Morocco Stories and Tips

Day 5 : The Asselda mountain

Six o'clock in the morning. After a splash in the cold water again, I put some ointment on my wrenched muscles and tape my ankle with a stretchy bandage. Maybe I should have done this yesterday evening too. My first steps on the loose stones make it clear that I have to be very cautious. Luckily we soon leave the dry riverbed and start a steep climb. For the first time the sweat is running off my face. And the sun makes it even harder. We pass some shepherds who are about to go for a walk with their flock through the mountains. During the night the sheep and goats are kept together within a walled fence. Now, it's time to lead the cattle out to pasture. But there isn't much green for them to graze, only thorn-bushes. I'm wet with sweat. Gasping for water, I stop several times during this climb to sip at my water bottle. On top of the Asselda (2984m) we have an outstanding panoramic view and we also get an idea of how this hike will lead us to the top the M'goun mountain. Stillness, relaxation, restfulness and tranquillity are words that slip my mind. Not even the noise or the presence of a single airplane in the sky. This is what I had in mind when I left for Morocco. We can see that there's not much snow left on the tops of the surrounding mountains.

My foot stood very firm as we climbed but during the steep decent I have to let the group go as they run downwards. I carefully drop down a steep scree path. I know that if I sprain my ankle again this will probably be the end of my mountain trip. After a descent of 600m I rejoin the group in the shade of some almonds and walnut trees. We pause for our freshly prepared, daily picnic lunch, before pushing on to the next camp. The wind rustles through the little, bright green leaves of the trees and brings us some refreshment. I refill my water bottle by the cascade of a small creek . A little bit further I take off my hiking shoes to refresh my ankle and feet again. I don't know the first thing about birds but I have already seen some beauties around here. The multicoloured bee-eater, with its green, yellow and red colours, is the most stunning one so far. The whole afternoon we move on to Amassin . We pass through little villages surrounded by a patchwork of green fields among the magnificent peaks of the High Atlas. Towards the evening, we put up our tents on the loose stones of the dry riverbed near the village. It was a good idea to take a sleeping-mat with me because it will not only keep me warm, it will also take some sting out of the hard ground. We attract a great deal of attention. Almost every kid has come down to watch us settle for the night. Like foreign astronauts, we are surrounded by most of the villagers. Exotic items in an old world. Our appearance is that of many wide-eyed children standing and starring in awe. Once again we have to refresh in the ice-cold water of a small creek. I think we better get used to this for the days left. When the sun goes down, it cools off very fast and it's time to zip my trouser-legs back on and to put on a warm fleece again. After everybody has done his washing and cleaning we huddle together in one of the larger tents for supper: soup, stewed vegetables and a can of fruit for dessert. When the last round of tea is poured, we play cards and have a good laugh. Outside, the wind throws fragments of singing, coming from a wedding party in the village, into the silence of the night...

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