27 September 2015: The guides woke us at 5.30 well before dawn. We pulled on the clothes from the previous night and used the bathroom facilities. The choices were the one cubicle which had a light and apparently toilet paper or another which had neither and turned out to have no flush mechanism either. That was actually irrelevant anyway because the water tank was empty.
I relive last year’s fantastic holiday by bringing posts over from the trip blog. This doesn’t aim to be identical to the trip blog, but an improvement, with text edits and more / better photos. Find all these posts under the tag: Spain2015.
There were still stars in the sky as we set off on our camels towards the hotel. The riding was harder, perhaps because we were travelling a bit faster — we reached a scenic point just as the sun rose and stopped for a few minutes to take photos.
At least the younger members of the larger group were quiet so we all rode through the desert in silence, hearing the tread of the camels wide hooves and the birds waking up to the sun.
By 0730 we were at the Hotel Nomade Palace that gave us breakfast and the opportunity to shower. Breakfast was the usual for Morocco: bread, crepes, Vache qui Rit cheese, a hardboiled egg, yoghurt, orange juice, mint tea, and a selection of jams and the like.
On the long car ride back to Marrakech we stopped at our request at a shop in Erfoud to buy fossils and minerals. Deb and I bought a couple of tiny white onyx camels to remind us of our Sahara trip.
When we stopped for lunch we were lucky to get inside the restaurant moments before a massive thunderstorm broke overhead. The clouds had been almost purple as we got out of the car then thunder rolled and reverberated and rattled in a way quite unlike the claps we occasionally get in Wellington. The rain pelted down, and a few minutes later fell as hail.
The road flooded almost instantly, so careless passing vehicles sprayed red water as they drove through. The river bed across the road filled and a huge puddle gradually spread across the floor of the restaurant through the open door.
Coffee and tea have a different meaning in Morocco, so Rick carefully specified a large black coffee and some cold milk for his after lunch drink. When the drink arrived a photo became obligatory as he received a tiny glass of coffee and a large glass of cold milk.
Green tea here means Moroccan tea: hot water poured over a huge number of mint leaves and generally heavily sugared in the pot then served in a glass. At our Riad in Marrakech, Riad Abaca Badra, this is a superb mix, but out in the countryside I have often found it to be somewhat bitter and too strong. I guess a comparison would be with the stewed black tea associated in New Zealand with the railways.
Our drive was very long: it’s about 500 or 600 Km, often on roads that are winding over the Atlas Mountains, or barely two cars wide through villages. There were numerous police stops, now the holiday was over. Ibrahim, our driver, said the police are checking for people wearing seatbelts, or that vehicles are carrying the goods they claim to be carrying or that they have the correct permits. We were just waved through.
We stopped every few hours for food, drink or toilet breaks and so Ibrahim could have a rest, and finally arrived at Marrakech just at sunset: an orange ball sinking through the dust and haze.
Marrakech was a shock after the countryside: lights, traffic, dirt, noise, shops, buses. It really is different from its surroundings.
Luckily we’d ordered dinner at our Riad before leaving a few days earlier. Though we were exhausted we sat up after a few minutes rest and were served an exquisitely delicious meal with salad, tagines, of lemon chicken in my case and lamb and prunes in Deb’s case, then fruit tart and tea. The staff member who does the cooking is a superb chef. If you ever stay here, order dinner.
That concluded our 3 day desert tour. Today we mainly stayed in the Riad, enjoying the rooftop garden and resting, apart from a brief sortie to the money machine, the souks to buy a spread for the bed and a surprisingly good dinner at a French restaurant more or less next door, Le Comptoire du Pacha.
I must say, my legs are sore from the camel riding. I stiffen up if I sit for a bit, and am slow on stairs. Still, it was good fun and quite an experience.