Merzouga and the Sand in my Pants

15 Apr

(Disregard the parenthetical statement immediately following this. I have gone back to feeling semi-healthy.) -4/15/2011

(Disregard the paragraph immediately following this. I have reverted back into dying mode.) -4/14/11

Good news! I’m not as dying anymore as I write this. I still have very little reserve energy (as in walking down the three flights of stairs in my apartment and walking the two blocks to school basically winds me), but I am not in a state of abject misery. Hazzah!

Last weekend a group of seven of us headed to southern Morocco for a camel trek. While getting there was hellacious (12 hours each way by combination of bus/train), it was worth it. Even getting this nasty parasite in stomach, christened Oscar the Grouchy Crocodile Stomach Bacteria, was worth it. Going into the Sahara desert was an unbelievable and definitely rejuvenating experience.

Thursday night at 6:30 everyone (Brittani, Lauren, Shama, Kate, Michelle, Sarah and I) met at the Agdal train station to catch our 7pm train to Meknes. The thing with trains in Morocco is that you aren’t guaranteed a seat, the whole thing smells, people stare at you funny no matter what you do and they don’t announce train stations so you have to pay attention otherwise there’s actually a good chance you will miss your stop. So after the three hour train ride, we hop off and then hop on our next leg of the journey: a bus. A bus ride that will last about nine hours. Allah have mercy. We all try to sleep (the bus is full and smelly, btw), but the bus is either top heavy or the road is very bumpy or both, because that thing was swinging and bouncing and swaying and all manner of not-sleep-inducing movements (no it was not like the steady lulling of a ship).
Six am rolls around (yay to making it in eight hours) and we arrive in the oh-so bustling town of Merzouga. Someone from our hotel picks us up and drives us the short distance to our hotel, explaining that breakfast will be served in a few minutes then we can go to our rooms and nap until noon for lunch.

We eat breakfast, and then all go to our rooms and crash. I room with Brittani and we first discuss random stuff, including dwarves. We wake up at noon, eat our tagine lunch and then decide to head into the town. ….Which is about as exciting as a cat sleeping.

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Our trek begins at 4pm. Getting on a camel is a little disconcerting, because their joints work in reverse to how human legs do. So, really, they go back legs up first then front and yeah, it’s a bit frightening. Good news: I got the blond camel. Renamed him Jack Donaghy because I love 30 Rock.

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Going into the desert was amazing. Rather than explain and have it interspersed with pictures, I’ll give you the basics of what we did and then let the pictures show you the rest. We trekked for about two hours the first day, stopping at an oasis right before sunset for tea. We then hiked through the dunes to our camp for the night. Dune hiking = hard work. We reach our camp, which is comprised of a shack and two tents for sleeping. The seven of us sit on a blanket as we watch the last of the day’s light fade over the Algerian border and the thousands upon thousands of stars come out. Eventually, we move into the shack and our guides play music (and learn I was never destined for percussions instruments) and eventually we eat a delicious tagine dinner. We all head to our tent, sleeping under blankets in complete darkness. In the morning, our guides wake us up at 6 am to watch the sunrise. We do, and while everyone else goes back to sleep for awhile, I hike back up to the top of the dunes, my own private sojourn and definitely my favorite part of the trip. Eventually, breakfast is served, I head back and we chill for a few hours, and then walk across the rocky plain to a Berber village for lunch and to wait out the hottest part of the day. We get back on our camels and trek back to the hotel. Our butts = very sore. We all take much needed showers, purchase our tickets home and then begin the LONG journey back to Rabat. Once again, nine hour bus, three hour train ride. We left Merzouga at 7pm, we got back to Rabat at 10 am. Long, long weekend. …I also got a nasty stomach bacteria because of it, but it was definitely a rejuvenating experience. Despite having gone to some of the most important churches in the world this semester (the St. Peter’s, the Sistine Chapel, the Hagia Sophia…), me sitting on my own on top of a sand dune in the middle of the Moroccan Sahara was a much more uplifting, soul-stirring experience than any of those. With that, pictures:

And that’s that. Now you are essentially caught up in the big things I’ve been doing in Morocco.

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