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     Moroccan Diary


I recently visited Morocco with my husband and as part of our visit we embarked on a 7-day trek in the High Atlas Mountains.  It turned out to be a fantastic – and challenging – experience.  Morocco is a place I would happily send any of my clients as it has so much to offer and the people are incredibly friendly.


Tizione – day 2 of our trek


We were woken at 4.00 a.m. by the unfamiliar call to prayer of the local mosque, and then two other village mosques chimed in.  It took us a while to remember that we were sleeping in the room of a Berber house in a lonely mountain village of Tizione. Ramadan in the Berber villages of the High Atlas had a sound of its own.  We dozed until 6.00 before getting up, dressing in our hiking gear, and starting the day.  Breakfast consisted of mint tea, muesli, bread, pancakes and jam – a great effort from a cook who was not eating during daylight hours.


We started walking at 8.00 and climbed steadily up the valley along the mule path for the next three hours, following the rocky watercourse, either in it or on the hillside overlooking it.  The muleteers passed high above us on another path, calling happily to us as they went on.  WoodCollectors


A strange high-pitched call echoed down the ravine and this gradually developed into the singing of a group of women who had earlier gone high up the slopes to collect the firewood that had been chopped for them, and were now on their way back down to the villages with the day’s fuel.  Such huge loads to carry such a long way!


As we got closer to the col we climbed through stands of stunted junipers and then walked out into totally different scenery of rounded grass tufts and small bushes as far as the eye could see.  Spectacularly beautiful scenery



The party rested near the summit of the pass allowing all the stragglers to rejoin the main group. After nibbling on the nuts and figs provided, a fiercely competitive game of rock-throwing broke out with Berber guide Mohamed setting up balancing targets.  One each for Morocco, the U.S. and Australia!


For the next two hours we followed the mule path down into the next valley.  There were spectacular views away to our right as we hugged the hillsides.  Little patches of cultivated green on otherwise barren terraces as we passed the occasional watercourse.  Some ups and downs for an hour before we reached the village of Tizgui; and a late lunch.  The cook prepared our meal in the forecourt of a Berber house and we relaxed in the shade of the walnut trees.  It was a welcome 45 minute break.


At 3.30 we climbed out of the valley, zigzagging as Tizgui dropped below us.  Soon the sure-footed mule train again went passed despite sheer drops from the path.AzibAssoul  Finally at 4.45 we reached our campsite on the hillside of Azib Assoul.  The muleteers had already started setting up our tents on the least rocky sites and we helped them complete the task.  We even had a dining tent, a shower tent and a toilet tent!


Once unpacked, we had the customary mint tea in the main tent before having a shower before the light began to fade.  It was good to feel clean again - and an unexpectedly pleasant surprise on the side of an otherwise bleak mountain.


We lay on our thick mattresses and relaxed listening to the goats and kids high on the hillside above us.  We could hear the shouts of the young shepherds calling to each other in the gathering gloom.


At dusk we joined the other trekkers in the communal tent and chatted until dinner; which was another great meal.  Couscous and pastille, with melon for dessert, and Vibena tea.  An early bed after a most rewarding day and slept like a log despite being disturbed by the barking of sheep dogs in the night.


Day 6 – our conquest of Jbel Toubkal


We were up at 6.15 after an extremViewfromToubkalely restless night – a combination of wind, cold and excitement.  Breakfasted before readying ourselves for the final climb of Toubkal.  We left Lorraine [ill] and Lucy [sore knees] behind as the remaining seven of us, plus guides Mohamed and Ali, started climbing in the shadows of the  morning sun at 7.00 a.m.


It was a slow steady upward haul, passed Refuge Nelter (3200m), and then on and up for the next three hours.  Our climb was punctuated by occasional stops to catch our breath and the altitude began to really affect us.  The frequent scree slopes meant that sliding often occurred, and that was exhausting.



We gradually warmed up as the day progressed but the wind never really died.  Finally, just after 11.00 a.m. we pushed for the summit.  What a great sense of achievement wSummitgroupe both felt!  There we were standing on the top of the highest mountain (4167m) in North Africa and a long-held dream had been realised!


The heat haze limited the distance that we could see but nevertheless there were spectacular views.  Ranges of the High Atlas disappeared into the distance all round us.



We joined the others in a rock shelter, out of the wind, for a mid-morning snack and group photos.  The chilly late autumn winds soon drove us down but the climb had been well worth it.


Our guides took another route down, dropping very quickly at the beginning of the descent.  There were views for the first time of the town of Imlil which would be our destination the next day and from which our bus trip to Marrakech would depart.


Later in our descent we came across the twisted, battered evidence of a small commercial aircraft crash that had occurred in 1968 in which seven people had been killed when the plane slammed into the mountain in a storm.201Aircraftwreckage



The downward path took its toll on knees and calves!  Finally three hours later we were down and back in camp.  A late lunch followed immediately and then we all disappeared into our tents for a read and a doze.


204CampLater in the afternoon, before it became too cold, we showered in the portable shower tent (bucket of hot water and ladle).  Tea followed at 5.00 and we sat, well covered in many layers of clothing, chatting until dinner arrived at 7.30.  It was another good Moroccan soup, tuna and salad, and melon for dessert, finished off with the sour but rejuvenating, Vibena tea.


It was a much colder night so we climbed into our sleeping bags with four layers on.  The tent shuddered constantly as we drifted off to sleep on a very, very windy night.  We were exhausted and but very satisfied!  What a superb day it had been!