As the big day arrived, camel trekking day, I was apprehensive. We left Ouarzazate and drove on and on through the Anti-Atlas mountains and then out on the plateau. The hours ticked by and I felt an increasing homesickness, in an all-full-of-traveling sort of way. I think connections through texting and calls and social media have really been keeping me happy to be on an adventure even when things were disappointing. Something about the desolate landscape was too much to withstand the feeling of loneliness and disconnection.
We arrived in the town of Rissani for lunch and a rest before driving on to meet the camels. The hotel was very, very nice. There was no one there, that we could see, but there were many rooms, a pool, a nice outdoor lounge area, and a good restaurant. After lunch, we rested in the sun by the pool for a bit.
The drive from Rissani was more of the desolate desert landscapes. Then, we went off-road. In the van. Bravo, Ahmed. Still, by the time we arrived at the “trailhead” to meet the camels, I was even more nervous. Sand storms were brewing, and I was not looking forward to being pelted with sand for an hour. Fortunately, the winds abated a bit. I was assigned the lead camel, followed by Tori, Gianna, Zoe, Theo, Mustapha, and the supply camel. The guide led our camel train on foot, holding a leash to my camel. Sitting on the camel as it stood up was a bit of a shock, as was anytime it went uphill or down hill. The winds whipped at times, and were calm at others. It was late afternoon, and the sunlight was gorgeous on the dunes. Theo took pictures, but I couldn’t reach my camera. I was definitely not enjoying the sand whipping our faces, and even though we were wrapped in headscarves and wore sunglasses, we were still stung in the eyes a bit. At other times, though, when the wind was calm, I felt a bit peaceful. It reminded me of kayaking, at least, of the feeling I get when I am in a calming rhythm on the water. Tori and Gianna absolutely loved riding the camels. Gianna would holler out, “This is GREAT!” several times. Tori chatted on and on happily, even as her turban came untied and her saddle blankets repeatedly fell off of her camel. On the whole, I’d characterize the trek as surreal.
We arrived at the camp at last, just as the sun was setting. We rearranged some mattresses for us all to be in one tent, then the kids went sand boarding while the guides cooked dinner. We were presented with mint tea and olives and peanuts as a snack. Dinner came after nightfall - stewed vegetables with rice, turkey skewers, beef tagine, and apples and oranges for dessert. It was all so delicious, much like the lunch in Rissani. After dinner, we watched lightning in the clouds far from us. Mustapha guessed, and seemed confident that the storms would stay over the mountains but create some wind here. Not many minutes later, we were making plans to move to another camp because the tents in our camp had tears in either the sides or the roofs. The men feared that the rain would actually come our way, so we needed to be in better tents. Everyone quickly moved our belongings to the newer camp “next door”, so new that it wasn’t finished yet. Our tent didn’t have a door, so the men sewed one up that night. Of course, after all of that the storms did pass around us. Under the bright light of a full moon, we made a fire and made music with Abdul and Mustapha. They sang traditional Berber songs, we sang “Twinkle Twinkle”, then we all sang “Three Little Birds”.
We returned to our tents to sleep in an absolutely serene night. Well, it would have been serene if all the children had been well and able to sleep through the night. Zoe came down with a head cold and her runny nose really, really got to her. For some reason, she also needed to urinate more often. I later learned that all of us felt a more frequent urge to go than normal. Our initial tents had been very close to the bathroom. Our new tent was quite a distance away. We lost one of Tori’s flip flops on one trip, but found it. She stepped on some construction debris on the other trip and screamed because she thought it was a snake.
Morning came very early and we didn’t leave on time, but we did leave close to daybreak and rode the camels back to the hotel at the trailhead. We were all on different camels this time. I didn’t like or feel comfortable on any part of this ride. On top of that, I was the photographer. It was very difficult, but I think we got some good shots. The kids didn’t feel well, even after breakfast, but this was definitely an experience none of us will ever forget.