We were up right at 6:00am as the desert guide had told us. They had said to get up, watch the sunrise, and then we would be hopping on the camels and returning to where the van was and having breakfast.
We climbed the big sand dune and watched the horizon for the sun to appear. And then we heard a voice yelling at us.
"Come, let's go, we have to go now", said the voice from the other side of the dune. Looking down, we saw that he had all the camels lined up and ready to go.
Huh? I thought we were supposed to watch the sunrise. Some of our group wasn't even there yet.
None of us moved.
"Come on, let's go" said the voice.
I think we had all had enough of the bad information and lack of consistent (or any) communication, and so we all stayed at the top of the dune. The voice down below gave up, and the guy sat down.
Sahara Desert sunrise. Not spectacular, but still nice enough.
There was a bit of a chill in the air, but not really that cold. The people who slept outside said they were fine. Ruth slept well in the tent, but I could have been better. Fortunately there were no snorers and it was relatively quiet.
When we were all ready to, we went down the dune and said good morning to the camels...
Good morning Mr. Camel!
Ruth and I had another look around the camp. It really wasn't very nice. Garbage and broken glass. Toilet paper left over by the many women who pee overnight and then don't even make an effort to bury their piece of paper. Ruth, by the way brought a small plastic bag for her used paper which she carried back to the hotel/restaurant so that she could dispose of it in the garbage. Even a half hearted effort doesn't work because the wind just uncovers it eventually. And this wasn't even just from last night...it was many nights. Just generally not well kept. We didn't even see a garbage can in sight at the camp!
They've been doing these types of cheap desert tours for many years and you'd think they would have it all figured out by now...but they don't. And they don't have to, because the people keep coming. And if there's something you're not happy with after the trip, you have no recourse. This is Morocco. Tourism is only increasing here, so they have no incentive to change or improve.
Kevin, on his camel.
My butt was still sore from the day before!
Ruth's camel shadow.
We arrived back where the van had dropped us off, but there was no van. We were told to go inside a nearby restaurant for breakfast. Again, coffee, tea, bread, and jam. We had rice cakes with jam, and Ruth had a couple of mandarin oranges. That'll have to do until lunch stop, and who knows when that will be. We had been told when we bought the deal that there would be showers available. Nope. No showers.
We were dreading the long ride back. Yes, we knew in advance that it was a 10 hour journey and that it would be far too much to do in one day.
We had considered getting off at the town of Erfoud and making our own way up to the city of Fez. But that was only 75 kms shorter, and of course we would have had to pay out of pocket for that. Also, we are learning that Morocco isn't quite as cheap of a country as we thought it was. These hotels out in the middle of nowhere can be well over $50 a night for very basic accommodation.
So we decided to bite the bullet and dig in for the long ride.
We left just before 9:00am.
We didn't have any accommodation planned for our return because we had been thinking of going up to Fez. Every time we got a cell signal, I was checking AirBnb for somewhere to stay. Eventually, I got confirmation for two nights at another riad in the Medina.
Street scene on the way back. We weren't feeling very ambitious with the camera.
Stopped for lunch at another tourist restaurant and got away with 120 dirham ($17 CAD, $12.50 USD) for the two of us. Not worth it, but there were no other choices within walking distance.
All of these tourist restaurants have those typical popsicle coolers where you can buy an ice cream bar or popsicle. They want minimum 20 dirham ($2.80 CAD, $2.20 USD) for one, and they are usually 25 dirham, and we've seen them as high as 30 dirham. The guys running these tourist joints are sure doing okay. A steady stream of gullible tourists at their door every single day of the year.
A couple of bathroom breaks later, we arrived at the central square in Marrakech...at 9:30pm, a full twelve and a half hours after we set out. Not fun, but you have to take it all in stride.
Now, we had to find our way to the riad in the dark. Also, not fun. But I had it mapped out on maps.me on the phone and we got there without much of an issue. The girl, Aicha, was very nice, and it was in a very much typical Moroccan family home. It was getting late, and we still hadn't had any dinner. She offered to get her "girl" to make dinner for us for 100 dirhams ($14 CAD, $10.50 USD), and a black lady was called to do the cooking. Before we knew it, it was midnight and we hit the sack after a very long day.
All in all, it was a fun experience. I know I complained a lot over the last two posts, but that was more so that anybody who researches a cheap desert tour like this would have more information than we did going into it. This is Morocco...northern Africa where things simply don't happen the way they do in "modern" countries. You need to have an open mind, and to roll with things as they happen.
As for the value, we paid 900 dirams ($126 CAD, $93 USD) each, so it wasn't a lot of money. I guess my beef is that it could have been so much better, with not very much more effort on their part. But as I said, they don't have a lot of incentive to improve.
Would we do it again, knowing what we now know? Nope. We would rent a car and set off on our own. It wouldn't be that much more expensive, but it would be a lot better outing.
And in Canada...
For a cheap pair of binoculars, they sure get good reviews.