Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Sahara at Sixty


No, I don't mean mph!
I'd finished the last of the sherry from Spain, it was coming up to my birthday and I wanted to celebrate with something stronger than orange juice, delicious as it is. The Romans were making wine in Morocco centuries ago and desite being an Islamic country, the tradition carries on. Wine is available even if it is a little difficult to find. However, a very well-stocked supermarket in Marrakech had a good choice in addition to European cheese (and I'm not talking just "The Laughing Cow" here!)
So, armed with a bottle of red and some Brie, I set off for what I thought would be a tacky, touristy camel ride in the Sahara desert, but which turned out to be absolutely magical.
It was the lullaby-singing of the Moroccan woman who was carrying her baby on the camel in front of me as dusk fell on the dunes that did it. And the moon was full and the camels were plodding rhythmically as their keepers cooed at them soothingly. This 'just for a lark' tour became something else as the silence transformed into serenity. My wine went down a treat with freshly cooked campfire taggine. And the stars!... well, they were as bright as they could be from all up there on this clear night. The family I was with in the bedouin tent sang "Happy Birthday" to me in the morning as we slowly and majestically rode the five kilometres back to Merzouga, our starting point the previous evening.

From the desert, which doesn't creep up on the surrounding landscape so much as plonk itself with a definite "I'm here", I went to Sidi Ifni on the Atlantic coast where I played about in the surf on a body board and slept in an unusual but strangely homely dormitory-tent construction on top of a hotel roof ("I made it myself" said the hotel owner proudly.)
Deciding that it was possible that Spring might be starting in the South of France as it was now nearly April, I made my way north, still negotiating flooded roads and plenty of lovely mud. I wasn't concentrating on the road on the last day and fell off the bike arriving at the Tangier ferry port with both me and the bike looking total wrecks. However, it's an ill wind etc. and perhaps because of the sorry state we were in, a party of French Landrover enthusiasts just back from frollicking around Morocco noticed us and so another adventure began even before we landed in France!

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