Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Arabian Nights – Sahara Desert

We had multiple people tell us going on the two night three day tour of the Sahara Desert was well worth it. Plus, how could we say no to riding a camel? We were so close to it (12 hour bus ride). Our roommates, Millie and George, were also going on the same tour, so we all woke up at 6:00 am and were out the door by 7:00. Several other people going from our hostel as well, including people from Spain, Montreal, England, USA, and Australia.

The small bus and long journey meant we all became friends rather quickly. The first day included taking many pictures of beautiful Morocco. The geological structures and various rock formations on our way to the desert were stunning. Our driver didn’t speak any English except for “picture please” whenever we stopped to take in the views. After driving for about five hours we stopped to eat lunch and walk around a neat Berber village where about five different families lived. The Berber are the indigenous people of Morocco and largest ethnic group. Movies like the Gladiator, Babel, Lawrence of Arabia, and many others were filmed there. After seeing a really big stork nest, I wish I had brought my big camera. We decided to bring the smaller camera on this journey for fear of getting sand in the big one.
While wandering around the village, this was when I started feeling ill. At the time, I thought it was a combination of dehydration, headache, and cramps. Later I learned, I had travelers diarrhea. This quickly became one of the worst days of my life.
After eating lunch in the village, we still had a six hour bus ride to the hotel. I was feeling pretty bad after lunch, but I still wasn’t sure what was wrong. After about an hour we stopped to use the toilet, and this was when the first sign of travelers bug happened. I told Bryan, but I don’t think he realized how bad I felt at the time. After another hour or two, we stopped for the second time. It was awful.
Everything was coming out in both ends. I started crying because I didn’t know what to do. I needed to be by toilet at all times, but instead I had to be on a bus with ten other people. At this point, Bryan realized how bad it was and sat in the front of the bus with me as I was crying and trying to hold it all in. On the way to the hotel, we stopped about 4 more times to take pictures. I thought I was going to die. Despite how bad I felt, I still remember looking outside and thinking how beautiful it was.
After finally reaching the hotel, I ran to the toilet and stayed in the room for the rest of the night. Luckily, Bryan and I had our own room and bathroom.
The hotel was placed at the bottom of a gorge by a river and was quite picturesque. I was just thankful to be by a toilet. Bryan and the group all had family style Moroccan food for dinner while I drank some sort of herbal tea in the room. The tea was supposedly good for the stomach and was brought to me by the nice man who did pretty much everything in the hotel. We decided to supplement it with the antibiotics we’d brought from the US.
The following day, I woke up feeling better but still not good. My whole body was sore and tense. Probably from the stress of trying to hold it all in from the previous day. I also still needed to be by a toilet, and so we had to stay another night in the hotel. We were sad to say goodbye to our group – they were wonderful and so much fun. The price for the first night in the hotel was included in the package, but we had to pay for the second night. The price was a little more than we would have liked, but we had no choice. Bryan had a great time in the hotel relaxing and reading. It was actually a nice break from all the bus riding.
The next morning we joined in with another group. There was a family from Romania, a couple from Holland, a couple Moroccan women, and two English girls. I didn’t think they were going to be as much fun as our first group but that changed over time. They were all wonderful as well. There was a five year old Romanian boy named Lucas who didn’t whine or cry the entire time. We were pretty impressed.
The second day of the tour (third day for us) included another Berber village with hand made rugs, a river which came straight out of the massive cliffs from underground, and then the much anticipated camel ride in the desert.
Unfortunately, as soon as we hit the dunes, our camera died. We have no pictures of the second night in the desert, but it will forever be in my memory.
Camels are painful to ride. Despite this, it was well worth it even though I’m still sore. We spent almost two hours on the camels before we reached our camp. Once we reached camp, we all hiked up the dunes for sunset. Words cannot express how cool this moment was. Seeing miles and miles of sand dunes with the sunset is indescribable beauty. We all just sat there in awe of where we were. We all took in the moment and then headed back to camp for dinner.
The local Berber/Saharan men who guided the camels and ran the camp were so much fun and made the whole experience that much more memorable. They were quite impressive, each speaking fluently in multiple languages. French, English and Spanish seemed standard on top of the “normal” Arabic and Berber. After dinner, they played what they called tom-toms but they kind of looked like bongos. They sang and showed us some Saharan dance moves. Omar, one of the guides, started telling jokes which I’m sure Bryan will tell you in person. As he was waiting for us to come up with the answer to the joke, he would dance with his arms and sing. Sort of like the jeopardy theme song but better. It’s hard to explain. I wish I would have had a video camera. It was hilarious.
They told us there are a lot of scorpions in the desert, so I made sure there weren’t any in the tent before heading to bed. :)
We woke up at 5 am the next morning, got back on our camels for the next two hours before eating breakfast.
Our journey back to Marrakesh included a 12 hour bus ride and many windy roads. It was a bit daunting at times, but we finally made it.
The whole experience was phenomenal, and we kind of want to do it again… except for the being sick part.
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