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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Dawn till sunset entertainment

We awoke at dawn to tour the city.  The whole point in staying in the city rather than the more comfy hotels the other side of the river was that you can get up early before the hordes arrive and tour the city while its quiet.  Here’s a shot taken from the top of city just after dawn.

We had a bit of trouble at first finding the main entrance.  So, we had to wait for the first tour guide to show up with a handful of people and follow him around to the far edge of the city where you could get in.  From there we just wandered the streets.

Despite the early hour, the souvenirs were already out for sale.

And a few areas were off limits.  Though the two signs here seem to contradict one another.

A fair bit of the city is under renovation.  Though it would seem that maybe its not the first renovation since the 1600’s.  Pretty sure they didn’t have rebar back then.

When we finished our walk, we went back to the hotel for breakfast.  A bit of a change from the last two hotels that were well versed and prepared to deal with food allergies.  Despite telling us that they would have no problem preparing special food – there was bread and eggs.  Neither of which can either of us eat.  Though Dave’s allergies are not as severe, and Melissa can cheat and eat eggs once in a while.  So, an omelet it shall be.

Then it was back across the river to where the car was parked with the luggage hauled by donkey.

We had another 5-hour drive across more of the Atlas Mountains to reach Kasbah Mohayut at Merzouga at the edge of the Sahara Dessert.  We were really surprised to discover how suddenly the sand dunes start.  You would think it would be a gradual growing of an increase of sand.  But no, the hotels that cater to the tourists and take them into the dunes – you can drive right up to them and walk out the back onto the dunes.

A quick word on driving here – while the fact that google maps won’t do anything but display the “preview” mode.  You would have a pretty hard time getting lost here.  On the 5-hour drive, there were only about 10 turns.  And so few roads across the country that you couldn’t make a wrong turn if you tried.  On the 100 miles across the desert from the Atlas down to the hotel, we only had to check the map driving through the towns – because that’s the only place that had any cross streets.  Other than that, you just drive on a long road with desert on both sides for mile after mile.  And today, mostly without seeing another vehicle for miles.  And, we must be a ways past where the bulk of tourists go because there aren’t any tourist buses on this route.

We did make one mistake though.  When we got to within a mile or so of the hotel, the road Google maps told us to turn on just wasn’t there.  First inaccuracy we have seen.  Melissa spotted what she thought was a sign for the hotel that pointed down a long dirt road across the desert.  We do a U-turn and go back and drive down the bumpy dusty road till we get within 100 yards of the hotel, only to drive right across a paved road.  Oops.  Apparently, there was a paved road here – we just didn’t go far enough past where Google said it should be to find it.

We arrived at the hotel around 2pm and we won’t depart on our camel trek till 5pm, so time for a bottle of wine.  Because as Dave said, “If I have to stare at a camel ass the next two hours, I need more wine.”  And since we didn’t stop for lunch we asked for food.  Apparently, our only option was something called a Berber omelet – eggs cooked in a tomato sauce rich with spices.  Yet again eggs – which we shouldn’t eat – but they were yummy.

Oh and the hotel has WIFI, so time to catch up on email because we haven’t had a fix for three days running now.  After a pleasant afternoon hanging out in the gardens at the hotel, we boarded camels for a trek into the desert to an oasis where we were spending the night in “traditional” Berber tents.  (Tomorrow we learn what a real Berber tent looks like when we visit the locals – and trust me here – what they do for the tourists is a way cleaned up version.)  The guides just had us hop aboard the camels with no instruction.  Dave said he thought there should be a safety lecture before departing, “In the event of a water landing your saddle can be used as a flotation device...”

Here’s Melissa’s camel.  Isn’t she cute?

Melissa's camel zippier than Dave’s.  Dave swears whether it's donkeys, horses, and now camels they must sense Melissa's high energy vibe because they are always trying to get ahead of Dave’s ride.  Sure enough, Melissa’s camel is always trying to pass Dave, so he gives her a pat on the head as we depart the hotel.

Then we are off across the dunes.  Where one of our favorite movies – Sahara – filmed the dune scenes where the guys are handcuffed to the bed of a pickup truck.

Along the way we see wells.  Turns out water here is easy to get at – often only a few meters down if you know where to dig.

Our guides are all Berber dressed in traditional clothing.  Notice that this one is barefoot and trekked the two miles across the dunes to the camp.

Melissa is having fun shooting pictures from the camel.  This is her in the back and Dave in the front.

Along the way we saw several trucks zipping across the dunes.  This one is carrying barrels of water to refil the facilities at our camp.

There were a couple of these collections of tents at the site when we arrived about 90 minutes after leaving the hotel.  Note the water tank atop the tent at the left.  That’s where the bathroom is.  That tank is no where near enough to serve everyone.  It ran out twice in the one night we were there.  When we awoke the next morning, Melissa ran into an older lady who was chattering in French about not being able to flush the toilet.  And you should have seen the look on her face when she realized the sink didn’t work either and she couldn’t wash her hands.  We’re used to this deal in third world countries – sometimes the facilities work – and sometimes they don’t.  You just gotta roll with it.

Dave recorded the lat/long of our location.  Here is what the Google map shows at that location.  Pretty amazing that it shows “Camp Mohayut” within feet of where Dave marked our location and the satellite map shows the tents.

Sandboarding here is a sport no doubt developed as a thing to charge the tourists to do.  It’s likely harder on the gear than snowboarding but does look like fun.  One of the little kids along with us would sit on the board and ride down the dunes like a sled.

The sunset turned the dunes an amazing shade of orange.

After which it was time for dinner in a big Berber tent.  There was a ton of food – soup, salad, chicken tagine, and fruit for dessert.  They even remembered that we can’t eat wheat and didn’t serve us the soup as it had noodles in it.  There we met Caroline and Danny from Quebec and enjoyed chatting away the evening with them.  We hope to see them this summer when they might visit Seattle.  After that, it was time for traditional Berber entertainment around the campfire.

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