After ten days in the Blue Gazelle campsite in Merzouga we decided to move on. We had really enjoyed our time at the base of the high dunes and Mohamed’s hospitality, but all good things must come to an end. The 4x4 excursion we had taken was excellent, we can highly recommend it to other travellers. Mohamed is an excellent and knowledgeable guide, making the trip really interesting. The Camel trek up into the dunes the following evening, to watch the magnificent sunset was also an amazing experience to say the least. Niki will probably remember it more than most as she was thrown off her camel, but I know we will all look back on it as a memorable experience and have a good laugh about it, even if it is at Niki’s expense.
The Blue Gazelle site was a great choice, we could have chosen one of a dozen different campsites, but I’m sure we couldn’t have found anything better, and will certainly go back again at some point in the future. There can be few campsites where you can enjoy superb hospitality, friendliness and fresh crepe’s every morning, and all for just €5 per day, including mains electric hook-up, beautifully clean facilities and piping hot water in the showers.
Niki’s love of photography was evident by the amount of photo’s she took, nearly a thousand since she arrived at the end of December, a great number of which have been of the desert and dunes of Merzouga.
Having said our goodbyes to everyone at the Blue Gazelle we set off, watching the beautiful golden sane dunes of Erg Chebbi disappear behind us. We retraced our tracks back to Rissani, the roads covered in mud filled potholes. From Rissani the road turned northwards towards Goulmime then west to Tinerhir and the famous Todra Gorge. The drive was both interesting for the scenery, and relaxing, as we were taking it nice and steady. We stopped for coffee and a Kifta sandwich in Tinejdad, then drove the final kilometres to Tinerhir, where we turned right towards the famous Todra Gorge, stopping about five kilometres before the Gorge itself, in the “Le Soleil" campsite. The Le Soleil is a super campsite we’ve stayed at on a number of occasions over the years.
Although the days were sunny and warm it turned cold in the evenings once the sun had set; the heating switched on to a low setting overnight.
It didn’t take long to drive along the valley road to reach the gorge. There were few people about, the sun not having reached the bottom of the gorge. It felt cold as we stepped out to take photo’s. At the far end of the gorge a couple of campers were parked up, the owners walking or climbing in rocky terrain. I went for a walk myself and within a short time had made my way up to a vantage point looking down into the valley, Godfredo’s camper looking very small in the distance. By mid morning the sun had penetrated the valley and the temperature rose swiftly. Local traders began to set out their stalls full of souvenirs, postcards and more, waiting for the coach groups to arrive; Todra Gorge being one of the most popular sights for tourists.
Heading back through the gorge we stopped for coffee at one of the many cafe’s set out along the road. The coffee was delicious, the waiter friendly, maybe too friendly as he started talking to us, explaining that his wife worked for a nearby we omens cooperative, making carpets, rugs and also selling various local arts and crafts. Gillian & Godfredo were keen to have a look. Our waiter came with us, leaving the cafe after telling another waiter where he was going. The cooperative was situated at the back of the village, tucked away in a small alleyway. It looked like an old but ordinary house. Our waiters wife was nowhere to be seen, but he introduced us to his “brother-in-law” who offered us tea before starting off with his sales pitch. It was the usual hassle trying to get us to buy something, which was a pity as we had all hoped it would be nice to see the carpets being made, as we were led to believe. In the end both Godfredo and Niki bought something, Niki getting a very good price on a small rug she had found, Godfredo buying a larger carpet for €50, which I thought was expensive, but it was his choice.
We took a taxi into the centre of Tinehir. The sky was overcast and didn’t look promising, but we wanted to visit the souk. After an hour or so’s wandering we found a restaurant for lunch. While eating we struck up a conversation with a young local man who asked if we had seen the Jewish ghetto area, we hadn’t but thought it would be interesting. Our new friend led the way and we spent an enjoyable and very interesting couple of hours walking through the ghetto, it really was an eye opener; Niki taking dozens of photo’s.
Back in the souk we found the meat an vegetable areas where we bought a couple of kilo’s of lamb to barbecue and vegetables to make tajine’s.
The two days in Tinehir had passed quickly, but enjoyably, we were ready for the next stage of our journey to Ouazazate. Once again the drive was superb as we passed through many small villages and towns with lots of interesting buildings, the landscape constantly changing. As we drove along we could see the Atlas mountains to the north, the tops covered in fresh snow, the peaks highlighted in the strong sunlight. It was an easy drive, only 180 kilometres. Arriving in Ouazazate we checked into the Municipal campsite, found a great pitch and set up our barbecues to cook our lamb. Niki prepared salad and vegetables, which with the barbecued lamb made for a memorable lunch, we wouldn’t be eating again today as we all felt full to bursting point. There is nothing nicer than a tasty barbecue sitting outside in beautiful sunshine with a bottle of good red wine.
I walked around the campsite late in the afternoon, there was an elderly Renault van converted to a camper, it looked like it had seen quite a few adventures. I spoke to the Dutch couple who owned it, about my age they had travelled extensively, we talked for half an hour about our travels and the merits of a van conversion as opposed to purpose built camper’s or motorhome’s. Later an english couple passed by and we had an interesting hour chatting away and sharing a glass of wine, another widely travelled couple who now live in France but are considering selling up and travelling full time.
It seems I've been travelling all my life. For the past eight years I've been following a simple, nomadic lifestyle, living and traveling full time in a camper van and meeting with other like minded travellers.
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