The first night in the desert

In April 2012 together with 48 colleagues, I walked 101km through the Moroccan Sahara.  It took us five days to walk through the land of the Ait Atta tribe who spend their summers in the Atlas mountains and their winters on the plains.  We had two local Moroccan guides as well as Jim from Adventurous Ewe who had already led three other groups into and out of the desert earlier that year.

On our first day, we were literally driven into the middle of nowhere.  The landcruisers had taken us on a nice trip from Ouarzazate throughthe Tizi n’Tinifift pass to the far corner of Morocco.  Then they just pulled off the road and stopped.  How the drivers could tell that bit of the desert from any other bit of the desert remains a mystery to me, they did all seem to agree that this is where the foreigners were to be released.  So out we got.

That day we walked about 2 hours to reach our camp for the first time.  It was made up of 7 sleeping tents for the walkers, six 4-man tents and one 6-man tent.  As it happened, that was quickly turned into a 5-woman tent and one of the 4-man tents was converted into a 5-man tent.

The team of local chefs and waiters had laid out tables and chairs and in due course prepared and served us with a buffet dinner.  It got dark rather quickly while dinner was being prepared and we finished our evening meal by candle light. 

Although we hadn’t walked all that far, with reducing light we were contemplating retiring to our tents, when the weather re-enforced that contemplation by whipping up a sand-storm. In this picture, Laura was trying to take just one more shot of people and you can see that the sand was whipping up around us.

Moving under the cover of a canvas tent then became a necessity rather than a preference.  The sandstorm continued to blow around us most of the night keeping many of us awake.  Added the noises from the sand, we could hear and feel people moving around outside the tents moving things around.  It soon became clear that this was the team of local porters tightening up tent-ropes and moving stones to weigh down the sides of the tents so that as little sand as possible would blow in under the canvas.  In the end, I’m pretty sure that everyone got some sleep.

We had been told that we needed to be up at around 6 am to have finished breakfast by 7 and be on our way at 7:30 to make the most of the lower temperatures in the morning.  Although there had been concerns that such an early rise may be difficult while not in a work rut, waking up with the sun turned out to be much easier than any of us expected.

So, having risen, eaten bread and jam with bowls of coffee (you can sense the French colonialists!) for our breakfast, we set out on our first full day of walking across a desert…

(as a group we pooled our pictures and Herman picked out the best of each day.  I know which of the pictures I took, but unfortunately can only credit very few others to the actual photographers.  If any of you spot your pictures here and want me to credit them, please let me know and I’ll do so)

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About skytash

accountant - customer service professional - polymath

One comment

  1. Pingback: Desert Rain | tash's travel-tales

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