Ourika Valley Day-trip from Marrakesh
Trip Start Oct 07, 2012
20Trip End Ongoing
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Marrakesh- Day 4
Eric and I were getting pretty tired of the Marrakesh scene, the constant harassment was taking a toll on us, so we decided to get out of the city for a day. When we asked Mohammad about potential places to go hiking outside the city he directed us to a day tour through the Ourika Valley which is around the Atlas Mountain foothills. The tour would involve a drive for an hour or so out of town, where we would hike up a mountain, check out some of the different waterfalls in the remote area, and see a different side of Morocco. We got in the van to head out that way around 9:00 am. The van had to pick up two other couples, a Dutch couple and a Scottish/English couple. We had a brief conversation with the Dutch couple, who were very interested in our thoughts on the upcoming election. They chuckled a little bit about our two main political parties, as in a tiny country like the Netherlands, they have roughly 26 different political parties. When we saw that the Dutch lady was wearing a dress with sandals we started to be a little concerned that this was not a hiking trip like we thought….
We started our trek to Ourika Valley while stopping at a few places along the way. This day really emphasized the fact that anything you do in Morocco will involve multiple sales and harassment attempts along the way. Our first stop involved the van pulling over at a small Berber village for a local resident to walk us through the town to get an understanding of how these people lived. The Berber people are indigenous people of Northern Africa and tend to live in the deserts and mountains. We saw some small homes, while at the end we were treated to some tea. There were many people begging for money along the way, including some kids. The Scottish guy on our trip would just respond with, “breakfast,” anytime a beggar asked him for money. I don’t think they understood what breakfast met, as everyone would give him a puzzled look when he responded with that. It was pretty funny to observe and was a recurring theme throughout our day.
The next time that the tour group set us up to be hustled by locals, was when we stopped off at the side of the road to ride camels. It was set-up as a 10-20 minute camel ride that cost roughly 100 dirham per person. If we were in the middle of the desert or somewhere cool, we might have taken them up on the offer. Unfortunately, we were not in a prime spot, and really just did not feel comfortable with the whole process. Literally we just pulled off the road where there were a few camels sitting around on a sandy patch. Despite them dropping the price down significantly, we decided to pass on this camel ride. The guys running the operation, both the camel owners and our drivers, seemed shocked that we were not going to participate, it seems they are not used to people just going along with what they direct them to do (and how to spend their money). Everyone else from the group decided to take advantage of it, but did not really seem to enjoy their ride at the end. I think we made a good decision to pass on this particular camel ride.
The next stop was at another government run spice facility. Despite not wanting to participate, at least this time we got to walk through some of the actual spice gardens, and see how the plants grew. Also, since we were out of Marrakesh, the prices were greatly reduced. Here we bought some tea that was good for digestion, but it ended up being pretty cheap.
It was around lunchtime and we had not even begun any hiking or climbing. All of us on the tour were starting to become a little restless. We ate lunch at arestaurant that was friendly with the tour group taking us around. It was definitely a tourist destination spot as they had men walking around playing instruments for tips and there were tables set up all along the river that ran below. The food was nothing to write home about, but we talked more about traveling with the other couples on the trip. Both of the couples had been to plenty of other places, and were able to pass along insight to other places such as Turkey, that we will be traveling to in the future.
After we ate our lunch, it was finally time to climb up the mountain. The climb was uphill the entire way, but certainly wasn’t too difficult. The climb ended up being roughly an hour and gave us some great views of the waterfalls. It involved dodging several tour groups along the way, but all in all it was a fun climb. The amazing part was how many stores and restaurants were set-up along the way. Not only that they were set-up, but some of the accommodations that they had. One place had multiple leather couches that they had carried up for people to sit at. If you could see this climb, you would understand that this was not an easy task for them to accomplish.From there it was time to wrap up our journey and start to head back home. We stopped at the restaurant we ate lunch at, due to the persistence of our tour guide. The restaurant offered us free tea, but at that point all of us were tired of being hustled. We used the bathroom and then hopped back in the van to begin the drive home. About 5-10 minutes into our drive someone was lying in the middle of the road. I am not sure if they were sick or protesting something, but we had a few minute delay while they were dragged out of the road. Sam and I both napped for a few minutes along the way and eventually we made it back to Marrakesh.We took a little stroll around the main square area to get some pictures around sunset and then returned to our hostel. Since we were very disappointed in the tour, I went to discuss it with Mohammed since he had set it up for us. He was clearly not happy about that, and legitimately wanted to make things right with us. We ended up agreeing on a discount on the room, due to this issue along with the internet issue. After a goodbye handshake, I went up to the room to turn in for the night. The internet was finally working, so we were able to check email and things from our room, which was greatly appreciated.