The Mountains


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Published: February 8th 2011
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Started withbreakfast on the terrace this morning, bit chilly. Mohammed, our host came to meet us at 9AM to drive us as arranged "into the mountains", in his old Peugot. Much amusement leaving Marrakech - the way they drive and the old cars - the posh taxis are all 1970's mercedes, the same yellow sand colour and the others small hatches of the same colour. We head for the hills, lots of merchants on the roadsides and as we start to climb and follow the river into the Ourika valley, the number of cafes with their tagines sitting on firepots, their plastic chairs and tables with colourful tablecloths is unbelievable. It's a Saturday and the start of the school holidays, we have beaten the rush as we find out later when there is a constant flow of cars & taxis heading up as we head back. We reach as far as we can drive, park & follow Mohammed, he says nothing just heads off across the stream on a rickety old footbridge towards some cafes. We follow thinking tea or shopping (there were a few 'stalls' open as we ascend. And ascend we did, up & up & up & ..... up, felt like a mountain goat & the diesel don't really have the best treat for climbing. Finally we reach 'the top' or at least we thought so, at a waterfall (apparently the first of about 5, but thankfully this is as high as we go). Some students on a bus trip from Casablanca are arsing around it and one of them offers to take our photo. Then we head back down, buy some souvinears, handy to have Mohammed to help haggle, and off again. We do a 17 point turn to get out & Mohammed has to tip a guy who stands shouting instructions to him as he manoeuvres, apparently the done thing! He stops to buy some fruit, Mandarins, tastiest we've ever had. On the way down we stop to buy some ceramics, not too much as we are at the start of the trip. We head to another valley for lunch, he does not join us on the terrace as "he's our worker" according to this african dude that serves us. We get Moroccan salad (tomatoes and coriander), bread, skewers of meat, then tagine and finish with the now familiar mint tea. A large group arrives and we vacate to the roof to finish our tea, by which time the african dude has joined us to chat to us. We discover he doesn't actually work there, he's just there to peddle us his wares! I buy Jules some silver bracelets, we start at 800 and get down to 550 (I start at 400) and then he says he'll throw in a necklace if we agree to tell Mohammed that we only paid 300 so as to reduce his commission. Wh head back to Marrakech and stop at a female co-op that makes the unique Argen oil that apparently has amazing healing powers. We get a tour of the process and buy a small bottle for 60 dirhams (about 8 dollars). Mohammed, who is still suffering from a heavy cold is asleep in the car. Down to the next town to pick up Hisham, our servant from the riad, and we head off to their village for a real non-touristy experience. Mohammed drops us off at the highway with Hisham, who is wearing a diesel leather jacket and la coste sneakers, not the traditional garb he had been serving us in. 40 minutes walk into the hills & we are there. We 'meet' Mohammed's 100 year old grandfather, who is on his mat in the corner praying (the call to prayer echoed from the load-hailers that poke out of each Mosques' tower had sounded as we got there). Then on to Hisham's house to have tea with his mother and brother. Two young neices find us quite amusing and kept peaking out around the corner to check us out. As none of them spoke English, even Hisham has very little, there was a lot of nodding and smiling. After the tea we are thinking 40 minute walk back to the highway to neet Mohammed. Wrong, we were promptly shown 2 donkeys and went up the hill for a long and sometimes arduous ride back, the long way. We are then on our way back to the riad, where we are going to have dinner this night. Hisham prepares us some marinated olives to go with our pre-dinner drinks, we select a fairly non-descript bottle of red (but not all bad) & feast on one more Moroccan salad, an eggplant mixture (fantastic) and then a traditional tagine with lamb, olives and vegetables, we don't do justice to. And then fresh fruit for dessert plus tea. Feeling rather bloated now and tired, it starts to rain again so we cancel plans to head into the Medina again and retire to the roof (under canvas this time) to finish our wine before retiring.


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