There are certain rare days in your life that as you are living them you want to remember every sight, sound, smell and sensation for the memory banks, these precious days we hope will last for ever are few and far between but when they happen they are a gift indeed.
We awoke early in the desert and climbed into the dunes next to our camp as the sun was rising. There was a beautiful untouched freshness to everything around us.
The sand readily gave up its secrets of what had passed by during the night with a myriad of different tracks. What small amounts of vegetation there were, were all blooming in soft, delicate shades and catching the morning dew.
Most remarkable of all, I discovered a fungus growing in the desert! I see I have a lot to learn about this extraordinary ecosystem.
We made our way back into camp to find that breakfast was served
And, like the previous night, we had several visitors. This wheatear was collecting fibres from the roof of the dining room, presumably for nesting material.
And the Desert Sparrows would probably have landed on our breakfast table given the opportunity! This is the female
And this the far fancier, male.
During the night our ships had come in - ships of the desert that is.
They were waiting patiently for us to begin our journey.
This is the lead camel who took his job very seriously indeed.
We packed up our few bits and pieces, each camel was equipped with a saddle and two baskets. Our supplies were loaded into the baskets and then we sat on the saddles with our legs in front of the baskets. We all know the rather laborious process of a camel standing up, a three stage process where you are thrown backwards and forwards. Finally we were ready to go.
I was actually quite comfortable and soon settled into a rhythm (all those years of horse riding have to help somewhat!) Unfortunately Dominick was a little less secure, apparently he couldn't get his legs in front of the baskets and so he had to sit with them over the baskets which certainly didn't look very comfortable.
Zaid was our guide for the day and Mohammed was in charge of the camels. They both walked in front leading Dominick's camel.
My camel was attached to the back of Dominick's
And the third member of the team was a young one who just wandered along behind us at his own pace.
My camel was no where near as focused on his work as Dominick's and would wander around on the end of his rope, calling to other camels, going slowly then speeding up and biting Dominick's camel. At one point he had the entire tail of Dominick's camel in his mouth!
Hmmm how did I end up with the naughty camel??!
None the less this is an incredibly peaceful form of travel. The camels huge, soft feet make barely any sound and the gentle rocking motion as they walk is really comfortable. I can totally see why they are called ships of the desert.
I had to keep reminding myself, I am riding a camel in the Sahara Desert! This is so amazing :)
We rode for about three hours and then found a large tamerisk tree to rest under.
Time for a lunch break
As they were the ones doing all the work, I should formally introduce our camels I think. This is Dominick's camel, Hanafi, which means a well known, respected camel. He was a very serious fellow.
This is my camel, Ba3rouri, which means the lazy or naughty one - imagine that!
And this is the baby of the bunch who trundled along behind us, he is called Mkhanter which means the one who plays tricks or jokes! (More on that in a minute!)
So now you have met the camels, time for lunch. Mohammed led the camels away to another area to browse
Whilst Zaid prepared lunch and the essential mint tea and Dominick struck a pose!
After a delicious lunch we all partook in a very peaceful siesta
And then after a couple of hours we were ready to hit the road again. Mohammed gathered up our trusty steeds and brought them back to be saddled up and at this point Mkhanter (living up to his name) decided it would be a good idea to steal a loaf of bread out of one of the baskets!
How could you possibly be angry with him? Instead we sneaked a quick kiss! FYI anything you have heard about camels being nasty, these three sweeties would total dispel that. They were gentle and soft and extremely friendly.
Then we hit the road again and rode for another three hours until we arrived at our camp at Erg Ezzahara (The Screaming Dunes). Said and Brahim were waiting on a dune for us, both looking very cool and relaxed. This is the area they both originate from so they are totally at home in this stunning environment.
I, of course, didn't want my camel ride to end but Ba3rouri wanted everyone to know just what an arduous a day he had had (also living up to his name!) good job he didn't have to carry Dominick, then he would know what tired was!
But we soon made friends :)
Hanafi remained stoic throughout, check out the grimace on Dominick's face! He was hurting far worse than Hanafi at this point!
Dominick hobbled off in great discomfort whilst I hung around with the guys and the camels, trying to learn how to pronounce the camels names properly. I also discovered that Brahim's nickname is Mkhanter! Fair warning we have another joker in the pack!
And nestled in amongst the dunes was our home for the night
Now I am as happy as a pig in 'you know what'. Although as it's a Muslim country I should probably go with a different species of farm creature!
The view from our camp wasn't too shabby either!
That is if you like sand of course!
We watched the sun sink down amongst the dunes
And cast a glorious glow across the sky
As darkness fell the African new moon appeared again and we sat around the fire whilst the guys sang and played drums. It was one of those times when I thought, if I were to die now, I would die totally content. I have just lived through the perfect day, and this spellbinding place truly is my idea of heaven.
Photo Credits - CJT & Dominick V
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