We had planned to get up early this morning and enjoy the gardens at our riad but we both slept so deeply I have no idea when we would have woken up if the alarm hadn't gone off. We went to get some breakfast but unfortunately we arrived just after a French group had been there and it was if a plague of locusts had been through - there was nothing left! So we had to wait for a while for the kitchen to rustle up some more food!
We eventually got on the road. Our first port of call is a library in a town called Tamegrout. The library houses about four thousand books dating back to the 11th century, sadly all in a very poor state of repair. It seems that although there is a treasury of religious texts and historical documentation here, the government has no interest in using any money to preserve them so they are quietly crumbling away. Some of them are really beautiful, illuminated in gold leaf and so detailed. I was a little spooked by our elderly guide, when we got to the section on astrology, he turned to me and said 'You are Scorpio, yes?' How the hell did he know that!?? We had barely exchanged a dozen words! Very cool!
Next we went to an original kasbah which would have been built originally to protect families from marauding tribes. It was amazingly dark and oppressive but we could imagine when the desert outside heated up to fifty degrees in the height of summer that the cool, dark passageways would feel pretty good.
On our way again we were once more bombarded with endless breathtaking views, this really is an amazing country.
As we were heading for the Sahara Said and Brahim had donned the appropriate attire, don't they look great? Can you spot the American tourist? Don't worry, we are working on that as you will see later.
We drove into a little town called Tagounite so that Said and Brahim could get something for that nights dinner
You could tell we were heading nearer to the Sahara, everything had the red sandy hue and the Berber blue textiles are the perfect compliment.
After getting the food shopping done we continued on towards M'hamid. Oh yes and there is all that stunning scenery again!
We eventually get to M'hamid which is the last town before we drive out into the desert.
We walked around and got a little taste of desert town life
And (yeah!) I got to make friends with a very sweet little donkey :)
We went to a beautiful riad for lunch and enjoyed some lush green and shade as we were going to be seeing a lot of sand from here on!
Not a bad lunch spot!
Remember I said we were working on transforming the American tourist? Well here he is after Said and Brahim had finished with him! He quite looks the part doesn't he? Apart from the fact that he is about a foot taller than everyone else!
And so, now properly attired we head into the desert.
We drive for about two hours through washes and over dunes, Brahim skillfully negotiating his way and only briefly bogging down once, nothing a little low ratio 4wd couldn't solve.
We eventually arrived at our camp and, joy of joys, there was no one else staying there so we had the place to ourselves. Here is our tent. We ended up christening this our Colonel Qaddafi camp because it was so luxurious!
For example, here is the 'wash basin' in our bathroom! Oh yes I could definitely get used to 'roughing it' like this in the desert :)
We had divided up our luggage so that we each had a small bag to carry on the camels tomorrow. Everything else stayed with the vehicle and I must admit it was a slightly odd feeling watching Said and Brahim drive away into the distance with everything else in the vehicle, assuring us that they would be waiting for us at the end of our camel trek! But also extremely liberating.
We checked out our tent, gathered up our camera equipment and headed into the dunes to catch the colours as the sun set.
From our elevated spot we could see for miles and in the distance a seasonal river was flowing. As we watched a large herd of camels came into view, does it get any better than this?
The sand is incredibly fine, more like powdered sugar than sand and it really does have that legendary red Sahara hue.
And the American Berber was right at home! Doing the whole Laurence of Arabia thing :)
As darkness fell we headed back to camp for dinner. Here is our dining tent. The guys had built a little fire for us and were cooking the meat that Said and Brahim had bought earlier in the day.
After dinner we sat on a blanket outside by the fire with the African new moon lying on her back in the inky night sky, but we were not alone. This beautiful big dung beetle decided to fly in and join us. I, of course, was delighted. Dominick, not so much!
However our next visitor had him leaping to his feet uttering some choice expletives! I don't know who was more startled, Dominick or the spider. After dire threats of what I would do to him if he carried out his threat of squashing the spider I settled down to a game of chase to try and get a decent photo. Not bad considering how fast the thing was motoring!
After that little interruption we decided it was time to get some sleep. Tomorrow will be a long day in the saddle.
Photo Credits - CJT & Dominick V
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