Erg Chebbi, Merzouga, Morocco Week 94 21st - 27th January 2013
A bit of maintenance at Znigue before we left.

Air to blow the dust off the engine air filter.

The inside of the filter and the secondary filter are both in good condition.

We've had surprisingly little dust in the living quarters. Mostly what we tread in or blows in when the door is open.

So far sweeping and floor washing is keeping it under control. I'll eventually use the air to blow the remainder out.

A quick evening walk over the dunes.
Sometimes the edges are sharp.

And sometimes they are curves.

Znigue is nestled among the dunes, south of Erg Chebbi.
We did find some of those prickly things before they became really prickly.
Just south of Merzouga we headed east.

Around the eastern side of Erg Chebbi.

We are in a dry river bed between the dunes and the hamada (stony plain).
Behind the tent is firewood.

Then the dunes.

The low dunes extend a long way to the north and we needed to cross them to get back to the main road.

We stopped for the night.

Our maps have been a bit hazy and we've been following unmarked tracks.

Surprisingly good internet and a look at the google satellite images helped us know where we were in the dunes, which way they "flow", and avoid heading into trouble.

Finally saw one of the living things that leave interesting tracks in the sand.
Although we could see a village a few km away if we stood on top of a dune we thought all would be quiet.
This is the second of two herds of camels that passed by.

We were offered a camel ride but declined!

There were also three tourist 4wds, a tractor and trailer, 7 separate motorcyclists, and three curious children.

We continued north.

Into fossil country.

Just north of Dar Kaoua.

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The mobile equipment looked like it wouldn't operate. But it gave us an idea of the scale of fossil mining.

There is probably more fossil mining further along the track, a large truck had come the other way carrying rocks.

A couple of hopeful salesmen had a few raw and polished samples for sale.

Trilobite. The ridged thingy in the middle and not from this location - three lobed marine arthropod, which means exo-skeleton, segmented, and jointed appendages,

Amonites. The cut in half spiral thingies, more related to cuttlefish and octopus than shellfish, the segments evolved over time so experts can tell the age.

Orthoceras. The long cylindrical things that would have a mouth at the blunt end. Simplistically a straight amonite I think. Not to be confused with the younger baculites which aren't seen in Morocco.

More intriguing for us was what was left in the ground.

About 390 million years old. Give or take a few.

We broke open a few rocks to expose amonites and orthoceras.

In the nearby village was a "flagon museum".

Metal is used these days.

We headed further north across the plain to Erfoud.

Municipal Camping was a bit of a disaster here.

We tried it for an hour or so but then decided to head south again to Merzouga.

"Camping" was next to the local swimming pool, water and loo were 150m away shared with the pool (as in pool cues)  hall.

While at Erfoud we noticed the paint flaking off the extra brake vacuum tank.

Looks like its nicely hidden the rust underneath.

Looks like I'll either have to replace or at least strip it completely and rust treat.

Or simply blank it off and rely on the original tank.

I wonder what the inside is like?

Heading south we strayed off the main road and found ourselves in narrow streets round a village.

Our bicycled guide stopped to remove 2 year old from the road.

Next out of the house were two teenage girls with the most wonderful instant spontaneous laughter and smiles. Some of the nicest memories aren't captured in a photo.

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We struggled to leave our guide but all became evident a couple of hundred meters past the end of the village.

Dar Aflam (?) is abandoned. A small kasbah. Interesting location atop a rocky outcrop with forever views.

The tower was a bit taller and bigger than we've become used to.

We climbed halfway up the inside - to where the steps ran out and the roof had collapsed.

The Tindouf Basin, 8km deep of sediment, extends south of the Anti-Atlas mountains westwards towards (you guessed it) Tindouf in Algeria. About 500km away.

We've passed the occasional pipeline breather, and also drove alongside a pipeline north of Dar Kaoua (near the fossils).

We suspect these evenly spaced workings (about 50 in a long row) are connected water wells.

Sorry Peter, all we can find about geology here relates to oil. Perhaps a sad indictment of western priorities.

Having said that the rivers have flowed in fairly recent times. But it looks like desert to us and quite possibly old water. 

And so to Merzouga.

An auberge just south of town, next to the dunes.

The spade finally came in really useful as the other end of the washing line.

A bit draughty but it dried the washing in an hour.

And so we see Erg Chebbi from the west. Or at least the southern part of it.
Merzouga is hotels, and a simple main street.

The "supermarket" is at the northern entrance to town, a bit far for us to walk we'll visit it on the way out.

We bought orange juice, bread and veggies.

Our auberge also supplies us with bread - really all we need.

Tourist activity is camel rides into the dunes for a night in a tent, an opportunity for sunset gazing on top of the big dunes, and 4wd tours through sand, to fossils and minerals.

After listening to tourist description of evening meal we were reminded of the use of the jug and hot water for washing hands.

A small patch of permanent water just to the south of town.

And a lone pair of geese (or ducks).

We are totally stumped as to what it is having paged through pictures of all the geese and ducks seen in Morocco.

Edit: its probably a ruddy shelduck (brahminy duck in India).

On occasion there's a lake to the west which is a bird haven. Sadly its currently dry.

We decided against the camel ride. Just as we didn't take the donkey ride on Blackpool beach.

The flexible lady sitting on the first camel apparently had no aches and pains, unlike those with legs dangling.

It wasn't far to the big dune.

Just a bit soft and loose in places.

Though someone had managed to get a quad bike up to the top. Looked quite easy with the right technique.

I went for the slightly less effective "2 steps forward and 3 back" so lagged behind to take the photo.

We needed the water when we got to the top.

A couple of days ago we drove past the auberge headed east (to the left).

In the background is Jebel Ouafilal on the far side of Oued Ziz. On top is the fortress we visited.

We can pick out the wall and building remains.

The smaller enclosure is visible at the left end of the ridge.

After a bit more research the rock art "chariots" were possibly local status symbols due to the lack of roads (no Chinese Emperor to standardise!). The animals were cattle. Drawn somewhere in the couple of centuries BCE. The fortress is later.

We are camped next to a French couple.

We are perhaps a little grateful no-one was taking photos of us.

A couple of Aussies from Sydney in a UK motorhome found us. But left before Australia day.

Beats a pedicure.

The sand is wonderfully dry and "non-stick".

Therapeutic! Just the right temperature.

The crocs are Ali's and they refused to slide.

The Algerian border in the distance.

The line of vegetation just beyond the dunes is where we drove.

Courtesy of our French friends.
Between this bit of tall dunes and the next bit to the north is a patch of small dunes.

The east west track is marked in our gps.

There's a quad bike leading the three 4wds.

A party on camels were going the other way. 

The 4wds emerged from the dunes at the darker patch just this side of the line of vegetation.
To our south west the daily parade of tourist camel trips into the dunes for a night in a tent was under way.
As the sun set slowly in the west .... 

we forgot the plastic blue and white checked tablecloth - the one that Jennifer and Rachael used in the snow in 1997!

..... the moon rose in the east.

Meanwhile we'll watch the river gauges through the internet as another 100 year flood advances through Queensland.

Probably not as bad as 2011 that interrupted our trip planning and absolutely nothing we can do anyway!

Erg Chebbi, Merzouga, Morocco Week 97 28th January -15th February 2013

Brother Wed, 30 Jan 13 20:18:51 +1100
Looks as magnificent and subtle as Mongolia. Have you discovered the source of Anji yet? Al

Ian & Janice Wed, 06 Feb 13 08:38:06 +1100
Loved the picture of the pair of you and also the one of Ali sliding down the dune! We are now also kicking ourselves that we didn't head over to Erg Chebbi after Mhamid, but I am already making plans for a return trip at the end of this year! I&J

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