Wednesday, March 25

Morocco V: The Sahara

February 11, 2020

As always click on any image to expand it....

Plate 30
We bussed through the Atlas Mountains to Erfoud on the upper zag of Morocco’s zig-zaggy western border. It's just east of one of those spots where the country zigs into the world’s mysterious desert. The Sahara’s a big hot rocky and sandy thing… large enough to cover the entire United States with enough left over to spill into Canada, Mexico and both the Pacific and Atlantic. Why is it a desert? Because as the earth wobbles on its axis, Northern Africa varies between a lush, verdant, green, lake-strewn paradise, and the driest desert on earth.

Sahara’s on an eons-old 41,000 year predictable cycle and the current dry period will return to wet and lovely in another 15,000 years… If you want to wait around mark your calendar for 17,000 AD. But before it gets smaller earth’s wobble’s causing the Sahara to get bigger - 10% larger since the 1920s.

Anyway, a lot of it’s under orange/red, sand. So? Well nobody actually knows from where all those very very tiny granules of oddly colored stuff came. There are a trio of guesses and I like number three… Mars! 

Uh-huh - some scientists say all those dunes of stuff are from The Red Planet. Which, is not an American state that votes Republican. Nope, can’t blame the 30% of Africa it covers on Trump :-) Here’s that Mars theory.

Hey, I didn’t say I believe it… but it’s my favorite.

So in Erfoud we squeezed into six Toyota 4X4s that screamed out into the desert. Screamed? It was a rush… The SUVs raced at about 50 mph in a horizontal line churning up thick yellow-red clouds. Like in a Transformer movie. Coooool! Why horizontal? So no one rode in the dust. Why so fast? Cause driving in this sand’s like navigating through deep snow drifts. Stop, or slow in a drift, and the car sinks. In fact, one did… See?

Plate 31

And the other drivers dug out the tires and pushed to regain traction. Finally they got us to an oasis for lunch where we found the last trees on land's end.

Plate 32

And kids, like this pretty youngster, trundled out of nowhere to show their wares.

Plate 33

The coordinators introduced us to our guide (one to a couple) Hsen. And Hsen introduced us to our rides. Look at those beasties. See the handlebars? Uh-huh, you sit on a fat pillow and grasp the handles. It’s surprisingly comfortable and an easier ride than horseback. 

Plate 34

Notice how the base of the bars curve around the hump’s base Well there’s a U-shape metal arc that’s then belted around a camel’s belly. Between the U and camel is a natural cup holder for a water bottle. Neat. My wife Rita and I were tethered together and Hsen led on foot. Which meant that the nose of my ride nuzzled the rear of Rita’s pillow.

Plate 35

Some  vacationing camels free-range around tents like this gal, coming home for meals. On the way they drop… Well, you’ve heard of road-apples right? Camels leave, um, road-malt-balls. Look how efficiently these beasts digest stuff. There’s nothing useful left, and that freshly dropped pellet was almost completely dry. Camels waste no moisture. Yeah they’re perfect for the driest place on earth.

So, our expedition was off…

Plate 36

Led by…

Plate 37

Plate 38

Off to find a high dune and enjoy one of the most astounding sunsets: 

Plate 39

Plate 40

A jewel of the Arab world.

Plate 41

Coming ... Morocco VI - On The Roads sensing the culture.

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