10 November 2012

Big Dune Walk
Mama’s Coffee
Festival Taragalte 4

Today is a day of taking it easy.  We have few plans, and one objective.  To see the sand dunes.
We have resigned to the fact we are not going to do a 52 day camel ride to Timbuktu (The boarder with Algeria has been closed for 20 odd years, and the Touaregs are in open rebellion in Mali), or even a 4WD trip into the desert (If we wanted that, we would have stayed in Mimili).  However a few kilometres from the camp the dunes start, and we can at least walk to those.
Another simple breakfast and we were off.  Taking a bit of water with us (it is a desert after all) we headed out.  The first part of the walk was up a dry riverbed.  After we got away from Madani’s camp, we came up out of that, and cut towards the end of the swath of Palm trees.  Here the sand opened up.  Yes there were still trees all around, but not in the concentration of before.  As we started circling around dunes further away, the palms continued thinning out, until they stopped completely.  The dunes increased in size and there was a stark contrast between the baked clay ground and the dunes.  The dunes were brilliant golden colours or browns, and the wind swept patterns on them stood out well.  The clay ground in between looked hard and baked.  In places it was cracking, similar to a dry dam.  The wind had picked up, and was a bit chilly at times, but it had also blown all the clouds away.  At times there were brilliant views looking up to the tops of the dunes, and watching the sand being blown over the rim.  We now understood why the nomads wear turbines.  You can put it across the face to stop chaffing of the lips, and when the wind picks up too much, you can cover your eyes to prevent the sand blinding you.  Unfortunately we didn’t have one.  Anna had her scarf, so could use that for a bit of protection, but Andrew didn’t even have glasses.  They would have been handy today.  At least it wasn’t continuous.
The next trick is walking up dunes.  There is an art to this.  Quickly is good, but also picking your spots to prevent sand filling your boots!  Along the top is much easier, and following ridges is always good.  Still we had a lot of fun, and tried most things excepting sand angels (Like snow angels but sandier!)
We stopped occasionally to soak in the views, or just empty out the sand in our shoes (10 days later, when I finally get to write this, I still have sand in the shoes!).  On one occasion we saw a large rock in the distance that appeared sand free.  Making our way towards it, we thought it would be a good place for a break, yet when we got there, we found that it was compacted sand, and not a rock after all.  It had all the hallmarks of rockiness.  The deep red colour, craggy outline and a tree on top, but was just compacted sand.  Not sure why it formed this way, rather than a dune, but was interesting enough to mention here…
Eventually we made our way back to camp, and headed into town.  Yesterday we were lamenting to Madani that we had expected Arabic coffee in Morocco, but had only found European coffee.  He mentioned that his mum made a wicked Arabic coffee and had organised for us to have one today.  On arriving though, we were presented with a kilo of coffee as a present!  Way too much for us, but we were not allowed to take less.
Today was nice and clear, so we decided to head off to the festival.  Hitching a lift with more of Madani’s friends, we made it most of the way.  Past the old Kasbah, around 7km from M’Hamid.  We were dropped of away from the entrance, as locals got in free, but tourists have to pay 200Dh each to go.  Madani knew a way around this.
The festival is held out in some dunes, so we walked through a few fields and into a palm grove.  I kept thinking that there must be a beach at the end of the road.  Then we cut across country to get to the back of the festival.  As it was still daylight, we sat up on a ridge overlooking the field of tents and the single stage.  A few people joined us, as we sat listening to the sound crews testing the equipment.  Eventually someone came on, much to the amusement of our friends.  Apparently they were not so good.  After a while we thought so as well.  1 1/2 hours and we got (what we think was) 1 1/2 songs!  Seriously.  Madani was saying this was not worth the ticket price.  We were inclined to agree.

The smoke machine is going! Is there to be music? No. They just like playing with it.

Another couple of hours went past, and still no music.  It seemed to be more of a social gathering for families to get together than anything else.  Eventually it got dark and we headed in.  By this stage we were unimpressed and cold.  The good thing about clouds is that they keep the warmth in.  Tonight was a beautifully clear night with a soft breeze (in other words, it was freezing!).  We did the rounds, where Madani met friends and family, had a boiled egg sandwich and wondered if this was it.
About 9pm the show started.  There was the introduction of the bands that would play.  A few from Mauritania, and a few from Mali.  Then the first band came on.  With all the sound checks over the last four hours, you would think it all sorted.  It wasn’t.  I don’t want to be too harsh, but it was very unprofessional, and quite sad.  Microphones didn’t work, sound guys were constantly running around the stage, and, well, honestly it was a shambles.  Considering this is the fourth Annual festival here, we were surprised.  Still the music was good.  The next problem was that every boy between the ages of 10 and 20 seemed to be paralytically drunk (It was not that bad, but there were a lot).  Mainly they were making fools of themselves, and we wondered where the supervision was.  We were also wondering where the women were, as there seemed to be none around, except for a few tourists.
When it was time to go, we hitched another lift with Haisa (we had met him the other day at the camp) and a few people ended up back at Madani’s camp.  The music started up again, and what we heard there as a spontaneous thing rivalled the festival in every way.

When going to M’Hamid and seeing the Sand Dunes:  Ask for Madani.
He has a great place (Soon to have solar hot water)
Great food
Free entertainment (Just ask to hear the Bob Marley Tribute)
Can organise tours to suit every budget, but doesn’t push them on you
Can help with whatever you need.  Washing, Internet, Shopping, etc.
Remember, When going to M’Hamid, Just ask for Madani!
Recommended by 2 out of 22 million Australians (Well, ok, only one Australian, but also one Dutch!)
This ad has not been paid for or sponsored by anyone, all information herein should be considered hearsay, and any resemblance to real people or places is intentional.



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