I think everyone would agree at one time or another that a visit to the Sahara could well be on their list of things to do ( i.e. Your bucket list ) so it goes without saying it was on ours.
For us to reach the Sahara we needed to take a bus trip from Chefchaouen ( in the north ) to the southern town of Mezouga and the El Chebbi sand dunes. We changed buses in Fez.
A little drama followed as our bus departed two hours late from Fez due to a report that one of the passes in the Atlas Mountains was closed due to snow. Go figure, that’s why we left Canada.
Finally we departed the bus station at 10 pm ( overnight ride ). E.T.A. Rissani 7:00 a.m. Then a taxi pickup and drive to the town of Mezouga.
The short version. Bus leaves 2 hours late. We travel approx 2 hours and stop at a bus station to pick up passengers. I enquire as to the state of the roads and am told we need to make another detour because of weather in the mountains. Bus heads back in the direction we came from, Gloria fast asleep, I’m watching as we are in the very front seat and can’t sleep yet. Needless to say we drive another one and a half hours and I see a sign for the city of Fez. The sign read 50 kms. We had driven three and a half hours and because of backtracking had covered 50 km. Gloria woke up and thought I was kidding when she found out where we were. Well many of us have been there.
The night was uneventful as sleep finally overcame us, sunrise however greeted us with a light snow on the road as we had gained altitude. Following a descent we entered a more arid landscape and finally reached our destination of Rissani at 11 a.m.
The only problem now was we were four hours late, no sign of a taxi and as this is one of the towns that helps serve the trips to the desert we were targeted by the ever present hawkers.
Sometimes it gets on your nerves and this was on exception. We had just finished a 13 hr. Bus ride and the last thing we wanted was a bunch of guys trying to sell trips.
Our main concern was to contact Mustafa, who was organizing our trip and had arranged a taxi ride to his place ( of course no one was there as we were four hours late ). We asked if wi-if was available anywhere and this not to handsome individual told us to follow him to the roof of his restaurant where we could get reception.
Update: Mustapha works for http://www.marrakechdesertexcursions.com. I would highly recommend contacting him. He was very personable, prompt with returning emails and provides a great experience.
The short version. Climb the stairs, three feet wide. Lug the pack, I’m not leaving it near these cowboys. Gloria comments on the smell, four flights later were on the roof. Would you like tea. I don’t think so, the place stank and was filthy. Here we go again. Finally get reception, Gloria asking if you’re charging us for this, no answer. Quite quickly we get a message from Mustapha, wait outside a taxi will be there. We jump in the taxi and the restaurant owner demands money. This is where you will all see a side of my bride you may never have seen before, don’t push her too hard or she will turn. There’s no way that guys getting anything. Taxi leaves and we’re on our way.
Arrival at Auberge and camp ground was welcome. Breakfast was served and we could shower and relax. It was now just after noon. Our desert trek was to begin at three p.m.
We were booked for a two night trip and didn’t have any expectations, we were however very excited.
The El Chebbi sand dunes are next to the town of Mezouga, in fact the auberge borders them. These sand dunes we were told are approx. 30 k.m. long and about 15 k.m. wide. They are high and wide And we thought very dramatic. The surrounding desert is however rocky and flat, the occasional mountain dots the landscape.
Took a lot of shots, here’s a sample.
I think we were all trying to figure out which part hurt the most, the back, inside thighs, butt, or all of the above, all in all a great experience, but we all figured out why most of the time the nomads walk their camels ( so we were told ). Great trip and highly recommend.