Along the way we saw monkeys, visited a popular park with a fountain and a lion statue, picked up a hitchhiker, tasted fresh figs for the first time, saw the contrast of barren desert roads and deep green oasis’s, sweated out every ounce of sweat we owned, took pictures, and took lots of naps. Late in the afternoon, without saying anything, our driver pulled off the road just after a bridge and parked the van behind a tree a good distance from the road. Yeah that was us, “in a van down by the river!” Total Chris Farley moment. 🙂 Slightly terrified, Rob and I looked at each other with uncertainty. It felt like the turning point in an action movie, the part where he kidnapped and then killed us. Guess if he kills us here nobody will know and no one will find our bodies. Smart thinking on his part! Our driver came around the side of the van next to Rob and opened the door. We looked at him, I’m sure with bewildered expressions. He looked at us with a genuine smile and pulled a blanket out from behind Rob’s seat. He showed us his droopy eyes and gestured to the ground under the tree. He was getting tired and needed a nap! Haha! That is a whole lot better than what I was cooking up in my head! He can pull over and take a nap anytime! 🙂
The hours seemed to drag. Rob’s attitude slowly went from enthusiastic to incredibly impatient. We joked to ourselves, “we paid how much to drive 16 hours with no AC to ride camels for an hour and a half!??” “What did we want to come out here for??” We were out in the middle of Morocco, hot air blowing in our faces, nothing but sand, rocks and bushes for miles, bodies dripping buckets of sweat, with the radio playing a mix between Arabic talk radio and the occasional Justin Bieber song (PS – I have no idea how anything was coming through on the radio!). We were going to make it! We laughed so many times out of pure boredom and exhaustion. We knew our long journey would be worth it! We were on an adventure!
Eventually we came to a small village where we were put into a 4×4 with a new driver. We rode through deeply packed sand tracks for over an hour. After waking up at the bum crack of dawn and traveling all day, we finally arrived at our hotel; well, that is what they called it. Ever looked up the difference between a hotel and a motel? Just know, this was definitely no hotel. :} We sat down in the “lobby”, which looked a lot like my grandma’s living room and were informed that we would be leaving for the desert momentarily. That came as a bit of a shocker to us. We thought our desert trek was going to be the following day/night and the weather outside didn’t look too good. With what little Moroccan dirhams we had, we bought 2 highly overpriced bottles of water, (not too many options in the middle of the Sahara), and threw our packs on our backs. I broke away from the group and ran to the ladies room. I was not about to ride out into the desert with a full bladder. While I was in the bathroom I could hear a loud roaring/growling sound coming from somewhere. It sounded like a cross between Chewbacca and a barfing cow! When I got outside where they were loading up, I found out that it Rob’s camel! He was trying to mount it and he wasn’t quieting down! Hahahahaha!!!!! He was not happy that Rob had disturbed his meal. He was protesting in the best way he knew how. Rob looked semi-terrified, but the three guides trying to quiet him down didn’t seem the least bit alarmed. Walking in on the whole scene was hilarious. I died laughing!
I was the last one to mount my camel. Gosh camels make the funniest sounds! Just listening to the swanky beasts I was cracking up inside! I climbed aboard as my camel was sitting on the ground. Once I was on his back, with a quick tug of a rope the guides prompted him to stand. I was not expecting to go from ground zero to 10 feet in the air in a matter of seconds and I about rolled right off the back of the furry creature – it was like those quarter machines rides, and it was spazzing out! Camels are LARGE creatures! I had totally underestimated them my whole life. I was towering over the ground and grinning from ear to ear. Adventure calls!
We were in a group of 8 camel riders + 3 guides on-foot. Rob was bringing up the rear and I was right in front of him as we clomped through the sand. We were headed right into a storm. The sky ahead was a circus of cloudy. The first 400 meters or so were flat with a light breeze. As we began climbing the dunes the wind picked up. I kept looking back at Rob to make sure he was doing alright on his cheeky camel. Every time I looked at him he was beaming – The storm began to rage. The wind grew strong! The sand swirling all around us, and pelting us from every angle. The wind settled down a bit as we continued trekking, but the clouds maintained a dominant presence; creating a thick blanket overhead. As it began to grow darker around us, and as our eyes were adjusting to the darkness, a flash of lightening struck off in the distance, lighting the whole sky! After the first strike, lightening began to dance all around us. The sound of thunder rolled along the dunes and boomed in our ears. The sky was showing off and we couldn’t have been more intrigued and captivated by its performance. We were riding camels in the middle of the Sahara desert and witnessing the most beautiful electric light show I’ve ever seen anywhere in the world! Oh my word it was stunning – absolutely spectacular! I love storms, but this storm topped them all. Unbelievable! HOLY insane buckets – my mind was blown. I could have laid out in the sand and watched God orchestrate His symphony all night.
Up and down the mounds of sand. Bright lights continued to pierce the sky. Just as we arrived at our campsite for the night, the rains began to pour! Rain in THE DESERT!!! First a storm and now rain, I love it! We ran for cover in our tents made of thick Arabic tapestries. The tents were set up in a circular shape with a fire pit in the center. Lanterns hung from the center of each tent, and small pads with thick blankets rested on the floor for bedding. After a while the rain let up and we peeked out of our tent to see if any others were still awake. There was a light on in a big tent near the entrance. We entered the lit tent and found the rest of the group gathered around a long table laughing and chatting together. Our stomachs were eating themselves. We hadn’t eaten in probably 11 hours. We were starving, but figured they had decided to forego dinner due to the rain and we would just have to tough it out and go to bed hungry. Not too long after that they served us a traditional Moroccan tajine dinner with hot mint tea! Nothing about the meal was very flavorful, other than the fresh fruit, but we really weren’t complaining. We were so grateful to have a meal, even if we were sweating through every piping hot bite. Everything in Morocco, even if it is 120 degrees outside in the middle of the desert, is served hot! You just get comfortable being uncomfortable while you eat. 🙂
After dinner our guides played the drums and sang for us around a fire. Rob had so been looking forward to star gazing while we were in the desert, because it is so remote and the light pollution is almost zero, we had heard the stars were absolutely stunning under the Saharan sky. Unfortunately, because of the storm, we couldn’t see more than a few stars. Even though we didn’t have a starry night, it was an incredible evening and the storm had made a lasting impression on us. We wouldn’t change that for anything.