The desert tour was a mixed bag…
It was get me out of this car, off this camel, away from this wind. And also, leave me by this fire a little longer so I can soak its warmth deeper into my skin, let me linger by this view, let this continue, this; conversation, sensation, amazement.
We drove through the Atlas Mountains and stopped at ait Ben haddou- an ancient village where game of thrones and gladiator (among a dozen other movies) were filmed, it was unbelievable that people continue to live there and they have to rebuild the buildings annually using dirt, straw and, for some parts, stones.
A tasteless couscous was served for dinner at a big hotel in the valley of roses, in which we saw many signs for rose water but no actual roses.
Another day of driving and by sunset we had arrived at merzougha: the door of the desert.
Is was bizarre. Impressive but not overwhelming, I believe my words were “oh wow, it’s actually quite pretty”. We were lost in a lack of communication, our guide made us laugh uncomfortably until we realised he was actually aware of how inappropriate he was being (“my bed will be cold tonight, won’t you join me?” -No. No we won’t.) the whole group lead to their camels except for us three Aussie girls and a Japanese couple. We weren’t told why as they started putting our bags into a car.
They had run out of camels.
This didn’t really phase us as the others had been on camels before and it didn’t appeal to me anyway. So we sped through the dunes on the roof of a 4×4, sailing the orange sea. They waves curved over on one side, lit by the setting sun, and hollowed out on the other, casting deep shadows.
We arrived at last light and were determined to run up the biggest sand dune we laid eyes on. It was huge and tiring. Foot cramps and coarse throats we complained and laughed our way to the top, feeling accomplished we turned away from the dune to look over the desert only to look into never ending darkness. Still, I felt alive. Wind on my cheeks, my baggy pants blowing in every direction.
Running down was my favourite part of the three day trip. We bounded down, sprinting and landing on darkness. It was how I imagine it would feel to jump on clouds… Surreal and limitless.
We met an Aussie guy and after dinner everyone went to bed save us and the Moroccans working. Together we made music, drums, cymbals, clapping and song. They asked us to dance so I obliged (happily) spinning in this tent full of noise… They know how to create a beat, and laughed at my drumming attempts.
We shared jokes which surprisingly overcame the language barrier. We played the memory game ‘when I went to the desert I brought…’ And when they asked for Australian songs we sung ‘we are one’ the quantas song and our national anthem, followed with enthusiasm by avril lavigne and spice girls.
The guys lead us out into the dunes. “Are you sleepy?” They asked, “yes, very” I replied. “No! Let’s make a fire!”
So we gathered sticks along the way, passed the camels and found a spot well away from camp. The fire raged in the wind of the Sahara. There were no stars, a light, misty rain set in. The fire died and we warmed our feet on the sand thrown over the coals.
We laid out blankets on the sand and snuggled together in the open. We had the desert all to ourselves it felt.
Before first light we rode camels (somehow more camels appeared overnight.) back to town. Waves of sand eventually rolled into the light of the sun rising by our backs.
My legs are still aching from that camel ride.
We had a 12 hour drive home. We drove through flooded rivers because our driver asked us to vote wether or not we should go. We had sing alongs and ate our way through a tub of peanut butter on stale corn cakes.
It wasn’t my ideal way of travel, I doubt it’s anyone’s ideal method when it involves so much time in transit and basically no freedom. But the company was incredible and kept my spirits high, the desert was intriguing and I felt I lived out a little bit of my personal destiny shown to me by the alchemist… Haha.
“The desert will give you an understanding of the world; in fact, anything on the face of the earth will do that. You don’t even have to understand the desert: all you have to do is contemplate a simple grain of sand, and you will see in it all the marvels of creation.”
“He had lived every one of his days intensely since he had left home so long ago.”
“Every search begins with beginner’s luck. And every search ends with the victor’s being severely tested.”
-Pau Cohello, the alchemist.
So in England a few days later: I meet a girl on a bus and we share an uber home, we happen to be staying around the corner from each other. The driver stops me before I get out, “now you are a traveler, everyone you meet is an angel to help you along your way. Kate helped you just now. You’ve seen this haven’t you?”
Yes. 100% I have witnessed this. People coming into my life at the perfect moment, and leaving me too.
“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream,”
-Paul Cohello, the alchemist
I feel like the Shepard right now… Hunting for treasure, finding it all around me. I could surely turn myself into the wind if need be, I feel so capable.