All photos from this sponsored Field Trip are courtesy of Chris Parkinson. All photos were edited with the Forged FXS presets.
I'm in the Sahara desert, it's freezing and my arse is killing me from riding a camel!
How is this real life?
Still hungover & in desperate need of a shower, I arrived at Stanstead airport following a heavy few days with the boys in Frankfurt. 4 days of beer, football, beer, nightclubs, beer... German carnival will kill any grown human, especially one in their 30's. Three day hangovers have become a thing!
I had one night in the airport hotel before making my way across London to meet Sara Lincoln the next morning. We were headed to Morocco for exploration shenanigans and some travel photography. I met Sara at a photography event in the Lake District a few years ago and we've been good mates ever since. I've seconded a few times for Sara and we travel pretty well together so it made sense to invite her along. Sometimes it can be difficult to find a good travel buddy: I've been on holidays with best mates in the past and wanted to strangle them after two days. It takes at least 4 days before I want to strangle Sara! But seriously, we have similar personalities; we are both pretty easy going; and we don't mind getting lost in a strange city together.
It was time to re-pack my stuff!!
Including Frankfurt/Morocco and some travelling around the UK, I would be on the road for 16 days in total & I wanted to travel as light as possible. I've been looking for the perfect travel/photography bag this last few months and I might have found it. I picked up a new bag a few weeks prior and wanted to put it through its paces. Armed with a Fuji X Pro 2, X100F and a handful of lenses I was ready to attack Morocco!
In reality, I was shitting my pants! Not because of the hangover but because I'd only booked one nights accommodation in Marrakesh and we be there for 7 days including a trip to the Sahara. Normally I'm pretty solid with the planning but Morocco was a little bit different. It was much harder to formulate a solid plan of action. Well, I had a basic plan, three plans actually but nothing concrete, no booking confirmations anyhow. I was totally out my comfort zone, and was defiantly going to get us both stranded in the middle of nowhere!
We arrived in Marrakesh late Thursday evening, We planned to be in the Sahara two days later with no idea of how to get there. Turns out it's really simple. We enquired with the hotel receptionist and he had us on a tour to the Sahara at 7 am the next morning. The tour included two nights accommodation and we'd be fed and watered for most of the time - bonus!
The bus left Marrakesh square and we were off.
From Marrakech, we headed to Ouarzazate via the Atlas Mountains and the highest mountain pass in Morocco, the Tizi n'Tichka. The pass sits 2000 metres above sea level and contains some pretty naughty hairpin bends but the views are incredible! Make sure you have your seatbelt on as the drivers try to pass each other at an opportune moment.
Following the safe passage over the Atlas Mountains, we stopped at Aït Benhaddou. Aït Benhaddou is a fortified village made up of clay that sits along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. The colour and texture of the earthy Moroccan clay buildings are just beautiful! No wonder the town was used as a set for films and TV shows such as Game of Thrones, Lawrence of Arabia & the Mummy. We had a short time to explore and grab some lunch before we had to be back on the road again.
From Aït Benhaddou, we had a quick stop in Ouarzazate to stretch our legs before heading east to Dades Valley to rest up. We spent the evening at a small Raid in Dades Valley with our hosts, chicken tagine was on the menu and Berber dancing was compulsory. They told us Berber jokes (basically funny riddles) showed us how to dance like a camel and played music by the fire until late in the evening.
The next morning we were up and off at the crack of dawn, we had a lot of driving to cover so we could reach Erg Chebbi before sunset. We had a super short stop in Todra Gorge (this place is amazing) before heading to a small picturesque Berber town. They showed us how they worked the fields and collected food from the trees before taking us to a small Berber home where they handmade rugs before hitting the road again. So much driving!
Our Final destination was Erg Chebbi - the desert! We arrived shortly before sunset, pretty much as soon as we arrived we were thrown onto the back of camels and sent into the desert. The sun was setting and the views were incredible, the town behind us slowly disappeared and we were surrounded by glowing red & orange sand dunes. As the sun set and the further we got into the desert, the more painful it became, my arse was killing! I should have packed cycling shorts!
More than two hours later, we arrived at our base camp in the dark, and we'd spend the next 8 hours in the middle of the desert. I rested my sore arse on the cold sand while the Berbers built a fire and fed us more chicken tagine. We spent the evening sitting around the fire, and it was cold but I didn't feel it. I was too distracted by the sea of stars, the dancing fire and the Berber rhythm on the drums-- it was magic.
We rose the next morning at 5 am to make the camel trek back to Merzouga to meet our driver and collect our things that we didn't need in the desert. We left in the dark and rode camels as the sun rose, my arse still reeling from the night before! The colours were like nothing I've seen before, reds, blues, oranges, amazing! However, It's pretty hard to take a good photo on the back of a wobbly camel!
We'd planned to stay the next 48 hours in Merzouga before travelling back to Marrakech. I'm so glad we did! The town sits on the edge of the desert and is made of one story small clay buildings and the roads are made from dust, it wasn't particularly beautiful but it was peaceful and the people are friendly. I was happy to take some time to rest after spending two days driving and riding camels. We talked to fellow travelers, ate more tagine, undertook some light reading, and explored the village.
Our 48 hours were over and we were back on the road to Marrakech, Google says it will take 9 hours but we left at 9 am and arrived in Marrakech around 7 pm that evening, only stopping for lunch and petrol. The drive wasn't as painful as I thought, the driver kept us entertained and the views are forever changing. At one point I didn't think we were going to make it as the driver tried to overtake a semi on the Atlas mountain pass! I'm still alive though!
Marrakech would be our last stop! I was pretty sad that our adventure was coming to an end but I was looking forward to spending two days exploring the streets of the city! If you haven't been before you need to go! Marrakech is just amazing!
The sounds, the colours, the people, the intensity, it's a photographers paradise! We spent two days getting lost and wandering, taking photos, eating more tagine, haggling for bags, rugs and cushions, I could have spent a small fortune but I didn't really have the room in my case. I will be back with an empty case and a pocket full of cash sometime soon.
Morocco, you have been amazing!!