Mohammedia to Chellal
Trip Start Aug 06, 2008
39Trip End Ongoing
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Sidetrip: Looking for a the Waterfall
Today I'm going to take a break from my town to town hike up the coast: I’m going to go looking for a waterfall.
And today I’ve got company, I’ve decided to start inviting people to join me for the segments of my hikes that aren’t too bizarre—like slumhiking, or wandering through industrial zones
So today I’m joined by two friends, Moahcine and Youssef. And since Youssef’s got a car, I’m going to further bend the rules by going by car to our starting point: Mohammedia. And our quest? To find the fabled Waterfall of Casablanca which very few people outside of the Mohammedia/Ben Slimane area seem to know about. It’s definitely not on the tourist circuit for foreigners or even Casablanca residents—so my expectations are really, really low. But it should be fun to do some hiking with company.
We drop off the car in Mohammedia, and cross the freeway to the wheatfields interrupted by clusters of shantytowns. Here children are heading out from miserable looking shacks going to school—and are surprisingly respectful and helpful when we ask for directions. Then we reach the forest—which is still enshrouded in mist which, gazing down from a ridge into the valley, almost gives an illusion of being a lush, tropical jungle… but it’s really just a bunch of scrappy trees with trash littered around… and a very polluted stream running through the middle
We plunge into the forest—and I must admit that I feel a bit better exploring this area with company, as I’m told thieves lurk in these parts… no, no, no… don’t read too much into this… I’m not getting squeamish about facing danger alone or anything like that… I just said it’s nice to have company.
And though the Mohammedia Forest won’t being winning any international awards for its natural beauty, it is nice to realize there’s a place with trees sort of close to Casablanca… although who knows how long it will last, with the way the city is sprawling. We reach a clearing where there are a couple ramshackle tables set up a woman who makes tea and mnsimmen—greasy flatbread… a nice place to chill out and chat for a bit.
Moahcine, who is the only one who knows exactly where the waterfall is, starts to try to weasel his way out of guiding us further. "There’s not actually a waterfall… it’s just called a waterfall… nothing to see there except a cliff."
But Youssef and I insist that he take us there—and that there’d better be water—or we’re going to be really pissed
So we continue on, out of the forest, along a country road with a scattering of houses—and urbanization on the horizon to the west gradually encroaching on this peaceful region. I’m told that this area is called “Chellal” (waterfall in Arabic) and there are a few shops here and there, a cemetery with a shrine/tomb in the middle and a school—so after giving it some thought, I decide to count it as a “town” although I don’t know what its official status is.
And finally we spot a stream down below and are told by some helpful children that we can follow that stream to the waterfall… And there it is.
No, it’s not Ouzzoud or North Falls in Oregon, USA—but especially after Moahcine tried to convince us there was nothing to see—it is a thing of beauty. Cutting into a narrow, shady gorge it splashes down multiple steps—a special little spot, in contrast with the rather drab surrounding landscape—just try to ignore the trash around, or the slight wiff of sewage…
And being such an undiscovered spot next to a huge metropolis, just might help Chellal hold its spot among the “Top Ten Waterfalls” of my travels… right alongside the likes of Niagara falls…
And that’s not all… After strumming my five songs, including of course “Me and El Maghreb” for the benefit of my audience, we looped around and found that below is a much higher waterfall
This area below is starting to be fixed up—even with a parking lot and a long wooden footbridge… so this might end up being very popular getaway spot for city weary Casawis. You also get a nice view of the rolling hills to the east… However, it doesn’t have quite the cozy feel that the first, smaller waterfall had.
Not wanting to retrace our steps to Mohammedia, I suggest that we take a dirt road and hope it takes us back to town. Youssef says we should ask for directions—but I explain that that’ against the adventurehike principles: first you trust your instincts, and only ask directions when you absolutely have to.
Sure enough, the path takes us straight back to town—with scattering of farm houses where you get the feel that you’re a thousand miles away from urban Morocco. Here life looks very similar to what I saw in very remote areas like Moulay Bouazza… But the city is coming this way… and soon this rural region will disappear forever…
It’s been a good start to my new season--Moahcine and Youssef were very enjoyable company. Didn’t make any progress on my Casa to Rabat hike… but that’s quite all right.