Helen goes to Morocco Day 10 – Azrou to Erg Chebbi

Today, we drove lots. Circa 400 odd km up through the Atlas Mountains and then across the plateau. -> It was very speccy.

They are the exact words written in my travel journal and they seem like a good way to start today’s post.

We drove for a bit short of 6 hrs today. Which in the Australian grand scheme of things isn’t really that bad, however 16 Australians + Brahim & Ibby = 18 people. Our mighty MB Sprinter could sit 19 people when you had 3 across the front seat. Lots of driving, a greater requirement for air conditioning by some travellers and no spare seats to swap between as a breather … Well, I think you can understand why we had a few leg stretching stops along the way πŸ˜€

It was interesting today, how quickly the landscape changed as we came up over the Middle Atlas Mountains out of Azrou and onto the plateau to eventually end up at Erg Chebbi on the edge of the Moroccan Sahara Desert. We passed quite a few nomadic family camps in the first part of the drive today, which was interesting to see the various set ups. Our first stop after 1.5hrs of driving was at the town of Zaida. A town which you can see on the map at the bottom of this post, is a junction town on the road network. A highlight here was visiting the chemist and then I promptly slid on the ramp outside the chemist and ended up with a very nice bruise on my knee for a few days.

The next drive was just over 2.5hrs, however we did have a quick stop along the way to get some figs & nectarines from a roadside stall. I am very picky when it comes to figs and skipped these figs but I can tell you that the nectarine was delicious. It was on this drive that I finally cracked the back of Boy Swallows Universe and started to power through reading it. I had struggled to read that book so many times that finally getting the back of it cracked and starting to enjoy reading it was a sigh of relief. I had come to realise that as a Brisbanite, I needed distance from Brisbane to read, appreciate and absorb this book. I found that distance today on the bus and then later at the hotel for the next two nights.

Another excerpt from my journal, “The geology of the drive was ah-mazing. Photos will not do it justice”. Still, you know me, I will try to do it justice. That slow travel future trip to Morocco will involve more stops along the road to capture those photos that show the sheer size and depth of this landscape.

We stopped at a grill restaurant on the main street of Errachidia for lunch and a leg stretch. It was hot and we were well and truly in the desert now. Just like I had cracked the back of Boy Swallows Universe, we had also now cracked the back on the driving for the day and the rest of the drive was shortish 30 min bursts between stops.

The first stop was at a good lookout over the Ziz Valley. WOW. What an amazing sight to see thousands upon thousands of date palms growing in the river valley.

The next stop was Erfoud for a quick resupply if you needed it before we got further into the desert. If you didn’t need a resupply, the main purchase here was an ice-cream. The words in journal are as follows “It is hot and dry, really hot and dry. Like 39Β°C and 8% humidity”.

Driving further down the road, we eventually went off the highway and onto the sandy dirt road which would lead us past other accommodation offerings before we reached ours; Hotel Yasmina. I am pretty sure that my eyes got wider and wider open as we drove along the road today. When we saw our first glimpse of the orange sand dunes of the Sahara desert, I reckon they were as wide as wide can be.

After a few hours of relaxation at the pool and enjoying the hotel, a group of us decided to walk out on to the sand dunes for sunset. This was truly magical. I, in a desire to not get too sandy, wore my PJ pants (that would also become a pair of casual pants over the course of the trip), under my long skirt. I was going to win against the sand :D. The dunes were divine, the sand was not as red as our sand but more of an orange colour which was just beautiful in the fading evening sun. The little kid in me could not believe that were in/at/on the Sahara Desert! There is a whole lot of geological/geographical discussion as to if this sea of dunes (Erg Chebbi) is technically in the Sahara desert or not but I’m happy to accept it as in for now πŸ˜€

We returned to the hotel for a very lovely dinner of a beef tagine, where the meat just fell apart in your mouth. Afterwards it some time relaxing in the outdoor dining area, enjoying the music, the almost full moon and the night time desert air.

Music of the Hotel Yasmina “Band”

As you can see from yesterday to today was total chalk and cheese; vastly different landscape, but both days were just fantastic.

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