It is with a little alarm that I realised I have been completing the trip to Merzouga for nearly twenty years. At eighteen, back pack heavy with newly discovered treasure from the souk I did the trip in a hire car, I believe we had one and a half licences between the five of us, the half being a provisional. We drove, not always brilliantly, slept in the car and if memory serves me right we got our hire car stuck in a sand dune on our final approach to the sandy village of Merzouga.
A few years later, more of a solo traveller by this point, I did it by bus, hour after hour of bumpy bus joinery, stopping for pee brakes and brochettes high in the Atlas, I became a dab hand at the milling about in bus stops and arriving actual days after leaving Marrakesh.
Now, as a family of five, it’s a very civilised affair. Into our 4×4, armfuls of snacks on board, over nights bags packed, and our trusty Dashhund by my feet we simply headed out of Marrakech on the Ouzazat road. Taking it’s twisting hairpins in our stride, watching as the landscape changed though scrubby forest to martian landscape. It’s geology in real time, the striations clearly there for our children to see how the crust formed.
5 hours to Ouzazat, where we stopped for a quick lunch of french fries and sandwiches. Ouzatat is a fascinating place worthy of an a whole other post so I will suffice to say it’s the location of every desert scene in any Holywood movie that you’v seen for years. It is casbah oasis where I imagine the french expats have whiled away many a year, in dusty palm planted country clubs, it even boast the odd European restaurant serving, drum roll, wine!
Another 6 hours further on we finally arrived in Rissani, now I’m not saying it’s the biggest shit hole on earth, but it certainly won’t be on my dream retirement list. However to weary travellers, in search of something to eat that doesn’t come out of a crisp packet, a hotel that I assume was probably a brothel, knocked us up a cracking ‘egg tagine’ or ‘berber omelette’ a gloriously gooey plate of eggs and tomatoes, to be mopped up with hunks of bread and washed down with hyper sweet tea.
We arrived at our hostel, the same I’v been staying at for the alarming 2 decades mentioned before late, to find the patron thankfully still awake, they have a room for us, we should probably have called ahead, and we bed down for the night.
Next morning Darren and I wake, as the sky begins to glow and dragged our weary bodies up the first sand dune of the Sahara. And there, we watched life’s natural affirmation, the sun rising over the dunes. Lucci was there, she was probably the only Dashhund watching that sunrise, she’s not with us anymore and I will remember that morning with deep tenderness.