Todra Gorge and Trip to the dunes
Merzouga Travel Blog› entry 6 of 15 › view all entries
On the road again for 9am, after breakfast, and drove back down the road to Boumaine and back onto the main road. The road climbed through Boumaine and as we went up the hill we got to stop and take some photos of the town. On a hill overlooking it some Arabic writing was cut into the hill, and we asked Farim what it said. He told us it meant Sahara Desert. IF ONLY !!! We still had a long way to go yet.
A short drive on and we came tot he town of Tinerhir, where we cut off and up to Todra Gorge. On the road up there are loads of groves with dates growing in them, and when we got to a good point we again got to stop and take photos down the valley. Arrived up at the gorge and were surprised by the number of locals that were about before we realised that it was a Saturday.
Tinerhir also marked the end of the decent road and it got rougher as we the long drive out through the 'stony desert' . Every so often you would come across a small town or village and just wonder why the hell anybody lived here.
Seemed like we drove for ages, through a real barren landscape of small black stone and sand, with the odd hill visible here and there. eventually we stopped for lunch at a place called Tinejdad,and as we sat having lunch were told we still had another 2 hour drive ahead to Merzouga. Just after Tinejdad we turned off the main road onto a minor road to take us to Erfoud. By now I was really glad of my books and my iPod :-) . It did take the best part of the 2 hours, but after Erfoud it wasn't far onto Rissani.
At last we started see the dunes looming up in front, growing larger and larger as we approached. we pulled in at a sort of hotel where we were to leave our stuff overnight, and given a couple of rooms. Loathe to actually call it a hotel, but that far out in the sticks I suppose it's as good as you would get, but the room we had hadn't been aired and it was totally minging and was very, very basic.
There were 2 groups of 3 camels and 1 group of 6. The guide we had directed me first onto the last camel in the group of 6 and the rest of the faimly onto this group plus one of the Spanish boys and Sophie from New Zealand at the front. Really had to hold onto the saddle handles as the camel started to stand up, you end up at some angle as they stand on their hind legs first. The guide then moved forward getting each camel to stand in turn and then we were off,across the road and straight into the dunes. We had been told at the office when booking it to bring long trousers for the camel, but I just had long shorts, which were just OK, as the saddles are quite coarse.
Getting into the dunes it just looked amazing. Here at Merzouga is the highest dune in North Africa and it looked amazing. It had been 6pm when we set off and as we meandered through the dunes the sun was going down throwing a different light on the the vast sands all the time. The one thing I didn't quite expect was as the camels go downhill in the dunes their front legs sink into the sand and you end up having to grab hold like when they stood up at the start. Other than that trying to get comfortable proved impossible, but sat on top snapping pictures with one hand or no hands on the camel. On the top of one ridge our guide stopped and took the cameras and got a great photo of the group ( the one that is on the front summary of the blog).
We moved on for a while and then stopped to watch the sun disappear over the dunes.
The guides, plus the guys that had set up the camp had prepared the meal while we were off exploring, and we all sat round a low table and had two very large tagines full of meat and vegetables, with couscous, laid out in front of us. The Spanish lads and the Kiwi girls had brought bottles of wine with them to go with the meal. There were portable lights used while we were eating, but they attracted the big flying insects, and some folk were a bit iffy about them so the lights were moved back a bit from the table.
Back into the camp and the hosts got out their instruments and started playing and singing, and then started coming round with various instruments for people to join in playing. It was good fun and when they were done it was now after midnight and time to grab a few hours kip before we would get up before sunrise. In the camp bed mats had been layed out with balnkets and we all went to sleep outside with a last gaze of the stars beore closing our eyes. It was just such an incredible feeling.
EDIT: Kwan who was on the trip with us uploaded his pics, and added Family photo(he was on the camel in front) ,the Spanish guys in the dusk on the dunes and the Night Sky as he had a better camera that could take long exposure shots needed to take the stars