We left Meknes in a heavy fog/mist which eventually cleared as we drove onwards towards Azrou. We drove through lots and lots of grape and apple farms that thrive on the higher altitude that we had driven up on to. The drive this morning was a quite short 1 hour to our hotel (Hotel Dar Maroc Adams), commonly referred to as The Stork Hotel due to the number of stork nests on the roof. This was a hotel that would have been very grand but has slowly declined over the years with the changing tourist market and I expect also decline in the upper more mobile class holidaying domestically.
Once we had found our rooms, and grabbed our day bags, it was back in the bus for a nice short drive of about 25 mins through the town of Azrou and to climb a little further in elevation to the cedar forests/forestry starting at Cedre Gouraud Forest and then to walk through various parts of the forest.
We stopped in Azrou to pick up our packed lunches and our local guide for the day, Khalid. Khalid was a great local guide for a walk through the forest as he was quite knowledgeable about the plants and the natural history.
The main tourist attraction at Cedre Gouraud are the Barbary macaque, the cedar trees are probably secondary for most people :D. We were quick to bound out of the bus and start heading up towards the notional trail head that I didn’t get many decent photos of the macaques, I thought/assumed that we would see more of them on the walk or we would circle back roughly to our starting point at the end of the walk so I would be able to take more photos. Neither of these happened. Here is the one somewhat photo I took just to prove that we did actually see them 😀
The walk was a good amble up through the forestry, we learnt about the harvest process and the ways in which permission would be granted for selective harvest. It was interesting to hear Brahim and Khalid converse with each other in French instead of the usual Darija. Brahim told us later that this is because they had learnt biology and natural etc in French. It all makes sense when you think about it!
We walked through section of forestry and then out to a more vehicle accessible section where we did some macaques in the distance but they were not about to come over for a photo shoot! We also passed a few families having picnics which was very interesting to see and contrast to a classic picnic set up in Australia. From here, we walked through a small section of non forestry before coming back into the forestry near the forestry office/information centre. Here we were greeted by a few merchants keen to sell us honey and nuts. I was more interested in the picnic tables which you can see in the above photo!
We continued walked through the forest and came up to the edge of the escarpment and were greeted bu a marvellous view out over Azrou and the surrounding area. It was really quite speccy, a bit too windy for a lunch spot unfortunately.
We walked a bit further along and down back into the trees to a very nice group of trees to lunch/rest at. The trees were all spaced a nice distance apart and the trunks were just right for leaning against. It was just a lovely spot for lunch and I could have spent some time there reading with a book!
After lunch we ambled though more woodland than forestry and it was quite interesting to see the change in vegetation, all of a sudden though, we were out of the woodland and after walking a short distance through grassland with the occasional remnant large tree, we were at the top of a steepish rocky gully. The change in weather coming out from the forestry through to the grassland and now this rocky gully was quite noticeable as you can imagine! Still the rocky gully was quite interesting to zig zag down. The absolute highlight though was when we reached a junction where a second gully joined and we watched a massive flock of sheep race down the slope home after a day of grazing. They then continued down side the other side of the gully to us, it was a race of sorts us against them to the bottom 😀 We then walked down the road to where we were eventually greeted by Ibby & the bus coming towards us for the pick up, it was a slight relief that we were not going to have to walk all the way back into town 😀 On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a co-op that was generally geared towards the selling of goods that used the local cedar oil. It was a nice little shop to stop at and a few of the group purchased some herbs and spices here.
It would not be a walk with out some pretties though and these are featured below 😀 Fiona and I came across this broken tagine lid which we quickly turned into a little fairy house 😀
When we got back to the hotel at about 4:30ish, I spent a good portion of the afternoon with a cafe au lait sitting outside the hotel cafe catching up on my journal. As well as also listening to I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston on repeat at least 7 times, just as well it is such a classic 😀
Some of my journal notes from today mention that one of my highlights was walking over lemon thyme and the way in which the scent travelled with you as you walked. I didn’t take any photos of this lemon thyme but on reflection I can see that thyme and can feel the scent washing over me. Just as well I wrote it down in the journal 🙂
On reflection, it is really interesting to contrast the adventures of today against what is coming tomorrow. They are total chalk and cheese and you will just need to come back tomorrow to see what I am talking about.