off to the desert

10/13 desert trip day 1

after being on the move day after day, when we got to marrakech, all we wanted to do was take a few days to relax… but instead we booked ourselves onto a 3 day trek to the desert for the following morning at 7am. ouch! to make matters worse, when i woke up the following morning, i felt absolutely horrible. i must have eaten something that didnt rteally agree w/ my stomach, and i was in major pain. i considered not going on the trip and losing the 100$ i spent on it, but i couldnt help think that i’d end up really mad at myself if i ended up feeling better a few minutes later. so in the van i went w/ about 14 others.

the beginning part of the trip was supposed to be really cool as we drove through the hight atlas mountains. breath taking views etc etc… but as i was feeling nauseous to begin with, all thge turns ans twists of the road made me feel even worse. i couldnt even look at the scenery, and instead just lay down on the seat praying that i wouldnt throw up. the first two stops of the trip, i didnt get to enjoy either, and felt completely awful. eventually, our driver drove all over town to find me a pharmacy. so nice! talking to the pharmacist was very confusing and soon i ended up w 4 different kinds of medicine. i ended up only taking one of the medicines, and soon my stomach settled down a bit.

we drove on and on through the moroccan countryside and it was awesome to take in the scenery around us. the earth in the southern part of morocco is red, which makes it contrast spectacularly w/ the green of the plants we would see and the blue of the sky. the small towns as we drove were made up of these boxy red buildings w/ cutout window holes and would often be in the mddle of nowhere or up high in the middle of the mountains. we drove by these places quite fast and the driver would pass any car or motorcycle or donkey that got in his way. his driving was actually a little scary. he also blasted this moroccan music, and as he only had 4 tapes, by the end, we knew practically
every song. actually, part way through the trip the eject button broke, so after that, it was only one tape over and over for the rest of the ride! at one point, we drove down this road that was full of locusts, and as we drove the locusts would fly up and crash into the windshield. i dont know if you’ve ever seen a locust before, but it’s an enormous nasty loking grasshopper that is about the length of your hand from wrist to fingertip. YUK!

when it was almost night, after driving for hours and hours, we finally got to our destination: dades gorge. we stayed at this cute hotel in the middle of the red walls fo the gorge. the area was extremely beautiful, and we really psyched to be there. unfortunately, it got dark soon, and then we had the usual mint tea (yum) and got to know the other people in our tour group a bit. they served us a moroccan dinner w/ the usual moroccan fare: couscous, tagine which is a stew, and the moroccan bread. ya know, to be honest, i haven’t really been all that impressed w/ moroccan food. dont get me wrong, it’s
definitely not bad. it’s decent. but really, it just doesnt excite me. the couscous is usually fairly flavorless, and the tagine is often more bones than meat… and the meat that is there, isn’t too good. plus, the vegetables in both of those dishes are usually boiled or stewed, and i’m not really a huge fan of stewed mushy vegetables.

the hotel where we stayed that night, like all the hotels and restaurants in the gorge, was powered by a generator. i woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and after patting the walls for a few minutes searching for the light switch in the pitch black, i finally clicked the switch… and nothing. they turn the generators off at night, so the whole hotel is absolutely pitch black. if you happen to have not brought a flashlight (we had one) you’re stuck fumbling for the (yucky) toilets in the dark. the electricity was turned back on at 5am or whatever thogh so they could play the morning prayer call over the loudspeaker. ugh!! i think it’ really cool that they play the call to prayer 5 times a day…. it definitely adds to the atmosphere, but being woken up every single day at sunrise…. ughhh.

10/14 desert trip day 2

the second day of the trip, we woke up early yet again and soon were off on the road. our first stop was at this small berber village. we had a guide lead us through the village and he told us a little about how the people live there. it’s funny, the one thing that yan and i mainly keep wanting to take photos of here are the people. for the most part, the locals in their traditional garb are much more interesting to us trhan the scenery etc. unfortunately though, it’s surprisingly hard to get phtos of people here. most of them really dont want to be photographed and wag their finger at you or literally hiss at you to stop. women especially wont allow anoyone to take pictures of them, and finally we found out why today. it turns out that what they are really afraid of is that someone will turn their photo into a postcard or put it in a book. if a photo of them gets out to the public, their reputation will be destroyed and they will never be able to marry!! harsh, eh?

i know i’ve already mentioned this before, but this country is soooo full of donkeys. they’re everywhere. in the countryside, in town, on the roads, in the villages, everywhere. a lot of the donkeys we saw today were hauling *huge* loads of plants… so much in fact, that all you could see was the donkeys head and tail peeking out of either end of the plants… they basically looked like chia-donkeys! in this town, a lot of the locals knew that toursits desparately want to photogrpah them, so the locals will wander up to you and ask for money in exchange to photo them. this guy below, was asking us for 10 dirham…. 5 for him, and 5 for the donkey… heh.

once we got to the center of town, our guide took us to a carpet shop where a berber told us a little about his family’s traditions. the berbers are an old nomadic tribe that lived in morocco for centuries until the arabs took over. nowadays the population of morocco is part arab and part berber. this guy told us about how half of his family lived in the village and their main task was making carpets. the men would shear the sheep and take care of them, and the women would weave the carpets. making the carpets is a tradition handed down from generation to genration by the women of the family and it’s a difficult task taking about a month to make a carpet (they only spend a few hours a day making carpets in between cooking etc). the rest of his family lives up in the mountains hearding goats and sheep. thay come down from the mountains once a year or so to kick it in the village before going back up. it seemed so crazy that there are people in this world who still live this nomadic lifestyle!

after a few more stops ( i cant remember what they were) we finally go to the most interesting part of our trip. the road putters out near a small town called merhzouga ( roughly 50 km from the algerian border) and the we drove through the desert. after driving for abit, we reached the dunes. they looked so dope!!!! huge dunes, all of them the deep red color that the dirt is made of. we were all really excited to finally get to the dunes… and then we saw the camels. a long line of camels just sitting and waiting for us. we really couldn’t believe it. so surreal… here we were in the sahara desert and our camel caravan was awaiting us.

without much delay each person in our group hopped on a camel, and we were off. the camel that i was on had a *huge* hump and was actually very uncomfotable (especially compared to the comfy camel i got the next day). the camel caravan slowly trudged through the desert and we took it all in. it was so cool!!! so, the camels were really loud. they were constantly snorting belching, and even more constantly… pooing. like literally, it seemed like they would poo every 5 minutes. i dont think i’ve ever seen an animal like that before… actually, by the end of the trek, the sun had set and it was dark when we got to this really gravely area at the end… and after dismounting it turned out that all the gravel… was actualy camel pellets! ew!

the camp in the desert was very basic. instead of being a tent, it was actually pretty much just a covering made out of bunch of blankets propped up by sticks. we would be sleeping in the open air… air that we soon realized was swarming w/ bugs. when our guide turned on the lantern, bugs of all shapes and sizes came running and flying… moths, giant locusts, and *huge* freaky looking scarab beatles. i hate bugs, and was really nervous about sleeping out in the open. heh, randomly enough, after a bit 2 cats ran into our camp and starting eating the bugs like crazy. cats? in the desert?

all of us hung out for a bit and played cards. it was fun to just relax and kick back w/ the people in our group. for dinner, our guides cooked us tajine (moroccan stew) and we ate it moroccan style, with our hands. after some more cards, we all crashed out and i kept waking up fearing attck of the locusts….

10/15 desert trip day 3

we woke up the next morning at the crack of dawn, to an impressive sunrise and red dunes. what a way to wake up!! of course, i was almost too sleepy to enjoy it, but it was still really cool. we all hopped back on the camels and treked back to where we left the van the night before.

our guide

after breakfast, we all got in the van for the long-ass drive ahead of us. we were gonna drive from 9:30 to about 7PM. ugh… so much driving time. it sucks cause although the 3 day trip was really fun and we got to see a lot of really cool stuff, we spent a huge portion of those 3 days just sitting in a van. plus, to make matters worse, this van *poured* exhaust inside itself. we were literally living in black fumes. actually, when we showered after the trip, the water turned *black* even after rinsing our hair twice!

and that wasn’t the only sketchy part of the trip. on the third day, the day we had to drive 9 hours back to marrakech, it turned out to be the first day of Ramadan. ramadan is the most important muslim holiday, and it lasts a month. for that month, muslims are not allowed to eat, drink, smoke, or have sex from sun up to sun down. well, our poor driver was really sleepy and even the day before had been kind of nodding off behind the wheel. this day, he had to do a 9 hour drive… on no food, no coffee, not even water! we were all kind of scared for our lives as he looked insanely tired… but luckily we made it back with no accidents.

it’s funny, we totally expected that during ramadan, everything in morocco would shut down during the day, but that’s really not the case. since there is such an influx of tourists here, a lot of the cafes etc stay open during the day and you have no problem finding food. i do feel really bad for the people working there though… it must be so hard to spend all day working w/ food when you can’t eat it. it turns out, that although morocco is lax on its rules for tourists during ramadan, turkey and jordan (we’ll be there during ramadan too) are much more hardcore. in turkey you get a ticket if you are caught eating during the day, and in jordan… you get thrown in jail for a day if you are caught eating!! yikes!

finally, at 7pm, we arrived back in marrakech all in one piece but very tired….


5 thoughts on “off to the desert”

  1. holy crap vlad. that is seriously hard core. your photos are getting better and better! did the camel have wireless access to get this entry in?

    i’m so psyched for you man!

  2. thanks!! i’m glad you like the photos! it’s funny, actually the internet here in morocco is pretty damn good…. most places have high speed access and some are even 24 hours!

  3. The best post yet.

    Only if it’s no trouble, do you have a picture of a huge locust??

    Keep it real….and funky

  4. I have just seen a picture of said locust, and holy crap, it’s huge!

  5. yeah, way huge!!! i should have taken a picture of it by my hand to get a better feel for the size, but i really didnt want to put my hand near it!

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