100_2654All that was left was our final night in the desert and then boarding the coaches back to  Ouarzazate. I felt even worse next day and had to abandon attempts to be part of the giant ‘24’ to celebrate the 24th Marathon des Sables and allow myself to be frogmarched back to the tent by my friend as I was about to lose consciousness. The diarrhoea had cleared up but I felt really sick and ached all over.

As we waited to board the coaches many of the officials set off the spare flares and the sky was filled with little pink lights. I picked one up- it looked just like a plug attached to a parachute.

The rest of the day went by in a kind of daze… boarding the bus, toilet stop, desert scenery flashing by the window, stop for toilet break, sleep, wake and look out of the window at a desert town, toilet stop, more sleep, toilet stop (I guess I wasn’t the only one still afflicted…) stagger off the bus and into the hotel, queue for room key, sleepy, hot, dehydrated… collapse on the bed and fall into a merciful deep sleep…

Surprisingly I felt much better the next morning; I stumbled into the shower, removing several days worth of dirt, sweat and desert dust, and even managed to crunch down several delicious little pastries for breakfast.

The finishers’ T-shirts were to be handed out at another hotel so our tent members decided to walk there, collect them and then explore Ouarzazate.

Easier said than done. For a start, the intense pain in my right knee and a blister on my left foot conspired to give me the kind of walking gait John Wayne would have been proud of. The next obstacle was actually collecting our T-shirts. The organisers had decided to route everyone through a room selling race souvenirs before the T-shirt collection point, and my heart sank as we joined what seemed like a mile long queue…

It took ages but eventually we were through. I bought a book about the MdS, there were various items of clothing, buffs, DVDs etc commemorating the race.

We found the ‘Kasbah’ and had an open air lunch before walking through an area of stalls which felt like a smaller version of the souks in Marrakech, even down to the constant cries of ‘come and look- no obligation to buy!’. I tried haggling for some glass beads for Mum, and very nearly ended up paying a fortune before a fellow competitor who spoke a little Arabic came to my rescue and told the guy where to go!

The Souks of Ouazazate

The Souks of Ouarzazate

We had a fun evening. Everyone seemed to want to unwind and we all got quite drunk! There were speeches and awards to be given out- for me this was when it began to sink in that I had completed the MdS and I felt so very grateful for the opportunity.

Even the prospect of an early start didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for celebration, so it was a rather bleary eyed bunch who gathered outside the hotel for the coach to the airport next morning. Luckily Ouarzazate airport is only a short hop from the Berber Palace, causing one obviously shattered girl to wail in despair ‘why are we stopping?’ when we pulled up outside.

Of course, we couldn’t leave Morocco without another opportunity to queue, and the lengthy check-in process certainly did not disappoint us! The airport just cannot seem to cope with a commercial plane load of people.

Once through into the departure lounge everyone piled into the tiny duty free shops in an effort to spend their last few Dirham. In fact, one shop ran out of change and resorted to giving out mars bars instead!

As we took off and Ouarzazate and the desert opened up below us and gradually receded into the distance, I vowed that some day I’d be back…

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