South to the Sahara 18 December 2010
It snowed the whole morning on the day we were due to set off for Morocco. Big flakes settling, one-inch, two inches, ever-deeper five or six inches. Our original plans for a bus to Heathrow had to be abandoned. A neighbour kindly offered to take us to the nearest train and underground station at Amersham. We set off in good time, but he couldn’t even get out of the village, the snow was too deep.
We started to walk, dragging our suitcases. We got a lift from a 4 X4, but he was soon turning in another direction. So we walked again and managed to get another lift, this time to within a mile of the station.
There was no traffic moving at all up the hill, so we just had to walk… our suitcases began feeling heavier and heavier as they gathered snow.
At last, we got to Amersham station. An announcer said he hoped there would be a train running… Contradictory announcements, over crowding, frequent stops, conflicting instructions and uncertainty about the destination of the underground trains made this a nightmare journey.
Everyone was confused and worried, particularly when we were all ordered to disembark at Hounslow East, having been assured that there were ‘buses below’. But there weren’t, and in any case you’d need a lot of buses to carry a full underground train full of people, all with baggage.
Eventually we got to Heathrow, the journey having taken us 6 hours. No sign of the rest of the group. There was chaos and information were offices all closed, and of course no aircraft movements. Luckily we limped back into London, stayed the night with Eileen’s daughter, and the next day the Ramblers’ office told us to go to Gatwick. Here we met our leader and the rest of the group; more delays but eventually at 11.55pm we got on our way to Marrakesh.
So we arrived 30 hours late, everyone with their travel-stories and all feeling shell-shocked. After only 3 hours sleep, we set off again… over the Atlas Mountains.
At our first destination we had a few days of enjoyable walks and visits. But our real goal was the Sahara; the bus couldn’t get there, but open 4 x4’s across the desert could, and we stayed in an isolated desert-hotel overlooking the dunes.
The next day was Christmas, and we took a camel-trek into the dunes. Magical!!! And what a contrast to a week before! Worth the journey? You bet!