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Sahara desert challenge of a lifetime

Morocco in brief: By Jonathan Tate

Eleven strangers. A Brit who lost himself so the rest of us could find ourselves. A Berber guide. A soldier, An artist, A down to earth family of three. Two spirited friends. A lady full of world experience. A girl with a journal.

A journey over the oceans, through the mountains, deep into the desert.

Friendships forged. Hiking into the sun. Sand dunes as high and far as the eye can see. Views from Mountain plateaus. Palm trees. Rain the Sahara. Precious shade. Mint tea. Tagine. Clear night sky. A sunset. Berbers and camels. Villages. Bread baked in the sand. Music made only with empty plastic canisters and joy. A film studio. An orphanage. Painting. Gardening to exhaustion and standstill. Souks in the Medina. Bartering. Moroccan bars and restaurants.

Thinking and speaking free from the cares of home and work. A deepened appreciation of both. 

 

Itinerary

Day 1 (Saturday 31 October): London – Marrakech

Depart London for Marrakech. On arrival transfer to a central hotel for the night. Depending on flight times we may travel half-way to the Sahara on arrival and stay in Ouarzazate tonight. 

 

Day 2 (Sunday 1 November): Ouarzazate - Sahara Desert 

An early start today as we travel south across the Low Atlas Range and into the arid scenery of the Sahara desert (journey time approx. 8 hours). This afternoon we meet our trekking team consisting of local Berber guides, the support team and of course the camels, our porters for the trek. We enjoy a hearty lunch then trek to our campsite (approx. 5km).  

 

Days 3-4 (Monday 2 – Tuesday 3 November): Sahara Desert 

Our trek continues through the desert as we traverse sand dunes and a rocky, almost lunar landscape. We are aided by our local Berber team comprising of the guides, cook and camel handlers (the camels are our porters, carrying our luggage and equipment). Together we are able to appreciate the Saharan landscape and understand how important it is to respect and comply with the forces of nature in the desert. On average we will cover 15-20km per day. As the trek progresses we learn how the nomadic people of the Sahara live: from cooking to sleeping out under the stars and reading the magnificent Saharan night sky. We spend our nights under canvas or out in the open, under the vast African skies. 

 

Day 5 (Wednesday 4 November): Oulaid Driss – Marrakech

This morning it’s the final leg of the trek (approx. 5km) to the village where we bid farewell to the trekking team and head back to Marrakech (approx. 8 hours drive). 

 

Days 6-7 (Thursday 5 – Friday 6 November): Marrakech

Spend two days helping on a range of tasks at a project in Marrakech. This could include renovating, redecoration, gardening, painting or other tasks depending on the most urgent need at the time. 

 

Day 8 (Saturday 7 November): Marrakech – London

Enjoy some free time to explore the exotic city of Marrakech before your flight back to London. 

 

To read what an open challenge is really like, you can download the journal from the Sahara Desert trek 2015 from the bottom of this page, or alternatively download it here 

 

Reflections:

It is amazing how just one week can seem so short and long at the same time. How spending time 24/7 with complete strangers can lead to friendships all within just a few days.

I was amazed at how much extra we all got from the challenge – how the little extra’s made the trek. Jon getting lost, the minibus breaking down so we got a tour of the film studios – all incredible experiences.

The desert part also surprised me. There were less sand dunes, and more walking along firmer ground – the river beds, stones and mountains. Then the things I will never forget – riding the camels, sleeping out under the stars, seeing shooting stars, the wildlife, seeing the moon rise.

Like all adventures, it was the great company which made the experience, so a big well done to everyone for finishing it safe and sound, and a thank you for everyone looking after each other on this challenge of a lifetime.


sahara document edited with images


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