shadows on the mountain side
eagles find the souls they hide
and the outcast child enchanted by the sun
will seek his shelter never knowing one
The last part of our Moroccan adventure was just the two of us for a week, so we headed out to go camping and maybe do some hikes in the high Atlas mountains. We ended up being extorted by a standover merchant, befriending a nerd called Frank, meeting two really cool Belgians who had just walked the Camino de Santiago de Compostella and climbing a mountain.
It was ace.
It began the day we left Marrakech, we had read that you can walk out of the Medina and catch a local bus to Imlil, in the mountains. By all accounts it was going to take about 20 mins to walk to the bus terminal and cost very little to catch the bus. On the way we noticed a guy walking in front of us with a pack on and we decided that he must know where he is going so we followed him. After about half an hour we caught up to him at a cross road and we chatted, he also thought that it would take 20 mins and having now been walking for more than 30 we decided that he didn't know where he was going afterall and that we had better start paying attention. His name was Frank.
We kept walking for another half hour or so to eventually find the station. Where we were immediately offered the kind assistance of a 6ft tall 100 kg local guy with an attitude. He ever so nicely helped us load our bags onto the roof of a waiting bus and negotiated a price with the driver.
We got on and took our seats and waited for our immediate departure. Which didn't happen. Our new best friend (Not Frank the other guy) got on the bus as started demanding a tip for baggage handling and a commission for the sale of the bus ticket. This turned into a heated exchange where we were getting yelled at and stood over by this huge guy while everyone else on the bus looked on with amusement. Initially we stood our ground and decided that this just would not do. We are Australian and not only do we not tip we hate getting ripped off!
Earlier we had agreed to living life by a series of principles and one of them is to not give money to arseholes any more than once a day and this guy was low on the list that day, so we were prepared to stand fast.
We didn't though, fear of violence and a respectful sense of self preservation resulted in us paying our rather inflated (Ten times the price) fare. Poor Frank, who witnessed these exchanges quietly in the back must have been wondering what he had got himself into, it was his second day in Morocco.
We arrived at Imlil and set about doing the first three essential tasks:
1. Find somewhere to sleep
2. Research a walk up the hill (Mt Toubkal - second highest in Africa)
3. Find Frank another friend (By this time we had a reasonable appreciation of our own time and how much he detracted from it).
All of which we had done by the end of the night.
So the next day we started our walk up the hill.
Our loyal readers may remember that earlier on this year we had attempted another climb with a similar lack of preparation in Greece with Josh and Jess.
Well this one was a little bigger but we did take longer to do it. We were a little sceptical of the advice given by a well known (LP) guide book after a bad experience in Turkey with the Lycian Way maps, so we did talk with the Mountain guide association before the climb. It was incredible.
En route to the refuge at Base Camp
While it is possible to do this climb in one day - some people actually run up from Imlil and back in a day - our memories of the trip with Joss and Jess made us a little more cautious - we didn't want to miss out on the summit this time. And besides what an awesome place to camp and acclimatise to the altitude.
The next day we got up early and made our way up towards the summit.
The last push to the summit was a real challenge, altitude has a sly way of creeping up on you and pushing all of the air out of your lungs, so it was pretty slow going, but the views from the top were indescribable.
So, after a short lunch break of a couple of Stewart Diver chocolate bars, we headed on back down... and down... and down...
We eventually collapsed into a really nice hotel in the heart of the Imlil Valley (some 800 m short of where we wanted to get to though) had by far the best Tagine meal ever and passed out.
And that pretty much rounded off our mad month in Morocco. We headed back into Marrakech and patiently outlasted a couple of cases of Berber Belly and started our journey home.