Today was our first of three days walking in the southern area of the High Atlas Mountains. Three days to increase our exercise levels at a higher altitude than most of us who were from SE QLD are used to walking at. The next three days, it was all transport by your own two legs, there was no nice air-conditioned bus waiting to pick you up. This was what so many of our group had been waiting for, a chance to give the legs a good stretch, a chance to dwell on the landscape.
Our day bags were packed and ready to go on our backs and our mule bags containing our sleeping bags and gear, toiletries etc were packed and ready to be loaded onto the mules (and also into the yellow Mercedes Benz TN that would accompany us and transport extra gear and Aunty Margaret for parts).
The summary from my journal is as follows, “we did about 17km today from our auberge, up a creek bed, over a mountain pass and then down a gorge to a creek and then through a small town and up another creek to our auberge for the night”. That’s a pretty concise wrap up of the day.
Today is a short day, short in words, a bit shorter in photos and also shorter in the sense that I somehow managed to completely skip this day in my travel journal. How, I managed to do this, I’m not sure but I did.
Today we had a short walk (approx 7.5km over 3hrs) from our Auberge at Ait Youl up along the Dades River and part way in to the gorge. We would drive further up the gorge after our walk. It was quite a lovely walk that in some ways built on our walk yesterday as we were again walking though small crops grown in the fertile and easy to irrigate land beside the river. The river today though was the Dades River. I guess due to the smaller populations, these small lot farms were supporting, they were not as dense as they were yesterday on the Todra River. Unlike yesterday, there were very few date palms today but a lot more figs and some walnut trees as well. We started to see more and more harvested figs out drying in various places. Brahim stopped us at least twice along the way to quiz us on the Tamazight numbers that he had taught us yesterday on that long drive and also the names that we had been given.
Day 12, a day with a good mix of activities but also a long day. Distance wise, we drove about 260km today but with various stops along the way it became an 11hr day which made for quite a few tired and hungry souls when we eventually made it to Ait Youl at the auberge we were staying in for the next two nights. My journal today includes quite a few comments of “we drove and drove” :).
We got up early and walked out and up on to the dunes to watch the sunrise. It was a lovely calm morning and it was very nice to be out on the dunes as the sun rose, but the sun rise will not feature on any postcards anytime soon. Still, it was lovely weather and it was interesting to see the different light on the dunes.
The rest of the today was a rest day of sorts, a day that you could spend lazing by the pool if you wished until we went for a camel ride on the dunes close to sunset. This was not what we were going to do though!
Today, we drove lots. Circa 400 odd km up through the Atlas Mountains and then across the plateau. -> It was very speccy.
They are the exact words written in my travel journal and they seem like a good way to start today’s post.
We drove for a bit short of 6 hrs today. Which in the Australian grand scheme of things isn’t really that bad, however 16 Australians + Brahim & Ibby = 18 people. Our mighty MB Sprinter could sit 19 people when you had 3 across the front seat. Lots of driving, a greater requirement for air conditioning by some travellers and no spare seats to swap between as a breather … Well, I think you can understand why we had a few leg stretching stops along the way 😀
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.