We departed Marrakech this morning with the new group. It is made up of two Norwegian couples, an Australian couple and their friend. Cindy from Texas and Nicole from New Zealand. The Aussies and Nicole have been travelling through Spain on another Intrepid tour. We crossed paths in Chefchaouen but I don’t remember them. I wasn’t looking at other tourists in Chefchaouen.
We were told to pack a day bag because our stuff would be going up by mule to this quaint little village called Aroumd that was our destination for the night. It sits in the High Atlas mountains near the highest peak in North Africa – Mt. Toubkal (4168 m). There would be shared accommodation and baths and no wifi. Ha. Nice surprise to find wifi.
We took a nice bus ride through very very very windy roads to get here. Imagine a one lane road on the side of a mountain with sudden drastic drops with some ashphalt and some not ashpalt and cars and buses going both ways. You get the picture. Hold on and close your eyes. Inshallah.
Once we arrived at the little town where all the hikers come to play, there was a guest house where we dropped our bags off for the night, used the “bathroom”, and from there we walked.
Uphill. Pretty much straight uphill. The whole way. There were rocks and streams and mules and people and kids and steps made from rocks that were far more than the standard step height. And I know this because my choices for ascending were my weak left leg first or my bad hamstring right leg first. It was great for the first half. After the second half I felt like I had played back to back ball games. Ouch.
So we ascended 300 m in an hour. Not bad. The village we are staying in is at 2000 m. The Banff townsite sits around 1,400 (ish) m. That’s just enough metres difference to make a girl wish for some oxygen. And a drink.
Our guest house is lovely. Its very cosy. Close your eyes and imagine yourself in a Moroccon mountain guesthouse – that’s it. Bingo.
We had a really lovely lunch of Berber tagine (egg), bread, Moroccon salad with rice and lentils and turkey brochettes. Nice.
Mustapha headed off after lunch with Ringo, Nicole and Greg to go on a 4 hour walkabout in the mountains. Most of us thought that was a really nice thing for them to do but had no interest in joining them because, well, uphill. They reportedly walked up to a shrine that is dedicated to some sort of diety that can fix mental health issues, infertility (which is a BIG deal around here), and can also get a woman a husband. Mustapha suggested I go because I keep telling him I want a Moroccon husband. But let’s be honest. There are easier ways to achieve such things.
All you have to do when you get to the altar, in order to achieve your goal, is to sacrifce a sheep.
Again reportedly, they ran into a woman. And some other people. And then a man walked passed them with a sheep in two parts. And I don’t mean a sheep song sung in rounds. So aside from being a really long hike that I’m not at sorry I missed, there was that.
Then I heard from some of the others who were upstairs on the roof this afternoon, that they had observed a local wedding taking place. Weddings in rural Morocco take 4 days and there are something like 7 dresses involved. Today was the day they sacrified the cow. That is done so that there is an abundance of meat because it is very important for Moroccons to always have a lot of meat. Always meat. A lot of it. For guests. So Mustapha was able to report that he had seen the cows head going by. Jeez. So far this country has really proven to appreciate slaughter. Its all they talk about. (Not really. Settle the hell down).
I spent some free time inside today, doing some reading. Am I ever glad I did. The sacrifice for marriage is just too high. I’ve always believed that but today really drives the knife point home.
The lot of us that had stayed behind from the hike to the crazy train all opted to go for a walk around the village with a local guide. I thought that would be lovely. An hour. What could possibly go wrong? Its a small village and very densely built. I pictured a central square with children running around, some boys playing soccer. Maybe a fruit tree lazy in the centre and laden with fresh apples. The nice Abul (la) shows up and off we go. Down, down, down, down, down. Then down, down, down. Then down. I saw another turn going down to the river bed coming up and I said to the woman in front of me, “No. We can’t be going down there because we worked so damn hard the first time to get up from there.”
Down we went. Over the bridge, down the road, and around the bend. “There’s the school” said Abul (la). Awesome guide.
It was around this time that I realized, when they said “walk around the village” they had actually meant “circumnavigate” the village. Too late now. All these Berbers are so bloody skinny I do not know where they are hiding their leg muscles. Running up and down is nothing for them.
Across a field to what looked like a natural footpath. No says Abul, go this way. So we head onto a pathway that was nothing but medium sized rock. Kind of hard to walk on. It was like trekking a river bed. We enter a wooded area where children were playing the way children are supposed to play. It reminded me of my backyard when I grew up.
We came out of the woods and into a clearing and there was a huge apple orchard. The trees were FILLED with apples. Lovely. Adul said “apples”. Thanks Adul. That’s awesome.
Then we entered the village from the other side and walked back up again. Some little girls went flying past us on the uneven and oddly shaped cobbled stone hill/slope/stairs in little flat slippery sandals. Honestly. Kids. We finally made it back to the gite (guesthouse) just in time for pancakes. (Not really pancakes but equally as good) and some tea. Nice day. Nice place. Just don’t let your sheep wonder loose if you are looking for a husband.