Sherman, relaxing at the Burnt Corral Campground in Arizona. Photo taken February 24, 2015!
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Osgoode (Ottawa), Ontario, Canada.

Where are they going next? Barbados! Arrive on October 25th!

Friday, April 7, 2017

We were dreading the long ride back

This is the third and final post regarding our Sahara Desert camel excursion.

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.


34 comments:

  1. What an adventure, but I can honestly say this isn't for me. At my age I want a little comfort and privacy. Re the typical house with the carpets...nope, that was a typical carpet shop! We had an identical experience years ago in Istanbul, but it was a little more 'professional' and we bought a small carpet. It remains one of our best decisions & memories while on vacation. Not seeing the gorge is a total disappointment - not to mention rip off. Review them if they're on Tripadvisor. Other travellers would be grateful for your insight.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the thing...you can't accurately review these tours on tripadvisor because all of the group ones like this are done by resellers. You can of course make a general comment on the forums for the benefit of future travelers though, which I have done.

      Delete
  2. Our Intrepid tour to Morocco was absolutely amazing and our tour guide was fantastic. We have always travelled on our own and decided to take a tour this time as we did not know enough about the culture or the language and wanted to learn more. We would highly recommend the Intrepid Best of Morocco tour - the food, the accommodations, the tours, the various types of transportation and the guide. Every day was a treat! Look for their sales and mention Nomadic Matt for a further 10% off. Connie Smith

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Looked up Nomadic Matt and Intrepid. Intrepid seem reasonably priced than The Odyssey also a small group tour.

      Delete
    2. I'm certain that your tour with Intrepid was absolutely amazing, but you also paid the price for that. Perspective is everything.

      Delete
  3. The photos to the camel ride was great (scenes of mountains, greenery) but I've seen deserts and sand dunes so that part I knew what it would be like. I also knew accommodations wouldn't be great from seeing documentaries of the area. I agree I would do the tour on my own in rental car. If I were living in morocco I'd offer rooming and a private tour...probably can make a living doing that but it would probably get old after a while.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Rita! The camel ride was fun and we loved the desert sand dunes, they sure make great photos. I don't know why we had thought that we would have a private tent, maybe because when they were explaining the group tour and the private tour we just got mixed up. No matter, we weren't worried about sleeping in the basic tents, after all we used to be tent campers. They supplied us with a slim mattress and a heavy blanket and really that was all that we needed. Kevin's problem was sleeping in a group and having someone that snored. Luckily that didn't happen, although he said he didn't sleep well but my sleep was pretty good. We will know better next time and rent a car of drive over with an RV. :-)

      Delete
  4. I wonder what the cost of the Intrepid Best of Morocco tour would be compared to yours!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Approximately $100 per person per day.

      Delete
    2. Yup, we paid $75 a day each when we did it, but that covered almost everything. A well planned itinerary, a passionate guide 24/7, great accommodation, good food, a variety of transportation (private van, trains, bus, camels, mules), special tours and to many 'off the beaten track' places. We were able to fine tune the tour, also just by asking. Fifteen people were on our tour. Their sales are good.

      Delete
    3. I remember reading about your tour and it does sound like you had a great time. However for us, it is a little more than our budget would allow and I know if we had planned a little better and gotten a car rental we could have done what we wanted for less than that and still gotten to some of the off beaten track places as well. Next time we come we will know better and learn from our mistakes and have a even better experience. Still we did get to see quite a lot and learned about the Berber and their way of living so it wasn't a waste of time or money it was just very long days without the chance to really be able to do our own thing at our own pace.

      Delete
  5. At least you got your camel ride in. I have never wanted to do one of those camping outings because of exactly what happened to you. The maximum group event I like to be on is a day and even then that is a stretch - I only do it when it becomes the cheapest option to look and see a lot in a short period of time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We sure did! :-) You could still do what we did but do it as a private tour, it is a little more money and perhaps slightly better sleeping accommodations than what we had, which really wasn't that bad especially because we didn't have any snorers in the tent.

      Delete
  6. Too bad the "tours" don't actually take good care of the "tourists." Think about this: If you'd had a really fantastic time for the 93$ US, you would rave about it on your blog and more people would be inclined to go, and possibly even spend more (if they had it). I guess we're talking apples and oranges here. Like I said in my previous comment, you've done it and enjoyed some of it, and don't have to do it again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's the problem, they constantly have full tours almost everyday so they don't need to work any harder at improving the tours! It's a shame really because as Kevin mentioned in the blog, it wouldn't take very much to make the tour that much better. The tour wasn't a disaster, we did have a good time, we were just disappointed that we couldn't have spent a bit more time in both of the gorges and being told that we would see that nice twisty, windy road and then not see it and also not having a campfire that they said we would have. For the price, we really couldn't expect much more but just a few improvements could have made a huge difference. Really this trip needed to be at least one day longer so that it didn't feel quite so rushed.

      Delete
  7. I'm glad you gave an honest review of your tour. Unless other tourists start to be educated on the realities, they will continue to be taken advantage of. What bothered me the most, (other than the blatant lies you were told), is the sanitation issue. They are setting people up for some nasty diseases if they can't even provide clean facilities. They could have a decent outhouse even in a rural area like this! Looking forward to brighter days ahead!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. For a normal tourist that doesn't have that much time or money then it really isn't a bad tour just be prepared to have very long days, much of it sitting in a van with 16 to 17 other people in hot weather.

      Yes, that is the part we were most disappointed with, being told one thing and then not having it happen. That and the amount of garbage around the desert camp. They really need to work on cleaning that up and making sure that when one group leaves to go around and clean the site up before the next group arrives. And get one or two composting toilets out there. They are pretty easy to use and to keep clean and really there is very little odor as well as being very environmental for being out in the middle of nowhere.

      Delete
  8. Oh boy. Now that was an adventure. As you said...They aren't going to change anything because they don't have to. It was an interesting adventure all in all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a shame because it wouldn't take much to really improve the experience. We are still glad that we did it but now in hindsight, we would have done most of the trip on our own in a rental car at our own pace. Yep, it was an adventure and really we don't regret doing it.

      Delete
  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Deleted because I wanted to fix something.

      Trash and garbage. Most people are pigs and don't clean up after themselves. It must not be part of our human nature. Countries have spent billions on education and advertising regarding the environment. The U.S. and Mexico are filthy for the most part. Canada has found some solutions that seem to take the major edge off of litter.

      Delete
    2. Yep, you are right on the money Chris, many people are pigs. Hopefully one day this will improve. Canada, in reality does do quite well but we still see problems in certain areas. When we start running out of places to put the garbage maybe people will start to care!

      Delete
    3. Speak for yourself 'Living and boondocking in Mexico'. Assume you live in Mexico and I'm sorry it is a filthy country through your eyes. I live in the US and travel between Boston and New York for work. Large metro areas that are shockingly clean. In Summer spend time up in the White Mountains, coastal Maine and on Nantucket island. Stunning places with a great spirit of stewardship and responsability from the majority of the population. Have been hiking and skiing in the sates of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. Take Telluride Colorado - a stunning town with -0- trash accesssible and enjoyed by all. So before you state that 'The U.S. is filthy for the most part' I suggest you spend a season visiting the above places and reconder your clearly uninformed opinion. Not cool to make sweeping generalizations about groups of people, countries, cultures etc. Cmon man!

      Delete
    4. also I'm sure you are very proud of Mexico and I know it not be filthy everywhere so I have to disagree with you on that one my friend. anyway sure this is nothing a couple of glasses of vino and a tango or two cannot solve!

      Delete
    5. I've traveled the U.S. most of my life and have, as recently been to the Western U.S. Filthy small towns. Yes, there are exceptions but the "no litter" campaigns didn't do what they had hoped. I'm not trashing the U.S. (no pun intended) it's a great country like Mexico and Canada but it has its issues too. By the way, opinions such as yours are exactly that. My is very informed. All the places you have mentioned are tourist places and I certainly am sure they are very clean. It's the rest of the country where poor Americans do not have access to education, work, and most of all clean water and sanitation disposal who live in filth. Maybe you need to drive through rural Texas, New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Louisiana.

      I like your last line though, after chewing me out you end with and I quote it back to you, "Cmon man!"

      http://newsfeed.time.com/2011/06/14/the-ten-dirtiest-cities-in-america-new-orleans-tops-the-list/

      And with a blog name like X? Hmm.

      Delete
  10. You at least had a tour, experience and a big learning curve, but at least you did it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, it was a learning curve and we always learn from it for the next time.

      Hopefully others who want to do this trip will read our posts and then be able to make up their minds fairly or at least know exactly what to expect so that there are no surprises.

      Delete
  11. We did a fabulous 12 day tour of Morocco in a small van five years ago with Transat Discoveries. It sounds like the Intrepid Tour mentioned above. Everything included even flights for about $1700 pp Cdn. Great value and amazing experience. Would go back to Morocco in a heartbeat! I think this is a case of you get what you pay for and I would hate to see people not go to Morocco because of your posts. Most people we met were very friendly and accommodating, but we were escorted by a great local guide. We usually don't do tours either and are very experienced travellers, but thought it best to be escorted through Morocco(plus we were there just after the Arab Spring). Our overnight Bedouin camp in the desert had real washrooms, our own tents and a dining tent..great experience. we rode the dromedaries (one hump) over the dunes to see the sun rise. We loved the medina in Marrakech and the haggling with the vendors. Thought of it as entertainment and got some great deals, especially on leather goods. We ate at a restaurant on the square and had no problems with our order or payment. The medina in Fez was an ancient maze that we wandered through ( with our guide or we would still be lost there)for a whole day. It felt like we were in another world! So much history to be immersed in. All to say, in some countries it is wise to change your usual way of travel in order to get the best local experience and see what you really want to see.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for this post. After reading about Kevin and Ruth describing toilets overflowing in their hotel, everyone defecating in the dunes and leaving toilet paper lying around, guides constantly ripping them off, shouting matches and tears at food markets it felt like any white person our tourist would have a target on their back and the sole purpose of anyone in Morocco that meets them is to extract a 'tax' in the form of some sort of scam.
      I really enjoy reading this blog but sometimes and in some countries perhaps K and R are too cheap for their own good. You get what you pay for after all. Sometimes you need to step it up and spend 75 per day on an all inclusive tour and have an amazing experience (especially considering that they will never come back to Morrocco) so consider it the opportunity cost of having a great versus terrible experience. It is good to know one can have a completely different experience for a very small increase in cost. I'm all for traveling inexpensively but not every country works that way. Seems like in Morocco you need to pay up, especially as a white tourist. Zurich on the other hand has an entire population paying taxes for services that can be enjoyed by anyone and everyone that can get themselves there to enjoy.

      Delete
    2. We aren't saying that all tours are going to be tours like ours, you definitely get what you pay for and we certainly weren't expecting to have a luxury tour. I am sure your trip was similar to gypsyrovers' (Connie), Intrepid tour was and yes it sounded great but you are still tied down to a routine although you get more time in some spots than what we did in our 3 day tour. Our only issue really with our tour was that we were told that we would see or do a few things that we didn't get to see or do and that we felt our "guides" weren't with us for long and didn't really give us a ton of information. Actually the second guide was almost useless in our mind. The first one wasn't bad. We loved Marrakech and spent in total four full days there with our only problem being our dinner on our last day. We loved all the action, the colours, the smells and the sights in Marrakech, definitely a place that everyone should have a chance to experience in their lifetime.

      We aren't trying to turn people off of Morocco we are only trying to make them aware so that if they come, they wouldn't make some of the mistakes that we have made and will be able to come to Morocco knowing more or less what to expect, especially if they are traveling without a group or a private guide. We think when you do it as we are it is quite a different experience than what you would get because you have a guide with you, you probably wouldn't get the same reception that many others tourists can get.

      Delete
    3. X, just to set things straight, nowhere did we say that we wouldn't return or that we had a terrible experience! We are telling things that we have seen or that have happened to us and yes, we even have said to ourselves that maybe sometimes we are a bit too cheap. Overall we have had a good experience here and would never tell people not to visit Morocco but we just want them to be aware so that they don't make the same mistakes that we have made or that they more or less know what to expect. Doing a package tour like Mary Anne did, is a great way to experience the country if you aren't comfortable doing it yourself but you are still slightly protected from the real life in Morocco that others traveling on their own would see and experience.

      Yes, we have had a bad dining experience but now we have learned from that and we aren't the only ones that have had a problem with the street food vendors in the center of the square. By all means, people can go and eat there but just be aware that they do try to get more out of you than what you actually ordered and if you check on tripadvisor we aren't the only ones that have had this experience. The restaurants in the souk and around the square are a better option in our opinion.

      We had commented to each other as we have wandered around, about some of the friendly people that we have come in contact with at stores and the train station. It just happened that a few not so good things happened all about the same time.

      As for coming back we have already said that we would love to come back but we would do it in an RV or rent a car. There are so many places that we want to get to and just haven't had the time.

      Delete
    4. Thank you for taking the time to share your additional thoughts and experiences (and for having the good nature to laugh at your self about being too cheap sometimes - have a lot of respect for people that can do that). Carry on into the breach dear friends! Deep down I'm a huge fan of yours and everything you do - and for making do and having great experiences all around with the budget you have to work with. Not everyone gets out there and many make a bunch of excuses for not going. Blast off to Rabat!!!!

      Delete
  12. I think K and R and many other people who don't do the luxury tour get a taste of what the world is really all about and how humans really live. Why visit a tourist place that doesn't show the reality of its people or surroundings? I could stay home and watch YouTube travelogue. I'm into cultures and history and want the real experience whether it is visually pleasing or not. The world is what it is and most of it is, well, I'll just leave it at that. Humans are the enemy not nature.

    ReplyDelete

We love hearing from you! Please take the time to leave a comment...