I put the cameras away as the afternoon wears on. I've lost track of the number of mountain ranges we've crept over and the number of vast, desolate lunar-looking mountain plains we've crossed. This part of Morocco is stark, I mean it makes the Nullabor Plain look lush!
This is definitely an ipod or book leg. At least we were warned and everybody seems to be hunkered down reading, listening to tunes, dozing or all of the above. The mountains are craggy, surreal, ancient. I can see why Hollywood and the Euro’s liked shooting their movies here – safe, cheap, different and light that’s a lot softer than Broken Hill or Marble Bar, even in the middle of the day. (Though we are definitely not talking summer, where it gets to 50 degrees Celsius here.)
We edge ever closer to the Sahara. The road actually gets better, possibly because here there's a strong military presence. We are warned not to photograph soldiers. We will be going close to the Algerian border. Apparently the two countries are not on the best terms.
Omar pushes the 14 seater Merc bus ever deeper into the dry, sandy heart of Morocco and we start to see date palms beside little mountain streams that eventually run dry in the desert. The camel burger is giving my ass a run for its money and my bladder is rebelling against the constant bumps. There's nothing to see to the horizon except this bare, dry Martian terrain.
Up front. Omar and Yacine are in animated discussion in Berber-Arabic. They could be arguing about the soccer, chatting about the weather or even Yacine's wedding in a few weeks. I have no idea. My question and prayers are answered when all of a sudden a bloody huge oasis at the bottom of a gorge appears out of the middle of nowhere! It's time for a stretch, a haggle and a toilet and a camera stop. I don’t think it was quite in that order though.
After 11 hours and 20 minutes on the road, we park at the edge of the dunes. Just so glad I don’t have to drive, cook or clean up on this trip. The bed feels hard but I'm asleep instantly. Knackered somewhere near Algeria, nowhere near Tibrogargan.
Tomorrow, I’ll ride my first camel, even managing “no hands” to shoot from the beast' hum, while trekking into the amazing gargantuan dunes of the Sahara Desert to camp under a curtain of stars I don’t know and putting my life in the hands of blue robed Bedouin strangers.
And I'll definitely remember to shake my Nikes of scorpions in the morning."