Endless Beauty

Trip Start Apr 16, 2011
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Trip End Apr 23, 2011

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Right, time for Part 2 of our Moroccan Adventure! Same Country, yet a completely different experience! 

We enjoyed our last breakfast at our beautiful Riad Eden before departing early in the morning with our local guide and his 4x4 jeep just for us! We booked this excursion over the Internet, with Google as our only recommendation and so we were a bit apprehensive but it was more than perfect! Our guide was, just like all Moroccans, so friendly and his CD that we had on repeat fitted perfectly with the beautiful scenery we were about to encounter. Reggae music with soft beats, with lyrics we couldn't understand, amazing.

Tasha and I both sat in the back with a window to peer out of each. The weather was perfect, the sky was bright blue and the sun was constantly shinning during our trip. Our drive took us through the overwhelming Valley and we passed the red flat mountains which were beautiful. Our driver stopped off at various view points for us to step out, take pictures, and admire the view before us. 

The scenery soon changes to the High Atlas mountains as we crossed the Tizi N Tichka (2260 m.alt) and from here, our first stop was at the Berber Atlas villages. We stopped off at the side of the road, next to a cliff faced mountain, and we were taken up a path, which you do not even notice at first glance, by some Berber children. They took us to one of the houses, so that we could explore and see how the people of the Berber Atlas villages live. The house was made out of clay and clay alone. No lighting, no glass for windows, no doors, just the straw that was in one of the rooms for the Horse and Donkey. There was also the cutest little puppy asleep in the sun. We were shown around the house, the lounge, their sleeping areas and then the kitchen which was full of silver pots and pans. The woman of the house was in the kitchen happily preparing us the traditional Mint Tea to welcome us, all with her child strapped to her back, a bit like how the Bolivian women I saw last year carried their children. We joined up with other tourists to sit on the low wicker chairs in the lounge as we waited for the Mint Tea. It's custom politeness to at least take a sip, and if you don't like it that's fine. Surprise, surprise, I actually drank it! As well as the bread served with olive oil, if there were less flies jumping from piece to piece I probably would've had more to eat. Really nice to see how the Moroccans, whether they are poor in the Berber village, or in the centre of the Medina in Marrakesh welcome visitors from all over the world with Mint Tea. As a gesture of thanks most of us gave the lady some dirham. Upon exit we were hit by around 10 children all coming up to us, at first we thought it was sweet so we gave them a lot of attention but then it turned out they were begging for money. Now, in these situations you desperately want to give some Dirham, but if you're seen giving one child some, immediately all of them will pounce. One woman was stuck in a difficult position where she paid attention a little too much to one child in particular, around 14 years old, and he actually held her hand begging all the way down the mountain until we reached the road. We could tell that she didn't know what to do, pretty difficult.

We then walked a short distance to our next destination, where we saw the Berber women working hard grinding out beauty products, we were taken to a room where we could sample the products. Interesting, especially seeing the picture of the tree with all of the goats standing on the branches, however we did not buy any beauty products. 

Our next stop was at a very unstable looking bridge, made out of just rope and planks of old wood, hanging high over a fast flowing river. We were too nervous to walk over it at the same time, and so we took turns to reach the middle and admire the views. We could see snow capped mountains in the distance, between the breaking of the two mountains which surround us and the river. The Sun again, played its part in highlighting this area of natural beauty. 

We then reached the bottom of the waterfalls in the Ourika Valley. These are called the Seven Waterfalls of Seti Fama. Here we joined up with a group of more tourists and a local guide to take us up the mountains on a trek to the highest of the seven waterfalls. We came across another questionable bridge, this time embedded in the fast flowing river. The wooden planks were supported only by rocks in the river and so this was possibly even more dangerous... all good fun though! The walk up the mountains was hard for the older couples to keep up with us, but it was great fun for us as the natural beauty of the area hadn't been destroyed by tourists, and the path was still as rocky as it had always been. The water was fresh and cold, and on the boiling hot day, together with the challenging walk, it was great to stop by the waterfalls to splash our faces and bodies. The Ourika Valley could be seen from various places on our trek and it was so impressive, with the river flowing through the middle. As we climbed higher into the mountain, the path became less like a path and we had to physically use both our hands and feet to manoeuvre over the big rocks. The locals could run up and down them in their bare feet, but it was quite tricky. What was waiting for us at the top of our trek was a beautiful, thin waterfall, into a plunge pool. The water was too cold for us to jump in, but we definitely appreciated the spray on this gorgeous hot day. We walked up close to the waterfall and stood behind it, with the sun on the opposite side, and it was amazing to look up, from underneath the waterfall to see the sun shining through the raging water as it fell through the air

We ate some fruit at the restaurant and then continued our journey through the Atlas Mountains. We continued to stop off at various view points to enjoy the ever changing sceneries from cacti, to the deep red mountains. Our journey was on a winding road cutting through the mountains and would reach heights high enough to make our ears pop, and this made the views even more spectacular. 

We continued across Ouarzazate and checked out it's famous Film Studios where, as we could see from the numerous posters in the building, many popular films had been filmed. The film studios were deserted and we took a quick wander around the set before returning to our 4x4. We stopped off for lunch in front of the Kasbah which was so impressive and went to sit down for our lunch at the local restaurant on the rooftop with amazing panoramic views of the Kasbah. The lunch was incredible! We shared Chicken Skewers served with rice and chips, delicious! From the view we were able to see a lonely market stall selling Berber scarves, and all the way through our lunch I had my eye on the bright red scarf blowing in the gentle breeze. I had to buy it. Our friendly driver helped dress my head with it properly, and I felt so cool. 

At our next stop, it looked like the scene from Run Forest, Run, where he is on the deserted road, we were surrounded by never ending dry land. Our driver then whipped out a Berber outfit from the boot of his car and dressed us in it- amazing! The scenery continued to get even more impressive as we carried on our journey. Land formations and colours that I have never seen before in my life, they were simply breathtaking. To step out of the car and admire these astounding and dramatic views with nothing but the gentle breeze of the valley for sound, was simply surreal.

We then took a long break when we reached the Draa Valley, at an unbelievable view point, the name of the location says it all: Oasis de Draa. We sat on the mountain edge overlooking the valley of clear, deep turquoise water gently flowing, and we could've sat there for hours just taking everything in and contemplating life. That was until, Tasha dramatically fell down the cliff, holding on for dear life. So funny, wish I saw, she was laughing it off but had scrapes and bruises to show from her battle. This place really was just like an Oasis you imagine in your dreams, or from story tales, no cars drove past us, and in one direction we could see a beautiful mountain overlooking the striking water, and behind us was the magnificent, flat desert made up of jagged rocks as opposed to sand. 

We were getting closer to Zagora, our destination point, and the views that we had seen so far from the Mountains were completely memorizing and the pictures do not do it justice. Natural beauty at its finest. A must see. We stopped and posed at the Timbuktu sign, and we were on our way to Zagora. The change in scenery from the dry mountainous areas to endless palm trees told us that we were getting close. 

We arrived in Zagora, and were welcomed with some more mint tea, this time it wasn't so pleasant. We were taken to our camels, not only our camels but a whole bunch of camels! Around 30-40 camels! Wow! They were all sat down though, but with the reputation of being nasty animals that spit, I was a little bit nervous as we were told to come closer to them haha! Our two camels had been prepared and were tied together one behind the other so that we could walk in a line behind our Berber guide. He was lovely and friendly just like our driver, who left us once we made our first steps on the camels. First we needed to get on them. They tied our bags to the camels, and I ended up being assigned the camel at the back. We were told their names, but they were in Arabic and so there was no chance of us remembering their names, although we enjoyed the name we gave Tasha's: Wezza. Short for his true Arabic name. The Berber men did not speak any English and so we were communicating by smiles, laughter and finger pointing. I cautiously lifted one leg over the camel and sat down on the saddle, then held on tight as I had no idea what was going to happen. Straight away the camel lifted its backside, throwing me forward, and then it lifted up its front feet, throwing me back, and then it evened itself out straightening out its back legs. Wow, what an experience, something everyone should put themselves through, the sheer panic of the unknown- it was hilarious. Then it was Tasha's turn, and my camels head was pretty much in line with Tasha's horse, so I was a bit worried about what my camel would do, as Tasha was put through the same ordeal. I say ordeal, it really wasn't, it was a great start to our hour and a half camel journey through the desert. 

Anyone who has read my previous travel blogs in Bolivia about my terrible first horse ride, will be as thankful as I was at the fact that camel riding was nothing like horse riding. We had nothing to worry about, the speed was slow and steady and we were able to let go of both our hands and just soak up the sun and feel the breeze as we took in our unbelievable surrounding. We also didn't have to worry about being in control of the Camel as they followed the direction of our Berber guide in front of us, who held onto the rope that tied us all together. The ride started through a Palm Tree plantation which was awesome. Then they started to dwindle and we were suddenly surrounded by the sandy desert. It was awesome to see the sun slowly setting and our shadows on the sand. 

As we got deeper into the desert, and the sand dunes got bigger and bigger, we could see our traditional Berber tents waiting for us in the distance. Such an incredible experience to walk through the Moroccan desert on Camels. I encourage everyone to experience it in their lives, it really felt like something out of a film. On our ride into the desert, nothing else in the world mattered, it was so beautiful and scenic that all of our worries were just washed away to the back of our minds as we admired everything surrounding us and as we appreciated just how lucky we were to be experiencing these breathtaking sights of natural beauty, and on a Camel! Simply incredible!

After passing the guard circling the area, we arrived at the circle of traditional Berber tents and were greeted again by Mint Tea. This time in the main Berber tent where we were to have dinner later on. This tent was truly remarkable! The floors, walls and ceilings of the tents were decorated completely with traditional and stunning Moroccan rugs. One of the men spoke broken English and his voice matched our situation, he spoke so quietly and peacefully- we really were so lucky to be here! We left the tent and were shown to our own private tent which was equally as beautiful. Truly incredible! Everything was so calm as we walked up the sand dunes to watch the sunset, and to take some brilliant photos. Again, this feeling of serenity, being surrounded by nothing but beautiful grains of sand, with the sun, directly in front of you, slowly setting over the sand dunes, is something that should be experienced by everyone more than once in your life. Unbelievable. 

Nightfall in the desert was almost as beautiful, with a fire made in the middle of the tents and the Berber men entertaining a handful of tourists with drums and other instruments creating a beautiful Moroccan music, in an astonishing, beautiful Moroccan setting. Dinner was served in the main tent and we sat with some other tourists as we enjoyed our first try of the traditional dish- Tagine. It was presented beautifully, and tasted delicious! After a spectacular night of soaking up the incredible scenery from the sand dunes, we went to bed in our tent. Surprisingly a goodnight's sleep was had despite the winds rattling the sides of the tents. Probably one of the most surreal moments of the trip was being woken up by the sound of camels grunting. The morning alarm was a beautiful reminder of where we were in the World. This meant we had woken up before sunset and we were able to, again, climb up various sand dunes having a lot of fun taking some quality photos. We sat on the sand dunes waiting for the sun to rise, wow. I can't describe our visit to the desert well enough to justify just how incredible it was, its something that everyone reading this should definitely do in the near future! A truly amazing experience! 

The sun was rising when we jumped on our horses again to make our last journey back to Zagora. Such an incredible couple of the days.

We were met by our driver and we drove back through Ouarzazate on our way back to Marrakesh and stopped off at some more incredible places. I can't even begin to describe what a wonderful trip this was. We saw so much, and the views were absolutely breath taking! We visited the Taourirt Kasbah and had lunch, and this was another awesome trek up many steps, and an incredible view to admire from the top. I have run out of words, and ways to describe just how beautiful and incredible the sights of natural beauty we saw on our trip.

Something you all have to do. The Atlas and Sahara Trip.

We spent out last day in Marrakesh, this time in a cheap hotel right next to the Djemaa el Fna Square, even closer than last time, and we could've spent even more days there just walking around the square and the souqs. It was also our first attempt at the night market stalls, and I don't know what we were afraid of, little risk of food poisoning and the food was delicious as usual. We picked up some last souvenirs and that was it for our incredible one week visit to Morocco. Thoroughly recommend.
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