Partial Transcript for this episode is at the bottom of these notes. But trust us, listening to the podcast is a lot more fun than reading it and the notes miss a lot of the content 🙂
In the Sahara Morocco Podcast episode:
We ride the most uncomfortable form of transport ever devised by man into the Sand Dunes of the Sahara desert on the Moroccan-Algerian border, near Merzouga, Morocco. We eat Berber pizza, try the famed Berber whisky, and try our hand at sand-boarding.
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Weblinks from Sahara Morocco Podcast Episode
World Nomads Insurance – Specifically designed for digital nomads, flashpackers, adventure & long term Travellers – Get a 5% Discount with our coupon code: FOOD5 (For all not US residents)
Desert Sahara Tours – the company that we went on our camel trek with
Review of our camel trek desert experience on our blog Five Dollar Traveller
OZO Chaweng Samui – fantastic modern hotel in Samui. Their focus is on making sure you get the BEST nights sleep.
Thai Experience Samui – Number 1. on Trip Advisor
2W hostel – lovely family run hostel in Bophut, Koh Samui.
Papillon Riad, Marrakech – Beautiful luxury Riad in the heart of Marrakech.
Riad Naya Marrakech. A more affordable Riad in the heart of Marrakech, but still a lovely place to stay.
Learn more about traditional Berber Instruments
Magic Travel Blog – Tanya and Andrew, our blogging chums
Scott eddy – Podcast interview episode
Photos from Sahara Morocco Podcast
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This text is based on the script we use to present the show. A lot of things you hear in the show are not written here – so take a listen rather than reading 🙂 This text is not proof read or spellchecked and is here just as notes.
In this episode we take a 3 day, 2 night camel trek from Merzouga, Morocco, into the Sahara Desert.
We ride the most uncomfortable form of transport ever devised by mankind.
[CAMEL quick Clip]
We eat Berber pizza cooked directly on hot coals – WARNING there will be no cheese featured in this episode.
AND We some how get up before 6am to see the most… Will it be the best sunrise of our travels? Or a cloud disappointment.
[Up at 6 AM clip]
This is the NEWS!
By the time you are hearing this we will be back in Bangkok. We are loving hanging out at the beach, but rainy season is coming to the islands, plus we are going to be attending the TBEX travel blogger conference later this week.
Time for a couple of shout outs to companies we worked with while we were in Koh Samui.
The amazing OZO resort in Chaweng. It’s in the heart of the town on one side and is right on the beach on the other side. They focus on a good nights sleep providing blackout curtains and noise isolating windows as well as a supper comfy bed! Probably in my top 10 comfy beds from the last 3 years.
If you are not ready for a 3 star splurge option, we stayed at 2W hostel on Bang Rak beach in the north of Koh Samui. The private room was huge! It was more like a studio apartment! You got a real family welcome and this was in a much less touristy area. So if you want to chill, 2w hostel is a good option.
Lastly, The Thai Experience is a private dinner party for about 25 people every night. The concept is to introduce you to Thai street food in a clean and entertaining environment. Richard was our host and his patter was down! You’ll laugh, you’ll eat you’ll learn all about Thai customs and you’ll drink unlimited cocktails all night!
Some of the best Thai food we’ve had since being back. Plus they do some really exciting interpretations of Thai classics. It’s street food plus!
Links and photos are in the show notes: travelfreedompodcast.com/057
BUT, it’s time to leave our food adventure behind and talk about our Sahara Adventure.
The sand dunes of the Moroccan Sahara are simply epic. Riding through them on a camel is the traditional must do – but a lot of people choose the 4WD air con choice.
That would have been way fun! But maybe, the experience was more memorable because we had to suffer for it. Or at least our ass and thighs had to suffer.
As do your nostrils if being further back in the camel train. Yeah. They fart. A lot. Grumpy bastards!!
Camels suck! But it’s worth it.
We had taken a 12 hour bus ride from Marakech to Merzouga, through the Atlas mountains. We were in the south east of Morocco near to the Algerian border.
The Sand dunes loomingly surround the town. Its, not surprisingly, a quiet and dusty place. During the heat of the day, almost a ghost town.
We’d teamed up with Desert Sahara Tours, and after a little introduction by Mohamed number 1, who owns the company, we were introduced to Mohamed number 2, who would lead our camels.
We plodded for about 1.5 hours from the town, into the dunes. These things are big. They move and change in size, but are often over 150 meters. You feel dwarfed by these epic – yes using the word epic again – sandy mountains.
We found the camp, and moved into our surprisingly nice Desert cabin. We’d expected to be sleeping on the floor in a tent. Nope. Full double bed in a private cabin. Awesome.
and after it got dark, it was time for food, which is going to be Chicken Tagine, because that is how it is in Morocco. It’s the classic that every tourist must try… Repeatedly… But, Mohamed 2 actually put together a really tasty one!
Now, it wouldn’t be the full Berber experience without some music… Lets set some atmosphere, weave the scene with a soundscape of music… Well, let play the clip at least.
[Music Berber clip]
I feel like the guy playing the jangly sounding metal castanets – they are called the Qaraqib by the way, is playing out of time… But maybe that is just my western brain failing to understand his berber poly-rhythms.
now, Berber culture dates back over 5,000 years and they were here in North Africa long before the arab culture turned up. The music is mostly folk music, not really billboard charts material, but it features a mix of both African influences percussion and string and pipe type instruments.
We mainly got the drum show with a bit of singing at the camp. Sitting around the campfire, because of course, the temperature drops really quickly at night. A group of about 12 of us sat around, unable to join in with the lyrics.
I need to brush up on my Berber.
The next morning, we slept in. It had been cloudy the previous day and we figured sunrise would be a little disappointing. We knew we had another chance the next day, and we don’t get out of bed on a “maybe”…
[Morning Desert Clip]
So, by the time we were up the clouds had cleared and Mohamed 2 was keen to get us fed and on the way to our daytime oasis asap.
Another hour of butt clenching pain later, we arrived at our daytime oasis. It was time to sit under some trees Hugging ice water bottles.
After all of the tagines we’d eaten after 6 weeks living in Morocco, we were quite excited when we found out that todays chef, we’ll call him Mohamed 3, would be cooking Berber pizza.
While food was on the Go, Mohamed 1 arrived on an ATV, so the whole Mohamed trio was in the same place at the same time. Was it time for a musical number? Nope, but it was time for lunch.
[Beber Pizza Clip]
hmmmm. A moroccan spiced calzone style pizza filled with turkey and other goodies. It’s one of those dishes you just can’t stop eating… even without cheese.
We also got berber whisky… I don’t want you to build up any false hopes… Berber whisky is mint tea. The whole thing is a joke on foreigners. There is zero alcohol in it.
If prepared well and with plenty of sugar, it’s pretty tasty. BUT, it’s not whisky. It’s just an insult to Jack, Jim, and that Glenfidich fella.
Eventually the heat of the day subsided. As we ploughed back towards our overnight camp, grumpy camels belching as the sand whipped around us, the skies were clear and it was a perfect opportunity for a photoshoot.
Mohammed 2 agreed to participate and we got some of our best photos of 2015. Epic Sand, berber dress and 2 cantankerous camels, fighting the wind. It got featured on Intrepid Travel’s Instagram, which was a nice little boost for us.
Ok, It’s Story corner time. Arabic Story corner??? Should I… no, I Can’t do it. Lets just go back to a classic camp Welsh story corner instead.
So, I’m a big fan of skiing. how do winter sports connect with the Sahara… We’ll I’d arranged to do a sand boarding experience. of course!
But it turned into a Sand-boarding fiasco!
It turned out the boards are not provided with boots… so I was Sandboarding in flip flops.
Now if you have ever been snowboarding you’ll know that normally you get some boots that fit snugly into the grips on the board. Maybe even a little ankle support there.
I can confirm that sand boarding in flip flops in is not a good choice. Now, I’m an experienced skier. But I’ve never actually snowboarded before.
It turns out, going out to Sandboard for the first time, in flip flops, with no instructor, is a bit of a non-starter.
Secondly. It turns out sand creates a little more friction than snow. Hmmmm. My 45 minute foray into sand boarding mainly involved jumping up and down to try and make the board move.
This is a good example of how bloggers make stuff look more epic than it is. It was windy and we managed to get some great shots of me, stationary on an incline that made it look like I was actually moving. I wasn’t moving.
That said if I was a confident sand boarder, who wasn’t in flip flops, I could have gone up the steep hill. We did see a few people sand board the big dune behind the camp, and they actually moved! Pretty fast actually. But, I value the use of my legs so decided to go and drink some non-alcoholic berber whisky instead.
So, my suggestion. If you book a secondary activity beyond camel riding, choose the ATV, motorbike or 4WD options. Or bring your own boots and board!
After another night in the cabin we were hoping for a perfect sunrise… We were not going to be disappointed, but we may be as grumpy as a camel about getting out of bed at 6 am.
Well, we never got time to podcast about the sunrise because… It was the best sunrise we’ve ever experienced and we were so busy taking photos of the sand and sun as it came up.
Effectively, the sand is deep, dark red as the first glimmers of light appear on the Horizon.
A perfect red ball of light slides upwards and as the colours of the sun change, the sand changes colour too. From the deep red to brown to yellowish brown.
I think the most interesting effect is how the sand has a seemingly glassy stage between the red and the yellow brown. It turns into a yellow ocean, and the ripples on the sand look more like stationary ripples on a lake.
It’s really something worth getting up for. It’s even worth sore camel butts.
The moral of this whole adventure: Arduous, but totally worth it. From the 12 hour bus ride to get out there, to the hours of bumpy complaining camel time. I never normally recommend getting out of bed, but on this one occasion, I’d do it all again in a heartbeat.
Thanks again to desert Sahara tours and the three Mohammeds!
It goes without saying that you should visit the dunes of the Sahara desert. But for this week’s travel homework, something slightly less tricky…
We want you to tweet us, or leave a comment on the show notes about the most difficult journey you have ever gone on that was 100% worth every moment just for the best bits.
Tweet us at mytravelfreedom or jump on the show notes at travelfreedompodcast.com/057 and leave a comment below.
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