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Rain. In the desert?

Zagora, Morocco

After a quick overnight in Ouarzazat, we headed on down to Zagora for the first "big thing" of the trip. A camel ride into the sahara desert and night under the stars in an "authentice bedouin camp".

Note to self - camel rides are waay sore! Maybe they are better in the "rolling sand dunes" type desert but man do they hurt on stony dirt type desert.

Second note to self - just because it's billed as a desert doesn't mean it won't rain, and just because it might rain doesn't mean the tent will be impervious to said rain. So try and find the space away from the rain drips when selecting sleeping place next time!

Apart from the rain it was actually a pretty cool experience. We had dinner under the stars, entertainment by Gnaoua musicians, and the chance to see dawn rising across the desert. And yes, I was up stupid early to catch the dawn, but it was lovely an peaceful to be out alone just standing and watching as the sky slowly lightened.

permalink written by  farrago on October 17, 2005 from Zagora, Morocco
from the travel blog: Morocco 2005
tagged Desert, Sahara, Bedouin, Berber and Gnaoua

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Merzouga desert

Marrakech, Morocco

Pour passer de bonnes vacances au Maroc, on peut séjourner au bord de la plage comme on peut également séjourner au pied des dunes de sables. A merzouga, pas loin d' erfoud, un grand nombre d' auberges et petits hôtels apparaissent de plus en plus. Mais, comme je connais les gens de merzouga, je vous recommande de loger à l'auberge ksarbicha. La famille Oubassidi est là pour vous faire aimer le désert et les nomades. Dans cette famille Berbère, chacun sa passion ; Ali les 4×4 et les quads sachant qu'il a déjà donné de leçons en conducteur professionnel aux grands participants de rallye paris-dakar en 2006 devant les caméras de la télévision française, Youssef est le maître trekking et des randonnées dromadaires (camalman), . Quant à leur père, il fait l'accueil à l'auberge pendant que la Maman Zahra prend en charge la cuisine.
En ces mots, on sait déjà que Ksar Bicha permet de vivre au sein d'une grande famille Berbère. Pendant votre séjour au ksarbicha, vous aurez un programme sans doute chargé : Aller aux dunes, faire du quad dans les dunes de merzouga, faire un trek et rencontrer les nomades et les touaregs dans le désert pas loin de l' erg chebbi, aller bivouaquer (bivouac = tentes nomades et berbères) dans une oasis au milieu des dunes mordorées de merzouga, découvrir le désert parsemé de fossiles. L'auberge ksarbicha non seulement vous assure le logement typique mais aussi une cuisine délicieuse. Pour plus d'information, merci contacter Ahmed, ali ou Youssef à l'hôtel ksarbicha merzouga. Ils sont ravis de vous faire aimer le désert marocain.

permalink written by  sarah on February 4, 2006 from Marrakech, Morocco
from the travel blog: Voyage au maroc
tagged Desert, Sahara, Accommodation, Excursion, Maroc, Merzouga, Camelrides, Trekking, Logement, Hebergement, Marokko, Morocco, Auberge, Dromadaire, Bivoac, Overnight, Dunes and Ergchebbi

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Tag 0

Cairo, Egypt

Der erste Tag in Kairo war sehr anstrengend aber schِn. Am wichtigsten war es noch die fehlenden Dinge zu besogen. Darunter waren nicht zuletzt die Lebensmittel für die nنchsten vier Tage, in denen ich keinen Ort passiergen werde, sondern auch einen Kocher, da mich Dennis Kocher per Post nicht mehr rechtzeigt vor dem Abflug erreichte. Ein paar neue Sandalen waren auch mit dabei.

Glücklicherweise nahm sich Massimo Zeit mit mir die Dinge zu besorgen. Er ist ebenfalls hier bei den Salesianern Don Boscos zu Gast, die ich noch von meiner letzten Tour (Kapstadt - Kairo) kannte. Damals hatte ich mit Dennis auf verschiedene Hilfsprojekte in Afrika aufmerksam gemacht. Darunter auch das der Salesianer. Mit einer Schule für Flüchtlingskinder aus Darfur helfen sie hier den Vertriebenen aus dem Sudan.

Massimo ist Arabistikstudent aus Catalania/Italien und konnte mich daher sehr gut bei der Verstنndigung unterstützen. Auch mein arabischer Wortschatz ist durch um einiges gewachsen.

Am Abend kehrte ich noch in einer Gasse ein, wo man mit Shisha und Tee reichte. In Gesallschaft vieler ؤgypter die ebenso ihren tag ausklingen lieكen oder sich bei Brettspielen vergnügten, genoك ich den letzten Abend, bevor es ernst wird. Als ich schon entschlossen war zu gehen kamen ein paar freche kleine Jungs vorbei die mich mit groكen Augen anschauten. Dann ergriff einer mein Wasserglas, von dem ich sowieso nicht getrunken hatte um mich vor "Pharaohs Rache" zu bewahren, trank einen Schluck und spuckte ihn mir zielsicher ins Gesicht. Damit hatte ich sofort die Aufmerksamkei aller Anwesenden, die sich sofort dafür entschuldigten, wنhrend die Jungs schon lنngst die Flucht ergriffen hatten.

Einer reichte mir mir soft ein Taschentuch und entschuldigte sich nochmals herzlich. Als ich aufbrach und bezahlen wollte, bestand er sogar darauf, meine Pfeife und meinen Tee mit zu zahlen. Das lieك die Enttنuschung schnell verfliegen und mich mit einem guten Gefühl zu Bett gehen.

permalink written by  derAaron on April 25, 2009 from Cairo, Egypt
from the travel blog: Oasentour Western Egypt
tagged Desert, Cairo and Bike

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Sealions and Sandboarding

Huacachina, Peru

The Ballestas Islands were extremely impressive in spite of the grey foggy day which seemed set to ruin any hope of us seeing anything. After a short speedboat ride, skimming through the mist along soft silver waves, a series of islands began to emerge. As we got closer we could see that they were carpeted with millions of sea birds, who also filled the sky with amazing endless formations. The pelicans were huge with strange voices and clapping beaks and tiny Humbolt penguins hopped and clambered up the rocks. Gangs of squabbling sealions hung out under archways cut into rockfaces and our driver drove us within meters of everything. The squawks of the birds filled our ears and the the islands were topped with a generous white layer of "guano", which was pungent to say the least. We were told that every year this would be collected and exported as fertilizer. And I thought admin work was bad.

We spent the afternoon being shown around the National Park which was, rather strangely, a desert on the coast. In spite of some beautiful cliffs, this was a bit of a disappointment. By the end of the tour it had become a comedy sketch - the guide taking us from one barren expanse of sand to another and struggling to rouse anything close to interest from even the most dedicated members of the group. Typically the museum was in ruins - another victim, we were told, of the earthquake two years ago. It was shocking to see how little the area had recovered, even in it´s prime tourist spots. The final anticlimax was flamingos - or at least that is what we were assured they were. They were so far away they could easily have been grizzly bears for all I knew, nevertheless we amused ourselves by feigning enthusiasm with other members of the tour.

The next part of our journey took us further South into this desert region. Soon the gentle plains became huge mountainous dunes and we arrived in Ica just as the sun disappeared behind the largest of them. It was a spectacular but also slightly disconcerting site - we were here for the sandboarding and I had no idea the dunes would be so imposing. With this in mind we got some boards the next morning (and a tutor who seemed to just want someone to hang out with) and made our way to one of the smaller dunes to practice falling over and see if we could master the art of minimalising oral sand intake. We had signed up for a dune buggy ride and sandboarding later that afternoon and the idea was that we would do all this in private before we started making fools of ourselves in larger groups.

In fact it was fairly simple to stay up while flying down a sandy slope and although neither of us were able to turn, slow down or have any real control over where we were going, by the time the afternoon came we were confidently surfing down with the best of them.The slopes became increasingly large until we were basically sliding down a mountain of sand from top to bottom in a matter of seconds. We lay on our fronts and used our legs to steer or slow down (although no-one seemed to be interested in either) and shot off at ridiculous speeds, screaming into the distance and shrinking to specks as we reached the bottom.

We were driven around the dunes in a dune buggy and although I hadn´t anticipated this part of the experience to be of any great significance, it turned out to be the highlight. Because we had chosen a later excursion the sun had started setting as we were sandboarding and now, as we hurtled around the dunes, the low orange sun cast beautiful shadows across the immense landscape and we could see the lights of the towns which sit comfily nestled in between the dunes. These tranquil images, particularly that of the palm fringed oasis of Huacachina, were juxtaposed wonderfully with the manic roar of the dune buggy which bounced and skidded as it flew up and down the dunes. It was like being on a really fast, really dangerous rollercoaster - which is, I assure you, a good thing, particularly when you make it safely home to the hostel.

The near death experiences continued into the night - an earthquake disturbing the peace of early morning. True to form, I paid it no attention whatsoever. I was only interested in resting up for some more sandboarding and when I finally woke we rented two snowboards - a progressive step as these are larger, faster and have better control than the wooden boards they give you otherwise. We spent the afternoon climbing up the larger dunes and coasting down again. Josh tired quickly - which I suggested was surely a sign that he should stop getting up early - but I could not stop, I pushed myself to go higher and higher. I was completely addicted.

A sandboarding joke was doing the rounds which I liked because you can pretty much apply it to any sport or hobby. It goes:

What is the hardest part of sandboarding?
Telling your parents your gay.

If I was being pedantic I would point out that actually the hardest part is trudging up the steep sand slopes in the baking hot sun - as much as we enjoyed going down the dunes, summoning the energy to climb them was proving difficult and eventually I had exhausted even my deepest reserves. After two days we were bruised and aching for a new setting.

permalink written by  steve_stamp on June 17, 2009 from Huacachina, Peru
from the travel blog: The art of being lost
tagged Desert, Dunes, Sandboarding, Earthquake, Birds, Penguins and SealionsAndPelicans

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Cold in the Desert

Uyuni, Bolivia

Uyuni is surrounded by some of the most spectacular and surreal scenery in Bolivia so, like every other gringo who visits the tumbleweed town, we hopped in a jeep for a tour of the nearby salt flats and National Park. We set off on a cloudy Sunday, our first stop was to pay our respects at the train “cemetery” which lies on the outskirts of town. Rows of rusty old trains create an amazing spectacle – abandoned in the baron wasteland, the tired brown relics lean passively, resigned to the slow erosion of the desert. We took photos and climbed all over them before being ferried off to the salt flats.

Both salty and flat, the salt flats were everything I was expecting. The endless white desert was fascinating and, above all, provided the opportunity to take vaguely amusing photos of us treading on each other and swinging on Josh’s beard. Josh’s beard really does deserve a mention. Cultivated since our departure and affectionately known as “The Wedge”, it has received praise and extended stares the world over. It has become a tourist attraction in itself. Now, after almost four months, Josh’s meticulous beauty regime has been extended to include a daily combing of The Wedge, which is habitually twisted and tangled in times of reflection.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, in the middle of a salty nowhere getting back into our jeep. The roads were thin smudges across the landscape and we gazed out of the windows at the blankness until we reached our lunch stop, the Isla Inchahuasi. An island upon the salt covered in cacti, Inchahuasis claim to fame seemed to be the fact that it is so spectacularly out of place. Nevertheless, it is a good place to climb up for a view of the flats and the distant mountains. After lunch and some more time dedicated to the perfect photographic illusion (it’s actually really hard to do if your camera is clever enough to have auto focus) we headed towards these mountains.

Our hotel was located on the edge of the salt flat where the terrain suddenly turned brown and rough. It was fairly comfortable, with hot water and a dining area from which we could see the colourful beams of the sun setting behind the mountains. Its most notable feature however was that it was constructed almost entirely out of salt! The walls, the tables, the chairs, even the beds were carved out of the stuff! If your chips were a bit bland you could simply scratch a bit of table onto them! It was a beautiful looking building, with salt crystal chandeliers illuminating the white uniformity of the rooms. In one corner they had a huge pile of salt and a stack of salt blocks – I like to think they just make anything they find lacking: “No, sorry we don´t have a bar but if you just give me a few minutes…” etc.

That night we got to know the other half of our group, a trio of flatulent Frenchmen who had a mysterious collection of cuts and bruises. They told us that they had just come from La Paz they had been robbed on two separate occasions, once by a fake taxi driver and then again at the hands of some Bolivians they had befriended who had drugged their drinks and beaten them before taking (what was left of) their valuables. To add injury to insult, one of them had also fallen off his bike on the Death Road. It was fair to say that these were an unlucky bunch but it did make me realise how fortunate we were to get out of that place unscathed – particularly considering the risky nature of our adventures. Anyway, we played some poker, drank some palpably cheap wine and retired to our salty beds for a good nights sleep. The pillows, mattresses and sheets were made of more familiar materials.

We set off as the sun came up the next morning. Our first stop, after an hour or so, was unplanned. Our jeep suddenly went quiet and we found ourselves watching hopefully as our driver tinkered with the engine. His toolkit consisted of a screwdriver and a knife, it wasn´t very convincing, but after a helping hand from the driver of another jeep (there were loads, breaking down in this desert was not as dramatic as you may imagine) we continued on our way to see Volcano Ollague, an active volcano which I had heard smokes like a Feltham housewife.

Due to the somewhat dangerous nature of active volcanoes we viewed this one from a distance – the “mirador” an interesting set of rock formations which I found almost as impressive as the distant smoke-tipped spectacle. The rest of the day was spent driving between picturesque lakes where the high mineral content means not only a welcome collection of flamingos but also spectacular variations in colour from deep reds to rich greens and streaks of yellow. Around the edges the lakes were framed with thick ice, this and the icy wind gave us a taste of the freezing night which we had been frequently warned to prepare for. We also visited the surreal and other-worldly landscape known as Salvador Dali Desert because the strange rocks are set to have inspired Dali when he visited the region.

It was an indescribable day of sights and I am well aware that my descriptive language fails to deliver the necessary images – even my photos don’t do the places justice – but to attempt to describe the constant, often baffling, changes in landscape would probably mean me dedicating the remainder of the trip to sitting hunched in various internet cafés across Argentina and Brazil. Thankfully, the hotel we were staying in requires very little description. It was basic and cold. We huddled around a small iron oven for warmth, played cards and the Frenchmen attempted to play the Beverly Hills Cop theme tune on panpipes (their Ipods had, after all, been robbed) – eventually the bitter cold of the night began to set in and we retreated to the warmth of our beds wearing as much as possible. It was the kind of night where you wake up to find an arm has fallen out of your sleeping bag and started collecting icicles but I slept well and, at 5am when we had to get up, was even fairly chirpy.

We set off in darkness, with stars scattered generously across the sky and our bodies still clinging to the warmth of our beds. I joked that breaking down now would be the worst thing ever. Then we did. Our driver tried to restart it but the engine gave nothing but a pained groan and a clangy rattle. We shivered patiently in the back. He tried the screwdriver, then the knife but nothing seemed to work! We tried to roll back to the hotel but we had driven too far and down too many hills – eventually the driver told us to wait while he walked back and got another jeep. By the time we watched the sun rise from the icy windows of our jeep, my chirpy mood had frozen over. We had been sitting in the cold for an hour and my feet were so cold they hurt. Our driver returned in a new and improved jeep and, happily abandoning the frozen corpse of that which had taken us so far, we continued on to the steaming land of the geysers.

Pools of thick, muddy water bubbled furiously and everywhere cracks in the ground shot streams of warm mist which drifted over us and filled our nostrils with its horrifically pungent sulphuric odour. I was amazed at how active the geysers were – there was a constant hissing and bubbling – and we were told that this was the case 24 hours a day. In an attempt to thaw my frozen feet, I stood nonchalantly on one of the smaller holes and immediately hopped off as the scolding steam burnt through my thin shoe! My feet half numb and half burnt, I got back into the jeep. I wasn´t particularly enjoying our last day.

We had breakfast at the nearby hot springs where we were also able to revive our feet. While Josh and I sat on the edge watching our toes come back to life, Niall and the Frenchmen braved partial nudity and went in fully. I was tempted, the water was nice and hot, until I considered that one has also to get out of the springs at some point. I decided to devote all my energy to eating as much breakfast as possible.

Fully defrosted and revitalized, the mornings mishaps were actively repressed and we proceeded to our final stop, Laguna Verde. This was a huge, deserted lake surrounded by red rocky mountains where the sulphur content repels flamingos but demands photography with its brilliant green water. Our driver said something in Spanish about the landscape being similar to Mars and that it is used by NASA for training purposes. That is at least what I decided he was saying – it could have been anything really. I have to confess that despite a tenfold increase in my vocabulary I probably only know about ten words of Spanish and most of them are only of any use when bargaining for alpaca jumpers or looking for a train station which is on the right hand side (I don’t know the word for left).

Anyway, so began our epic drive back to civilisation. It really was epic too; once we had bounced over the surface of Mars we crossed vast stretches of sand, slate, rubble and rock, splashed our way through icy frozen streams which trickled down through the valley from frosted mountaintops and eventually watched the sky changing colour as we roared across the flat, limitless landscapes before Uyuni.

permalink written by  steve_stamp on July 31, 2009 from Uyuni, Bolivia
from the travel blog: The art of being lost
tagged Desert, Photos, Lakes, Ice, Salt, Flamingos, Cold, Springs, Jeep, Breakdowns, Geyzers and Epic

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Winkelman, United States

Still at Windspirit. Now it's down to only us, Don, and Lee! Juanita will be back in a few days, I guess, but it sure is lonely! We said goodbye to our friends Shura and Blue yesterday. It might be just us and Lee for the weekend if Don goes to his Woodstock reunion!

We've been enjoying our stay. Kevin has even mentioned staying another month. I'm a little anxious to get moving on our adventure south of the border, but it would be nice to avoid hurricane season. I really wish some more people would show up here!

We have explored the hiking trails behind the community. We've been up to "Coyote Peak" a couple times - amazing views from there! Blue led us on a hike on some nearby land a few days ago, but we didn't get to our intended destination (daylight was running out too quickly). It was still nice - we stopped in a nice area and Blue played his Didgeridoo and Kevin played the doumbek (those 2 instruments sound really good together, turns out). Ben seemed to really enjoy the hike. I always considered deserts to be hot, dry, boring, and inhospitable - in other words, I didn't like them! - but this place is really growing on me. It is hot. And dry.. and sort of inhospitable (out in the wild), but I can see the beauty in it too. Especially here in the community where there are lots of fruit trees, shade, and swamp coolers :)

Benjamin got attacked by ants this evening :( His poor little legs were covered in them. Kevin tried to wash them off with water, but they bit him all over, on his feet especially. That's another reason to go - the critters and the cactus's aren't very baby friendly here.

We ordered a new charger for the camera, so we have been enjoying being able to take pictures again! Unfortunately we did not get any of our sexy french friend David before he left. But we have got some more of the community and our other friends, Shura and Blue, before they left.

Oh yeah - the Suburban was fixed and is running great - hooray!

We had some clouds and a little rain for a few days, but now it's back to abundant sunshine and heat. Thank goodness for the pool!

You should be able to click on any of these pictures to view them larger

permalink written by  heddwyn on August 14, 2009 from Winkelman, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Desert, Arizona and Windspirit

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Last day of August

Winkelman, United States

Whew! The last day of August is here and my oh my has it been hot at WindSpirit! Our extended stay here has many explanations not the least of which would be Don's kindness and generosity. The land here is filled with good vibrations but unfortunately not ones that attract rain. If anyone were counting they would notice that the past eight storms that were heading towards the Dripping Springs valley missed it entirely! Decent sunsets and a couple misty moments but that's it. This is the driest this location has been in fifty years, so say the locals. That arid heat has sent the critters scurrying for darker/damper places to rest - including our hut. I guess you could say we were fortunate that no one has been stung until now. Regular searches for scorpions will be in order after I relaxed in the vicinity of this bark scorpion. The pain was quite intense but rather short lived compared to the yellow wasp sting noted earlier. Here is the second scorpion found indoors using a black-light.

Finding this one was an exciting process but a blatant reminder of where we are. Earlier this week a rattlesnake and I startled each other on a rarely used path. Again, this area is not without its dangers. The hurricane season (hopefully) is winding down in the Pacific, that will allow us a more pleasant drive along the beaches to the South. Not that we are leaving any time soon. We really don't know when it will happen, only that it will happen in time.

Sylvia and I have been relaxing in the pool, cleaning/maintaining the pool, reading and doing yoga along with various community support tasks... and Ben? well, he's mastered Japanese, mostly done with some variation of Spanish and I'm sure English will be implemented soon! He's got consonants, vowels and even multiple syllables. I'm certain that they will become easier to organize with practice. He can say hut, hat and hot on purpose, that's a start anyway! He continues to tan and his hair is leaning towards blonde now, the sun really bleaches everything here! He has also learned about giving hugs and kisses, and giving "five" to Chewie, one of the neighbors who raises peacocks. He learns new "skills" all the time - the latest he enjoys is carrying things under his chin.

We have taken advantage of the few cloudy days we get by going on hikes. We went up and saw some indian ruins one day, and up to an abandoned mine on another (in hopes of finding some gem stones - found a few crystal formations, but nothing spectacular).

permalink written by  heddwyn on August 31, 2009 from Winkelman, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Desert, Arizona, Windspirit and Scorpion

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Safford, United States

We went hunting for fire agates yesterday. We found quite a few agates, and a few neat "bubbly" fire agates. Kevin wants to go back to get more - he's hoping to dig up some bigger ones. It was so hot out in the sun! But it was fun.

The clouds were acting very strangely. There was a fluffy cloud near the mountains on the horizon that was giving birth to these puff balls - they looked like big amniotic sacs- it was so bazaar!

Beautiful skies on the way home.

We had an awesome thunder shower the night of the 8th - I have never heard thunder rumbling so continuously - and so much lightning! Kevin got some shots out of our window..

permalink written by  heddwyn on September 10, 2009 from Safford, United States
from the travel blog: To Costa Rica
tagged Desert, Rocks, Thunderstorm and Agates

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