Stay calm and camel on
Day 4 and 5 – Camels, Fossils and Roses, Oh my!!!
After breakfast we started to head south the heart of the desert. We went through the middle Atlas Mountains to Ifrane (65KM from Fes). This town has been nicknamed “Morocco’s Switzerland’. It reminded us of Canmore. A small skiing town close to the mountains with the buildings looking like ski chalets. This town’s name means Lion in Arabic and there is a large Lion statue in the main town gardens. The town is surrounded by a Large Cedar Forest (the largest one in Morocco). There were many cranes that had built their nests on the tops of chimneys.
Another 120 Km took us to Midelt where we stopped for lunch in a Kasbah. We passed through many fortified villages on our way to Erfoud. Another stop to stretch our legs and finally to Merzouga for our camel ride and night in the desert.
We arrived at dusk and had to leave the bus to go on sand tracks to the Aubree Hotel: Les Estrella de las Dunes. (Star of the Dunes). By the time we go organised and on the camels (watch out for the back end going up first when they stand up) it was pitch black and we wondered how this was going tobe any fun. It didn’t take long to answer that question. The sky was full of star and we had a crescent moon to give us light. It was absolutely silent. Not a sound to be heard except for the students talking and singing.
Camp was lit by candle lights and was a wonderful sight to see. There was much talk about sore thighs but it didn’t last long once we had a chance to sit and drink mint tea and eat a wonderful dinner. The tents were authentically decorated and very comfortable. We even had flushing toilets and hot showers in our rooms (not quite authentic I guess). The beds were comfortable and the rooms were dark and again you could hear nothing outside. Even the camels had stopped grunting.
The sun rises at 6:30AM and to see it from the top of the dunes, we were up at 5:45 to make the pilgrimage. Needless to say some made it and others opted for staying on the top of the first hill. The sand is very fine and difficult to walk on. We had breakfast and again were on the camels for the ride back to the stables. The camel herders were wonderful and must have been professional photographers in another life. They took so many pictures of everyone and I am sure your will see many on Facebook.
We started back to Erfoud were we stopped at a fossil workshop. This area of Morocco was under water around 30,000,000 BC and was the first Mediterranean Sea before the Continental Shift, thus the fossils. The road between Erfoud and Ouarzazate is known as the road of a thousand Kasbahs.
On the way to the Todra Gorge we stopped in Tinghir. This is a complete opposite to the desert we had just been in the night before. There were palms trees, green lush grasses and many flowers and roses to be seen. The water comes down from the Atlas Mountains and through he Todra Gorge to Tinghir to make an Oasis in the desert. We had an opportunity to get into the water and cool our feet. The water was mountain cold and very refreshing. We also experienced a light rain shower. Who would have thought you would have rain in the desert?
Two more stops and we were finished for the night. We went to a carpet factory and saw many types of carpets including ones made by the Berbers. Once again the credit cards were being used for purchases. Finally on to a “Rose Town”. Kelan M’Gouna is known for growing roses and many products are for sale using this beautiful scent. There is a Rose Festival but we are missing it by a week. It would have been interesting to see.
We are in Ouarzazate right now with another pool. What a luxury!!! Tomorrow we will have a few comments from the students of their thoughts on the trip so far.