Monday, 4 April 2016

SA-HA-RA!!!

The Sahara, Zagora and Merzouga, Morocco
Saharan stars (taken by Catalina Antonieta Pino Rivas, 2016)

Very rare, or almost non existent (kinda unsure on this) for this Sheep to kick things off with the cover shot, but seriously, look at those stars. LOOK AT THEM! The Chilean who took this at Merzouga had myself and several other friendlies in an uproar because our flashy boxes weren't doing sqwat after dark. If this image doesn't convince you of the wonders brought about by overnighting it in the Sahara, I don't know what will.

Considering how easy one can reach it from southern Spain Morocco had always been a priority for me, but thanks to a lot of flack thrown my way (very long story) I'll never take that mother of a ferry again. After an unappealing stint in Tangier and a better one in Marrakech I was on my way to the Sahara for what's already damn clear was one of the most breathtaking experiences I've ever had. If you've got the time and you happen to be in North Africa, MAKE THE DAMN TRIP!
Sunset at Zagora (taken 2016)

Originally I was going to do a bus tour of the country (about 10 days) but for reasons I decided to do things on my own. This was a lesson in independence I'm happy to have learnt. However, figuring out how to reach the desert itself was at one point giving me a migraine. For a while I had no idea how I was going to do it and my coworkers' headaches started rivaling my own because I couldn't stop bitching about it!
Zagora (taken 2016)

Luckily I was to learn via Never Ending Footsteps that it's a given for many hostels and hotels around Marrakech to arrange tours to either Zagora or Merzouga via the Atlas Mountains which of course made me shut my damn mouth. Zagora lasts one night whilst Merzouga goes for two; these are the hot spots for an adventure kiddies. Since Morocco's hard enough to reach for an Aussie (we just ain't close enough for quick stints) and because I had the time I did both of these tours. Ups and downs to come.
The first Sahara group (taken by Yann Courtel, 2016)

Keeping the Atlas Mountains and the other stops for another post I've got brewing, I'll just get straight to the already delivered punch. The Sahara's frickin amazing! It's a marvel of a place and just about no one leaves it feeling any regret whatsoever. I have none! Seriously I don't and I have a terrible habit of dwelling on shit like most Capricorns. This was the highlight of my time in Morocco.

My first stop was in Zagora which I'll admit did less for me than Merzouga. I didn't hate it, no, but when one thinks of camping in the desert massive sand dunes and the odd palm tree should be pictured immediately. Sadly this wasn't the case (you also have to pay for your own scarfs which was an unwanted surprise); we were about twenty metres from a main road and the dunes had gravel and rocks filling in for them. Next to that the camel saddles they used out there belong in a torture museum next to Rebecca Black's Friday. THE PAIN!
Rocking the scarf (taken 2016)

That being the worst of it, there were many positivos to be found which I'm more than happy about. Hanging with some good company who I swear I'll see again one day, we were treated to some warm (it had to be because outside it was freezing!) and lovely Berber hospitality. There wasn't a moment where any of us were feeling left out.
Berber camp at Zagora (taken 2016)

Our Berber Yusuf was a born talker; he had so much to share including a few hand tricks I'm yet to master (too complicated to explain). His one setback was that he couldn't pronounce my name (I'm not being picky because I've never been fond of it either) so we settled on either 'Braheem' or 'the Kangaroo'. This was a compromise to remember.

Next to that there were some on the first tour who were curious about foreign expressions and sayings, so when it came to something Australian I dished out a 'BONZA' to the joy of said 'some'. Should you be hearing a lot of 'BONZAS' across Belgium, France or Colombia and find yourself wondering what the hell happened, this Sheep is to blame. BONZA! (There's a hand gesture to go with it also).
BONZA! with hands (taken by Sandra Londono, 2016)

Zagora won't go down as the worst tour I've done but it could've been better. Another positive worth bringing up is how I was dead to the world for eight hours straight come sleeping time. Usually I'm up two or three times in the night but to stay down from dusk to dawn is the thing of horror stories... and worth making me reach for the sky in victory.
Victory pose at Zagora (taken 2016)

After saying goodbye to my first tour and waiting at a nice hotel for the second one to pick me up (the hotel manager ended up giving me a lift to the bus somewhere in the middle) I was on a two night journey to Merzouga.
The second group of friendlies minus other friendlies (taken by Alex Du Mont, 2016)

The batch of new friendlies were great and upon learning what couscous meant in Arabic our morals became things of the past. I was feeling lucky because I've been on tours where I've wanted to punch someone in the neck but this wasn't the case. WINNING! After a night at a guesthouse we were on our way to Merzouga.
Merzouga (taken 2016)

Expectations were met upon reaching Merzouga. I wanted to see dunes and palm trees and I couldn't have been more ecstatic to see those bad boys and more. Saharan sand will make you weep and not because its hit you in the eye. The camel saddles in these parts didn't leave me walking around boat legged afterwards... but mine was more interested in the arse of the camel in front of me. That horny ship of the desert wasn't as calm as the others in the train which had me feeling edgy so I named it after one of my enemies and felt better for it.
Camels of Merzouga (taken 2016)

Our Berber camp was comfortable and the food was good but it wasn't as 'interactive' as the first I don't think. Their concept of a fire included burning more pizza boxes than wood so the heat was swift and always ending; that was the 'meh' of this place whilst everything else was brilliant. The moment we were off those camels (or falling on our backsides down a slope) we were climbing the dunes with fierce determination.
Pizza box fire (taken by Luciano Motta, 2016)

I cannot underline how huge these dunes were. We were up them in maybe fifteen minutes (could've been more or less but I honestly could not tell you) and the views made our jaws drop for all the right reasons. THIS. WAS. A. MEMORY. MADE! I will cherish this bad boy until my final day!

Zagora and Merzouga are different rides to be taken, each with their ups and downs, but do one or the other... or both of them if you want to make it count. If you've read this far without falling asleep you'll know I've seen some amazing things, smelt badarse horny camels and had a few epic selfies taken (my red sand scarf included which needs some sewing done on the sides if I'm not mistaken) so by all means, try this bad boy out! And let's not forget that special mint tea either...
Saharan Sunset (taken 2016)

BONZA!!!   

2 comments:

  1. I really like the gesture of BONZA!!!! :-))

    ReplyDelete
  2. It's a good thing is what it is :)

    ReplyDelete