Italy Morocco Pyrenees

May 2015

Part 4: Merzouga

Right in the middle of May I find myself having my breakfast by the pool at a hotel in Errachidia:

Not a bad scene at all. However, Alan from the group can't enjoy it as his stomach became one more in the statistics of Morocco visitors: 40% of them face such issues. We start questioning our plans till he insists that he is OK(ish) to ride and follow us. By looking at him I wasn't exactly convinced but hoping he really is I start packing. Downstairs at the reception I find John looking at some stickers a guy from the hotel was (pretending to be) offering so I stop by to have a look. When he finishes picking the guy asks him something like the price of an overnight for only a few stamp sized stickers. That cracks me up. Guy then tells us "OK OK give as much as you want" so John turns at me "how much should I give him?". Proposing a tiny fraction of what he asked initially I leave the transaction to deal with something more pleasant: loading my bike. Then I adjust John's rear suspension as it's bottoming out on every single bump with all his and his wive's load. He is super happy with the result and...of we go.

Curious how the route going South on the N13 looks like? Have a look:

We soon arrive at a view point offering us a great chance to see the largest oasis around, kindly offered by the river Oued Ziz:

No image can tell the whole story - the vegetation there is absolutely insane. It really looks impossible to walk. Feels like the soil is so rich that in the first chance of water it goes full green. I find myself stuck watching this for... don't know how long till Pete asks me if I'm OK. I respond: "I'm fine - it's just so therapeutic to watch this that I can't take my eyes off. We had to move on though so I take one last picture of my iron horse under the extreme penetrating sunlight...

...and off we go. As we are about to leave the N13 and turn left for Merzouga I stop to take a couple of pictures. Riding in the dirt with the Sahara sand dunes in the background was impossible to miss:

The first houses of Merzouga are soon in sight:

We drive through the village till the end of the road and the beginning of the sand dunes. I can't describe the feeling of finally putting feet and rubbers (for a little while) on this astonishing sea of sand:

After all this excitement we head to our hotel where... I am impressed to find Greek letters on the bottom of the pool:

I go to the top of the building for some pictures. The mud houses around attract my attention:

They might look poor and rough (and they are!) you can't believe how well they manage to keep the heat out. Otherwise it would be impossible to survive there. Late spring and it's already worse than the worse heatwave in Athens.

Second to join the "bad stomach" list is Pete. This prevents him from joining us for a tour in the Sahara next day to watch the sunrise. We go to bed early in order to wake early enough and after 5am we put ourselves in a Toyota Prado eager for that experience in the desert. First thing that impressed me was the Toyota. That thing eats up the sand dunes effortlessly even with 5 adults inside. I start thinking "he's gotta have really good tires" but when we arrive I realise they are much more humble than I thought:

Before I proceed with more images of Sahara, I'll put a few words trying to transfer to you the feeling I got there. It's easily one of the highlights of my travelling career. I could put quotation marks on the word "career" since I am not paid for this but I didn't cause it makes me richer even though I pay for the whole thing. And Sahara is totally one of this cases.

We leave the car and we climb a sand dune in order to have the best view possible to the sunrise. Climbing a sand dune is a thing - you make two steps up and it brings you one step down. As soon as I manage to make it to the top the happiness and excitement are beyond what words can describe. Minutes before sunrise we see convoys of camels bringing tourists for the same reason. From far they look like ants on a perfectly synchronised parade in this sea of sand - that's how Sahara looked to me: A sea of sand with paused waves.

Enjoy the sunrise step by step:

This sand is so thin that we keep carrying bits of it in our shoes for the next week regardless how much we tried to clean them. See Kim's piles of sand to get an idea:

After such an impressive experience I was like "OK, worth the journey even if that's all we have to see". And we're still less than halfway!

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