Saturday, July 23, 2016

Sunrise over Sahara

Sunrise over the Sahara- blog version

We continued on after lunch passing through high mountains with narrow switchback roads. It rained for a short time...the first rain that we've seen since we got here.

We gradually descended into the Ziz valley with its green oasis and lush palm trees. The oasis runs for miles and miles and the buildings are only built on the edge where the greenery stops..The vegetation is a rich and vibrant emerald colour. This is everything I imagined an oasis to be.

We saw the first hint of sand dunes a while after the oasis and shortly afterwards stopped at a fossil shop. This area is known for its fossils. So many beautiful fossil products to buy but they are heavy so I didn't.

We stopped at a shop where Brian got a galabaya (hooded pullover men's robe) and both Brian and Graham got head scarves which we all learned to tie. I tried on a number of women's robes ( none of which looked attractive on me).

Abdul's been playing a mix of wild Arabic tunes, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton, Britney Speers and a monotone desert country piece that doesn't seem to have an end. Up to this point we were all slightly drowsy, but as the Sahara came into view, Abdul put on the 1980s version of JLo's "Dance the Night Away" and we went wild. Our van sped over the desert road at 130+ per hour as we wooped and ululated. Woo Hoo! This is living!!!

The camels were waiting for us. Another couple, Ali and James from Britain, who were  driven by Abdul's cousin, joined us. Carol's camel was named Jimmy Hendrix and Cheryl's was Bubbly Bubbly. We couldn't pronounce any of the other camels Arabic names so they said it was Berber tradition that we rename our camels. Brown Finger seemed like a good one.

Graham wore his pith helmet.

We could only bring a few things for our night in the desert. Fortunately, I had packed an overnight bag. Brown Finger seemed to groan when he saw it...or maybe it was just some indigestion. I swear his heavily lashed eyes bulged out of his head when they attached the two 5 liter bottles of water to his saddle. Then I got on top.

If a camel could drop the F bomb, I'm sure he would have.

Till this moment, Carol was a camel ride virgin. She hadn't even ridden a horse. The camels lie down when you get in the saddle. You are told to hang on tight and you are suddenly pitched backwards as the camel gets up on his front legs, then quickly dumped forward as he straightens his back legs. It's quite the shock for a first timer. Carol's mouth opened in a wide O and my sister let out a shriek ( and it was her third time). The guys and I took it in stride. And then in the evening dusk, we headed out into the apricot colored dunes.

All went well until Cheryl's camel, Bubbly Bubbly, who was directly behind me, bit Brown Finger in the butt causing him to skitter around. I screeched and the camel handlers quickly calmed him.

An uproar rose from the back when Ali's camel bit James in the leg. James later said it really hurt. After seeing the camels teeth, I could understand why.

Soon after one water bottle, then the second water bottle fell off and were promptly reattached.

After the initial adjustments, the sun had set and the sand muffled our camels steps.

Nothing prepares you for how quiet the desert is when everyone stops talking. A warm wind caresses us, and outlines of the dunes with their regular undulations are like giant  waves in a never ending ocean...motion captured in the stillness.

About half an hour into it, my bum hurt like hell. It took about 40 minutes before we arrived to our tents.  After descending from our camels, we were ushered to a table and served peanuts and Moroccan tea. ( I guess they weren't given the memo about Graham's anaphylactic peanut and nut allergy).

We watched the dark silhouettes of the camels as they were lead through the dunes to an evening resting place.

We were shown to our tents which were surprisingly well equipped; real beds, luxurious linens, a sitting area, and a tented off area with a sink of polished fossilized stone, a flush toilet and shower...who'd have thought?

Brian and Graham had the most adorable blonde mouse with huge dark eyes in their tent. It quickly ran off.

We sat out with our new British friends under a huge expanse of sky, scattered with glittering stars. Without light pollution, and with the help of Brian's star chart app, we could easily make out the constellations. Carol saw three separate falling stars!

We were served supper at 11pm in the dining tent; Moroccan salad ( which is served as separate mounds of vegetables, tuna, cucumber salad, rice and potatoes) in one large family sized bowl.. Next course was a delicious beef and egg tangine and we finished with slices of some of the tastiest melon ever ( and chocolate pudding).

We notice that the Moroccans seem to be on a different eating schedule than us. Lunch is usually around 2:30pm and dinner late, often after 9pm.

At about midnight we joined our drivers and five Berbers around a big fire. They brought out their drums which they started to play and sing along to. They got us all up and dancing. Then they made the mistake of handing the drums to the Canadians and said it was our turn to play and sing. We attempted to sing the Ontario song ( despite not knowing all the words). Two of the Berbers quickly disappeared. Then they said it was the Brits turn. We tried to help them out by singing  Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" ( also forgetting half the words and using unintentional seven part harmony). The rest of the Berbers except for one disappeared. (I guess he drew the short straw).

We turned in shortly after 1am. I was out before my head hit the pillow.

We were woken at 5:30. I guess that guy also got a short straw cause we sighted the other Berbers sleeping in the sand dunes.

We climbed a steep dune, ( which wasn't easy, I had to finish getting to the top on all fours), to watch the sun rise over the Sahara. The moon was just setting. The light comes first and then a sliver which rises to become a glowing ball; beautiful and so peaceful. We could hear a rooster crowing miles away.

With the sun came the heat. We saw many tiny animal tracks in the sand; mice, lizards, a large beetle and a fox. We descended the dune, showered and made our way to breakfast.

Graham was feeling queasy and ran a bit into the desert where he threw up. He returned feeling much better. I fear he hasn't been drinking enough water. He felt well enough after that to join Brian, Ali, James and our Berber friends in some sand surfing which is done on snow boards.

Soon it was time to get on our camels and head back to civilization. My sit bones are really sore.

Our camel handler found a sand fish. A little gold creature that moves through the sand like a fish through water. We each held the probably traumatized animal before he returned to the desert.

We were sad to say goodbye to our camels. They were good camels; not stinky,fairly friendly (tolerant) and attractive.

We are now racing down the highway to our next destination.

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