We left the Atlas Mountains and began the second part of our adventure, which was a 4×4 tour and camel trek through the Sahara.
Our guide picked us up from our hotel an we started the long drive towards the Sahara. The road was long and treacherous as it weaves its way through the Atlas Mountains and makes the Sea-to-Sky Highway look like a piece of cake. We saw every type of climate possible: forests of palm trees, flat desert, and snow-capped mountain. And I felt woozy from all the twists and turns.
I should say I was a bit reluctant and, frankly, freaked out to get on a camel. I’ve never even been on a horse, so a camel was a bit of a stretch. Our guide pulled up to the spot where the camels (actually named a dromedaries if they only have one hump) were waiting for us and the other sucker tourists. I was taking a picture and the next thing I know, I was ushered towards a camel and sitting on top. The camel lurched upwards and I held on for dear life, as well as to my camera in the hopes that I could do both successfully. About 1 minute into being on a camel, I thought I had made a grave error. My butt hurt, my hands were tense from holding on so tight and there was no way for me to communicate with the non-English speaking person pulling the camels. I checked my watch and almost cried out when it read that we had only been on top of this beast for 5 minutes. We were told it would be about an hour and a half long journey. I was greatly relieved when we passed through two sand dunes 20 minutes later and spotted our campsite. I didn’t care that we had paid for a longer trek. I just wanted off. We snapped a few photos, our camel grunted and we were thankfully able to get off. I couldn’t help but wonder how the camels are treated and ended up feeling like I had done something malicious by taking part in a camel trek.
We then got to watch the sun set over the Sahara, which was a beautiful experience and needs no further explanation. At this moment, gratitude for being alive and able to experience different places on this planet was all we could do.
The scariest part was the bivouac (meaning tent). The Sahara gets really cold at night. Phil and I had done our best to prepare, but I was not exactly certain we had gotten it right. Again, my germaphobic ways did not help. I thought about who else had slept there, when the last time all the linens were washed, how they cleaned the dishes we ate off of, and whether I should even bother with the washrooms. All my concerns turned out to be validated. I am just not a camper. I won’t complain because our experience in the Atlas Mountains makes these things still pale in comparison and are not real problems. Spending 1 night camping in the Sahara is not the same as running out of water in your village.
We gratefully climbed back into our 4×4 the next morning and declined the offer of getting on the camel again. Unfortunately, our guide had become sick from something he ate the day before, so we had to swap to a taxi in Ouzazarte (Hollywood of the desert – where some major films have been made, like 300 and Body of Lies). I couldn’t believe we had managed to not get sick and yet our local guide was doubled over with a bug of some sort. There is maybe something to be said for being vegetarian whilst traveling.
We made our ways through the winding roads between the Sahara and Marrakech and arrived just as the sun was setting and rush hour was settling in. It was chaos like I’ve never experienced before.