8:30am departure again and the final leg of our journey towards M’Hamid – the gateway to the Sahara, where the road literally ends and the desert starts, so we would be leaving the minibuses and doing the rest on foot! There was a certain restlessness among the group by now, as we were all itching to ‘get on with it’, demonstrating an impatience typical of our modern lifestyles.
This time we were following alongside the Draa river and saw some evidence of the flood damage that hit southern Morocco last November, mainly to buildings. Otherwise it was simply outstanding in natural beauty.
Another couple of stops along the way:
Last stop was to buy traditional headscarves (shemagh) for the desert:
Before we knew it, we were greeted by our team of camels and their handlers, two chefs, a huge array of supplies, and two large tents set up at the edge of the desert. A strange mix of feelings presented as the vehicles drove away…this was it…time for our Sahara trek!
It is considered rude to take photos of people without their permission so there isn’t a picture of the camp as we arrived. We sat down to a fabulous lunch feast and had one more cup of Moroccan tea before finally setting off.
My poles are not even extended here (red rucksack/pink scarf), so these are pretty much our first steps of our 100km trek. We had only just finished lunch and were off at quite a hurried pace, probably around 2.30pm, walking east towards the sun. My backpack had all manner of unnecessary items in there, which I was to learn the hard way…
I think all the emotional and psychological build-up of the previous few months, the anticipation, the anxiety about whether I could do it or not, all let itself out once I knew there was no turning back. I had spent a couple of weeks wondering when I would hit my ‘wall’, and was hoping it wouldn’t come until I was at least halfway through the trek… silly me, think I could have had a better guess! So half an hour into the trek it was. A lovely fellow trekker called Hannah came straight over to me to offer moral support, closely followed by my buddy Vix, whilst Lhoucine, the guide, just kept gently saying “have some water”, “it’s the sun”, “have a rest”, “it’s okay” ***BIG smiles***. The heat, coupled with the sand dunes, made it as hard work as I feared it might be. No sooner have you fought your way up one dune, sand continuously slipping away under your feet, then you reach the peak to see another, even bigger one. Many more stretch before you, all the while the sun beats down on you. Time ceases to matter and it’s just a case of one step at a time.
Our youngest trekker Freddie (aged 10) got onto his support camel and our pace did seem to slow down a little as everyone felt the force of the Sahara. Something just sort of clicked with me, maybe it was the emotional release, maybe an acceptance of the conditions, I don’t know, but then things just got easier and before long we were at our first camp for the night. What a lovely sight that was, and the very calm atmosphere of such a peaceful place was soothing and comforting after such an intense few days of planning, organising, packing, saying goodbye, travelling, and anticipating. The guides did a demo of how to put your tent up (first time ever camping for me!) and I won us the ready made one! So it was time to relax, bond, enjoy the twilight and await our dinner!
It goes dark very quickly and so the first night was a learning curve in what to have to hand, and organisation of your camp bag. Fleece, head-torch, and toilet paper are the immediate essentials. Nothing else matters.
We’d only walked about 6 kilometres that first afternoon, but it felt like a lot more. What I knew for sure is that my training in the snowy Yorkshire Dales was no match for the Sahara heat, it was gonna be tough, but equally amazing, our group was very friendly and we were in for an experience of a lifetime!
More to share, part 4 coming soon.
Thanks for reading, hope you are enjoying the scenery!