Alternate title: How Many Times Can I Use the Word “Amazing” ?
I just looked at my previous post and it felt like reading someone else’s words. Its been a week since our night in the desert – I am still in awe of the entire experience and must reiterate once more that I can not do it justice here.
Picking up where I left off…
Our guide and his friend dropped us off at the edge of the desert where we were met by Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix – our camels. The exhilaration of the drive still had us squealing when suddenly, a sweet man named Hamid was leading us east into the Sahara while warm, amazing colors, quickly cooling temperatures, and long shadows surrounded us.
Kirsten and I kept track of a few things using the Notes app on our iPhones and one we both added was, “It’s hard to take photos on a wobbly camel.”
We hopped down for a few moments and I just could not get my brain to register that we were watching the sun set in the Sahara.
After trekking about 90 minutes, we arrived at our camp where we were greeted with tea while we introduced ourselves to some of the other tourist campers – a couple from Texas and another (British woman and her French boyfriend) who rode there on a motorcycle from Spain. We ate tasty chicken tagine followed by oranges and pomegranate while exchanging travel anecdotes and hotel recommendations.
The sun sank well below the horizon while we ate and when we emerged from the tent, Kirsten and I simultaneously gasped and grabbed each other. In fact, now that I think about it: Kirsten hit me. And I don’t blame her.
I hate that there are no photos to document this part of our night. And, oh, do I love it. Because this part of our adventure was… well, for lack of a better term: sacred. I relish having that night recorded nowhere other than in our mind’s eye.
Our guide and his friend arrived in our SUV (we were the only campers who had locals taking such good care of them, and to say I’m thankful is yet another understatement.) After a rousing hour or so of drums and music, they gathered blankets for us, walked us through total darkness, and got us set up – literally in the middle of nowhere – so we could lay on the desert floor and watch the Geminid Meteor Shower.
The night sky we saw is not something that I can remotely explain. I felt so small, microscopic really, under the visible swirl of the Milky Way. We saw thousands of stars. THOUSANDS. And we gasped at countless shooting stars (50? 100? at least.) We may have even seen a comet – whatever it was had a glowing tail for a very long time, all while huddled under Berber blankets, admiring the sights, repeatedly declaring how lucky we are, and talking about everything from my dad and his love of astronomy to singing Twinkle, Twinkle out loud and giggling.
Back at the camp, the other tourists had gone to bed. But our adrenaline was far too great to climb into our tent, so we sat down with our tour guide, the camel drivers, and the kitchen guys who were gathered around the fire. I wonder what they thought of two outgoing American women having the audacity to just pull up a blanket and join in, but in no time we all knew each others names, tried to solve riddles (not easy with barely a common language), I laughed until I cried, we had tea (twice!) and snacked on their peanuts and Kirsten’s gummy bears before we finally gave in at about 2am.
We were awake (Did we sleep much? No.) and back near our stargazing spot for the sunrise. I won’t even try to describe the experience of watching the light peek from the horizon:
Some campers climbed a giant dune for a higher vantage point (you can see them in the photo below – they’re the tiny specks working their way up on the left), but I’m glad we didn’t as it allowed us this view:
When we were back for breakfast (the final ones to arrive, as usual) we spied the drums from the previous night’s entertainment piled against the tents. How can something so fantastic in one moment seem so innocuous in another?
I’m guessing the time we took to say farewell to our new friends slowed the departure of the whole camel caravan, but it was worth irritating fellow travelers. I really wanted to express how much we appreciated the hospitality given by these sweet people who laughed and joked with us the night (okay, mere hours) before.
And then it was time to mount up and ride 90 minutes back to (partial) civilization.
And when we found WiFi at a gas station (where I accidentally opened the door to a mosque instead of the bathroom!) I posted this on FaceBook: Leaving the desert today felt like leaving summer camp. We made great friends – an indescribable, unforgettable, amazing experience. I already want to go back!!
I downloaded In God’s Country and watched the Sahara shrink in our rearview mirror while we listened.
Dream beneath the desert sky
The rivers run but soon run dry
We need new dreams tonight…
…Set me alight
We’ll punch a hole right through the night
Everyday the dreamers die
See what’s on the other side…
…Sleep comes like a drug
In God’s Country
Sad eyes, crooked crosses
In God’s Country
I intended to wrap our trip up in this post, but instead, I’ll write the third and final installment tomorrow.