Morocco Stories and Tips

Day 3 : Starting point

Early in the morning we get a guided tour through the kasbah of Ibrahim. A kasbah is a typical Berber building; an either large, communal house, that looks like a small fortress. Like most of the kasbahs, this one too is a square, fortified pisé (mud wedged between wooden boards) structure with turrets at each corner. For me, this one is much nicer than the one we saw yesterday in Ouarzazate.

A mini-bus takes us for an exciting ride through the dramatic rock scenery of the Dades gorge. As we leave Boumalne du Dades , the mountains close up on both sides. It looks like an enormous limestone rock slashed through with a single sabre-cut. In this ripped open universe, the wonderful kasbah of Bou Taghrar takes over chameleonic the purplish and reddish colours of the rocks. The strength of the colours will never escape my memory. Serpentine roads leads us slowly through community after community, villages set apart by dramatic twirls in the mountains, or by the fresh river meandering through the middle. Our imagination is fed by the marvelous nature that unfolds while we carefully make sure that we do not drive off the road. The Dades Gorge gives us a fairytale feeling.

A few hours later we move on into the desolate wasteland, a desertlike, rocky scenery with sharp drops and steep-sided hills. Finally we enter the High Atlas mountains. Around midday, near a small river, we accompany the porters, seven mules and a cook. Using a mule means you put money straight into the local pockets. But getting an exact definition of the service and payment from the muleteers will avoid misunderstandings afterwards. When that is arranged, we set off on the first day of our trek, a ride on the wild side through the heart of the High Atlas with breathtaking scenery and overnight stops in memorable wilderness locations. Fortunately our baggage, tents and food are carried by these incredibly strong and sure-footed mules for the rest of our journey in the mountains. Each mule carries about 100 kilos that usually equates to five backpacks. From now on we will be exposed to any kind of weather and as soon as we start walking, the weather turns. A cloudy sky has hidden the sun and because of the strong blasts we regularly have to shelter behind walls in the little villages. The valley of the kasbah village El Hot, we walk through, is very green and fertile. The Berber people are wellknown for their inventive irrigation systems by which, like the roots of a tree, water is channeled off the main stream and runs down through their valley by a simple dam. The water runs in ever-smaller channels, ultimately branching into channels that run through the fields. As we walk through these green fields over small paths beside the channels, we reach an enormous gorge. When we enter the gorge the key question pops up if we should exchange our walking shoes for sandals. For me it's no big deal because I only brought my walking shoes. Hopefully the water isn't that deep this time of the year. The walk through these vertiginous steep rocks - not more than ten metres in wide - is very relaxing. I even manage to get through without wet feet albeit the water sometimes stood as high as the edge of my walking boots. When we leave the cleft the weather has become very bad. Heavy wind and rain will accompany us until we reach the first gîte d'etappe at the small village of Alemdoun at an altitude of 1753m. Little children play hide-and-seek with my camera. Once we have found shelter inside the gîte, it stops raining. Luckily the sun joins in again with us the next morning.

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