Into the Sahara by Camel Ride!

Having a wonderful Moroccan breakfast was a great way to start the day especially at the superb food quality – Chez Pierre. My favorite was the Moroccan pancake with 8 different sauces and spreads; my favorite combo was the butter with honey!

The food kept coming!

Until our table was filled with food, yummy yummy!

After a full breakfast, we were fully charged for another day ride through the Dadés Valley and then to the Todra Gorges!

In the middle of the desert landscape was this piece of green lush land, what a big contrast!

I much preferred the ancient Kasbahs than the modern buildings, don’t you agree?

Our private tour guide, Mohamed, was very patient with us taking photos at different angles; that was one of the advantages of being on a private tour!

Next, we arrived at the Todra Gorges where it’s famous for rock climbing, of course, we didn’t do that! Mohamed dropped us at the start of the gorge and will be waiting for us at the end so we could walk through the gorge to take photos.

There were vendors selling colorful Berber scarves, don’t forget to bargain!

To give a perspective of the size of those stone cliff, woah!

When looking carefully, there is a Kasbah tucked in the rock!

Don’t they afraid of fallen rocks? I guess it is pretty cool (in terms of temperature) as the rocks provided shades to the harsh Moroccan sun!

Once again, a green field in the middle!

We walked through the gorge yay finally!

 

Next, Mohamed brought us to this place where we could try on the traditional Moroccan costumes for free and can take some photos…yes absolutely free, can you believe it, free stuff in Morocco without any sales pitch? That shop has so many choices of colors and designs but very limited to my size 😛 But I found my favorite purple color gown!

Jason & I on traditional Moroccan costume hehe 🙂

Next, Jason tried on a more “royal” gown and they even helped him wrapped his head hahaha!

Sokunna didn’t like her color gown so I gave her mines and found another dark pink one. The women in the shop helped to wrap my head too but their color matching taste wasn’t that great so I went with a white scarf and headpiece. We were given the flag of the Berber and went across the street for photos 🙂 It was a mini fun photo session haha!

After the traditional costume photos, Mohamed brought us to a local restaurant in the middle of nowhere, yes seriously surrounded by sand and few houses! And by the way, we were offered 10% off the menu price because of Mohamed LOL!  The set menu was 75 dirhams per person where we had an omelet, tagine, and orange as dessert! We sat outside and the sun was harsh so I put on Jason’s sunglasses to eat hahaha! The food was decent in the middle of nowhere so couldn’t complain much!

After lunch, we continued our journey and then we saw a whole bunch of camels! Mohamed pulled over so we could take photos, it was so cool to see them loose in the wild!

We were taking turns to take photos with the camels on the background but within a minute….

it was like a sand storm so we ran back to the car and closed the doors. It was unbelievable how fast the sand storm came and the highway quickly covered with sand, the visibility was very poor:

I was so worried that it’ll ruin our desert trip because I heard that there was a big sand storm just a week or two ago and they had to cancel the desert tours! Luckily, it was just a fast passing mini storm and got cleared up! We are arriving the dunes of Merzouga!!!

We went into this hotel for a short break where we could take a shower to freshen up as there will be no shower in the nomad camp. This hotel is designed for desert tour where guests could take shower before and after the desert tour as there are shower rooms. There are only two shower rooms so we took turn to shower, use the toilet, packing up the stuff we need for the overnight camp. There is this big living room for guests to pack their bags and have mint tea. We paid Mohamed’s boss there as well so one less valuable item to worry about. We didn’t leave any valuables in our luggage since we have no clue where they are storing our bags; seemed like they just left them in this living room.

While waiting for our camels to get ready, I took a short walk around the “hotel” to take some photos, they have a pool in their courtyard!

Finally, the wait is over!!! Mohamed drove us to the start of our desert camel ride, OMG, I was getting very excited and nervous! Mohamed helped us to wrap our scarves, it was not only cool for photos but also preventing sands from getting into our hair and ears! Jason used the one he just brought from Todra Gorges. I can never wear something without washing first so I brought my own scarves with me for this purpose 🙂

There was another group of tourists with our camel group to make it total 6. Our plan was Jason and I each take the front and back camel for photos but it didn’t happen the way we planned LOL. I guess the guy arranged us based on our weight 😛 but somehow I ended up with the biggest camel…I named the camel “Tally” whereas Sokunna got the white one which she named “Milky”. The guy pointed me to Tally and I got on the camel. I didn’t know what to expect, it was my first time riding on a camel/horse so I was totally unprepared! When the camel was standing up, I felt like I was falling over OMG so instantly I clamped my legs very tight on the camel to stay put and grabbed the handle! I made it without falling, phew!!!

Jason was at the front camel leading the way….gogo hubby!

The rest of the crew got onto their camels and off we go, the start of our 1 hour camel ride into the Sahara Desert, OMG bucket list checked off!

There was another group of 6 tourists/camels in front of us which was good for photos in some ways.

They padded the camel back with blankets to make it comfortable for our butts haha. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be after reading all those horrible stories about camel ride. However, whenever the camel going down the sand dune, it was so scary that I had to hold on tight on the handle and I am afraid of height also, ahhhh!!!!

It totally freaked me out when the camel was walking on the edge of the tall sand dune, yikes!

Soon, the amazing desert landscape made me forgotten my fears and focused on taking amazing photos! They timed the tour perfectly, just before the sun set – golden hour for photos, but the real reason was to avoid the hot temperature during the middle of the day 🙂 As the sun was setting and the sand was lit up by the golden sun, it was perfect for photos!

Someone left their shoes? LOL!

We were surrounded by golden sand, I never know sand could be this beautiful! Words could not described how exciting I was!!! You really need to experience it yourself to feel the excitement!

Note that we wrapped our cameras with plastic bags to protect the fine sand from getting into the camera as sand could damage electronics!

Tally, isn’t he cute?

 

It wasn’t strong wind but Jason’s scarf got blown off hahaha, our camel walker stopped and helped Jason to wrap his scarf again.

He even stopped the camels and helped us to take photos of our group, how wonderful!

Looked great hun!

Because of this delay, the tour group in front of us was gone and it gave us different photo composition 🙂

The famous Erg Chebbi sand dunes!!! It was just incredible!!!

Tally enjoyed being padded haha 😀

I was speechless on the incredible scenery!!! It was like a dream…a childhood dream that I would never imagined it could come true this easily…we are in Sahara Desert!

 

Those tracks are from those vehicles, I still think it was much cooler to be on camels!

Selfie time?

It was amazing how wind blowing formed this ever changing landscape of sand dunes!

We finally reached our nomad camp!

Hello???

A photo with Milky 🙂

Our nomad tent camps!!! Once we assigned the tent, we put our stuff in the tent and off we ran up to the sand dune for photos!

We found it was easier to walk on the sand with our bare feet! Run run run Jason!

Sahara Desert – we are here!!!

 

When we were having our yoga pose photos, Jason ran up to the top of the sand dune to check out the view, he ran back down and highly recommended us to walk all the way up to see the sun set. Okay, let’s go!

Sunset over the Sahara!

After the sun has set, we walked back down to the camp and took some photos:

On the back of the camp, there’s a toilet tent with running water and flushing toilet!!! This is a more upscale camp so it cost more but totally worth it! I did read that the large cheap tour didn’t even have a toilet so you have to find somewhere to “hide” to take care of your business which I can never ever do!

Our own tent with mattress and bedding. There was sand on the bed sheet so I was wondering if they ever change the sheet or not. Jason said that the sand got in from small leaks in the tent when the wind blows. It was very hot inside the tent when we arrived but the temperature quickly dropped at night, thus, the blankets were supplied. We were also offered mint tea, yay, that was refreshing to relief the hotness in our tent!

There is a bonfire at one end of the camp for evening entertainment.

We walked to another tent where they set up tables for us to have our dinner. Our Berber tent dinner, not so bad surprisingly!

Tagine!!!

The nomads were playing drums beside the bonfire under the starry sky. I checked my SkyView Free app on my phone and manually set the location to Morocco since there was no signal inside the desert to estimate the Milky Way position. The app showed that the whole arc of the Milky Way will be visible at 3 am so we set the alarm to get up at 3 am. We walked back to our tent, brushed our teeth, and then sleep so we can wake up at 3 am for stargazing!!!

The alarm sounded at 3 am and we quickly gathered our cameras, flashlights, and jacket and walked out of our tent. We were so luckily to have absolutely clear sky without any cloud and new moon so we can see the Milky Way with our naked eyes. OMG OMG OMG!!!

We climbed up the sand dune and the Milky Way was brightly and clearly visible, it was such an amazing experience to stargaze in the Sahara Desert!

It was also our first time to be able to see and photograph the Milky Way arc, it was magical! Other times when we were photographing the Milky Way, those times were in December/January which was very bad timing to photograph the Milky Way because the core of the Milky Way (the brightest part) is not visible until day light. April to June are the best months and we happened to be there end of April and new moon too! Another note is we didn’t have our full sized tripod with us on this trip as I figured it wouldn’t be able to stand still in the sand…will be sinking. Instead, we used the big plate from the mint tea to stabilized the sand (big surface area) and provided a flat surface for my mini tripod to hold up the camera. I used LightRoom 6 to stitch the 6 photos together to create this panorama of the full arc. It was such a once in a lifetime experience! 

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