Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Desert star gazing

camelsIn the afternoon we mounted our camels (well I mounted no problem, Dave’s camel took a little more coaxing then mine to stand back up once he’d clambered on.) There was just the two of us and our guide Mohammed as we set off into the desert.  I’d heard mixed reports about riding camels, some people reported that it was easy and others said you had to hang on for dear life the entire time

It turns out that both descriptions were correct, Dave’s hands were hurting after 10 minutes from holding onto the reins so tightly out of fear,  while I felt quite at ease on my friendly camel (which meant that for once I got to take the camera and be the photographer!)

It was about a 1.5 hour camel ride till we reached the campsite for the evening, a typical Berber style camp with tents set up and ready with a low lying table and mats out the front where we could lie down and relax after the ‘difficult’ ride and sip some famous Berber whisky.camel

There were four other groups of people in different tents and all our guides knew each other so it was a friendly atmosphere in the camp. After watching the sunset and the stars rise in the night sky, Mohammed presented us with a fantastic tagine dinner by candle light! This was followed by the guides gathering together to light a small fire before grabbing their doumbeks and a few Qraqebs and started singing traditional Berber songs. It was really great fun, they had everyone up and dancing and singing lyrics that no one understood but had them in hysterics…

Afterwards we headed out into the dunes to do some star gazing and story telling. Turns out Mohammed is quite the jokes man, although a few things were definitely lost in translation I think! Unfortunately, there were a few clouds so even though we saw a few shooting stars it was a little disappointing!

drumsWe decided to forego the tent and instead sleep under the stars as it wasn’t too cold. (In fact I was warm all night, but it turns out there was quite a cold wind for most of it and Dave was acting as a wind block, which meant he froze while for once I was warm). Thankfully I randomly awoke at 3.30 am and saw that the sky was full of stars, so I quickly woke Dave, we scrambled to find where we’d stashed our glasses (the pain of both being blind as bats) and laid there watching the night sky for half an hour before the clouds came back in. That was exactly what I’d imagined the desert night sky to be – bright stars so numerous it’s incredible, shooting star after shooting star, laying in bed next to your best friend / hubby. It was one of those once in a lifetime moments that we will both cherish forever.dune

After a nearby donkey woke us up a few times with its bray, the 5 am morning quickly came and we sleepily remounted our camels who hadn’t budged since we’d gotten off. We realise quickly that the ride the day before had left us just a little saddle sore and even though the ride back to Merzouga was beautiful with the changing light as the sun rose over the desert. (And yes, Dave was still clinging on as tight as ever…)

Mohammed found it quite entertaining when we arrived back at the hostel and started walking back towards the Auburge like cowboys in a Western.

We hurriedly breakfasted and showered (camel smell is not the best) and then literally ran into town to make the 8am bus to Tinghir.

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