Saturday, March 15, 2014

Morocco: the sand dunes of Merzouga.

Rumor has it that if you've seen Marrakech, Fes, and the desert then you've "seen Morocco". I am not sure how Moroccans feel about that statement, and in hindsight I'd definitely have to say that we disagree, but hey, when in Rome...

There are a few "desert" options - the very remote western Sahara, the dunes of Erg Chigaga near Zagora (accessible only by 4x4), and the more touristy dunes of Erg Chebbi near Merzouga (accessible by foot, or camel, or 4x4, or plain old car). We chose Erg Chebbi because it was the least time-intensive and had the lower environmental impact options for exploration.

The birds, the quiet, the stars, the sunrises and sunsets, the comfort and hospitality offered by the town folks and at the B&B - everything in Merzouga and around Erg Chebbi was great.

even the beetles were amazing

We liked the vibe so much that we extended our stay pretty much as soon as we arrived... Behold the beauty of no agenda.

our backyard for five days

We stayed so long that we were able to sleep a lot, eat a lot, talk about things that actually had nothing to do with travel (a rare treat these days), and also knock out some important planning for the next few weeks.

the Thursday market in Rissani
was one of the most memorable

And yes, of course we did an overnight camel trek! We spent the morning riding "Bob Marley" and "Jimi Hendrix" (really??) to a small Berber village where we had lunch.

(and napped)

(and explored abandoned cob houses)

Then we got back on the camels and went to camp for sunset photo ops, dinner, music around the campfire, and starry skies.
(because the sunset photo
isn't that interesting)

"Camp", by the way, was actually iron framed beds with thick wool blankets - a far cry from our version of camping which involves a crappy air mattress and a slightly leaky tent. And dinner was one of the better chicken tajines we'd had on the trip. So much for roughing it...

The next morning we climbed sand dunes to watch the sun rise and then hopped on the camels one last time to ride back to town.

maybe "hopped on" isn't quite right -
"painfully boarded", perhaps?

It was definitely a memorable experience. Camels are not the most comfortable animals to ride but ours were quiet, calm, and gentle. Unfortunately we didn't learn much about Berber life from our guide - it was too hard to talk to the back of his head while we rode (and he wasn't the most talkative guide anyway), and we ate alone at the village (we thought we would be eating with the family).

But all that aside it was peaceful, gorgeous... and hot as hell. Finally, we could say our expectations were completely met.

"I can see Algeria!"
(that never got old)

Food notes coming soon in their own special post.

Lodging notes: we are glad we chose Auberge Les Roches because of their cheap but very nice rooms, great terrace and sand dune views, delicious breakfasts and the friendliest staff around. It's also an RV park so it's basically the KOA of Merzouga... But that was okay.

Rested and with renewed hope for our last week in Morocco, we boarded our last Supr@tours bus and headed north to Fes.

But next time we come to Morocco we are renting a camper and parking in Merzouga for a month.

vous êtes un snowbird français, oui?

As long as it's in the dead of winter, that is... This was the first time since Poland when we haven't said "I bet {insert current location} is great in the summer!"