Through the High Atlas Mountains to Ouirgane

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September 19th 2018
Published: September 19th 2018
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I am sitting by the pool at our lovely hotel Chez Momo, outside the small town of Ouirgane. I’m enjoying a Flag Speciale beer, as I start the blog, after a one hour walk through the nearby Berber village. Susan enjoyed her beer while I was on the walk.

Today was a long travel day driving over the High Atlas Mountains, through the highest pass in Morocco called the Tizi n’Tichka (elevation 2260 metres). The day started out well, as we enjoyed a hot shower and breakfast at the Riad Maktoub. I started out with hard cooked egg, bread, laughing cow cheese, olives, delicious freshly squeezed orange juice, and nice strong coffee. Then they brought out pancakes - I was getting full but had 1/2 pancake with honey, yumm. Then they brought out another pastry type pancake, and yogurt. Note to self, don’t go for breakfast as soon as they start serving it. Wait for a bit to see the whole spread! I was too full for the pastry pancake, and the yogurt 😞.

We left Ait Benhaddou at 8:30, and left the southern slopes of the High Atlas for the northern slopes, bound for the small town of Ouirgane (pronounced “war-gune”, sort of). (By the way, Ouarzazate, where we were yesterday, is pronounced “war-zah-zat"). It was a lovely warm sunny morning. We passed a local market held on Wednesdays, and drove through very pretty desert scenery somewhat similar to the American southwest. We passed beautiful red-brown rock formations and buildings made of mud brick that blend right into the rock.

We were stopped briefly because an overloaded truck had tipped over. We’ve seen massively overloaded trucks several times - they are carrying giant loads of straw. We made a quick WC stop at a small town, then carried on past pine trees, down windy, twisty narrow roads, through little villages and larger towns. (I forgot to mention the delicious fresh figs we had on our hike in the Rose Valley. Abdul picked some figs for us and I had a small green one and a larger black one. Both were fantastic.)

We climbed higher and higher towards the Tizi n’Tichka mountain pass. A road widening project has been begun in this area, but the owner of the company died, and his heirs are fighting, so all work stopped. The road is very windy and twisty and we were passed numerous times, sometimes cars or trucks would pass us while going around a blind corner. There are some crazy drivers here. But Lahssan is an amazing driver and we felt entirely safe in his hands. We reached the peak, and stopped for photos of the zig-zaggy road and the beautiful scenery far below. There were numerous vendors at this spot, and Nicole bought a stone that the vendor said was amethyst, but Abdul saw it and said it was painted the bright purple colour. He insisted the vendor return some of Nicole’s money as it was not a fair price. Abdul is such a great guide and we are so lucky to have him. It was windy and a little cool up on the pass.

We then descended down and after a bit made a coffee/WC stop at the Cafe El Glaoui. We enjoyed delicous coffee, and picked up a couple of fridge magnets for our collection at Caverne Dali Tichka next door. There was lots of road work on the way down. It was quite a sheer drop in places and once Susan gasped and leaned back from the window! Luckily I was on the other, safe side of the bus. 😊 There were more trees on the slopes as we descended, and olive groves and lots of prickly pear cacti.

We passed small villages on the way. At one village school had just let out for lunch (the kids generally have a long lunch break of 2 hours). The streets were full of kids and parents picking them up. It is so nice to see regular Moroccans going about their daily lives.

We stopped for lunch about 12:30, at Cafe War Ezat, in Tamaguert. We enjoyed a very yummy mixed fruit smoothie, and I had a salad and Susan had a Moroccan soup. They also served fresh bread. We continued on our journey, and passed quite a large town called Tahannaout, which had some interesting street art. This town is located just 1/2 hour from Marrakech, so lots of people live in the town and commute to Marrakech, because it‘s cheaper to live in the town.

After Tahannaout we once again climbed higher through the northern slopes of the High Atlas Mountains. We passed the highest peak in Northern Africa, Mount Toubkal, but it was shrouded in clouds. We passed the town of Asni, where Intrepid has built a place where girls from neighbouring villages can live while they complete their education.

We reached the fabulous Chez Momo about 4 pm and settled into our fabulous room. It‘s a big and beautiful room and we told Abdul to come get us in a week! We dropped off laundry and then several of us headed out for a walk to a nearby Berber village for about an hour. Abdul talked about traditional Berber life and it was a nice walk. We got back about 6, and I started the blog, with a beer, by the pool. Very nice.

Dinner (vegetable soup, Sea Bream fish, and ice cream, along with a decent bottle of white wine thanks to our travel companion John who bought it for us) was included tonight (we had a choice of starter, main, and dessert). It was good, and we fed the assorted cats our leftover fish and fish heads. They really liked it!

Now we are off to bed. See you in Marrakech!

Additional photos below
Photos: 44, Displayed: 25


19th September 2018
Chez Momo entry dining room

Chez Magnifique (sp.?)
Momo is magnificent. I want to eat there!
21st September 2018
Tizi n’Tichka pass

What a stunning landscape! I probably shouldn't tell Andrew about the sheer drops to the side of the road :)
23rd September 2018
Tizi n’Tichka pass

The landcape sure is incredible in Morocco. I was glad to be sitting on the other side of the bus - away from the sheer drop!
29th September 2018

Mountain Pass
Wow, what beautiful views up and over the windy and windy mountain pass 😊 Amazing photo of the overloaded hay truck, and the hotel indeed looks stunning!
30th September 2018

Mountain Pass
Thanks Alex, it was pretty amazing!

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