Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sahara Desert Camel Trip

When we booked our tickets to Morocco, one of the main things that we wanted to do was to take a camel ride overnight trip in the Sahara Desert. That sounded so exciting to us so we knew that we needed to make it happen. We got connected with a group that did tours through our hotel. Before the journey, we went shopping in a small tiny town to buy some Berber memorabilia. 

We bought some traditional head wraps!
Don't we look so fashionable!?
We were now ready for our trip. We caught a ride in a taxi down to the camel area. While we were waiting, they offered us some mint tea like everyone always does, but of course we couldn't drink it. We were offered tea at least three times a day and had to turn it down each time. The Moroccan guys taught us how to get on and off the camels with the little English that they spoke. They loaded up all of our bags and sleeping items on the camel that we needed that night. Here is a picture of us before we started our trip.

These poor camels.....they have to carry so much weight! 
They are such weird looking animals and they walk super slow. 
I was in front of Nate and every time I would look back at him, I couldn't help but start laughing. Here we were in Africa, riding camels in the Sahara Desert, wearing these bright colored head wraps. It was kind of unreal, and hilarious, and I had to hold back the laughter. I kept on thinking what would people think if they could see us now!? The journey consisted of me, Nate, our friend that we met earlier in the week from Madrid/Columbia, Eduardo, and our Moroccan tour guide that didn't speak any English. He only spoke French and Arabic. Good thing we had Eduardo there to translate for us, or else we would have had a very VERY awkward night of charades! 
This is us finally landing in the desert about an hour and a half later. Man, my butt and legs were sore! Who knew that a camel could be so uncomfortable. And if you are wondering about my wrapped up toe, I had a major blister on it from the snake shoes that I had bought in Marrakesh and it was getting infected. I wrapped it up really good and tight so I wouldn't get any sand in it to make it even more infected. It is interesting how they would get the camels to sit down. The tour guide would come up to them and just say, "Shhhhh, sshhhh" to them over and over, and then they would lay down so I could get off. They would go from standing, to on their knees, to laying down on their legs. Funny animals. Having them stand up was the scariest part. One time, Nate's camel tripped as he was trying to stand and Nate almost flew off the front of him! 
It was now time for a photo shoot in our Moroccan attire!
Don't we look :) 
The blue sky, the sand dunes in the background....Nate looking so serious. 
As you can tell, by this point in our trip, I was completely sunburned! The over 100 degree weather had done me in! So, hence, my face almost matched my pink scarf. Not the most attractive look, but hey. 
Here is where we stayed the night. We had a tent, but the tent wasn't for sleeping. The tour guide cooked in the tent and stored things in there to keep them safe. We slept on the blankets to the left of the tent. Yes, it was a rough night, full of big bugs crawling on us, an extremely uncomfortable hard ground to sleep on, and the hot muggy weather that made me have a headache. I slept in the middle of Nate and Eduardo. They made us each buy 4 huge water bottles to take with us. After about 3 hours of being there, all the water was warm. That is how hot it was. So the entire night and the next morning, we were drinking warm water to stay hydrated. Gross. But we knew our bodies needed the liquid because it was just so hot out. It got so hot that to a point, I felt nauseous. I have never had heat do that to me before. Watching the stars at night was fun though. Because there were no lights around and we were so far from any civilization, the stars were super bright. We watched shooting stars and followed the star patterns as we laid there trying to fall asleep. Before all this happened though, we had a sand storm. It started about 2 hours after we got there. I have never experienced a sand storm before and it wasn't fun. There was sand blowing all around us with fierce winds and we couldn't get out of it! I was so grateful that I had my pink scarf! The scarf helped protect my head and face from the sand and I finally realized why these people wear them living there. It made more logical sense to me. The sand was everywhere though. It got in my eyes,  ears, nose, and mouth. When I would bite down, the sand would crunch between my teeth. Gross. It was hitting against my legs so hard that it hurt. It felt like someone was cutting my leg with sharp little needles. So we all got in the tent and tried to stay protected. It lasted for about an hour and then suddenly, it settled down. What a night!

The worst part for me was going to the bathroom on the sand dunes. It is way harder than it looks! Every time I would go it would run down onto my feet. I just couldn't aim very well. It was hard going on a slanted sand dune! So I went back to the camp with wet feet each time. I couldn't wait to get home and shower and use a real toilet again! 
On our way to the desert, we passed through a couple little villages. I don't even know if you could really call them villages. They were more like just a couple little mud homes here and there that were hand built by these people. We saw people walking around outside by them carrying grass on their heads (like in The Jungle Book Disney movie) kids roaming around by themselves, and people working in their "yard." Some children were selling these little handmade "camels" made out of dried up palm tree leaves. As we were riding, they would walk up to the camel and try to hand them to us. Of course they wanted us to give them some money afterwards. I felt like I couldn't reach them safely enough without falling off of my camel because of leaning down too far. But Nate was able to do it safely without falling off. We got this little camel creation for like 20 cents. I thought it was cute.
It was fun walking around the sand dunes! 
I love the feeling of the sand on my feet and in between my toes. 
Carrying loads of grass to their homes on their heads!
This little girl was wandering all around by herself outside. 
She was probably only around 2. 
The poor camels were tied up so they couldn't escape. As soon as we got off the camels, our tour guide tied up one of their legs with rope. One of the camels was a little agitated and tried everything he could to get the rope off. He was even rolling around on his back in the sand like he was having a tantrum. But the rope was effective because the next morning, the camels were still there where they started. 
Here is a picture late at night when we were having our tea. Yes, having tea again.....
Our tour guide took good care of us by preparing all of the food for us. He made us slow cooked tagine  vegetables and chicken with flat bread. We had warm oranges for dessert. He served the dinner on one big plate and he gave us each a fork. We dove right in and started to eat. The crazy part was when the tour guide started eating his meat. He not only ate the meat off the bones, but he ate the bones along with it. I heard some crunching sounds and looked up, and yes, he was crunching down on the bones. Food is definitely seen differently there than in the US. 
In the US we eat for entertainment and social events and there they eat more for hunger and to get enough energy stored up for their next hard labor activity. 
Here is Nate taking a walk along the sand dunes early in the morning.
Both Eduardo and Nate said that during the night, I was having nightmares about bugs crawling on me. They said I would sit up and start screaming about a bug and frantically be trying to scrape it off of me. I would also scrape my entire sleeping area. They said it was a rough night! :)
The next morning for breakfast, we had more flat bread with apricot jam
and Laughing Cow cheese, and or course, tea.
We all agreed it was probably the grossest breakfast that we have ever had. You couldn't think about the tour guide preparing it either because he never washed his hands. Here he was petting the camels, going to the bathroom, setting up camp, and then.......making our food. :(
They don't know about hand sanitizer there!
We all were a little on the sick side the next day.
Camel foot prints in the sand. 
On our way home after we packed up that morning. I love these shadow pictures. 

Here is a picture of our tour guide. He does this every night for a living and takes a different group of tourists out each night. I am sure that he meets a lot of interesting people! He was so grateful to us when we gave him a tip. These people don't make very much yet they work so hard. He is married and has a family but never gets to be home at night with them which is sad. He is always out doing this tour. Hopefully our tip money helped him out a bit!
We had a great time and experienced so much culture and new ways of life. I felt so grateful to have the opportunity to do and see new things that I had never experienced before. I know I will have great stories to tell my kids someday. 
But.....once was enough for me. I don't think I will be doing this trip again any time soon. :)

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