Desert Cow

We’re back from a six day hike in the desert, extremely well organized by Zafrani trek, my friend from Geneva who was married to a Moroccan man. He died a few years back and she kept up their team of guides, cooks and camel drivers. She goes on some of the treks herself, but this time there was a larger group at the same time as ours, so she stayed with the larger one and left our group to her team.

We joined two families to start out with, mostly because it was cheaper as a group, and also because the first week of January was pretty booked out. Many people take a plane to, say, Marrakech, and then go on a trek in the desert from there during the Christmas school break.

The two families we hiked with both have kids in my school. It was sort of like being on a school outing, except I had no responsibility whatsoever, and could just enjoy, or ignore, the kids.

There were five kids in total, ages thirteen to seventeen. Only the 12-13 year old was a bit of an idjit (full on adolescent) but nice enough. The others were magic, just that age that I love: interested in things but not yet formed, or ruined, by life. The oldest was a seventeen year old, and she was just that lovely stage between becoming an interesting young woman and still being a kid. There were two at around fifteen, best friends. They are both leaving next year for a language course in Ireland (lucky girls!) And then there was a thirteen year old boy, who brought a skateboard without wheels to surf the dunes, and a kite. He was able to occupy himself, but was still at an age when he was quite close to his mother. The parents were interesting, too, but I enjoyed the kids more I think. (Nice to know that I’m a teacher who actually likes to hang out with kids!) I won’t ever have the seventeen year old in class, but the two who are going to Ireland are likely to wind up in one of my gym classes when they come back.

The group left us after four days and we hiked back over three days with a new guide, just on our own. We were able to ask all the questions we wanted about the plants and animals we saw, and the tracks in the desert. The desert was much more varied that I would have imagined, or to put it this way; the desert areas that I knew from the States are on another dimension. Instead of changing an aspect from hour to hour on foot it changes from hour to hour in a car, going 65mph. The desert changes aren’t as fast in the western United States. There are areas in Morocco I would even have called a “forest” with many trees finding their place in the sand. Most of the plants could collect water from the humidity in the air, as well as from their roots if it rained. There’s been a drought in southern Morocco since 2014, and many of the areas are drying out and dying, and the wells have to be dug deeper and deeper.

I’m still on first impressions, but one of them is that the desert was relatively “crowded”. It was high season for hiking there, and while we often had silence at night, during the day we saw other trekking groups or nomads with their herds of dromedaries, and on the return, 4X4s out on a former route from the Paris/Dakar rally. It was only, say, one car per hour, or two hours, but there was still a fair amount of traffic.

The best news of all is that Foro made his way back to me from Marrakech. I hesitated to leave him in the car as a watch cow as soon as he arrived, but in the end I was so happy to see him that I took him with us. He was able to sit on the dunes with us and enjoy the sunset.

Surfing the dunes
Kite flying
Foro on a dune

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