It's 9 am and we are on our way! We start immediately through mini dunes - though it didn't take long to upgrade to large, drawn-out dunes. With no idea where we were headed and a backpack FULL of snacks and water, we zig-zagged across this landscape.
Following suit of our first half-day trek, our group spread out fairly quickly. I was at the front of my group alongside several savvy trek-mates and our guide, Mohammad. He stopped us to bring our attention to this plant (which stands over 6' tall). Turns out it is highly toxic to touch for humans, which is convenient being that they are ALL OVER THE DESERT.
Piquing my interest, I asked him to tell us what would most likely kill us in the desert. His response? The plants. Between these and mini watermelon type plants, they are highly poisonous and can cause painful deaths in humans if their secretions enter our blood streams. We called these 'danger plants'.
I took the sun and sand combination seriously with long pants, high socks, gators and note - the walking poles (THANK GOODNESS FOR THOSE THINGS!!!)
We began to enjoy the soft sand, the sun, and the challenge of the trek. While we didn't anticipate the day were about to have it was really neat to see the desert transform in front of us.
We immediately descended down off of the sand dunes onto flat plains where we met our crew for lunch. It was a hot, tiring morning but lunch was delicious and we were able to take an extra long break for lunch to avoid excessive sun exposure. Originally, the itinerary that we trusted too heavily stated our trek today was scheduled to be approximately 16 km. After a recorded 10-11 km in the morning, we figured we had a short, easy afternoon ahead of us. What we could see from our lunch camp was flat plain while heading to the direction of the gap in the mountains. (Look at the last picture above, you can see the gap in the mountain that we walked to).
Let me just mention something here. We have absolutely ZERO sense of scale. None. Nothing. I had noticed on my flight to Africa that when I flew over the coast of Spain I was also able to clearly see the coast of Morocco. I found out after that that gap was over 40 km apart. Keep that in mind...
This afternoon, we set out thinking it'll be a short 5-6 km journey. Will only take an hour or two. We head in the general direction of the mountains, I changed from my hiking boots to my Reebok trainers and again, thank goodness for that. The most mentally draining afternoon of them all where we stared at what we thought was a mirage - the white tents - for over 4 hours. Our 16 km day turned into a 28 km day - thanks to an accidental typo on our schedule.
We walked and felt like we were on a treadmill. No real progress forward, nothing around to look at, no bushes to hide in for bathroom breaks, absolutely no ability to scale how far we still had to go. It was, at moments, incredibly defeating. It was hot, we had minimal water, we were reaching sunset, our group had spread out to the point that it took over 30 minutes upon us arriving in camp for the remaining members to arrive and, on top of it ALL, it was day ONE. Did that mean the next 5 days were going to match this?