04.01.2017 - 06.01.2017 22 °C
We arranged to meet with our ‘host’ for our night in the Sahara in a town called Erfoud about 40km from Erg Chebbi which has easy access to the high dunes of the Sahara.
We left Fes with a phone number and a ‘password’! The phone number was for emergencies and the password so we didn’t get picked up by someone we shouldn’t!
We left around 7.00am from Fes and arrived in Erfoud at 3.30pm after a fascinating drive through the Moroccan country side.
Abdul was waiting for us in Erfoud as planned and after presenting the appropriate password and sorting out a ‘suitable’ spot for Lupi to park-up we were in his Toyota ‘four wheel’ drive and off to the Sahara. On arrival at ‘Sahara Garden’ we immediately climbed on our ‘four legged’ transport; Bob (Marley) and Jimmy (Hendrix) and enjoyed a leisurely hour and half ride into our camp as the sun went down. Our young guide Hassan chatted knowledgeably and answered our many questions. What a stunning part of the world!
We spent the evening eating and chatting (along with drinking the occasional gin) around the camp fire with Abdul, Hassan, Hassan, Mohamad and the six other guests in the camp that night. There were two young couples from Ohio, USA, who were working in the Peace Corp and about to finish their two year ‘stint’ in Morocco in May. This was their first desert experience. Also with us were two lovely young girls, one from South Korea and the other from Romania, who were working in Dublin. They had taken advantage of cheap Ryan Air Flights to Marrakech and were on a three day flying visit! It was midnight by the time we hit our beds! The desert gets very cold at night and at one stage we had to add extra blankets to our comfy desert bed.
Abdul has lived in the Sahara all his life and still considers himself a 'Nomad of the Desert'. He was excited to hear there was a rugby team in Invercargill, New Zealand named after them! He was generous with his stories and it was obvious he loves his life in the Sahara. He plans to travel outside Morocco in the future however he experiences the world by talking and listening to the stories of his guests who come from all over the globe. He spoke a number of languages and has a wonderful perspective of what life is really about!!
The Sahara ('the Greatest Desert') is the largest hot desert and the third largest desert in the world after Antarctica and the Arctic. Its area is 9,200,000 square kilometres (3,600,000 sq mi) amounting to 31% of Africa and is comparable to the area of the United States.
We woke at 6.30am and walked up the dunes to watch the sun come up. What a stunning morning and a beautiful place to be at this time of the day. We were more adventurous than the ‘youngies’ and scaled the high dunes! Denis took an old snow board with him to try his skills in the sand.
The dunes of Erg Chebbi reach a height of up to 150 meters in places and altogether it spans an area of 50 kilometers from north to south and up to 5–10 kilometers from east to west lining the Algerian border.
We enjoyed a peaceful trek out on ‘Bob’ and ‘Jimmy’ and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast back at the Sahara Garden. Abdul dropped us back in to our car late morning and we hit the road to Gorges Dadés our next destination around three hours drive away.
We found a wonderful little B & B about seven kilometers into Gorges Dadés from Boumalne Dadés. We hadn’t booked but this certainly wasn’t a problem as it was very quiet and our host welcomed us with open arms. We ordered some dinner and went off for a walk around the gardens in the river flats across the road. The sun was setting and it was a beautiful evening for a wander.
We were on the road to Marrakech the next day and didn’t have much time to explore so we were away early and took a drive up the Gorge. We had to come back down the same way however it was and easy drive 30km up the road to get the best of the views. It was a beautiful morning to experience the colours on offer at this time of day!
We traveled the 'Road to Marrakech' via Ouazarate and over the Atlas Mountains. One again the drive was amazing with huge contrasts between the dry arid environment of the centre of Morocco, the rugged Atlas mountains and the green hills and plains on the western side of the mountains heading into Marrakech. The road from Boumalne Dadés initially followed the river where access to water meant patches of green and higher population density. This soon changed as we left the river and headed towards Ouazarate. The landscape became moon like and we can see why George Lucas chose this location to film the Star Wars movies!
The road over the Atlas mountain on the east side was windy and narrow. Once stuck behind a slow vehicle it was very difficult to pass safely. Although this didn’t seem to worry some drivers. However the road down from the summit has been upgraded and was very smooth with passing lanes. We reached 2200 metres as we crossed the pass. Lynelle was fascinated with all the washing drying in the bushes and on the the rocks.
Marrakech: well that is another story!