. I go into the bathroom, turn the shower up high and hot. Go to get the shower gel, no shower gel. Shit! I left it at the hotel from two days ago. stand in the bathroom sulking, then asked if Sue had some gel. I was bloody hoping so, and she did. Now what to wear; I had no intention of going out I was too tired. Luckly, but randomly I had a maxi dress packed. Slipped that on with some flats and I was ready for dinner. Hot food (I say that as if, I haven't been eating the food), there were pastas, rice, couscous, chicken, curry goat, tuna, other fish. A world of food to go into my belly. 

Two of the girls and I ordered a bottle of wine. I don't drink wine, because it gets to my head really quick. Give me spirits and I'll have no affect, but wine is a no no. We ate until our bellies were pop, drinking and chatting. Somehow, the conversation changed, I don't remember how, but it changed to spiritualism and Reiki. So I was being thrown questions and asked how do I read people; and if when I read people by first impressions if it’s wrong. I'm like no, usually my first thoughts are correct.

We sat there until we were kicked out, and then we moved into the bar. The bar had a live band; you couldn't understand what he was singing but you could tell from the music. Some of the songs we joined in. I changed the wine to some brandy. I seemed to sober up on it - defo my father’s child. 

I went up to bed about 12 and left the other in the bar. It was actually quite nice for all of us to be together on the last night. We had really got on, which makes the trip all that better.

 


 

Wednesday 02 March Day 5 : Ouarzazate To Marrakech

 
Enjoy breakfast and continue the journey to Marrakech via the Pass of Tizi n’Tichka over the High Atlas Mountains stopping along the way for lunch and to enjoy the beautiful, picturesque scenery. –arrival back in Marrakech approx. 1400 Guided City tour of Marrakech with local tour guide to include the following:

Jemaa Fna square: It is a UNESCO site and one of the famous squares in the world. Wandering with your guide, you will see many story tellers, snake charmers, musicians and water tellers mostly in the morning. In the afternoon, the square gets full with food stalls with different kind of Moroccan food.

Souks & Medina Alleyways: Wander with your guide to explore how talented Marrakech handcrafters are. See how hard and proud they work to make objects as they their ancestors have, from metal such as lamps, from wool skin such as leather bags...Etc. 


Marrakech Landmarks: Places, Bahia and Badi, Gardens: Majorelle & Menara, Marrakech Museum, Ben Youssef Madrasa, Almoravod Koubba, Saadian Tombs, Koutoubia mosque..Etc.

Dinner at a local restaurant before transferring to the airport.

Well the above was the plan but didn't quite work out like that. We had breakfast at the hotel and left about 8. This time it didn't snow on the mountains so we were able to go over the atlas mountains using the Tizi n'Tichka pass. When we reached the peak, we stopped at an argon oil place. They showed us how the oil was produced and the different stages it has to go through. The end product, does not look like the oil you put in your hair or on the skin it looks like poop. However, argon honey is so tasty. It is amazing how one seed can have to much use - skin, hair, food etc.

 

Up and down, left and right, we meander through the mountains. Thick snow sits on the top, the air is crisp and fresh. The cloudless, rich blue sky against the rough ragged snow top mountains. The roads are thin and narrow. Big lorries and vehicles use this pass. surprising there isn't many accidents. But saying that, we drove past a lorry hanging of the mountain and being held up by a tree. The view on the way down was just amazing. The different landscapes seen all in one view and with the feeling of flying high like an eagle. 

We arrive in Marrakech just after 2, by the time we ate and finished it was already 3:30/4. Which gave us about 2 hours to see Marrakech, which was impossible. It's like you come Morocco without seeing Marrakech. It just didn't seem right. So I told the organiser that, Marrakech has to have its own full dedicated day to be able to get the right feel. We managed to see the palace and wander the Medina and alleyways before looking for the guides to take us back to the airport.

While in the Medina, I was being called Jamaica *rolls eyes*, be responded politely and start chatting. As we walked through the plaza, we got bombarded by performers. They make out that they mean well, well, something has got to give. If they see you taking photos of them, they come asking for money, if you say you didn't take a picture they ask to see the photos you have taken. Some got their cameras held at ransom and had to pay to get their camera back. Another thing they would do is, say they would take photos for you and then not return your camera/phone until you give them some money. Darren was held at snake point (trying not to laugh at the thought) until he gave them money to release his camera.

 

Home time - back to reality.

 

 

Tags: marrakech, marrakesh, morrocco, nomad life, north africa, of a nomad, tourism, travel tips travel stories

 

 

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