Helen goes to Morocco Day 5 – Akchour & Chefchaouen

My 34th birthday, the first of if I recall correctly, 4 birthdays on the trip, or maybe it was 3. I received a lovely card from the group and enjoyed Happy Birthday being sung to me when I walked into breakfast (in English) and then also again on the bus (in English and then in Arabic as well). Today much to the delight of the group at the start of the day, today we had decent little walked planned, of about 10-15km. Like many things in life, what is planned and what happens do not always align and accepting this fact makes living life a lot easier.

Aunty Margaret stayed behind for a quiet rest day, she had come with a bug just before we left Australia and was quite keen to get it out of her system so she could enjoy the rest of the trip.

We bundled in to the bus at spot on 9am and drove about 45mins to Akchour, this was quite a lovely drive where we went through villages of varying sizes, past lovely looking rocks, some wide river gullies, various styles of outside bread ovens often with someone (usually a lady) baking bread.

When we arrived at Akchour, we were met by a local guide who was going to take us on this walk along with Brahim our main guide. This would be what would generally happen for the rest of the trip; Brahim would be our main guide but we would then pick up local guides at each spot we visited as well.

The original plan was to leave Akchour and then walk up to the Bridge of God (Le Pont de Dieu) and then onward to Petite Cascade and then onto the Grande Cascade. This would involve a reasonable amount of scrambling up the gorge. When we arrived, the plan was instead to hike up to the top of the gorge near the Bridge of God and then down into the gorge. We started the walk by looping up through some cash crop farming of marijuana alongside quite mature olive and fig trees. We were told that the marijuana was grown as fodder for cattle but we all knew that was not the case. When you start looking into global supply chains of drugs, Morocco is one of the largest exporters of marijuana to Europe so not likely that it was getting grown to be fed to cattle! I was quite delighted to see mint and lavender growing like weeds.

Once we walked through the cropping area, we went up into the scrub and made a move to head upwards to the top of the ridge. Due to concerns about track erosion and general safety of the group as it was our first walk together and Brahim and Fiona our Australian leader made the decision to turn around and embark on a different walk heading back into the gorge and following the general track up to Bridge of God and then maybe further depending on time. This didn’t go down well with some members of the group but on reflection, when you are taking a bunch of people with unknown hiking abilities out for the first walk, you want to be safe and not sorry.

Walking up the gorge was quite interesting, we went through lovely oleander sections, masses of maiden hair ferns on the shaded walls as well as various cafes dotted along the creek as well. I loved these cafes along the creek and we would later see them all over the place up mountains etc. I could not decide though if I wanted to see little cafes like this in Australia.

We stopped at one cafe part of the way up for a mint tea break and a week break before we continued up to Bridge of God. We then returned to the same cafe for lunch. I was quite happy here to get a video call from Karl & Stella who were on holidays in Croatia wishing me happy birthday. It was a total treat to be in just about the same timezone for birthday wishes for once πŸ˜€

Bridge of God was quite pretty and like many things I would come to realise, I would have liked to have spent more time there, we weren’t able to rock hop further up the gorge but I’ve put that on my growing list of things to do in Morocco when I return for my “slow” trip.

My absolute highlight of the day and what I shared at dinner that evening was seeing snapdragons in the wild. Snapdragons were such a big part of our life in gardens growing up. Looking back at these photos a year on, I still feel a little bit giddy at the joy I had seeing “native” snapdragons πŸ˜€

When we returned to Chefchaouen in the afternoon, Mum & I along with a group of other travellers meandered down to Chefchaouen to have an explore before we had an “official” tour in the morning.

We had some lovely freshly squeezed orange juice which would soon become a bit of a staple whilst exploring, Mum & John dressed up in traditional local clothes to support the local economy, I had a marvellous time looking at the construction of the public laundry area. After a while fellow travellers started to peel off and head back to the hotel until it was just Mum & I left walking up stairways, turning round in dead ends, making paper aeroplanes with local kids, saying hello to cats and of course doing some scavenging for tile scrap in rubble piles.

We returned to the hotel as the sun was well and truly setting to reflect on a day that included a bit of everything; spectacular scenery, good food, a chance to stretch our legs and a lot of blue πŸ™‚

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