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Photo by Josephine Flohr, Elephant at Camp, Namibia

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Josephine Flohr,
Elephant at Camp, Namibia



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  #511  
Old 26 Mar 2015
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As we head deeper into the desert, the gravel piste turns into stretches of deep sand


I don't do as well as Neda

I don't want to blame my bike, but the weight is piled so high and so far back that I feel like I'm balancing a bowling ball on top of a broom. The motorcycle's front wheel weaves worryingly on the deep sand and on one stretch, I can't control the speed wobble and take a tumble onto the soft sand.

There's no way I'm getting this baby back upright by myself. I radio Neda, "Can you give me a hand?"


Neda: [click] [click] [click]
Gene: Really...?!?



Just for good measure, a couple of kms later I dump the bike on the other side as well...

Not that we're keeping score, but it's 2-0 for Neda. She's too well-mannered to point this out, but when she taps on the communicator and asks, "You okay?", all I hear in my head is "The score is 2-0 for me, bee-yotch".

Despite all the wobbles and falls, we are having a really good time. The scenery here is phenomenal: dark reddish-orange sands as far as the eye can see, that get deeper in colour (and depth) as the sun falls lower in the sky. Now this is what we thought Morocco would be like and we're not disappointed one bit!
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  #512  
Old 26 Mar 2015
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Lost in the desert.

From all the maps that I've looked up on-line, our place should be about 15 kms from the highway. At this point, my odometer reads 20 kms and we're still lost. We don't know which building is the right one, they all look the same and there are no signs whatsoever.

I have the GPS co-ordinates, but the pistes don't line up and it looks like we're just circling around where our stop for the evening should be.


Neda: "Let's stay in this one. They have camels!"


And then out of nowhere, Lawrence of Arabia pulls up on a motorcycle!

This guy worked at the place where we are staying. When they are expecting guests, they send search parties out into the area to help guide them in, since it's so confusing out here. We follow him back, and I'm wobbling all over the place, eying his small and nimble, light cycle ahead of me with envy.


Our place is right on an oasis...? Oooh, fancy!

I can't believe we're at the edge of the Sahara Desert. In Africa! On motorcycles! It's all so surreal! We're surrounded by massive sand dunes. I can't wait to go exploring tomorrow!!!
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  #513  
Old 27 Mar 2015
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Hi,

looked like you stayed in the same spot we did in 2012. But in 2012 they had muss less water there. The lake was much smaller (behind hotel).


and they had also camels :-) (this pic is from my buddy).

We had the coordinates too, but we arrived in pitch black ;-) This was a nice expierience .

The pool was nice, but to cold when we were there in November.


For gas stations go the Morocco knowledgebasis from Tim Cullis (also Member here) and load the fuel station waypoints in your GPS. Very handy
Maps, guidebooks, and GPS (installing maps, waypoints/POI, and creating routes)

Which way do you want to go next?

Best Regards
Martin
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  #514  
Old 31 Mar 2015
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Yes, that's the one, Martin! And thanks for the tips!
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  #515  
Old 31 Mar 2015
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/213.html



This is a close-up of the hotel we are staying at at the edge of the Sahara Desert. You can see the pistes that we took to get here yesterday. Funny, they seem really well defined from above, but when you're actually riding them, they criss-cross and seem to go all over the place. Thank goodness the GPS kinda pointed us in the right direction. Kinda.

So this entry is pretty much going to be about all those sand dunes you see right outside our back door.


This was a bivouac situated on the dunes outside of our hotel

We made it a point to wake up an hour before the sun was supposed to break over the horizon to trek out to a spot in the desert where we would be surrounded by sand dunes so we could catch a proper Saharan sunrise. We're told the colours are just magical at this time of day. It turns out you don't have to go too far to get full immersion - there are a couple of huge sand dunes nearby and the minute you go around the corner you could just as well be in the middle of the Sahara instead of a mere kilometer away from the edge.

I brought my GPS on our morning hike just in case, but we didn't really need it because we didn't get very far in.


About a km away from the hotel - Sand for as far as the eye can see in all directions.
It could've been 300 kms in!



Amazing patterns sculpted by the wind

We were in awe of all the different shapes of the dunes and the patterns that the winds blew the sands into. I found the ridges very fascinating and we trudged a haphazard path around the desert trying to find a nice sharp edge that was just the right angle against the sun, had an interesting curve to it and bonus if it had a cool pattern on the windward face. And of course, all the time trying to approach the dune from the right direction so we wouldn't dirty the sands with our footprints.

It turned out to be a fun game which distracted me just enough for me not to notice that we were doing A LOT of hiking.


"Be vewy, vewy kwayite. We're hunting doones..."
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  #516  
Old 31 Mar 2015
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Amazing, amazing, amazing! The colours, the shapes, the patterns. Glad I brought a spare battery for the camera...


I would love to watch a time-lapse video to see how these patterns are created!


Having such a good time out here!


Part of me wishes we could just hover over these dunes. Partly because I don't like disturbing the sand with our footprints, but mainly because I'm just lazy...


Field of cool patterns. I have literally 100s of more shots of the desert...
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  #517  
Old 31 Mar 2015
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Heading back to the hotel. You can see a little of the oasis up ahead


Upon our arrival, we returned some stuff to the desert that we had borrowed


Moroccan the Cats-bah


Moroccan the Sheeps-baaaaah

These sheep were running away from huge worms lurking underneath the sands of Erg Arrakis. Actually, they were being chased away from our hotel by the staff. Turns out there are some really tasty plants on our patio, which are meant more as decorations for the guests, not as a snack for these sheep...


This 4x4 was having a great time making runs up and down this massive sand dune outside of our hotel

The largest sand dunes in Morocco can be found here at Erg Chebbi, rising up over 150 metres in height. "Erg" is the Arabic word for dune field, and Erg Chebbi is about 200 square kms of dunes. They say that the orange colour of the sands here are particular to this one place only, which makes it a very popular spot for tourists.
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  #518  
Old 31 Mar 2015
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While hanging out on the patio, we heard the sound of dirtbikes. So we came out to investigate.

Giacomo, on the right, runs a company that offers motorcycle tours of Morocco. Here he is with a very lucky customer, Gianluca from Italy, who got some intensive one-on-one training with the former off-road racer. They just happened to stop at our hotel to come in for a quick snack, so we got to talking with them.

One of the items on our bucketlist is to ride sand dunes on a dirtbike, so we asked Giacomo if he had any spots open in the next few days. I could sense he was holding back much scoffing and laughter as he regretfully informed us that he was booked for the next couple of *months*. Dammit. Sometimes it's great just showing up and going with the flow, but for other things, it seems like you actually need to plan them out well in advance.

We took Giacomo's e-mail address and we will be using it in the very near future.


So Jelly!!!

We watched with extreme envy as the dirtbikers suited up and remounted their four-strokes and they braaaped off into the sand dunes. My camera chased after them like an excited dog, until they were well out-of-sight.

*sigh* We SOOOOOOO wanted to do this, and in the back of our minds we thought we could just show up, rent some bikes and have a great story to tell at the end of the day.

But instead, we booked a camel tour of the sand dunes, with an overnight stay in a Berber tent...


Later on in the evening: Camels! I just need to get them to stand up so I can get a picture of their feet!

Neda turned to me quickly and lectured me sternly, "These aren't camels. Camels have two humps. These are dromedaries. They only have one hump. So you're not going to be making any dumb camel toe jokes on the blog!"

Hrmph. We'll see about that, Neda!


Neda made a new friend. I can already tell by the look in her eye that
she is mentally calculating how much space she has left in her tankbag....



I can't even imagine what this dromedary is thinking about Neda right now...

Unfortunately, I didn't get a lot of shots after this because dark clouds rolled in fast from the south-east. We had nervously checked the forecast beforehand and although it predicted rain, we thought: hey, we're in the freakin' Sahara Desert, ain't no rain gonna follow us here! But the skies darkened ominously and the winds picked up anyway, a sure sign that precipitation was imminent.

We looked at each other, then at the line of camels in front of us. We really didn't want to go trekking out there in a downpour, not get any pictures of a Sahara sunset (which was the main reason we booked the tour) and also spend the night sleeping in a cold and wet bivouac! How do we gracefully back out of the camel tour that we had reserved?

*sigh* So here we are in the freakin' Sahara desert. Supposedly one of the driest places on earth. And we've brought rain with us...
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Last edited by lightcycle; 31 Mar 2015 at 00:45.
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  #519  
Old 31 Mar 2015
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lightcycle View Post
So you're not going to be making any dumb camel toe jokes on the blog!"



And we've brought rain with us...

No such thing as a dumb camel toe joke Neda, so cut loose Gene


If you 2 can make it rain in the Sahara, you are wasting your talents
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  #520  
Old 2 Apr 2015
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bucket1960 View Post
If you 2 can make it rain in the Sahara, you are wasting your talents
I hear you. California, we're coming to help you out!
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  #521  
Old 3 Apr 2015
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/214.html


Average rainfall in the Sahara Desert 2.5 cms per year. Which they got all of last night...

When we asked to cancel our reservation for the camel, er dromedary tour, the hotel wasn't that happy. They tried to convince us into heading out into the coming storm. But they were more than accommodating when we told them we were merely postponing our trek till tomorrow, thus guaranteeing an extra night in their expensive desert resort. Suddenly everyone was smiles again...

I did some research and while the whole of the Sahara only receives 25 mm (about an inch) of rain a year, it's mainly the eastern region of the desert that gets even less than that. The western section where we were staying gets about 100 mm annually, which explained the presence of the oasis around our hotel.

So we're not heavily cursed by rain, only just slightly jinxed...

Two Germans that were booked on the same dromedary tour that we were supposed to be on last night arrived back this morning. Although they had a good time, they told us that they didn't see a desert sunset and they were wearing rain clothes the entire trek. I'm so glad we have the freedom to adjust our schedules this way, it's such a luxury!



So today the weather is looking much better. There are still residual clouds from the shower last night, but we're hopeful we'll catch a nice sunset. This is only an overnight tour, and the path that we're taking is not far from the hotel, maybe a little further than where we hiked the morning before. But it's all about being on a camel, er dromedary! There are bivouacs set up just on the other side of the huge dune outside our hotel, and we're told it's a short dromedary ride around the corner.

There are some camel treks that take you three-days into the Sahara, but from what we saw yesterday morning, whether it's three days or one hour, you can get a pretty immersive experience either way.


Alice the dromedary has one hump...

Said, our tour guide, also works at the hotel and he brought out the same dromedaries that we saw yesterday. He gave Neda the one that she bonded with the day before, which was really nice, and we headed out into the desert, just the three of us. It was pretty cool not having to share the tour with anyone else so we could stop and take lots of pictures.


Said sends signals to the dromedaries with a series of clicks and noises made with his tongue

We found out that the dromedaries are rented by the tour guides from a stable around the corner. They are all trained to respond to the same clicks and noises so everyone who takes them will know how to give them directions. Either Said didn't know the language, or our droms were very hungry because every time he let go of the reins, they didn't listen to his commands and would wander off to the nearest grass tufts to dine.
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  #522  
Old 3 Apr 2015
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Riding a Drom is like riding a motorcycle:


Neda is hanging off her drom, trying to get a knee down.


Lowside! You get on and off camels when they are kneeling down.
You have to hold on tight during mounting/dismounting, or much Droma ensues...


We told Said that we liked to take lots of pictures and he responded that it would probably be better to ditch the droms and go hiking instead to spots where camels couldn't reach. He said we looked to be in fairly good shape, so he showed us where the highest dune was in the area and said that we could catch a great sunset at the peak.


A little Dragon Ball Z action in the desert

I named my steed Des. Short for DesmoDromedary. Because it was CAMelshaft-driven.


Good reception out in the desert!

Said was born in the Erg Chebbi dunes and is descended from a long line of Berber farmers. He lives in Erfoud, which is 70kms north of the Erg and he comes in to work for the hotel and to teach tourists about the Berber way of life. When we told him we liked to take pictures, he changed the tour around to accommodate our interests.


Just like in motorcycle stunting, the Berbers also have their version of the "Jesus Christ" pose

Said brings the droms back to the stable in style, and we begin the long hike up the tallest dune.
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  #523  
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In the distance Said meets up with a fellow tour guide taking more tourists to the other dunes


Hiking up to secure our seats for the show. You can see the bivouacs where we are staying tonight below us on the left


We had to take many breaks on our way up, the view gets more magnificent the higher we get


In the distance, the other tourists that we saw earlier hike a smaller dune. Haha! We win!


The hour before sunset and the hour after sunrise are the best times to experience the Sahara!

Although the colours of the Sahara are quite a sight during the day, they are washed out and there is an absence of contrast on the dunes because of the overhead sun. The shadows cast by the scalloped sand domes as well as the orange colours that are set aflame during sunrise and sunset are absolutely awe-inspiring by comparison!
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  #524  
Old 3 Apr 2015
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Neda takes some amazing shots of the sun falling behind the distant horizon


This is just one of those magical moments, made even more special
because we were sharing it together up here on this peak.


After the awesome sunset, we ran/slid down the dune, each step causing mini-avalanches on our way to the bivouac. Much easier and more fun going down than up!


At the camp, we had to get rid of all the sand in our shoes once again.


Sneaking a peek into the kitchen bivouac. Smells delicious!

We joined another larger tour group in the bivouac and shared our experiences of Morocco. They were a friendly bunch of Canadians and Germans and a few Australians who were traveling by tour bus. Listening to their itinerary, I couldn't help feeling a bit smug about seeing the country on our schedule and choosing our own path.


After dinner, Said and the other tour guides brought out the Moroccan drums for the nightly entertainment
The heads of the drums have to be heated up for them to sound better and be softer to the hands
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Listening to the Berbershop Quartet perform by the campfire

There was much drumming, chanting and singing by everyone, which was surprising since there was no alcohol involved. The merriment continued into the night, but since Neda and I are old, we retired early into our bivouac. Although the temperatures in the desert reach the freezing point overnight, the heavy fabrics that covered the tent and our mattresses kept us quite warm. We were still wearing every piece of clothing in bed though...


5AM wakeup call. While I am bleary-eyed and groggy, Neda is a morning person
so she is the least popular person in the campsite as we all get ready to mount our dromedaries


We are woken up just a few short hours later by the tour guides who shoveled all of our lethargic asses onto the droms to catch a desert sunrise. Well, almost everyone... Said pulled us aside and said he would take us to a better spot for picture-taking, but we would have to ditch the droms again.

I like this special treatment!


While the rest of the tour group is below us on the right, we hiked to a higher peak to get a better vantage point!


Playing around while waiting for the sun to rise


The sun slowly begins to peek up above the horizon and the dark sands begin to glow like embers being stoked
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