Spring Break (2): Road Trip to the Sahara
This post will equal three days worth of content, in it including towering gorges, rolling green hills, and the Sahara dunes. For those that read through it all (even if you just look at the photos), I promise there will be a puppy at the end!
Our road trip started with scenery that I never could have imagined, some reminding me of California, and others reminding me of Switzerland:
View of Tizi-n-Tishka in the high Atlas Mountains.
We stopped by a traditional Berber village, usually consisting of ~20 houses always near a water source:
AIT BEN HADDOU
Ait Ben Haddou is recognized by UNESCO as a world patrimony. It is also a backdrop for many famous films and shows including Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, and Game of Thrones (as Yunkai).
Left photo: Date trees
Right photo: traditional hand-stitched Berber rugs.
Ali (tour guide), Rebecca, and Sam on the way to Ait Ben Haddou.
Fossils including ammonites, trilobites, and orthoceras found in the dessert.
The painting is a watercolor is comprised of green tea, saffron, and sugar. When heated, the sugar carmelizes, revealing details and making the painting bolder:
Here are more shots from the road before reaching our next destination:
VALLEY OF ROSES
The trees bloom every April revealing pink blossoms across the landscape, and it is known for its Festival of Roses involving a huge parade and 5 princesses (similar to the Rose Parade in Pasadena). Although we were a month too early, it was still an amazing view:
We also saw how argan oil and paste is made, first peeling the shell to reveal the seed, and then putting the seeds in the machine (middle photo) to be turned by hand. The oil will rise to the top and the paste will be left at the bottom. The last photo shows the paste along with syrups that can be eaten with bread.
We continued on the road until we reached our destination for the night.
Babylon du Dades, the place we stayed for the night.
Ali showed us this beautiful valley on the drive to the Sahara, where we admired the contrasting colors between the pink blossoms and the lush green grass. It was especially windy that day, creating dust in the air from the sand nearby, but providing for a more surreal landscape in my opinion.
Continuing on the road:
The gorges are in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains where the orange limestone cliffs are as high as 300m with a crystal clear river running through.
BACK ON THE ROAD
Along the way we made a few pit stops where we wore traditional Berber clothing and posed with the Berber flag, as well as saw where Ali grew up and had a lovely chat with his family.
Left photo: Berber flag
The street where Ali grew up.
Ali's mother, father, sister, and nephew (left bottom corner, not pictured).
CAMEL RIDES + CAMPING IN THE SAHARA DESSERT
While riding the camels to get to our tents, there were several instances where I could see more of them following a guide in the distance. They produced perfect silhouettes against the rolling sand dunes in the Sahara and the grey dusty sky as a result from the wind that week.
A tip when riding a camel is to let your hips move with the movement of the camel. When they are walking downhill especially, make sure to grab both handles firmly to avoid from falling forward, but don't tense up the rest of your body or it will be very uncomfortable for you and the camel. Oh, and after riding, be prepared to stretch out the soreness.
Taking photos while riding a camel is also tricky because of all the movement (think of a tame mechanical bull movement). So another tip, either try to match your movement with the camel, wait for the camel to stop to take your picture, or take as many as you can and edit later in your preferred photo editing software. I did a combination of all three of these.
Two hours later, we finally reached our tents for the night!
After putting down our things, we went for a walk in the Sahara before dinner. How did I feel while in the Sahara? Small amongst the vast landscape and infinite sky, but SO free at the same time. The sand was also the softest my feet has felt in a long time.
Sam at the top of a sand dune.
As you can tell from the photos below, the wind was strong and the sand picks up easily, so either bring sunglasses or face the other way.
Candid shot of Rebecca embracing the wind.
Me making sure my scarf doesn't blow away... Pc: Rebecca Kim
For dinner, we had what we've been having the entire trip: tangine, mediterranean salad, couscous, and dessert (usually sliced oranges with sweet cinnamon sprinkled on top). After dinner, we danced to the music with the Berbers and they taught us how to play the drums, as well as how to keep rhythm with krakebs, a metal percussion instrument typically used in Gnawa music.
Afterwards they set up a campfire under the stars, with Scooby (their watch-dog), and two other tourists on this trip.
Rebecca and I with the lovely Berber hosts!
After a restful night, we woke up to catch the sunrise on our camel ride back.
As the sun was rising steadily against the dusty sky, the moon was slowly disappearing on the opposite end:
The camels' shadows became bolder against the desert sand as the sun continued rising, leaving an impressive silhouette of this sturdy animal before we eventually left the desert.
ROAD TRIP CONTINUED
There was more beautiful scenery on the drive to Fes:
Ali made a quick pit-stop along the way, giving us the chance to hang out with monkeys and puppies, as well as enjoy a pine forest clearing.
This puppy kept its distance from us, but always followed us wherever we went.
And there you have it! The third and last post of this Morocco series will be about our adventures in Fes featuring the beautiful zellige tilework that you may have seen in the first blog in Marrakech. Stay tuned!