Saturday, 8 September 2012

Day Three - Midelt to Merzouga (Sahara)

We got up early today and had breakfast at our campsite before setting off on the road ahead to the dessert!

The day before we had zig-zagged through the piste tracks of the Atlas mountains. As we arrived at our hotel in the dark it wasn't until we woke up and hit the road again that we noticed we seemed to have reached the other side of the mountains and were now in the Atlas Pleins. Flat lands spread beyond where the eyes could see with the odd cliff, giant rock or gorge breaking it up.

Our route today would be following a river that snakes through these pleins and rocks all the way to the dessert providing oasis palm lined settlements of traditional mud built towns along the way.

Sometimes you could not see the road behind you or the road ahead then all of a sudden you reach a bend and enter a gorge where the road goes down to follow the river and you see some extreme rock formations before repeating the process again.

Another few corners ahead and more open road and we reached a giant damned lake creating an amazing indigo stripe in this baron orange land.

You could really sense we were getting remote now and we were about to pass our last main town of Er Rachidia before driving along 80km of rough road to our dessert campsite.

We stopped shortly after the town at a place called Source Bleue de Meski. A campsite with six springs popping out or the ground below the ruins of an ancient Kasbah.

A small dam had been created so that visitors and locals could swim and relax on their journeys. There was a hut that sold drinks too. A young guy who spoke excellent English and French came and spoke to us for a while and showed us proudly these natural springs. We ended our visit (like most round here) sharing some tea with him in his shop. We eventually made a couple of purchases for gifts to take back home by exchanging some spare pairs of socks along with a few spare notes we had too!

We left and carried on our journey to north of Mergouza where we would stay for the night at the Auberge Camping Sahara. We were now definately in the dessert. Flat land with scattered rocks with the odd hill in the distance lined the way. You wouldn't want to break down here that's for sure!

We could now see the famous dunes of Erg Chebbi towering like gold in the distance. We reached our destination at 3pm. We grabbed a berber omelette (also cooked in a Tangine) from a local rural cafe called Fatimas just near our hotel. We relaxed for an hour reading and enjoying a dip in the 45 degree heat in their pool also created from a natural spring.

Just before sunset we set off on camels into the dunes to watch the sunset. Some of these dunes reach over 200 meters and stretch all the way into the Algerian Sahara. It was a remote landscape to say the least!

We ride 30 minutes into the dunes before dismounting and climbing up the highest dune to watch the sunset!

The dunes turn a bright orange as the sunsets and the warmth of the sand makes it beautiful to just nest down in and enjoy the views and sun set. Then just like that the suns gone and the light disappears quickly the only reminder of it being the heat still in the sands.

Before mounting our camel to return to our hotel for the night our guide shows us some souvenirs he conveniently carries around with him and we exchange some notes for a stone camel - the perfect reminder to go on our fireplace of the beautiful views we had just experienced!

Today we are off to Dades Gorges to the west on the way to Marrakech. We will be staying in a small Eco retreat guest house in the palm groves of Skoura for the night. There's no food or electricity so it may he Marrakech before I can update you on our adventure some more!

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