29.03.2012 - 01.04.2012
It was a beautiful drive through the mountains to get here, over high passes and then down to the Ameln Valley, surrounded by sculptural rocks with high crags behind, including Jebel Kest (2359M, roughly 7800 feet).
Drive Over the Mountain Roads
The sun is hot and the air cool, and the place is full of working class French tourists in RV's. They are here in part to avoid paying French taxes, and to avoid the winter. It is a bit strange to see so many of them in a former colony, but they bring badly needed revenue to what would otherwise be a remote and isolated place. Though bigger than it looks at first, Tafaroute lacks the variety of restaurants and patisseries that we found in Sidi Ifni. There appear to be more tourists here, and though it was off season in Sidi, it seems to be prime time in Tafaroute. The town looks and feels like the American southwest, with a wide main street and what looks lot be a vaguely Native American motif on the concrete facade of the buildings. The dryness of the mountains and the landscape complete the picture.
Tafaroute with Jebel Kest
In the afternoon we clamored over some rocks at the edge of town. It looked remarkably like a set of rocks just outside South Lake Tahoe, California, except that is, for the palm trees and the man taking a shit in a nearby stream bed. Unfortunately, there is shit and garbage in various places. When we returned to our hotel, one of the more upscale places just off the main drag, the faint smell of rotting garbage from the dry riverbank below, wafted through the open window of our room. There are also plenty of well kept houses which, together with the stunning blue sky and mountain scenery, provide a stark contrast to the dirtier aspects of the town.
Amazingly, the 4 AM call to prayer did not wake me up, but the snarling dogs fighting for the garbage below did. No matter, today was a lovely day. We rented bikes from a German expat who lives here for six months of the year. We pedaled around some of the villages in the Ameln Valley, off of the main road. A number of houses are clearly old, made of adobe like materials they fit in naturally with the red granite surroundings. Others are newer and larger, but are made of cinderblock and concrete and painted in salmon earth tones with white windows. The bigger and more prosperous ones are brighter reds and orange.
At one point we walked with our bikes up a dirt track overlooking a gorge and ancient villages. A few women waved through the windows of their houses, and then a boy of 8 ort 9 came by and spoke to us either in Arabic or Berber. He was quite communicative with pantomime when it became obvious that we didn't understand a word. Refreshingly, he didn't want money, only to make contact with us, but like so many others here, he didn't want me to take his picture. After a few hours of cycling, we headed back in the now hot afternoon sun. We ate lunch, and then enjoyed a cappuccino and pastry at one of the few patisseries. I guess that is one advantage of being an ex-French colony. The air has a clarity here, as in many mountains towns. The shadows are sharply drawn against the tawny buildings, and there are big temperature variations between sun and shade. Ideally, one sits with body in sun and face and arms in shade. Hard to maintain for long.
The sunset was........