Long delay between posts due to family life… First it was the Easter holidays, so I had my hands full juggling three children, sorry, two and a husband, and day trips exciting enough to keep everyone happy. Just as we were all enjoying ourselves, chicken pox struck the little one and he really suffered. He howled in agony with the blisters and I tried every trick in the book, drug in the pharmacy, and ‘been there/done that’ advice from friends. My own best tips now? Baking soda baths and George pig gel bruise soother that you put in the fridge! Sounds of “Owwwwww I need George!” whilst my husband and I ran backwards and forwards to the freezer (to expedite cooling!) were the Sheppard household soundtrack on repeat. His 4th birthday followed straight after so celebrations and other priorities came to the fore. He finally went back to school on Monday and I am just emerging out from under the mountain of chores that waited patiently to greet me. Well I’ve done some, but sod it, the rest can wait some more.
My Sahara trek is sadly fading into the past, however it is easy to be re-immersed in the experience, looking at the photos and videos posted by our trekking group, as we all try to escape back there, if only for a few minutes!
Where was I? …the end of our first day trekking. I can’t rush onto the second day without talking about the night sky, the sight of which is beyond imagination. I tried to describe it to my husband with great difficulty, and the only comparison I could think of is at the beginning of the Star Wars films when space is rolling towards you, only without the ‘A long time ago in a galaxy far far away’ words in the sky! However having had a recce on Youtube, it is rolling away and there are no stars, so my rubbish explanation becomes even more appalling. So despite it being beyond imagination….If you can try to envisage being in the middle of a vast expanse of desert, with an entirely uncluttered 360 degree view of the horizon, absolutely zero artificial light, and clear night sky…then simply put millions of tiny fairy lights of all shapes and sizes all around you, not just in the sky but all the way down to the horizon and around you in every direction. Beautiful. It never even occurred to me to try to take a photo or film, I automatically thought it would never translate. Luckily one of my fellow trekkers did, and she’s kindly let me share it on here.
It offers a tiny glimpse. It is definitely bucket list top 20-worthy – Saharan night sky. Too amazing for words.
The camp staff entertained themselves and us after dinner with water bottle music and Moroccan singing around the campfire (Berber TV according to Jamal). Sleep was pretty easy to come by after that cosy in my sleeping bag. Vix and I made our night time trips to the camp toilets together at first (tent over sand hollow, bag for toilet paper outside!), but by the end of the week, one of my favourite times was 4am – fleece and headtorch on, padding barefooted over cold sand to a nearby sand dune, peacefully tinkling under a twinkling sky.
Breakfast was an open air feast of porridge and honey, sometimes freshly made donuts or pancakes, sweet bread, cereals, orange juice, tea and coffee. Time to load up before starting trekking at 8:30am.
We soon developed an efficient routine of getting up and sorted, packing our tents and night bags away ready for loading on to the camels, breakfast, filling our hydration packs with our morning 1.5 litre water supply, taking any drugs required, and applying suncream before to Jamal’s shout of “YALLA!” meaning “Let’s get going!” sent us all scuttling off across the desert. We would leave the camp staff and camels behind to finish packing up and meet us ahead later at our lunch stop. I was mentally prepared for our second day trekking, having got the meltdown out of the way, I felt free and my plan was to stay right behind Jamal at the front of the pack, giving myself a psychological boost.
He’d been telling us all for days that sandals were the best for desert walking, which went against the trek company’s advice of needing support for your ankles, as we all compared our boots and comfort factors. Of course we should have listened to Jamal from the start as he was absolutely right. Within 10 minutes of walking in soft sand with boots on, sand has filled every available space and begins to apply a large amount of pressure on your foot, whilst your boot simply expands to accommodate even more sand and weighs extra with every step. It doesn’t take long before your toes are numb and it feels like you are wearing concrete blocks on your feet. There just isn’t time to keep stopping and emptying your boots, as any dilly dallying and you would be left behind, with your boots filling up again 3 steps later. I gave my boots to a camel and soon felt the benefit of cooler feet and sand that just washed over your sandals and out again as you trekked. Thank heavens for my panic purchase of trekking sandals the week before, they were absolutely essential. Those that didn’t bring sandals suffered more with their feet, that’s for sure. Camp staff footwear? Flip flops. There’s a clue there somewhere!!! After all my months of boot traumas.
We walked for 4 hours with a couple of 5 minute breaks and one for about 10-15 minutes to rest and snack on nuts and carbs. I found it much easier than the day before, probably because it is much cooler in the mornings, still hot but more bearable than the afternoons! I stuck right behind Jamal, concentrating on staying in his shadow and putting my feet in the sandy dints of his footsteps, which was marginally easier than walking without either! Every little helps!
Dunes as far as the eye can see! If you look carefully you can see where we have walked, as this view is behind us. It’s the same in the other direction too though…
At the end of our morning we approached lunch camp across a dry river bed. Fascinating to look at, absolutely rock hard, with perfect cracks around 6 inches deep.
Unfortunately this is the last photo I was able to take with my iPad, as a postprandial snooze with my head resting on my rucksack (iPad inside) cracked the LCD. I was quite cross at myself for that one, especially as it was a 40th birthday pressie from my boys only a few weeks earlier. I might have won the previous day’s challenge, but the desert had won this one. So the rest of my photos from here onwards are taken with my phone camera, which isn’t too bad, just not quite as clear as these. Doh!
We walked a further hour and a half in the afternoon which was the toughest part of the day again, entirely due to the heat but soon enough camp appeared. We were all really glad to have the first full day of trekking under our belt and our 4:30pm Moroccan tea and biscuits tasted glorious. Followed again by twilight, dinner and singing and dancing around the campfire. Briefly spoke to my husband with a teeny bit of signal, repeating one word throughout – amazing.