A beautiful sunny day greeted us when we woke this morning. A knock on the camper door at 8:30 was Mohamed bringing us fresh capes again, what a super host and friendly person he is. Niki and I walked into the nearby town centre to buy some bread and milk and to browse the shops full of souvenirs and touristy things. Niki bought me a Tuareg head scarf, and a small hand made camel made of camel leather which she wanted for Flavio, her grandson, I bought a pair of African style cotton trousers, great for wearing around the campsites; we’re big spenders, the camel cost €2, the scarf €3 and my trousers €10, cheap, yes, but it ’s fun and helps the locals.
After lunch we relaxed in the sunshine until 3:45 when our camel herders and four live camels turned up to take us up into the high dunes to watch the sunset. One of the camels seemed nervous and was reluctant to sit down, he started to pull away and stamp his feet, he was to be my mount. Having climbed aboard I watched as Niki, Gillian and Godfredo mounted and we set off. We were riding the camels for about 30 minutes when we arrived at a point from which we would be able to scale a steep dune for a great view of the sunset. Godfredo decided not to join us, but stay with the camels and one of the herders. Niki, Gillian and I set off with Hassan up the dunes, it was a steep climb made more difficult by the one step forward, two steps back routine that the soft sand demanded. We climbed about 50 metres and sat on the ridge line at the top of a dune, the silence and tranquility of our surroundings perfect for reflection and looking back on our journey so far. As the sun dipped in the sky the colours of the dunes constantly changed, the shadows lengthened and we managed to take some great photo’s. With the sun just about to drop below the horizon and the moon rising brightly behind us it was difficult to know which way to turn to take in the magnificent scenery.
Once the sun had dropped below the horizon it was time to retrace our tracks with the camels and return to the campsite. My camel still wasn’t too happy and was reluctant to sit once more. After a few minutes Hassan managed to calm the animal down enough for me to hop a board. Niki, Gillian and Godfredo were already up on their camels and we set off. I was last in line, Niki in front of me. My camel kept prodding Niki’s camel and after a couple of minutes decided it didn’t like being prodded and tried to retaliate. Trying to turn round Niki’s camel lurched to one side and bucked a little which threw Niki off, she landed on her backside and must have pulled a ligament as she found it difficult to move, although nothing seemed to be broken. Once over the shock Niki managed to get to her feet and remounted the camel, which was brave of her. We returned to the campsite and despite Niki feeling bruised and stiff went to the terrace for our soup supper. Mohamed the campsite owner who had arranged the camel ride was upset to hear of Niki’s fall and was very apologetic. After a good rub with Voltaren and an anti-inflammatory tablet Niki and I went to bed hoping the aches and pains Niki had would be better in the morning.
NOTE: Erg Chebbi is one of Morocco's two Saharan ergs. The second one being Erg Chigaga near M’hamid. Ergs are large dunes that have been formed by wind-blown sand.The sand dunes of Erg Chebbi are up to 150 meters high, are approximately 22 kilometres long and between 5 and 10 kilometres wide, and growing.
Merzouga is situated at the base of the dunes. The nearest main towns are Rissani, about 40 kilometres away and Erfoud, about 60 kilometres away.
From the 8th to the 14th century there was a separate kingdom, known as Sijilmassa, which gained it’s prosperity from the caravan routes. During the hottest times of the year, Moroccans come to Erg Chebbi to be buried neck-deep in the hot sand for a few minutes at a time. Moroccans believe this to be a wonderful way to treat rheumatism, a sand sauna if you like.
Despite being at the very edge of the desert In 2006 flooding next to the dunes destroyed many buildings and killed three people.
It seems I've been travelling for most of my life.
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