Friday, July 15, 2016

ERG CHEBBI DUNES, SAHARA DESERT, MOROCCO: CAMEL TREKKING

When Bob was planning our Morocco trip and saw that it was possible to stay a few nights in the Sahara Desert (in a luxury camp that I might possibly go for) AND that he could book a camel-riding excursion, there was absolutely no holding him back. You would think that he had gotten camel riding out of his system on our trip to Egypt, where he rode a camel down from Mt. Sinai, and in Jordan, where we rode camels in Petra.

Apparently not.

Our camels were waiting for us at about 4:00 p.m.

Aw, gee. Isn't he CUTE?

Each one has his (or her) own personality. The bit was just a piece of rope laced through the camel's mouth and under the chin--no metal btis:

A sitting camel makes a convenient stool:


Finally we mounted our dashing (or not) steeds and took off across the desert:



Bob's and my camels were linked together and led by one camel master, and we followed a group of four others who were linked together--young people from Germany, Austria, and Spain on holiday together.  


For an hour and a half, this was my view of my camel's head, nearly resting on the rump of Bob's camel:
The camels were definitely rattier-looking than the ones we rode in the Middle East--maybe a little smaller, and with functional blanket saddles rather than the colorful, overly decorated Middle Eastern ones. I thought the practical blanket saddles were much softer than the fancy leather ones. The best part was that there were no pain-inducing saddle horns in front and back, just a metal T-bar in front to hold on to. 

We saw sand. 

Then we saw some more sand:

And on the other side of the hill, sand!

Sand with camel tracks:

Sand with car tracks:

Our shadows were almost as intriguing as the dunes. I thought we looked like alien creatures out of Star Wars:





Okay, okay. I have to confess that there was something really spectacular about these dunes. The coral sand seemed to glow from within, and the soft rising and falling of the hills had an almost breathing, flesh-like quality. 


There was a surprising amount of vegetation, mostly tufts of grass in patches where later we saw hobbled camels grazing. There was a tree here and there, and all the growth was surprisingly green. I suspect by August it was either a) dry, dusty brown or b) non-existent:

Suddenly we came upon a camel herd. Now that was exciting!


Aw, so sweet. The herd had a pet donkey:

Even camels need shepherds (camelherders?):

It was quite warm, but we had been warned to be well-covered. I had a lightweight vented shirt and lightweight pants, and I even wore a scarf around my head, Arab-style. I can see where that really does keep one cool.

The man leading our camels insisted on taking our camera from us and having us pose for pictures:

At one point when we stopped for another photo, my camel, without any warning, just sat down. Camels go down on their front knees first, then lower their rump to the ground. I was pretty lucky not to be pitched over the camel's head. It all caused quite a stir. One of the men told us in his rudimentary English (which was 1,000,000 times better than my Arabic) that if the lead camel starts to walk when when the back camels is sitting down, it can be "a very beeg problem."

Yep. Camel riding is FUN!

After about an hour and a half, we arrived at our destination:

We dismounted and walked, bow-legged, over a small rise to our camp:

Our camels sat down to wait for their next assignment:

The alternative was having one of their front legs tied up like this, leaving them to stand, stork-like, until someone unties the leg:

Note the hobbled camel on the left. Doesn't that look uncomfortable?

And look! There, in the not too distant distance, is civilization!


CAMEL RIDE REDUX
If one camel trip in the Sahara is good, then two are better. When our guide offered to let us ride camels out of the camp and to the city rather than be transported by four-wheel drive, Bob said, "Well, that's a no brainer!" (As in "If you have no brain, you say yes!")

Back in the saddle again:

This time we saw a whole herd of donkeys:


There were also some camels with one front leg tied to a stake in the ground, grazing on the lush vegetation:

Onward.

It was rather comforting to be able to see something in the distance besides sand:

On our way out, we did come upon another desert well. Isn't it remarkable to think there is water beneath this sand?

The women were filling up plastic jars with the precious stuff. They had also made a clever drinking hole for their donkey out of a blue plastic tarp:

Looking back towards where we had come almost made me feel a bit nostalgic. Almost.



When I turned back towards our destination, the white buildings looked like heaven at the edge of the wilderness:

We had TWO guides at this point, and one insisted on a few more farewell photos:


Including a selfie:

4 comments:

  1. Now this beats car museums and shopping down deserted streets any day. One day we need to try riding camels under our own guidance, Lawrence of Arabia style, maybe even camel racing. That sounds FUN!

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    1. By the way, those pictures with the village in the distance ruin it. What is nice is imagining you are out in the middle of nowhere on these trusted beasts of burden. But actually, village or no, it is still pretty much out in the middle of nowhere.

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  2. What fun! I think I'd prefer the saddle handle thing over the horn--more room to get a death grip on the thing.
    I'm pretty sure PETA would veto that hobble style.

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  3. Your photos are really beautiful, and I can see how riding through that terrain could be mesmerizing.

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