One afternoon there is a hollering outside the campground. I look over the wall and see two guys with two camels. Was it you who was looking for wood? They ask. Yes, but we hadn’t bargained for a Camel ride. It turns out though that the camels are there to transport the wood, and that in fact, we cannot come with, as the provenance of the wood is secret. We show them the size of our wood store and they tootle off. Two hours later, they return with two large bundles of lovely wood. While the camels are here, don’t you want to try sitting on them – take a photo? It’s a looong way down!
And now that you are up there, don’t you want to go fro a ride? A camel ride on the beach in the sunset is a must, it turns out, and Yesin’s animals are a fine pair. They are much larger than what we have sat on in the Erg Chebbi desert, and the saddles are a lot more comfortable too. When we go down hill though, it seems a long way down to the ground from up where I am sitting, and Yesin’s stories of my Camel being a racing Camel aren’t really confidence inspiring. I get a bit of vertigo but luckily nothing happens and we safely reach the beach, where he lets go of the lead and leaves us to steer the big animals ourselves.
What a joy to be riding along the beach in the late afternoon sun! We chat about Yesin’s life and he shares his joy at his work – he loves working with the Camels, walking them up and down the beach, meeting tourists, or transporting heavy goods for locals. He doesn’t like being in a house, and I can well believe that, looking at him, lightly stepping barefoot across stony and spikey ground and boiling hot sand.
I ask if the Camels like the sea. Oh, yes! Says Yesin, so I take my Camel to the surf. A large wave comes along and swills around her feet. She loves it and makes a gathering motion with one of her front feet to splash her belly. Yesin is busy receiving a phone call and for one moment he doesn’t pay attention, which is when my Camel moves to sit down and roll in the water. She is half way down on her front legs when Yesin comes hopping into the sea, shouting to stop her. He gets his trousers all wet but saves me from drenching myself and possibly being rolled upon. He can’t stop laughing about if for the next five minutes – neither can we!
Our Camel ride ends at his house where we are invited to have a cup of tea and meet his mother.
Yesin tells us about the beauty of the estuary and we agree to meet early in the morning to go and watch birds together.
He’s very smiley and gentle about it all, and so a Wood Action leads to a Camel Ride, leads to a Walk in the Estuary, and everything is framed by friendly cups of tea. Some Moroccans really know a thing or two about tourism!
The estuary is indeed worth an early rise. We see countless birds – cormorants, turns, curlews, large and small ibis, and even an osprey! On our way back we come across a couple of Mongoose – the first I have ever seen.
Yesin’s mother has made fresh bread, so we have breakfast on the terrace enjoying the view… except there’s a lot of plastic on the fields. After the breakfast, we take some plastic sacks and go to clean the fields. Yesin seems a bit uncomfortable about this, maybe because he needs to go and work on the beach, but we just go ahead and do it ourselves while he prepares his animals for the day. Very soon, we are joined by two young shepherds and between the four of us it doesn’t take very long to fill five large plastic bags which we store in Yesin’s compound to pick up with Emma the following day.
Back at the campsite, Frank is having a rugby crisis – none of the internets work sufficiently for him to watch the game – while I saw up the wood we received with the kind help of Tjorven and Josua, two children of our neighbouring families, and then we have a walk on the beach together. This is quite an extraordinary beach: there are many troglodyte caves, dug in by the locals, many of them are temporarily lived in, some are restaurants and others storage caves for the fishermen. The whole coast is riddled with them. Driftwood doors and banisters with heavy rope; any flotsam and jetsam that arrives on the beach is usefully re-employed. We particularly liked the little restaurant with it’s double entendre name
The evening bears a lovely surprise: 30 young musicians from Germany have arrived, and although we have missed their impromptu performance of light classical music in the tent, we are privy to the local’s ‘revanche': an evening of singing and dancing around the camp fire. A group of musicians have arrived with some traditional instruments, including a Rabab, the moroccan fiddle.
What is a bit strange though is that these are all men. The two women who during the day work in the kitchen, make a short appearance on the fringe of the circle but all the singing and dancing is done by the men. Roundabout midnight, we’re cooked – we’ve had a long day – and we return to Emma, but the singing and drumming under the stars continues on into the night, tumbling into our dreams.
For more photos of this chapter, click here
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