Posted on 31 October 2016 @ 4:51pm



As you may be aware, after many unforeseen changes the Class Afloat crew is now back onboard the Gulden Leeuw and eager to set sail for the Canary Islands! “Without the rocks the river would not sing.” Although these last couple weeks were a surprise and a shock to us all, met with both excitement and frustration, as we near the end of our unplanned adventure it is clear that we will continue to be thrilled by whatever incredible experience we meet along our journey. These changes have only given us the chance to become closer together not only as a crew but a Class Afloat family.

The beginning of the end of this perfect change in our semester’s plan began with our last night in the Hardi Coq hotel. For reasons unimaginable to me (we were quite a big group and a lot of work to have around), the staff there were sad to see us go and threw a small goodbye party. Live traditional music was mixed with delicious local foods and as thrilling as that part of the adventure was, everyone was sad to leave. The next morning with bushy tails we packed up our belongings and hit the road for our trek though the Sahara. During the long road trip to the desert, we travelled through the Atlas Mountains, into various towns and lookouts where we were able to stop, take some pictures and stretch our legs. In one of the towns we stopped at an ancient library that stores over four thousand books ranging from astronomy to Koranic studies. All the books were written in Arabic, and displayed on shelves for everyone to look at. In a building located near the library were numerous classrooms with small children learning and going about their daily school routine. Another stop we made was for a tour of a pottery co-operative, where we watched locals make ceramics and learned about the different processes to make pottery. Each piece of art work was dyed naturally, and students had the opportunity to purchase gifts for themselves and their families.

 Once we arrived to the outskirts of the Draa Valley, we pulled up to the side of the road where the dromedaries, a species of camel with one hump, awaited our group. Everyone was dressed head to toe in Moroccan attire and looked ready to conquer the great Saharan Desert. Skies clear, light wind, and well rested bodies, students could not have asked for a more perfect day out in the wilderness. Since there weren’t as many camels as people, we partnered up and took turns walking while the other person rode. Running up onto the dunes and playing in the sand was equally exhilarating, and students tended to want to stretch after sitting on the camel for an hour. Once we reached the sand dunes we could see nothing but the enormous mounds of sand with the occasional group of shrubs. Many students compared the camel trek to feeling as though we were on the set of an Indiana Jones movie, and Pete playing the theme song to those films did not help! As the camel ride came to an end, and we found ourselves deep in the desert, everyone went up to the top of one of the vast mountains of sand and took some incredible photos. This was followed by the Class Afloat tradition of taking a moment of silence to reflect and watch the sunset.

For dinner we once again took advantage of the food and completely devoured the wonderful meal served to us. A live singing performance was put on by some locals, and students were able to get up and show off their dance moves. Since Megan (Head of School) was kind enough to decide against curfew for the night, many of the students spent hours on end lying under the stars or playing music by the fire. Once everyone began to get tired they returned to their luxurious tents; however, some students decided sleeping at the top of the dunes would make for an even crazier story to tell. The next morning students were in good spirits, excited to get back on the camels and to make our way back to the ship. Everyone had anticipated that this port program would be one of the most memorable, and I know that for a lot of the students it exceeded all expectations.  There are truly no words that could possibly capture the incredible surroundings of the camp where we spent the night.


Above is a photo of one of the tents located inside of the desert camp where we spent the night.

Along our travels on the road we came across a carpet warehouse that was filled wall-to-wall with carpets of all shapes and sizes, colors and textures. Each of the hundreds of carpets inside would take roughly three months to complete and therefore there is somewhere between eight hundred to nine hundred women working to make these various carpets. The wonderful array of colors was not only breathtaking but made from completely natural dyes, ranging from poppies to saffron. However, due to our issues with holes in our pockets (figuratively, of course), most of the students left the warehouse empty-handed. That being said, the few carpets that were purchased will only make our boat all the more beautiful.

To finish off our road trip we visited some saffron fields for a hike through the farmlands. Row after row of the luxurious crop sat beside a more-or-less dried-up river. Being “Class Afloat” and not having seen water for nearly a month, it was decided that we would walk along the river. Some walked beside the river while others jumped rock to rock, but the whole crew had fun - some less than others when certain people ended up sprawled in the mud after having slid to a sudden halt, but after a couple minutes the smiles spread back across their faces. Although it perhaps was not the most action-packed part of the adventure, but it was a calming way to finish off our time in the Moroccan countryside. 

As our bus ride finally came to an end, the energy on the bus only increased. A game of “Spot the Boat” quickly broke out and everyone’s eyes were peeled for the first sight of the Gulden Leeuw. Finally, a cry rang out: the boat had been spotted. The whole bus rang out with excitement, from clapping to screaming to smiles – all could be seen on everyone’s faces. The one-minute showers, early morning cleaning stations and late night watches were back and it had never felt better to be home.

Sand dune

Camel face

Camel trek

Above are some of the photos taken during Class Afloat’s camel trek through the Sahara desert. The top photo was taken while everyone was watching the sunset, while the other two were taken on the way to the camp.

- Written by Hailey, an English 12 student