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Tue Feb 10 2015: Dune World

This is a close-up of the hotel we are staying at at the edge of the Sahara Desert. You can see the pistes that we took to get here yesterday. Funny, they seem really well defined from above, but when you're actually riding them, they criss-cross and seem to go all over the place. Thank goodness the GPS kinda pointed us in the right direction. Kinda.

So this entry is pretty much going to be about all those sand dunes you see right outside our back door.

This was a bivouac situated on the dunes outside of our hotel

We made it a point to wake up an hour before the sun was supposed to break over the horizon to trek out to a spot in the desert where we would be surrounded by sand dunes so we could catch a proper Saharan sunrise. We're told the colours are just magical at this time of day. It turns out you don't have to go too far to get full immersion - there are a couple of huge sand dunes nearby and the minute you go around the corner you could just as well be in the middle of the Sahara instead of a mere kilometer away from the edge.

I brought my GPS on our morning hike just in case, but we didn't really need it because we didn't get very far in.

About a km away from the hotel - Sand for as far as the eye can see in all directions.
It could've been 300 kms in!

Amazing patterns sculpted by the wind

We were in awe of all the different shapes of the dunes and the patterns that the winds blew the sands into. I found the ridges very fascinating and we trudged a haphazard path around the desert trying to find a nice sharp edge that was just the right angle against the sun, had an interesting curve to it and bonus if it had a cool pattern on the windward face. And of course, all the time trying to approach the dune from the right direction so we wouldn't dirty the sands with our footprints.

It turned out to be a fun game which distracted me just enough for me not to notice that we were doing A LOT of hiking.

"Be vewy, vewy kwayite. We're hunting doones..."

Amazing, amazing, amazing! The colours, the shapes, the patterns. Glad I brought a spare battery for the camera...

I would love to watch a time-lapse video to see how these patterns are created!

Having such a good time out here!

Part of me wishes we could just hover over these dunes. Partly because I don't like disturbing the sand with our footprints, but mainly because I'm just lazy...

Field of cool patterns. I have literally 100s of more shots of the desert...

Heading back to the hotel. You can see a little of the oasis up ahead

Upon our arrival, we returned some stuff to the desert that we had borrowed

Moroccan the Cats-bah

Moroccan the Sheeps-baaaaah

These sheep were running away from huge worms lurking underneath the sands of Erg Arrakis. Actually, they were being chased away from our hotel by the staff. Turns out there are some really tasty plants on our patio, which are meant more as decorations for the guests, not as a snack for these sheep...

This 4x4 was having a great time making runs up and down this massive sand dune outside of our hotel

The largest sand dunes in Morocco can be found here at Erg Chebbi, rising up over 150 metres in height. "Erg" is the Arabic word for dune field, and Erg Chebbi is about 200 square kms of dunes. They say that the orange colour of the sands here are particular to this one place only, which makes it a very popular spot for tourists.

While hanging out on the patio, we heard the sound of dirtbikes. So we came out to investigate.

Giacomo, on the right, runs a company that offers motorcycle tours of Morocco. Here he is with a very lucky customer, Gianluca from Italy, who got some intensive one-on-one training with the former off-road racer. They just happened to stop at our hotel to come in for a quick snack, so we got to talking with them.

One of the items on our bucketlist is to ride sand dunes on a dirtbike, so we asked Giacomo if he had any spots open in the next few days. I could sense he was holding back much scoffing and laughter as he regretfully informed us that he was booked for the next couple of *months*. Dammit. Sometimes it's great just showing up and going with the flow, but for other things, it seems like you actually need to plan them out well in advance.

We took Giacomo's e-mail address and we will be using it in the very near future.

So Jelly!!!

We watched with extreme envy as the dirtbikers suited up and remounted their four-strokes and they braaaped off into the sand dunes. My camera chased after them like an excited dog, until they were well out-of-sight.

*sigh* We SOOOOOOO wanted to do this, and in the back of our minds we thought we could just show up, rent some bikes and have a great story to tell at the end of the day.

But instead, we booked a camel tour of the sand dunes, with an overnight stay in a Berber tent...

Later on in the evening: Camels! I just need to get them to stand up so I can get a picture of their feet!

Neda turned to me quickly and lectured me sternly, "These aren't camels. Camels have two humps. These are dromedaries. They only have one hump. So you're not going to be making any dumb camel toe jokes on the blog!"

Hrmph. We'll see about that, Neda!

Neda made a new friend. I can already tell by the look in her eye that
she is mentally calculating how much space she has left in her tankbag....

I can't even imagine what this dromedary is thinking about Neda right now...

Unfortunately, I didn't get a lot of shots after this because dark clouds rolled in fast from the south-east. We had nervously checked the forecast beforehand and although it predicted rain, we thought: hey, we're in the freakin' Sahara Desert, ain't no rain gonna follow us here! But the skies darkened ominously and the winds picked up anyway, a sure sign that precipitation was imminent.

We looked at each other, then at the line of camels in front of us. We really didn't want to go trekking out there in a downpour, not get any pictures of a Sahara sunset (which was the main reason we booked the tour) and also spend the night sleeping in a cold and wet bivouac! How do we gracefully back out of the camel tour that we had reserved?

*sigh* So here we are in the freakin' Sahara desert. Supposedly one of the driest places on earth. And we've brought rain with us...

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