Desert Trekking in Morocco
We are living in a particular time, in history of mankind. Of this planet. I take that into account as I am about to describe the Two Day Desert Trek experience I had with desert nomads.
The relationship with our planet is the main topic and concern under many aspects lately.
Luckily the collective number of people who care and are willing to do something about it, is beautifully increasing.
I don’t think it’s just a fortunate case that I had the chance to do this two day desert trek just recently, I see this more as destiny’s way to give me a little kick to step more boldly towards my beliefs.
I never really trekked in my life. Creatively I am very adventurous and active but I cannot say the same about how I perform physically: I love taking slow long walks, I enjoy the calm asanas of yoga and physical stillness is an art to me. The last time I moved in a naturally energetic way I was probably a teenager – now I am in my early thirties re-learning how to use and treat my energy in a different way.
I cared to specify those things because until I did the trekking experience in the desert, I would have never thought of trekking at all. I would dream about it, sure, but keep it in my fantasies.
I’m so grateful that I got to do it, I would do it again, as soon as possible. So if you’re dreaming about it, I’ll give you some extra material to keep on going, until you can book your adventure!
First Steps of my Two Day Desert Trek
After driving for long hours, filling my eyes with all the beauty of the ever-changing landscape, I got so full of expectations that by the time I slept on it and woke up to finally start the trek, my head was empty and tired of overthinking.
The dromedaries were being loaded, one of them wasn’t happy with the way his load was positioned and the guides were finding the best way for the 3 creatures to carry what would be our home.
My trekking partner seemed fine, the temperature was nice and a constant wind was blowing. Off we go. We started walking in this rocky desert that was stretching for miles, being the only thing I could see for hours.
We were obviously walking all together, but the more we got comfortable in that environment, the more we started straying away from the track of our guides. Taking our own spaces unconsciously, connecting with the land under our feet.
This is how the rest of the trek went until we set our tent, if I wanted to cut the long story short. But what about what happened within, during those hours of almost uninterrupted walk in the desert?
I looked and looked around me, as I was expecting to see something or someone that wasn’t us, even though I knew it wasn’t possible, except for a few trees. I enjoyed the wind, and really appreciated my 4 meters long turban protecting me by the sun and the sand.
I collected rocks, according to my own personal criteria of rock-beauty. Eventually my pockets were so heavy that I had to look for lighter things, and that’s where I picked up a little dry bush that was detached from the ground, and started moving it in the wind, listening to the variety of “swoosh” I could produce by moving it in a different manner. I am sure that my trek partner thought that I’d already lost my mind.
If she didn’t then, she did when I approached and started telling her about the musical scale of my “wind sword”. I now see that I was simply letting myself be, and exist only in that present moment, in which I didn’t care about any made up judgement I thought there was.
Most probably my trek partner was in her own stage of letting herself be.
Our guides were walking a little ahead of us. In their element.
After this awakening of the inner senses, the physical ones started to manifest.
I became aware of my body, my backpack started to feel heavier and the wind a little stronger, the sand a little sharper on the skin, my hands dry from all the rock-picking and wind-playing.
I appreciated my turban even more, but started feeling hot, so I restlessly started a game of wear-the-jacket-take-off-the-jacket as the sun was hot but it felt as the wind was shooting sand-grains at me.
There was no win-win, nature’s rules are to be respected where nature is the only ruler, and so it is in the desert. I put on my jacket and kept walking just trying to appreciate the breeze.
I focused into looking at my feet walking forward and took some pictures and videos to keep my physically unfit-self distracted.
Camping in the Sand Dunes
Some dunes started to appear, and that’s when we understood that the place where we would set basecamp was not too far. We took a break and ate some fruits, dates and nuts, some we fed to the dromedaries, nothing has ever tasted so delicious and satisfying.
After some cuddles to the dromedaries, we went back on our track.
During our first day we only saw one caravan of dromedaries, possibly belonging to some desert camp in that area, and no other sign of life at all.
Then the most surreal thing happened. Right at the top of nowhere, a buzz was echoing, transported by the wind but interrupted and muffled by the sand dunes. Less than 5 minutes later we could see a man on a motorbike coming our way, wearing his typical desert robe and turban.
He approached, talked with our guides, and then left on his way. Just like when you bump into someone on the high street. But on top of a dune, in the Sahara desert.
There we were: at the feet of some dunes, our guides unloaded the camels to leave them free to roam and have some bites of desert succulent bushes.
We got a little comfy when our guides started to put up the tents, but I got caught by an energy rush and went to help (or…I like to believe I helped) and held corners of this big tent that was harder and harder to keep up, because of the increasing strength of the wind. It took us a while but we did it with a lot of laughter, and I reached my limit.
I was exhausted by the walk, hungry, and I kind of got upset with myself, looking at our two guides that were still operative, preparing some food for us.
They kept us awake with tea and nuts while enjoying the sunset, the sugar hit me and I took advantage of the rush to steal the best pictures I could of the dromedaries, their silhouette contrasting the sun, making videos of the silence that was interrupted only by the very loud munching of the big camelids (I promise that it sounds cuter as a sound than in words, watch the video for reference).
That little piece of land in the vastness of the desert, was our home. What a feeling! I knew I was a client, but I felt so responsible, I really wanted to help to feel part of the experience and not just to be given a service.
Our guides had been kindly accepting my useless help, happy of my enthusiasm and to make me feel part of the result.
I had my answer then and it is the same of today: to respect a place even more, you have to know the place. The soul of that place, its climate and its lands morphology, aware of what it is giving to you, learning how to interact with the surroundings by receiving and not by taking.
For them it’s all natural. They grew up knowing all these things in their gut, while us, raised or grown up in places where civilisation took over, it’s not. Many of us who don’t live an active life in nature regularly have to commit to connect to the earth and re-learn a little bit each time, don’t you think?
By the time I got lost in all those thoughts, the sun was down and there was a beautiful full moon…we had the chance to admire the sunset on one side and the full moon on the other when the sun started going down. At the same time. SO unbelievably beautiful.
What do you Eat on a Desert Trek
And then our dinner was ready.
I will list what we ate only because I know you’re curious of a desert trek menu: a beautifully presented and very rich salad, a delicious “berber tajine” with eggs and tomatoes, fruit, tea, pastries and dried fruits and nuts. It was a proper desert feast, a fulfilling banquet which we ate using bread as our spoons and knives.
The Nomad Perspective
As you might have noticed, I mentioned our guides and my friend / trekking partner but never shared any other detail. That is not because I don’t want to talk about them, but because it is their story to tell. We lived the experience together, each of us in their own way and around the fire that night, (yes, bonfire under a starry full moon night in the desert: cheeeck ✓) our guides told stories of their history and upbringing.
We focused on existing in the present, we roamed at a distance, and then walked closer, slower, faster, further.
Bonfire night in the desert, photo credits Burcin Yetim
Our guides are native local people, they exist in ways I’ll never fully understand in a trek of a day or two or three, no matter how many efforts I can make. I have only been like a learner following the mentors of desert life, I guess.
Tuning into the Silence
My friend, probably had her own feelings and thoughts to attend to, we happily exchanged opinions and thoughts, but much of our experience’s feedback was saved until the meal-time and also came little by little later, there wasn’t a complete elaboration of all those feelings when we were there.
I don’t know exactly how she felt during the walk on that day, when we stopped to camp, or at sunset time. She had completed several desert treks in Morocco’s deserts before but she still enjoyed the focused inner time. I know how she felt about dinner, that’s for sure, but I didn’t question that she preferred to use the fork!
Jokes aside, there was a kind of silent agreement in not spoiling the feelings by talking about them, to not get influenced and to not interrupt a stream that was just in harmony with all that surrounded us.
I only knew she was feeling things at her own intensity.
That was enough, as there’s no deeper way to tune to one another if not in the moments of stillness.
We didn’t know how much we would miss that stillness, on the following day…
Marching Resilience on our Desert Hike
I don’t want to scare anybody, but remember what I said about myself: not physically active, unfit food lover.
You don’t need to weigh 100 kg to be unfit, you can be a tiny skinny person and still be as stiff as a table.
We obviously wanted to enjoy the sunrise, so we woke up early to attend all our needs, get changed and ready to have breakfast before going on day 2 of our Two Day Desert Trek.
We were a little tired but still very enthusiastic about the day ahead of us!
Dunes, rocks and animal tracks.
We tidied up the camp site, folded the tents, packed the food and the rest of our belongings, loaded the dromedaries…and that took us a while, obviously! Dromedaries are very docile with their masters but they will absolutely let him know if there’s something wrong with their load!
After making sure they were okay, we started our second day of trek. The weather was very different from the day before: there was absolutely no wind, the sun was definitely very hot for a mid-March day and walking on the dunes for hours is the hardest activity I ever did in my whole life.
A solid half day spent walking up and down crumbly sand dunes under a scorching sun.
That’s where I learned that sandals would have worked better for me instead of the running shoes that saved my feet the day before.
Sand kept filling my shoes over and over until I surrendered and gave up on stopping each time to get it out. I walked for hours with a load of sand in my shoes as if the activity itself wasn’t challenging enough…I wanted to stop and ask my friend, who was much older than me, how she felt, but I couldn’t: If I stopped I wouldn’t be able to go on one step further.
Our guides organised a pit stop for refreshments, and again we enjoyed those fruits and nuts like they were a miracle. The sugar and vitamins partially restored our stamina, and with determination, we headed towards our last stop, the meeting point to get back to our main desert camp.
I am not denying that I repeatedly asked myself what was wrong with me, when I agreed to be part of this adventure, while climbing those dunes like a baby panda climbs a tree.
Frustrating. But every step I told myself that I could step over my limit. And I did. We did.
I had this in my mind in the hardest moments.
Poem by Rumi
There is a desert
I long to be walking,
A wide emptiness:
Peace beyond any understanding of it.
Yes, even then, the harmony of nature was the first thing I could think of. Even with blisters all over my feet, sore legs, sunburnt in a funny way.
I’ll just let you imagine how we all looked like after walking almost 30 Km in two days, I did definitely regret not being more fit for such an experience, but I made it. We all did.
And I learned how to take less pictures, be more humble, how to notice how many things I take for granted every day, just like the presence of a trash bin, or toilet. I had to care of my needs differently, carry or burn my litter if it wasn’t organic, and if it was, divide it into what could be left for the animals to eat and what was going to be buried in a hole.
Set up the tent before sunset, before thinking to make any food or relax after a long walk. And maybe one of the dromedaries has a stronger personality and that is going to be respected before even considering humans personal schedule and needs.
Motivated to live a more sustainable life
Control over a situation is limited to what nature will allow us to do, or not. Nature has her own schedule and is much more important than ours.
That is why I decided to commit to make my future existence as sustainable as I can, educating and motivating myself more, while evaluating how to support a non-toxic tourism industry, on a daily basis.
As humans we don’t see how small we are, yet we create such a terrible impact on our earth and how many other times, in our adult lives, are we allowed to give ourselves such a magical experience, and to reconnect to our true nature and to an unknown, mysterious culture? To consider the present as a gift and not take anything for granted?
Is Desert Trekking for me?
This trek might sound harsh at times, but it’s not, trust me if I say that anyone who is healthy, can do it.
There is only one kind of person who cannot do this experience, and that is those who lost touch with their wild soul, those who tamed every inch of their soul to be sure to fit in a mould.
It is never too late to actively participate to a more mindful life experience, and it’s easier when we’re many!
And I guess I don’t need to reiterate the fact that you’ll be spending a lot of time with dromedaries, right? : )
If you’re curious drop your questions in a comment!