Exploring North Africa with Survival School.

arrival We finally arrive in North Africa, where the three land rovers we will used during the next 9 days await us.

Standing next to me is my mate Pat, who I had met on a previous survival school course.

I had been looking forward to visiting Morocco. I had been told that many of the people in the country, lived as people lived in the bible (which is a bit strange, since the majority of them are Muslims !).

 After a few hours travelling through Morocco, and seeing the sites and sounds of that culture, we stop for refreshments at a roadside Cafe.

Mint Tea.

The 2 main peoples of Morocco, are the Arabs, the the Berbers. The Berbers are traditional Nomadic people, and were/are considered the warrior class of that country.

Our guide and drivers were Berbers and as Muslims, joked that the mint tea, is called Berber Whisky in their culture.

 insidelandy A view from inside our land rover.

There were only 4 people and a driver to each Land rover, so it was a lot more comfortable than I had expected.

On the first night, we find some brush land, half a mile back from the road, and bivvi out.

Later the next day, we stop to take some pictures, while travelling over a mountain pass.

 oldman We arrived in the Old town of Meski. The town was moved about 40 years before, and previously resided in an old Kasbah, which is walkable from the new town.

Meski is a real desert oasis, and our guide Mohamed, had his son Ahmed gives us a tour of the town.

Everyone in the town has some land assigned to them, and here, an old man of 70 + is working and laughing, even though its 7:30 in the evening.

In the centre of the town, was a public swimming pool, where all the people went during the evening.

There was a cafe next to it, where people were drinking, and playing pool.

Unfortunately, the light had gone, so I have had to enhance this picture, that’s why it looks so grey.

 headdress We visited a small shop, to by some souvenirs.

Most people bought a desert headdress, and wore them throughout the course.

Here, Sylvie (who was married to Mark, a London Zoo keeper, ace bushcrafter and animal expert – also on the trip.) poses with her newly bought Headdress.

I embarrassed myself at bartering by having my first offer accepted enthusiastically. When I dropped my price by 5 pounds, the seller was still delighted.

I was obviously offering way to much, but I paid what I thought it was worth and have no regrets.

Our guide Mohamed was a chef and owns a restaurant in Meski,

here he cooks a delicious meatball tagine for us at his restaurant.

 mesky1 That night, we bivvied out at the old fort, about a quarter of a mile from the new town.

In the morning, me and a few of the lads go exploring.

 The place was right out of Tomb Raider and I loved it there.  mesky2
 well Ahmed came over to give us a tour of the old city.

Here he shows us the well, which was the sole source of water for the whole town.

Being in the deserted town, was a special kind of adventure for me.

The sun shining on the town, from outside the city walls.

 oasis A view of the Meski oasis, from inside the deserted Meski Fort.

Several clay channels run to some of the outlying fields, so that more vegetation can be grown outside the Oasis.

As we continue our journey to the Sand Dunes, we stop by the road for refreshments.

Here I am photographed next to one of the longest roads I have ever seen.

 dunes1 A picture of the sand dunes at Erg Chebby.

During the afternoon heat, the only place to be, was in the shade, but in the morning, wandering around the dunes gave an immense sense of calm and peace.

 A few of the team walk around the sand dunes in the early evening.

Walking along the ridges was the only practical way to cross sand dunes.

Walking up and down them, no matter what your fitness, was exhausting.

 mebd Me standing in the black desert.

Only about 20% of all desert is made of sand, most of it is made of rocks like this one.

You can get an idea of the size of the desert and feeling off isolation from this picture.

Some of the interesting people I saw in Morocco.

Here a person earns a living, simply by fixing bicycles and repairing punctures.

 football  Some children play football, barefoot, in the black desert.
Me standing at the top of the Dunes.

One of the strange things about desert, is that when you are wandering in the dunes, there is a sense of isolation, but back at camp, There was none.

There was only one tree, in our camp, and as a city dweller, it was strange to feel “on display” and have no “corner of your own” I got over it after a few days, but its one of the extra experiences you get from being in the desert.

 sunset  The Sky before last light.
As we were travelling out of the desert, I saw some nomadic Berbers, who live in the desert, miles from anywhere.

Having lived isolated in the Dunes for just 5 days, and seeing how hard it was, I had nothing but respect for these people.

 mecamel On the way back, we are treated to a delicious hotel meal, and a camel ride to the high Dunes.

Here, the Berbers help Pat, mount the camel for our trek. The white camel in the picture, is the one I would ride.

Once at the top of the high dunes, we bivvied out.

In the morning, we watched the sunrise, and then travelled down to the hotel to have breakfast.

I had dried bread for breakfast each morning, and when I went to the toilet after 8 days, I thought I was going to damage myself.

 Casting shadows in the Dunes.  shadows
 dancefire  We relaxed for the last 2 days. Since our background is UK bushcraft, a forest provided the ideal place to do this, and we were able to light fires/carve spoons and just get our own space.
After 2 days of relaxing, we had a night in a hotel just near the border (the Moroccan border we crossed, was like the bar in Star Wars !) and made our way back to Gibraltar for our flight home.

We briefly stop at the side of the road for a team photograph.

Although the desert craft of the Berbers is unquestionable, there photography isn’t, and they manage to cut me out of the picture (maybe it was something I said !).


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