It’s time to dust off my camel skills… I am off on another Adventure and this one is a big one.
In fact, it is my biggest so far. From January the 9th to March the 28th 2019, I will be walking 1200km down the length of the Draa River in Morocco. It will take me 81 days, with 80 days of walking between 15 – 25km per day and one whole day of rest (lucky old me!). I’ll be searching for lost cities, exploring the troglodyte caves and trying to understand the mystery of the tombs of the giant men. So far, so Indiana Alice.
I will pass through very different environments during my trek. I start in the Atlas Mountains just north of Ouarzazate and will then climb down to the lush agricultural land and palmeraie of the Draa Valley. The third part of my journey takes me across the magnificent dunes of Erg Cheggaga and then through the barren desert wilderness following (where possible) the course of the river. Finally, I will (inchallah!) walk out of the desert and across to the sea at Tan Tan on the Atlantic Coast.
I am carrying out the expedition with the expert help, planning and execution of Jean-Pierre Datcharry from Désert et Montagne Maroc He has traversed North Africa himself on foot and with camels and I will be using his own camels and camelteers from his team. If you want to travel with camels in Morocco, he is the man to come to.
The logistics are complex as we will need to carry water throughout the second part of the journey as well as food supplies, tents and equipment. We have planned for three camels for the first part of the trek with two camelteers and five camels for the second part when we enter the desert. We will then be joined by a guide as this part of the route takes us close to the Algerian border which is a major security zone.
I’ll be travelling through a microcosm of our world and how it is changing now. This is a journey through Morocco, the new tiger of Africa. It is a world of lush date palmeraie, red kasbahs, and the blue men of the desert. It is also a country which is modernising apace. A huge road-building programme is making the remotest areas accessible. Morocco has the largest solar power plant in the world and mobile coverage is universal. But with that development come all the issues of the modern world including shrinking water supplies and the changes being wrought by our overheating world.
This is a physical journey through changing landscapes but it is also a chance to meet and get to know some of the diverse peoples of Morocco.
The Draa river passes through some of theoldest inhabited areas of the planet. The Tantan Venus, the first manmadesculpture, thought to be 300,000 years old was found there. All along thesouthern part of the route is evidence of lost civilizations with rock paintingsand carvings and the Foum Larjam necropolis which is the largest in NorthAfrica, and whose several kilometres of tumuli remain virtually unexplored.
The people of the Draa are called Drawis and speak Darija and Tashlaheet. They are known for their fierce independence and the area was in almost constant revolt from government from the first historical records until very modern times. Their origins are mainly Berber (Amazigh), with Arabs settled from the caravans that used to carry their gold, salt and slaves along these routes and also the Haritan, the proud descendants of slaves who came up from West Africa in the days of the great trade.
I am also hoping I get to meet some wildlife along the way and I have my binoculars with me for a bit of birdwatching. I would give my eyeteeth to spot some sand kittens, but I think I’ll be lucky as they have only just reappeared in the country. I know there are wild camels on the route, and am hoping the females won’t be in season as that could cause us problems with our male animals. There should also be gazelles and foxes but both species are notoriously shy of humans.
This is a huge endeavour for me and I am full of excitement. I hope you will follow and share the expedition with me and that I can give you a chance to see and read and hear about some of the fantastic encounters, wonderful people and stunning landscapes that I will experience.
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Wish me luck!