A while ago I promised myself I would never do another organised tour.
Now I’m eating my words, as here are Melbourne hipster and I on a three-day camel riding tour in the Sahara.
It gets off to a flying start when they’re 45 minutes late picking us up, meaning we get the gimp seats at the front – something I always try and avoid as I’m not a big fan of having my life flash before my eyes.
And that it did, as over the next three days we spend about as much time on the wrong side of the road as the right, we play chicken with cars coming directly at us on narrow stretches of road only to swerve at the last nano-second, we overtake on blind corners, we nearly take out a dog, and, according to Melbourne hipster while I was napping we nearly had a head on with an ambulance.
As for our tour buddies, turns out Melbourne hipster and I are the only native English speakers, everyone else either speaks German, French or Spanish.
Melbourne hipster’s particularly happy about the Spanish component of the trip and spends the three days awkwardly flirting with a Argentinian beauty and has since entered into an imaginary relationship with her.
Seriously, if he mentions her name one more time I may have to slap him.
Turns out our tour guide/driver doesn’t speak English as well, in fact he doesn’t speak at all, making everything on this tour a surprise.
Surprise, you’re in the minivan for around ten hours each day.
Surprise, your hotel in the middle of a canyon has no lights, no hot water and a bed which makes it sound like you’re having ridiculously loud sex every time you roll over.
Surprise, you think you’re visiting a traditional Berber village but it’s actually a sales pitch to make you buy handmade carpets – ‘at quarter price of Marrakech.’
In fact, all anyone on our tour seemed to know for certain was that we would be riding camels in the Sahara, something we went all out for.
As for the camel riding itself, I was warned they were uncomfortable but nothing prepared me for the feeling of a bruised pubic bone, a cracked tailbone, and according to Melbourne hipster – what he imagined it felt like after giving birth.
But it had to be done and I don’t regret it one bit.
To top it all off, that night we slept in the desert, a serene experience until someone decided to give the Latvian, who looked freakishly like the actor who plays Australian underbelly boss Carl Williams, the drums.
He was so stoned he couldn’t keep a basic beat of 1, 2, 1, 1, 2.
Instead it was like 1, 1, 2…. 1, 1….1
But the Latvian provided me with the best laughs of the trip, especially when we were lying on the top of a sand dune we hiked to in the dark, gazing at the milky way and he broke the silence with – ‘is it just me or are all the stars above us.’
I also took my exit cue for bed from him when he began asking our guide 100 questions about camels, though he referred to them as just camel:
‘How often does camel drink?’
‘What does camel like to eat?’
‘Does camel really store water in his hump?’
I was seriously waiting for him to ask something like – ‘what does camel do in his spare time? Does camel like long walks on the beach?’
I probably should have just pulled an all-nighter though as sleep was near impossible once the wind got up, burying me alive in sand, until I eventually gave up and headed for the sanctuary of the Berber tent.
Picturesque but it goes down as the most excruciating one-and-a-half-hour journey of my life.
I lost all feeling of my legs and judging by the Christmas ham appearance of them afterwards something clearly went wrong.
And, after yet another breakfast of stale white bread and jam we commenced our 11-hour minivan journey back to Marrakech.
My iPod had long since run out of battery, leaving me with no choice but to listen to the Moroccan pop music blearing out of the radio with lyrics like – ‘girl, we’ll turn the desert into an oasis’ and ‘ooooooh mirage, mirage, mirage, mirage.’
They’re also very fond of crappy western pop music and our local guide went crazy for a Ke$ha song called ‘Cannibal,’ though I wonder if he knew what he was dancing to given the lyrics include –
‘I eat boys up, breakfast and lunch
Then when I’m thirsty, I drink their blood
Carnivore animal, I am a Cannibal
I eat boys up, you better run
I am Cannibal.’
Many crap songs later we arrived back into the madness that is Marrakech, made even crazier given it was the end of Ramadan and every man and his dog was in the medina celebrating being able to eat and drink again in daylight hours after a month of fasting.
We ventured into the medina too, but our cause for celebration was surviving yet another seriously random tour and the fact we found a hotel that would sell us beers in this dry Muslim country, even though my two beers cost roughly the same as a night’s accommodation at my hostel.
And finally, thanks Melbourne hipster (Nick Antonopoulos) for providing some of the photos for this post.