Edit Blog Post
Published: March 4th 2011
The High Atlas
View of the mountains from the plain east of Marrakech
Thursday 3rd March: up bright and early as the tour of the Ourika Valley that we had booked the previous evening required a 9am start at the tour agent's premises near our hotel. We were picked up from there at 9.15am and taken to the tour bus which left Marrakech around 9.30am. There were about 14 people on the bus, of whom 8 were Brits. We headed east out of Marrakech and stopped after half an hour for a “comfort break” and a view of the High Atlas mountains from the roof of a cafe: the view being unfortunately impeded by a strikingly ugly power pylon. Then we headed off towards the foothills and stopped at a viewpoint where we were accosted (almost assaulted) by a couple of hustlers in traditional garb (a hooded kaftan) selling local stone jewelry. With a little more effort these rustic characters could have made themselves into world class nuisances, but as it was they merely very irritating and unwelcome. This was the last stop before we arrived at our destination, the village of Setti Fatima which is where the road ends. We were directed to a restaurant for lunch which was taken in the sun
Jane admiring albino camels with one of the hustlers waiting to pounce
on the roof terrace overlooking the river that runs through the village. Setti Fatima is at an altitude of 1500 meters in a narrow gorge overshadowed by some very high mountains, the highest of which still had snow on them. After lunch we were met by a guide, Hassan, who took us up through the village across the river and up a path towards some waterfalls which are supposed to be very picturesque. The lowest and nearest fall was anything but picturesque as there was virtually no water flowing over it. The reason for this is because most of the water gets drawn off either by way of a permanent conduit built along the sides of the gorge or simple plastic pipes that are dropped into a pool and then run downhill to whichever house needs the water. We continued up the increasingly difficult path to the second (of seven) waterfall which was quite spectacular and probably worth the climb. Some of our party had remained at the first waterfall as the going had been a bit difficult getting that far and the second stage was certainly more challenging. Hassan proved invaluable as he was always on hand to help
Lunch with a view
Restaurant terrace at Sitti Fatima
the ladies in the group negotiate the more difficult sections of the climb and the descent, as well as providing a good commentary, in English, about the area. I also suspect that he has a sideline as an instructor giving the final training to the local mountain goats as he was very agile at skipping over the rocks.The climb and descent took almost two hours but Jane and I both enjoyed it, as well as the company of some very game British ladies from Milton Keynes, two of whom managed to get to the upper waterfall despite having not very appropriate footware.
Then it was back to the bus and back to Marrakech. The return journey took just over an hour as there were no stops on the way. Once we got back to town it emerged that the driver didn't know where to drop off his passengers. The British ladies from Milton Keynes were almost flung out at the wrong hotel, and the driver professed not to have heard about our tour operator when I handed him the operator's business card and told him to drop us off at his office. In the event it was easier for us
Main Street Sitti Fatima
Actually the only street, with a 3500 meter mountain down the valley
to get get out near the nearby HQ of one of the major bus companies as we wanted to book our journey to our next destination of Essaouira. Having done that we tried to get a taxi back to our part of town. As usual, as soon as we approached the taxi rank a man came up to us and asked where we wanted to go and having told him that we wanted to get to Dar el Bacha, our local taxi stop, he quoted 50 Dirhams. The correct price is closer to Dhs20 which is what I proposed. Then it came down to the customary haggle and we agreed on Dhs30. Even so when we arrived at the stop he asked for Dhs40. He was given Dhs30. Prices are very low here, there are Dhs13 to the pound - so the taxi ride had cost us only just over £2 – but even so the constant hassle and hustle gets to be very tiresome.
After a refreshing cup of tea for me and coffee for Jane we headed off down through the souks to the Djemma el Fna (the Big Square) for our evening meal. We went to the
The River Crossing
Perched precariously on a flimsy bridge over the seemingly bottomless chasm with a raging torrent waiting to engulf the careless or the unwary Jane fearlessly stepped out over the void. (Official version)
same stall as the previous night and both of us had delicious deep fried prawns; plus calamari for Jane. £9 this time and great value. Then back to our hotel and a quiet sit down in the lounge before heading to bed for another early night.
Tot: 2.854s; Tpl: 0.048s; cc: 9; qc: 56; dbt: 0.0433s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.4mb