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Published: December 23rd 2010
It was a fairly long drive to Volubilis, but a pleasant one because of stunning scenery along the way. We arrived in Volubilis, which is one of Morocco’s best kept Roman ruins where we had a guided tour. Unfortunately the guide was relatively un-interested and wanted to get through it as fast as possible so most people ended up ignoring him. However, the ruins were quite cool and well preserved. Especially some of the mosaics, which have only recently been unearthed. However, the guide was more than happy to tell us that now that the mosaics are exposed to the weather, they will only last another 30 years max. While we stood quite dumbfounded at his obvious disinterest in this preservation and tried to question this again to make sure we understood properly, he was quite adamant about it that this was just a fact and they would fall into obscurity.
We parked up near the ruins for a bush camp where we met Mohammed: self-proclaimed “Guardian of the Forest”. As we set up camp and prepared dinner, the toothless Mohammed proceded to get very stoned, and then drunk on beers offered by our group. By the time dinner was
served, Mohammed was a mess. Andi and Grant, over the course of an hour, had to convince him that he was in fact a ‘Big Problem’ as he kept insisting that he was either ‘Mohammed No Problem’ or ‘Mohammed Superb’. The problem being he had now decided he wanted money for us to camp on this public land, which of course was not going to happen. Eventually he staggered off into the wilderness. That night it poured with rain and Vicky and Big G (who were sleeping on the ground outside) were washed out and sought refuge with us in the truck in the early hours. At approximately 4am, various tents in the camp awoke to visits from two mysterious locals who must have thought that 4am was an opportune time to sell hash to foreigners. We don’t know conclusively that one of them was Mohammed, in fact we believed he’d passed out somewhere, but one of them may just have been him.
The next day was a long drive to a bush camp in the Atlas Mountains, the drive was scenic but got cooler and cooler as we drove, including a freezing, wind blasted lunch time in the
mountains. The landscape was barren and desolate all day, however time flew, especially when we started up a game of 500 in the truck as we drove along. Our bushcamp was on a high plateau in the mountains which afforded stunning 360 degree views. Martin’s cook group produced spaghetti with ‘long meatballs’ AKA turkey sausages. It had looked like it was going to be a stormy night but the weather cleared and we had our first really stunning night view of the stars. It’s easy when you currently live in a city to forget quite how many stars there are up there!
Waking up the next day, we were again astounded by the gorgeous vista. This is what we are here for! We were up early and opened up the canvas sides and ‘beach’ on the truck (the ‘beach’ is an area at the front of the truck with a removable canvas roof) so that we could appreciate the gorgeous views heading out of the Atlas range. We passed awesome terracotta valleys reminiscent of the ‘wild west’, aqua coloured lakes and rivers, primitive mud villages and oasis towns throughout the morning. By the afternoon, we reached the Todra Gorge
which is a vast scar on the landscape beginning with two monolithic cliff faces only about 10 or 20 metres apart and looked like something from an ‘Indiana Jones’ movie. Our camp for the night was the Hotel Yasmina where we slept in one of the dis-used restaurant areas, being the quiet season at present. We set up the ‘American Basket’, a basketball hoop Falcon purchased earlier, for some hoops and laughs.
The next day we got up ready to explore the gorge. Some people went rock climbing while 10 of us went on a hike to climb the gorge. What was initially described as an ‘easy walk – anyone could do it’ was actually a bit harder than expected as we climbed up through the steep gorge but it was definitely worth the hike. At the top, the views were tremendous, you could see the length of the gorge and off to the right was an immense view of the plains stretching to the horizon. What we hadn’t known about previously, was the existence of a tiny nomad Berber village in the hills. Although we probably should have had some inkling as we had passed several groups of
donkeys being led down the narrow track by Berber women to the water in the valley far below. The nomad village, which only consisted of about 20 people, or 2 families, was made up of 6 or 7 separate rooms carved into the desolate and imposing landscape. After exploring the village briefly, our guide spoke to the two ladies present and they made us some local tea with mint and wild thyme which was lovely. Andi had given us some woolly jumpers made by a colleague’s mother back in the UK to give to Berber children somewhere on our trip. We gave two jumpers to one of the women there who happily allowed us to take photos of the children in their new ‘digs’ to send back to the lady in the UK. Berbers are notoriously known for not wanting their photographs taken. Interestingly, the small children’s clothes were sewn closed on them (jackets became jumpers and so forth) so it was very amusing to force this new jumper over top of everything else they were wearing. They were very well received by the children, especially the small boy who gave us some great poses. ;-) The walk down from
the top of the Gorge was just as lovely as the walk up, albeit a lot easier except for when seemingly gale force winds hit us on some of the slopes. It was very rugged terrain. We passed through a large herd of the blackest goats we’ve ever seen. They were more like shadows it was freaky.
Just outside the town of Todra, we walked through a Berber mud village which we had assumed was deserted when we drove in – it looked abandoned – but on closer inspection was in fact lived in – and by over 400 people! Our final part of what was a magnificent walk, was a gentle meander through the Berber crop plantations which were irrigated very effectively from the nearby river. It was an exhausting 5 hour slog but incredibly rewarding and we would recommend it to anyone in the area.
To make a great day even better, when we got back Hasty had prepared a beef (YES! BEEF not turkey!!) stew which was delicious!! The weather set in that night and there were howling winds and banging doors, many people watched a movie on Mike’s IPad while we read and tried
to start our blogging!
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