As was becoming a habit I woke up very early. After spending a few restless hours in bed I arose and packed what I could before breakfast. The buffet of bread, butter and assorted sweet spreads, boiled eggs, juice tea and coffee was ready at 7:30am. They also made a basic omelette to order. I opted for coffee, omelette on toast and orange juice. After breakfast I finished packing and changed into my riding kit. I also took some more photos of the hotel and our preparations for departure.
Our Welcome Pack notes for today foretold of a short ride of only 140km. We departed Auberge Tinit around 9am stopping at a cash point in Errachidia. Most of the group withdrew some Dirhams for the afternoon and evenings activities.
At 10am Billy pulled over to the hard should right before a blind corner. We all pulled up behind him on the hard shoulder wondering why he stopped. He’d missed to the right turn into the carpark for Café Réstaurante Vue Panoramique. This was our first planned stop for the day. An opportunity for a drink and photos of the Ziz Valley canyon and oasis. Billy did a u-turn and made his way back the short distance to the car park. So did most of the other riders. Not feeling as confident doing a u-turn on a blind corner, I dismounted my T7 leaving it parked on the hard shoulder. Even though it was as close to the guard as possible, Billy asked for the keys and rode it into the car park. The views were spectacular.
The café was also a gift shop selling the usual Moroccan tourist trinkets and dust collectors. Many of our group purchased a Berber Tagelmust – the scarves of the Tuareg nomadic people of the Sahara. I chose not to get one, already having many such travelling mementos. Most of them rarely surface again on my return home. For example, a kilt purchased in Fort William, Scotland. After half an hour of taking in the sights and having a coffee we hit the road.
We were still on the N13. About 45km later we pulled over in Erfoud to regroup.
At Erfoud we bade the N13 farewell and turned left onto the R702 headed for Merzouga. Our destination was Kasbah Mohayout. We rode through a barren, arid landscape for 25km before my second wow moment of the day. The red dunes of the Merzouga Sahara desert revealed themselves on the horizon. We stopped to refuel about 5 minutes short of our destination where I was able to get these photos.
After passing through Merzouga we arrived at Kasbah Mohayout. We had only one room booked here. This was for storing our luggage and to give us somewhere to change. But first lunch. We parked our motorcycles in a carport outside the hotel entrance and made our way into the hotel and past reception.
In a shaded courtyard on the other side of reception was a large table where we would have our lunch. Another traditional Moroccan meal this time in a fancy hotel. We feasted on bread, Moroccan Salad and Tagine. Then came a Traditional Berber Frittata. Everything was delicious. As our riding was over for the day we also had some wine and beers.
This longer this day went the better it got. But the highlights of the day lay ahead. Our options for the afternoon were:
Desert ride on the motorcycle to M’Fi’s and the mines with Billy
Dune buggy ride (extra cost involved)
Chill out at the hotel
I elected not to do the dune buggy ride as there was already six others (two per buggy) who had chosen that option. I could have gone but I’d have to pay all the extra cost. No one chose the desert ride with Billy. A couple of us plus Billy ended up chilling out at the hotel. This consisted of drinking a couple of bottles of Moroccan white wine.
When the Dune Buggy ride kicked off at around 3pm I walked out to see them off. As they getting into their seats and putting on their harnesses it looked like it was going to be a fun adventure. As they set off I walked further out to the dunes and took some photos.
When the dune buggy riders returned we heard wonderful tales of their adventures. The first driver had the buggy until a turn around point determined by the guide. There the drive would swap with the outbound passenger who would drive the buggy back to the hotel. The best tale was that of someone rolling their buggy when driving too fast across a steep dune. There were no injuries and buggy wasn’t damaged. After rolling it back onto four wheels the fun continued.
At 5:30pm we gathered a few items we’d need for the night and put them into the support vehicle. We were staying somewhere special tonight – not far from the hotel. But first was the camel ride to the dunes to watch the sunset. I don’t recall ever riding a camel before so was looking forward to this. The sunset camel ride also incurred an extra cost and everyone in the group took part. There were three groups each of three tethered camels. Leading each trio of tethered camels was a guide in traditional Berber dress. We were nine of many camels on the dunes that afternoon. Seems to be very popular with tourists visiting this part of Morocco and a must do activity.
On the way to the foot of a large dune, we passed by a desert camp. It looked like a series of plastic water tanks joined in pairs.
We would after coming down from the dunes learn that was the desert camp we’d be staying at tonight.
The scramble up to the top of the dune was hard work. The dune was steep and higher than it looked when we got off our camels. But worth the effort. Watching the sun go down was another highlight of the day – an amazing experience.
With the sun now below the horizon we returned to our camels to make what would be the journey to our desert camp. We’d have dinner and spend the night there. It was almost dark by the time we arrived. We disembarked the camels and made the short walk towards the lights. Wow!
What a difference the darkness, fancy lights and rugs laid out to form paths made. Our pre-dinner drinks outside in the desert were the best and whet our appetites for the meal to come. I forgot to mention that at lunch we’d all agreed to chip in for an extra dinner course. It would be a whole lamb or goat cooked in traditional Berber style. Billy told us this meant it would be slow cooked most of the afternoon in a hole in the ground covered in coals and sand. Even though I’d unlikely eat any I chipped in anyway – one in all in was my rationale. After a few drinks we made our way to the dining tent and sat down for dinner.
After our Moroccan Salad entrée and main of Couscous, the lamb arrived on a large platter. I wasn’t expecting to see it wrapped in aluminium foil. I would have thought foil, although handy, would be a challenge to get in the desert. Could be it was only for westerners to keep the hot coals separate from the lamb. But no. There was no in the ground in hot coals slow cooking of this lamb. The hotel oven was the method chosen for this lamb. I wondered what may have happened to the shovel? Was it broken or misplaced? Or had they run out of coals? Or was no one available to dig the hole. I never did find out. Everyone had a generous serve except me. I did have a taste though and it reminded me of why I choose not to eat lamb. Never mind. There was plenty of red wine and the near perfect honey dew melon we had for dessert topped off a nice meal.
I’d had quite a few wines today, starting at lunch time. My ongoing jetlag and absence of a good nights sleep since arriving in Morocco had made me weary. And we still had three more riding days ahead of us. Fingers crossed I’d manage to get a good nights sleep. So I wished everyone a good night and retired to my “tent” for the evening.
I made my way down the rug path lit by the fancy lights and went inside my “tent”. It was windier than before dinner and some of the rugs forming the paths had blown back over themselves. I was thankful I’d left one of the lights on inside when I’d showered before dinner. This was some “tent”.
I’d been glamping before, when doing a mini safari in Sri Lanka. Glamping is all about matching upmarket hotel room facilities to the external environment. As you can see, this was a perfect match. It was most impressive. As I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep, I felt very grateful for this experience.
Little did I know, or hear even, of the events unfolding around the firepit, not far from my desert tent. These photos shared via WhatsApp revealed the goings on.
Drums, laughing and drinking beer. Sound asleep I was completely unaware. I ended up sleeping right through until the morning – by far my best nights sleep while in Morocco. Seems a great day and night was had by all.