A Travellerspoint blog

Morocco

shadows on the mountain side

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

all seasons in one day 20 °C
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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.

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En route to the refuge at Base Camp

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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.

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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.

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So, after a short lunch break of a couple of Stewart Diver chocolate bars, we headed on back down... and down... and down...

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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.

Posted by adamandmeg 18:48 Archived in Morocco Comments (3)

Ess Oh Where Ah?

Essouiara... Windsports capital of Morocco

sunny 30 °C
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About half way down the West coast of Morocco and nearly at the end of the sealed road is a town called Essouiara. One of the windiest places in North Africa and the home of a long wide flat beach. The place is packed year round by pilgrims from all over the world who come to pay homage to the Wind elemental.

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Watersports aside though this town is full of appeal. We spent a few days camped here before pushing inland and back to Marrakech.

The last night camp was at a roadside hotel that was probably 50 years past it's hey day. But we camped in the herb garden and ate on the roof. An incredible backdrop of the Atlas mountains made even more spectacular by the lunar eclipse that happened right before our eyes just after sunset. It was incredible.

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Arriving back in Marrakech we all felt that we had really seen a good part of the country, it is a big country and while it is possible to travel completely by public transport or tours, hiring a car was by far the best way to go.

We had a few days in Marrakech with our Dutch friends before bidding them a fond farewell. Not sure when we would all be in the same country again but surer again that we would be.

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Posted by adamandmeg 18:18 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Sitting on the beach drinkin' rocket fuel

Oh Yeah..... Safi.

semi-overcast 30 °C
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We found ourselves at a little known town called Safi, famous for two things, the phosphate mine and the pottery. With a cool Medina and the most authentic souk we found in Morocco, this town did have a surprise appeal. We even caught some of the Olympics on a local TV.

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The town itself was great but we were on a surf trip so we headed off in search of a beach. We found an incredible beach about 10 km North of town, that was actually used in a well known Pro Surfing tour and decided to camp. This beach is well known by the locals as a free camping site, as such there was very little impact of tourism.

It was Mariannes birthday so we befriended some local guys and had a party.

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Our generous host at the beach invited us home to meet the family and eat lunch. It was awesome.
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Now we have noticed something about the impact of tourism that deserves comment. Most new age hippy wanna be backpackers are in search of an authentic off the beaten track adventure, this means they are predisposed to poo poo the idea of tourism. I can understand that, if you've been to the Gold Coast in Australia you can see what tourism can do to a place, but... there are some positive effects too. Specifically I am referring to environmental advocacy. I don't want to spoil the images of this awesome place, but the lack of planning for effective waste disposal leaves a bad taste (and smell).

Among other things thrown into the water at high tide are some heavy metals.

This once secret place is still used by big name surfing tours and hopefully, in the future the increase of tourists will improve the environmental policies in the area.

Ok. I am off my soap box now, it is folded up under the bed for another day....

Now back to the story...

After Safi we headed further South to the capital of wind sports in North Western Africa.

Posted by adamandmeg 16:31 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

Play it again Sam

West to Casablanca

sunny 30 °C
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Just out of Fes there is an old Roman ruin called Volubulis. This is one of the largest Roman cities remaining and is undergoing a remarkable transformation. The renovation of the site is being done in such a way so as not to hid ethe new works but rather to create a clear distinction between the new and the old. It look fantastic. Although it is a way off track, this is a must see if you are in the area.
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Then we were on our way to Casablanca

When Humphrey Bogart was here in the classic film Casablanca, everything was black and white and filled with Middle Eastern African scenes of life. Nothing has changed, except of course for a really, really big Mosque. Casablanca is

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We didn't stay long at Casablanca though, having smelt the sea air and felt the sea breeze we headed South along the coast in search of the perfect wave and some summer tans.

We expected a coastal drive following the path of wayward surfers and windsurfers cutting their way down an under developed surfcoast towards Western Africa. Well it was windy and there was some surf. but it was also well and truly discovered. It got better the further South we went though.

Posted by adamandmeg 16:05 Archived in Morocco Comments (0)

That's what the desert's for

That's what the desert's for And there'll be no water No rain, no hail, no tears 'Cos it never rains in the desert Like it has where I live here

sunny 35 °C
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We left Merzouga heading North through Midelt and the flat lands of central Morocco for two days until we got to Fez, the ancient capital city.

The drive was amazing and reminded Meaghan and I of home quite a lot.
We stayed a night in Midelt, at a tourist centre with a pool and beer - very very expensive beer. But it was worth it.

Then on to Fez, a city built around a huge maze of souks.
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Fez was amazing and lived up to our expectations. The city is old and navigation through the souks is a real challenge but well worth the hours spent trying to find your way back to your hotel. There are many tours available to help you navigate through the important sights - most of which are inside the walled Medina. You can do it yourself though, with some good shoes and a but of courage...

Posted by adamandmeg 14:16 Archived in Morocco Comments (1)

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