Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley: our camels in the Erg Chebbi Dunes

2011
05.06

Finally, the camels

First of all, to be accurate, we rode dromedaries, not camels.  Camel just sounds a whole lot more exotic.

Moha (another Mohammed who works at the riad and goes by Moha) took us down the street to a store to buy scarves for the desert trek.  We really didn’t need them but if it had been windy, we couldn’t have done without them. Pulling them over our faces (like outlaws) would shield us from blowing sand.  Moha wound them around our heads and we went across the street to Hamid who had Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix, our camels, ready for us.

Susan on Jimi Hendrix, Mark on Bob Marley, and Hamid

We ride camels into the dunes

What contrary beasts! They don’t want to get up or sit down, stand still or walk.  They seem to want to do the opposite of what is required.  And can they ever screech and scream!  Their gait is not smooth and there are no stirrups.  Hamid told us to hold on and kept looking to see that we had our hands on the little steel bar, and I found out why.  Because in the middle of the trek, for no apparent reason, Jimi Hendrix sat down.  When a camel folds up those legs, the rider is at a 45-degree angle heading down! That’s just one of the things that made photographs difficult – doing them one-handed with a Canon 5D and an 18-250 lens was a real challenge.

When Jimi Hendrix did abruptly sit down, I asked Hamid why.  The answer?  He was tired and young – only three, whilst Bob Marley was 15!

Palmerie - as we head to the dunes

So just like that we were off on our trek – no permission slips, no signing our lives away and holding anyone and everyone harmless.  There is no adequate way to describe the dunes.  Every step reveals a new pattern, a new angle, new light.  It’s all astonishing.  Photos tell the story.  In the photographs in this post, you’ll see so many colors.  I look at them now and wonder, were they really like that?  How could it be?  But it was.

Late afternoon

We were lucky to have a cloudy sky – a vast improvement over the haze of the previous two days.  Seriously, I would have been devastated if that haze had remained.  I had been looking forward to this for so long – to taking my very own pictures of dunes in the Sahara Desert, and I almost got cheated out of it from having to photograph from camel-back.

Texture

The patterns of stripes and the undulation of the sand were mesmerizing.

The last three photos were taken not too far apart, yet notice the difference in the colors of sand.  Every little cloud that passed overhead yielded a new color on the sand.

Look at the shapes and forms!  Hamid probably thought I was batty because I couldn’t stop gasping at how remarkable it all was.

Me, Mark, Hamid, Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix

Two hours on a camel was just enough.  We got to camp and were shown our tent with little flat lumpy mattress things on the ground.  (Those guys in the breakfast room this morning gave me one good piece of advice – bring a pillow! I did of course; I never travel without my pillow.)

Trudging into camp

Our tent

We were alerted when sunset began and tore out into the dunes, running up as fast as we could, to take photos.  I was barefoot and was happy to learn that camel dung is hard as I ran over a whole field of it.  It was simply stunning, sunset on the sand.

Looking out of camp

Sunset begins

Looking at this photo especially is when I begin to think, could it be so?  Yes, it was.

Mark and me in the dunes

Happily, someone took a photo of us.

Back in camp we were sitting in our little “lounge” area and heard laughter and fun from another little area next door.  We went over to find young Dutch women with wine, so of course we joined them.  I don’t believe I’ve even seen anyone have as much fun as they had.  They’ve come to Merzouga and done this desert trek at least four times.  One was a teacher, one an artist, one a voice teacher, one I forget, and the fifth had a pretty high position with Alcoa and she had the most money and was generous with it according to them all.  We talked, laughed and drank wine and then Hamid came and took us for our dinner.  After that, the women were singing and having a great time while us old ones went to the tent and to sleep, only to be awakened at 5 a.m. so we could be on the camels for sunrise.

Wow – what a beginning to the morning…

The show of colors and shapes continued as the sun rose.

Two colors of dunes

In the photo, you can see me taking the picture.

All too soon, we were back – not that we minded getting off the camels and back to the riad for breakfast and a shower before we set out on the next leg of the journey.  We were about to head to Guercif not as a destination, but a stopping point between Merzouga and Oujda.  And we had the next surprise – we had to cross the Middle Atlas Mountains!

Next:  what do you mean it’s freezing and the car has no heat?

 

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