Saturday was full of all kinds of adventures, but the morning started early, quite mistakenly. Turns out Morocco is in a different time zone. We figured that out at about 5:30am.
The guy from the Sahara Expeditions tour came knocking on the door of our hostel at ten after seven and walked us to the 15 passenger vans we would be going out in.
I was quiet disappointed that we didn’t get to go around with the folks we had met in our hostel that morning, but because our expedition was only one day instead of two or three, we were in a different group.
As far as people that you spend the entire day with in a freezing bus with, we really could have lucked out better.
In our larger group of about a dozen folks, there was a smaller group of about five late-20 to early-30 year old guys that were really obnoxious. They spoke loudly, and their conversation seemlessly flowed between German, Spanish, and English in a way that you just knew that they were changing languages so certain people wouldn’t be able to understand them.
The trip started out with the long drive up the Atlas Mountains. We stopped several times to take photos, but it was so foggy that we couldn’t see much. That is until we reached the crest of the mountains, where small mounds of snow surrounded us.
I found the situation mildly comical and was convinced that our not knowing French or Arabic had caused a mix up. Surely this cold trip wasn’t what we signed up for when we said we wanted to go to the Sahara. Poor Veronica was really, really freezing.
Worse yet, was how many turns you have to make to drive up and down a mountain. I spent a good portion of the morning with my eyes closed and my head pressed tightly against the seat in front of me, because it alleviated the motion sickness. Some time later, I sat up and was delighted to discover that we were at last surrounded by earthen, orange dust.
And I must say, it looked nothing like the smooth mounds of sand I had imagined. It was rocky and bumpy and not nearly as pretty as I’d thought it’d be. Of course, part of that was just the part of the Sahara we were in.
Some time later, our van stopped in a small village on the side of a small mountain. Veronica and I both bought the kinds of scarfs you wrap around and over your head to keep the sand from getting in your face. As a result of that experience, I can now officially say that while I can’t tie a tie, I can indeed tie a turban.
We had a little bit of a nerve-wracking encounter with a merchant who tried to get us to walk into his empty restaurant a little bit away from the rest of the group, but Veronica and I backed out right away and it all worked out well.
The next stop was a rural village that has been the site of many films set in the dessert. I’d provide you with a complete list, but the guy was speaking French, so all I can tell you is that Lawrence of Arabia was taped there, but so were many other movies.
By this point, some major culture shock was setting in, but after eating (albeit a terrible, terrible meal) with a couple in our group from France, I felt much better.
A few hours later, we finally made it back to Marrakesh, just in time to catch the credits to the film rolling in the market square as a part of the city’s 11th annual film festival.
It is difficult to describe the intensity of the chaos going on around us. Motorcycles weaved between massive groups of people walking in every direction. While crossing the street on the way to dinner, I was hit in the leg by a biker who didn’t see me.
We heard probably almost as much Spanish in Morocco as we did English. In fact, we ordered our food in Spanish, because our waiter had a better grip on the language.
After a final glass of fresh orange juice and a short stroll in front of the shops, we headed back to the hostel to call it a night. I spent my last hour at Marrakesh the next morning on the roof watching the sunrise over the city.
The trip was short, but it ended perfectly.
I just finalized my plans for my final European trip. Next week, I’m going to Dublin!