Tuesday, 11 March 2014

10th March

The pool at Source Bleue de Meski
Driving from Er Rachidia to Erfoud we stopped at Source Bleue de Meski. The spring waters flow from a cave at the foot of the cliff into a pool that was constructed by the French Foreign Legion. Unfortunately since then a rather naff hotel has been built, (it looked abandoned, but you can’t always tell), which spoils it a bit. The pool is also fed from the Wadi Ziz which is diverted to water the fertile fields around the area. We were shown around by a pleasant young man who showed us his house built into the rock. Needless to say we got the sales pitch, although he was more interested in bartering any western clothes (especially sports socks!!?) for carpets or Berber headdresses. Being on a restricted sock regime i.e. I gotta wash the few that I brought with me - I had nothing to offer. Then he asked if we had any medicines to trade, at this point we left as we thought he was joking. As part of our wanderings we had been asked if we minded taking a woman with us to Erfoud as her car had broken down and she needed to get home. Turns out it was a French woman called Verou(?) She is a bit of a free spirit and had been travelling around Morocco and has been in Erfoud for about 3 months. She seemed to know everyone as we travelled along the road. We stopped at a vantage point that she suggested and were blown away by the view down into the gorge. This was a highly cultivated oasis, where we could see lots of fruits and veg. being grown. During our conversation Verou told us that medicines including general painkillers etc are very expensive here. This seemed to contradict some previous information that health care here for Moroccans was free!

Having dropped Verou off in Erfoud we found our meeting point, the Hotel Tizimi. We decided to have a light lunch as there was still over an hour to go before we were due to be picked up for our desert experience. Lunch was an excellent affair as we shared 3 versions of briouattes. Briouattes are filled with meat (mostly chicken or lamb) mixed with cheese, lemon and pepper. They are wrapped in warqa (a paper-thin Moroccan dough) and are a bit like a samosa in taste. The variants we had were beef, chicken and cheese which we shared.

At the assigned hour our lift arrived and we loaded our overnight bags and ourselves into his 4x4. As we drove out of town I commented on the amount of rubbish that was scatted around. We were informed that the local rubbish dump was close by and the plastic bags were being blown by the strong wind. Hmm, not a good intro to the Sahara. The further we got out of town the more we appreciated the expanse of the area. We were taken to the Auberge Du Sud where we were offered the traditional mint tea as relaxed waiting for our “drom” (read that as dromedary) ride out for our overnight desert experience.

Drom shadows on the sand
When the time came we were taken a bit further into the desert in the 4x4 to where the “droms” were. There was no choice in which one you had and think I got the ugliest one! “Del the drom” was the last in the line and was bit of a scrapper. It (I have no idea if it was a him or her) had it’s right ear half chewed off from fighting. Tamsin’s drom, “Don” was the tallest and caused her trouble getting on and Hanna’s, “Dave” looked the smallest of the three. Getting on is pretty straightforward and involves swinging your leg over the saddle, and then the handler then gets it to stand up. This involves hanging on tight to the handle in the front middle of the saddle as the drom lurches to its feet, if you’re not ready for it, it could be easy to tip off onto the sand. Fortunately none of that happened and we started our journey. The drom saddle has no stirrups or reins (as we were being led) so you just sit there and enjoy the ride. On the flat and uphill there’s almost no reason to hold on, however going downhill is another thing. As the drom puts its feet down onto the sand it initially holds then gives, this results in a jolty ride and so you have to hold on tight.

Dune ridges
After a while we stopped to watch the sunset. Getting off is the reverse of getting on. It’s only after you get off that you notice how much your legs hurt from being held apart. Sadly the sunset was blighted by low cloud at the wrong moment so we continued on to camp. We were met with mint tea as we waited for the other parties to arrive - a party of 4 American women. (one very loudly informed anyone that didn’t want to hear that she was from North Carolina – maybe they have hearing/learning issues there?), and an American nuclear family of 4 with one of each .  The overnight stay was in a luxury tented camp complete with flushing loo and mattress.

Slumbing it Berber style

Dinner was at 07:30 and started with bread and olives followed by a salad of tomatoes, cucumber, onions, squash, rice, potatoes; this was followed by a beef tagine, and then a vegetable tagine and then cooked chicken. We have no idea who else was supposed to be coming, but they didn’t turn up! And then we had a bowl of fruit – phew!! We had been promised entertainment and this was laid on by the drom handlers in the form of percussion music and singing, they sang a few songs and started to do some dancing which they encouraged us to join in. Hanna took up the challenge as Tamsin and I were the only people to decline from the 11 of us. They then got us all involved in playing the drums I was offered the cymbals which I was useless at (it helps if you have a sense of rhythm) and singing along. Sadly they then asked the American girl if she could sing a song, she choose the American National Anthem – I’ll make no comment. After this it was off to bed as we had an early start to see the sunrise over the dunes at around 06:30.  

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