Posts Tagged ‘Rachid guide’

I looked at my blog the other day and realised that the last post is from April last year! Gone are those days when I posted after every country I visited! But…better late than never.

Let me share with you my adventure last August in Morocco. First of all, this trip and update would not have been written without my dear friend Sasha, who had this amazing idea last January to do a challenge, namely a 4167m mountain, North Africa’s highest peak: Mount Toubkal.

I said without hesitation that I would like to do this with her! It was an  amazing idea, and it sounded like a mini travelling trip. Climbing a mountain with a backpack and a group!

She was surprised herself how many of her friends were interested in doing this summit with her, so we formed a little group of 9 people : Sasha and her friend Nuno, Amanda, Julia with her 18 year old son, Will, Joy with her 12 year old called Hugo, my friend Jodie and myself.

They arrived at Marrakech in the morning of the 27th August, me and Jodie arrived late afternoon. They all waited for us at the airport. As I came out of the plane that tropical heat hit me and I felt I was in paradise…

We got through immigration ok, got a nice stamp in the passport, found Sasha and the others, and drove in 2 cars to the starting point of the trek, Imlil. Imlil is a small Berber village, 1740m above sea level. The Film ‘Seven years in Tibet‘ was partly filmed in the village.

We were greeted with Berber tea in a mansion by one of our guides, Rachid. The architecture in Morocco is stunning!

We got the closest room downstairs with Jodie and Sasha and the others occupied the rest of the mansion..the real paradise opened up when I went up to the terrace at the top, and saw this:DSC_8170

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It was again the same pair as on my travels..the nature and I!!  Bright stars shining up there, light breeze and the smell of a new land, and soon dinner!

We had lovely first meal, lots of small dishes on the table, tagine, chicken, couscous, salads.

We spent the evening chatting to our guides and getting ready mentally for the challenge.

The next morning after breakfast we divided our belongings into 3 groups. One that we did not need for the 3 day trek, one that we did need but only when we arrive at the camp in the afternoon- this was carried by the mules- and the smallest pack was what we needed for the walk. Water, snacks, toilet paper etc.

Some people hired walking sticks. The tent was provided by Jamal’s company, I took my own sleeping bag which I specifically bought for this trip.

When I put on my walking boots I remembered all those miles that they walked on different terrains and lands…sweet memories!

So the first day was superb! Beautiful landscapes with some challenging parts. I think everyone can agree with me when I say that beyond the  scenery and the physical challenge, the ‘al fresco’ lunches and dinners were the  highlights! Absolutely beautiful presentation of food and incredible tastes…and what never missed from the table, the well deserved Moroccan fresh mint tea! The name of the place where we had lunch was Tizi Mizik at 2489m. On the way to Tamsoult refuge (2250m) there were loads of goats. Nuno connected with the goats and learnt their way of communication which still haunts us..that very specific sound effect…’BEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE’.

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Now the first night’s accommodation is something I will not forget for a while. I think it’s an understatement that we had adverse weather conditions. Strong stormy wind, rain and cold!

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It was Joy’s 50th Birthday so the guides prepared a lovely cake for her and we all sang and celebrated with her. It was a very special moment.

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Nuno, Sasha and Jodie decided to take the challenge that the weather has thrown in front of them and sleep in tents instead of the room that looked rather like a horse stall with some mats on the floor.

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In the morning we shared our stories during the night. I don’t think anyone slept more than 4 hours.

After breakfast we had a morning hike to the waterfalls

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But then we turned around and the guides delivered the bad news that we were unable to continue our way towards Toubkal because of the bad weather. Everyone was disappointed as we all wanted to experience altitude, but instead the guides decided on a more ‘cultural ‘ route.

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The plan was to head to another lodge for lunch.  On the way we passed little villages: Tizi Oussem at 2,350m and Eid Isa at 1700m and stopped for lunch.  Our guide then informed us that he got a call from another tour group that nobody could ascend that day due to bad weather.

This was a bit of a consolation for us and then we all cheered up and the group was very united and content.

By 4:30pm we were close to our next camping spot.  While some rested under the tree, Will, Joy, Hugo, Sasha and I climbed one of the surrounding mountains (2400m) for fun and took photos at the top surrounded by the rest of the atlas mountain range.  The rest of the group went to the camp-site at 2100m.

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Me and Rachid waited for the sun to settle then walked to the camp. The camp site was lovely and open, weather was great and as the sun set, a full moon appeared. It was the best night!

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Next morning..we woke up knowing that it was out last day in the mountains. We packed and started walking towards Imlil where we started the trek.

Going downhill was a lot easier and we played games along the way. As we descended one of our muleteers told us that another group lost a mule off the edge of a cliff due to high winds. This was the breaking news in the mountains! This is when we realised how nice it was being without television, iPad, phone etc. We truly connected with nature on this trip.

We stopped by a creek to have lunch and soak our feet in the stream and I think this made everyone realise how great it would be to have shower after 3 days in the wild! On our way back we stopped by an argan oil co-operative and watched women extract argan oil and various products made from it. I did a bit of shopping I have to admit:)

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Once the lodge was in sight, Amanda was the first to break from the group desperately wanting a shower.

We all then arrived one by one and got cleaned up and went through everyone’s photos to re-live the whole experience again.

Most of the people had their flights next day from Marrakech. Jodie and I  had our hotel booked there from next day as well but I was not ready to leave nature! I managed to convince Jodie to try to do the summit in 2 days, which would have still left us with 2 days in Marrakech. Unfortunately Rachid had another group waiting for him but Omar did take us up for £90 which was an excellent price for the extension.

Sasha left her boots with Jodie which was amazing because otherwise Jodie wouldn’t have had comfortable enough shoes to do the walk, and also like this at least the boots made it to the top even if Sasha couldn’t. We both hired walking sticks and next day we started the walk.

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It was a superb bonding walk for us..time flew as we chatted and we headed along the Mizane Valley, first towards the village of Aremd and then onto the shrine of Sidi Chamarouch.

Built on a moraine spur overlooking the valley floor, Aremd is the largest village in the valley and provides an interesting mix of traditional terraced farming, gites and streets that seem to be permanently gridlocked by goats and cattle. For generations the local Berber villagers have worked these lands, producing corn, potatoes and walnuts from the harsh landscape. Continuing east and crossing the flood plain our route took us along mule tracks and up into the high rocky cliffs above the valley. Crossing the river we eventually came to the pastoral shrine of Sidi Chamarouch, which attracts tourists and pilgrims alike (although only Muslims are allowed to cross the stone bridge to visit the marabout shrine itself). The village sits besides a small waterfall, a jumbled cluster of houses that seem to melt together into an anarchic mass. From here the trail continued to climb steadily, snaking and zigzagging its way up to the
snowline and the Toukbal Refuge (3206m), our stop for the night. Approx 5hrs walking.

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The night was fun! We had a shower which we did not expect at all after the first 3 days’ experience. We also had a very cosy dinner. Only our guide, our cook, Mohammed and a fellow climber, Jodie and I.

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We planned our big next day and set the starting time to 2am! Now this sounds scary but we both thought that getting there for sunrise is the way to go!

I will remember this walk forever! 4-5 different terrains and the only light you have is the moon light. We all decided not to use our little head torch because the moon light was perfectly enough and romantic. After 3 hours walking the altitude kicked in which made some parts difficult.

Finally around 6.15am we found ourselves on the plateau, from where it was a short walk to the summit and the vistas out across the surrounding landscape were quite breathtaking. From here there were unrestricted views in every direction, from the Marrakesh Plain to the High Atlas in the north and as far south as the Anti-Atlas and the Sahara. Pliny, the great Roman scholar, once described the High Atlas Mountains as “the most fabulous mountains in all of Africa” and from our vantage point high above the valley it is easy to understand why.

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It was freezing. Omar did not want to wait 30 minutes for the sunrise but Jodie and I did ..we were the only ones at the top which made the whole experience magical!

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Omar left us there and started making his way down. He waited for us at certain ‘stones’ to show us the way. The descent was hard, slippery and tiring. Once you saw the main attraction you just wanted to be easy on your knees and get down.

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After a few hours of ‘sliding down’ we reached the base camp, had some food, packed our bags and continued descending. We did not go back to Imlil – the transport came to pick us up at a different village. We said goodbye to Omar and Mohammed and made it safe but tired to Marrakech.

Marrakech was a big shock after spending 5 full days in the nature. Motorbikes, mopeds everywhere, the old town was rather a shock as it was not very developed but the hotel was very nice and people there were friendly. I cannot really say the same thing of people in Marrakech working in ‘tourism’ (that includes scammers). If you did not buy from them on the souks they would tell you to go back where you came from and similar nice things.

Of course we met lovely people as well – every country has good and bad people. The souks were amazing. I got lost with Jodie in the world of bargaining, Moroccan lamps, jewellery, tea pots, rugs and other traditional hand made (or made in China) items.

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We visited Yves Saint Lauren’s garden outside the old town which was beautiful.

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We also had a very traditional hammam experience..no pictures to show here:)

Overall the trip was amazing and I’d like to say massive thanks to my friend Sasha for organising it for us. I am very grateful for sharing this experience with all the lovely people in our group. Since the trip we had a catch up in Souk Medina in London and I hope we will keep in touch in future!