Well and fresh again! Quick as a flash, the tent is packed up. The smell of a loaf of bread, freshly baked at the break of dawn, makes me hungry. Breakfast tastes good. Today we walk through a landscape with many huge and jagged rocks that look like enormous pieces of coal, rough and ready. Coal-black. They lie scattered within this mountain area. On our way we pass some houses with terrace cultivation and young herds with their flock.
We go up again and come across another mountain pass over 3000m. In the distance, we see some bigger villages. Very slowly the rhythm of life flows through the deep valleys of the high Atlas. The flatlands of the valleys are very fertile and every possible space is cultivated. Sheer cliffs tower over the tall village houses. One of these villages will be our destination for today. So for a change, we will sleep in a gîte d'etappe again tonight. But before that, we first walk to the gorge of Tessaout. We picnic on a rock mass in the middle of the fast-flowing river. Some of us even go for a plunge. Brrr. Both sides of the river are precipitous and the walls are more than 100m high.
After lunch break, one part of the group goes upstream, a kind of canyoning, while the others follow the river downstream. I decide to join the ones who go directly to the valley. We have to clear a path against the mountain slope and edge our way through the rocks because at some places the river is too deep. In the thrill of the moment, rushing adrenaline, all our senses are sharp. At some parts as we enter the green valley, we have to balance on a small strip of land with on one side the deep rift and on the other side an irrigation channel.
The irrigation channel, which is derived from the fast-running stream, runs down through the valley. Like the roots of a tree, the irrigation system flows from water channeled off the main stream by a simple dam; the water runs down hill in ever-smaller channels, ultimately branching into channels that run through the fields. Like the approach to work in the fields in this region, the irrigation system is developed along lines that are cooperative and rotative . Everyone contributes labour to build and maintain the system. When water is distributed out to the fields, it is monitored and divided in a constant round up. And with success! It is wonderful to see so much green, walnut trees with marvellous blossoms and thousands and thousands of purple irises in the middle of these enormous mountains. It looks like a paradise-like oasis.
We descend through exciting gorges and along the fertile stream valley before winding down onto a wider track, almost a piste, which runs to the village of Tasgaywalt. Most of the houses are built of stone in this area. And thatched roofs are a rule. Between the houses stand big, magnificent hazels that provide enough shade. Everything is peaceful and little children ask us for a pen which we haven't got anymore after so many days except for the one I'm writing this story with. From the moment you get your camera ready everybody disappears. They hide behind the corner or run into their dark houses. A glimpse inside leads to the suspect that it probably is very chilly. The very thick walls protect the Berber people against cold in winter but particularly against the murderous heat in summer. The window-frames are made of steal and mostly provided with panes of glass. On our way through the village we pass a little platform with a group of children. They all hold a rectangular, wooden board in their hands with the prayers of the Koran. I feel a strong craving to take a snapshot but when I carefully ask the noble, well-dressed teacher for permission I get a silent answer in the form of a shake with his head. Perhaps it's ungracious to picture praying children for in eternity. Too bad.
As we follow the cultivated terraces and irrigation channels, we arrive in the village of destination, named Amerzi, at sunset. There's a lot more bustle and activity here and you can see elderly people and playing children everywhere. Signs with arrows immediately betray the presence of a classified gîte. This means no tent tonight. At the entrance of the gîte d'etappe it suddenly becomes very crowdy and busy. Boisterous little children, both boys and girls, gather together round us. I search for sweets and divide it amongst the young ones. They like sun cream too. In front of the gîte also sit a number of women in traditional Berber clothing with henna designs upon their palms and feet. I suspect there are three generations among them. The eldest woman her eyes look wild and she scrabbles for something to throw with at some boys while talking gibberish. It makes you sit up a bit but one of the younger girls gives a sign that she's a little bit crazy. The youngest girls sing songs and clap hands with one of us. It's a jolly fuss and everybody's smiling. There's this other thin-lipped woman who sometimes appears in the porch of the gîte with a little, satisfied smile on her face but her beauty vanishes as fast as she turns up. By the hullaballoo of loud singing an elderly man in a neat djellaba comes to look what's going on. It catches the eye that he first comes to Jan and myself to shake hands. Is it a sign of certain importance? Is it the mayor ? It's a mystery to us but we also greet him with the same friendliness, "In sha Allah". A few minutes later another man does the same so we can put the theory of the mayor aside. It's not far before sundown when the rest of the group arrives. It cools down fast and the crowd goes home. Inside the gîte we have to wait one's turn to take a shower with primitive means. First you have to put together some cold and hot water in a bucket but the idea of a warm shower gets the pleasure out of it . Within two rectangular rooms, covered with carpets, we unroll our sleeping bags, one alongside the other. After supper we all get to bed soon. Tired.