We trek out into the desert behind the campsite where our friends have arranged a fire to be built and we sit wrapped in blankets talking about our travels. The light in the desert attracts Hassan IV and his friend from a neighboring hotel, who arrive complete with their own wine! Hassan turns out to be quite a character and we get a real insight into the 'berber moderne' outlook on life as he offers his wine to share with the group.
The night is a perfect send off for the group as J,J,C&T leave the next day to continue their trip - we wish them well and hope that our paths cross in the future.
With the largest dune staring down on us from our campsite we decide that it must be tackled. The final ascent is gruelling and is only possible on hands and knees but the view from the top stretching into Algeria more than makes up for the effort. Once back at the van we reflect that perhaps the middle of the day wasn't the best time to attempt it and we retreat indoors for a cold shower and a fantastic meal of brochette and chips in the hotel restaurant.
A trip to the Sahara wouldn't be complete without a camel ride. This turns out to be harder than first expected. It's not possible to simply turn up at the 'camel rank' since they don't deal direct nor take any money from you. Back at the hotel Ali arranges it for us and half an hour later two camels arrive. Ideally we'd just like to sit on one, but we opt for the mini tour with Sophie and Chris trekking off into the desert. Chris isn't so sure about the experience and gives up his seat on the return leg to Adam who is equally uncertain of the virtues of camel riding. Sophie meanwhile is having a whale of a time and sulks like a 3 year old when it's finally time to get off.
Chris and Adam decide they want to try surfing down the dunes and set off armed with Chris' body board for a practice. After a few attempts they head off for the steepest dune and proceed to surf down it with Chris performing some spectacular barrel roles, we wonder if he is planning a secret career as a stunt double! The efforts soon attract some local children and before long we are running an impromptu activity evening on the dunes of the Sahara, some of the little lads having clearly been practicing their moves although we get satisfaction that none are daring (or stupid?) enough to stand for the largest dune. If you want to see the results, watch the video at the bottom of this post!
Erg Chebbi is a pivotal point for us. We've been here a month now and after nearly a week of glorious sunshine we must begin the trek north across the High Atlas. We ask for the bill. It's £48. six nights, two 3-course meals, 12 loaves of bread and 2 camel rides for £8 a day - what can we say? We love Morocco!