Second Time Around travel blog

The little things

Dromedaries, thank you

We moved south and left the snow, but we did not leave the cold. I'm not paying attention to temperature but we are wearing all of our warm layers outdoors and most of our warm layers indoors.

Thankfully, the sun is out.

We spent last night camping in sand dunes of the western Sahara Desert. We traveled about three miles from our van to the camp via dromedary.

Our leader informed us that there are no camels in North Africa. What we have in North Africa are dromedaries. It seems the two are closely related, but the camel has two humps, while our rides have one.

To sit on the dromedary, one places oneself not on but just behind the single hump on a wide, padded saddle, and hangs on to a horn or handle just ahead of the single hump. Our saddles had no stirrups, but except during standing and sitting were reasonably secure.

We wore small packs with minimal gear. My sleeping bag was hung in its stuff sack on the saddle bar.

There were two lines of eight closely tied dromedaries, each line led by a bored-looking Berber on foot. More about Berbers later.

The Berbers led us at an ambling pace. You rock with the dromedary and use arms for suspension on the ups and downs. You are six feet above ground amd hope to have soft sand available if you fall.

After about an hour riding among the dunes, we dismounted and followed our guide toward the top of a high dune, perhaps 300 feet up. It reminded me of snow climbing in the Cascade Mountains back in the day.

While we waited for the desert sunset, the Burbers took our rides back to their stable.

Sunset duly observed, we headed down the dune to our camp.

Camp was a collection of six or seven semi-permanent black rectangular tents for eating and sleeping. I was expecting the toilet to be a desert free-for-all but it turned out we had a set of western-style toilets that actually flushed.

Dinner was a classic Moroccan tagene (sometimes tajine or other spelling) of chicken, potatoes, and carrots.

The social highlight was a drinking game called "Fruit and Vegetable." I'll leave to your Internet skills to find the rules, while I will confess to being the first one thrown out for rule violations.

Mo and I were among the first to bed, but we could hear the Berber drumming before falling asleep.

It was cold. Dammed cold. We slept well in our sleeping bags augmented with Berber blankets. We didn't even have to share our tent.

The same bored Berbers fetched us in the morning for the ride back to the van and breakfast.

We rode similar critters in India two years ago. Frankly, I'm not anxious to ride one again - camel or dromedary. At least not soon.

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