18.03.2012 - 21.03.2012
I am sitting on the earth-roof terrace of the house of our 2nd Berber hosts, roughly 50K from Taroudant.
The View looks like this
We have spent the last two days hiking in the dry High Atlas. They are drier this year than most as the last rain/snow on this side of the mountains was October of 2011. On the first day of hiking we got started later than we hoped and it was very hot for the first few hours. The walking was not especially difficult as the mountains are round in places, rather than craggy. However, despite our intentions, we got a late start, and it was hot, very hot. We stopped for a much needed two hour lunch before continuing around and down.
Bjorn and Katya
The Author and Nanette
During our break, I got a chance to talk to our guide Abdel, who is a most interesting man. A sculptor who has seen some hard times, he now makes money by taking visitors trekking in the mountains. He seeks out and finds out of the way places, and seems to understand that roads and so called progress are always a mixed bag. He is quite sophisticated and knowledgeable, and, as we were soon to find out, an absolutely doll. He took care of us in unbelievable ways.
He is, in my humble opinion, The Man to go trekking with in Morocco. And did I mention that he speaks English, as well as French, Arabic, and Berber. I guess this is an unsolicited commercial. Forget about Said, and contact Abdel directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At our first home stay, the family more or less left us alone and cooked us a simple dinner. The children, however, were most curious.
The second day of hiking was more difficult, and we got up as high as 3000M, where the altitude slowed us down. It was a long day, and the way down was the hardest part, at least for me.
We descended many switchbacks to the green oasis you see below. Lots of loose scree and some exposure and we didn't arrive until 6 PM. Our hosts immediately came out to meet us with tea, freshly squeezed warm milk from their cows, and homemade bread. They went out of their way to make us feel welcome to this idyllic spot.
Mother of the Family
Daughter in law and Baby Baking Bread
Unfortunately, every silver lining has a dark cloud. Not long after we arrived, Bjorn got sick. Violently sick. Shitting and vomiting, everything coming out from both ends. Now, Bjorn is a big guy and he was laid low by a stomach bug, like a giant tree toppling over in the forest. To make matters worse, this was Katya's first real hike. She was a trooper on the trek itself, but this kind of thing threw her and she didn't know what to do. Luckily we did, having dealt with this on many occasions. Unfortunately there is not much you can do, other than to keep hydrated, not an easy task when everything wants to come out. And then, when things settle down a bit, pop a Cipro, if it seems like you are still quite ill. Our lovely Berber family was upset about all this, and they seemed to feel responsible, as did Abdel. We did our best to try and convince them otherwise, but I'm not sure it did any good. They kept bring out more food which we couldn't eat. After we went to bed, Nanette got sick. Not as badly as Bjorn, but bad enough. The night was not especially restful for obvious reasons, but the barking dogs, braying donkeys, sheep and goats, a real menagerie, didn't help. The 4 AM call to prayer was blissfully muted, but I still heard it nonetheless. The local mosque, smoke rising in the background, looked quite beautiful in the morning.
Katya and I, who avoided getting sick, tried to figure out what the others ate that we didn't. Hard to know, but perhaps it was the dates they had for lunch. We both skipped them, not being date fans, but it really could have been anything.
Our original plan had been to hike for five days, but Bjorn and Nanette were both quite weak in the morning, and so going on didn't seem like an option. We spent the day with our Berber family, while the sick ones slept for part of it. They were really special people, making rice gruel and other easy to digest food, and then kissing and hugging us, the women anyway, trying to convince us to stay with them longer. It seems that many of the villagers are like this, and despite everything, it felt like a privilege to be so welcomed into their home. We could tell they still felt badly about the stomach problems, despite Abdel's saying to them that it wasn't their fault.
I chatted with Abdel about politics, money, economics, Islam, and how it has been distorted almost everywhere. We were solving the world's problems together, and it seems we think very much alike.
When our ride didn't materialize at the end of the day, Abdel went in search of another, and managed to arrange for us to ride in the back of a truck. Along with a half a dozen other men, and a pile of scrap metal, we zoomed around the s curves in record time, holding on tightly to avoid being thrown from one side to the other.
Abdel invited us to stay in his house which he was in the process of fixing up as a guest house. It wasn't quite ready yet, but he had two bedrooms that were finished. After finding out that it was quiet, ie, far away from the mosque, I didn't hesitate, and we went straight there after arriving back in Taroudant.