Day 8 and 9 - Marrakesh to the Sahara


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December 8th 2017
Published: December 12th 2017
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So today's the big day. I have done most of the planning for the trip but Becs decided to intervene and fill in some of the gaps. I've briefed the kids and we will be looking for any "sub-optimal" experiences.

Schtooky (phonetic) our driver turns up on time to take us to the Sahara, although we are stopping tonight at Kasbah Azul. I'm reasonably impressed as the Schtookster picked us up in a Toyota Landcruiser (although it was really a Prado and it only had 4 cylinders). It will take us about 9 hours all up to get to the Sahara and as we will be mainly snoozing in the car I've decided to combine both days.

We drive through the High Atlas Mountains, the Ounila Valley and the Dra Valley which is home to 3 million date palms. Every 50kms or so there is major roadworks which involves a large piece of yellow machinery breaking up rocks. There are rocks everywhere. When they build a road they just pile the rocks by the side of the road. The locals come along with their donkeys and take the rocks away and build houses out of them. As I'm sure you've already guessed distance driving is much the same as town driving. About 60% of you time is spent on the opposite side of the road avoiding cyclists, motorcyclists, overtaking trucks, avoiding school children, overtaking donkey carts and avoiding rocks strewn on the road. On the whole trip we only saw one accident which appeared to be a head on between two motorcyclists. There are schools and school children everywhere. The government has clearly spent a lot of dough on schools (and police), although school is not compulsory. Every so often there are a couple of police randomly stopping trucks and motorists, as the Scthookster says it is a very stressful job and many police die of heart attacks due to the amount of smoking the job involves.

We stop for lunch at a little village with a Kasbah. For a change we have vegetable salad, tagine and orange but no beer. We rock the Kasbah (had to get that in) and then continue on our way. So far Becs' part of the trip appears to be going pretty well. The Schtookster is quite amusing and has a disconcerting way of saying "almost" whenever you ask him a question eg "4 hours almost".

We arrive at the town where the Kasbah Azul is located. Our experience so far is that all Moroccan towns are pretty similar. The buildings are very rectangular with flat rooves. Older buildings are made of mud and some stone newer buildings out of besser brick. They are pretty desolute looking and there ain't a lot of trees. As we drive through the town it's pretty predictable, but as we get closer to our accommodation the mud buildings start to become ruins and a major stuff up is looking like it's on the cards. I can see Becs is sweating and the kids are looking gleeful. Unfortunately we turn into a gateway to a Riad with a pool, pet donkey and a fabulous looking Riad. Bugger. The rooms are large and colourful, there is a great reading room, but the water pressure is about the same as mine. The food is great although it is of course cous cous. There is also a group of Frenchies who are on an organised motorcycle tour. The road would be a blast through the mountains and is in pretty good nick, but the lower part has lots of rocks and intermittent dirt.

We head off for our desert camp the next day. We stop for lunch at a town near the edge of the Sahara, after another hour the tar ends and we are heading into the desert. I give the Schtookster some tips for offroad driving (when to engage diff lock etc.), he's a fast learner and in no time at all he's doing great. We travel about an hour and a half into the desert. It varies from rocky sand to just rocky and doesn't look anything like Lawrence of Arabia. Suddenly it becomes dunes and 5 minutes later we are at the camp. The camp is magnificent. I am getting really concerned that Becs could get an "Exceptional" here. We are met by Bashir who will look after us for our stay. We settle in and then head off to do some sandboarding and watch the sunset. Bashir sets up the beers. Climbing sand dunes is really hard (and thirsty) work. As expected I am a natural at sandboarding and even Becs has a go. The landscape just prior to sunset looks amazing.

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