It’s already nigh time when we’re driving through Italy, full of expectations of what awaits us in Morocco. Our team consists of my father, who's just turned 75, Bojan Okrogar, Franc Runovc from Bohinj, who’s a retired physics professor, Franc Pepevnik Aco, our mountain guide, and me, Polona Povše.
AT THE TOP OF NORTHERN AFRICA (28.4.2015-1.5.2015)
After landing and passing through airport security, we drove towards the snowy mountains of Atlas. In the village of Imlil we set off for the CAF mountain hut which is located at an altitude of 3,200m. We received the first dose of adrenaline when we had to cross a rushing stream, but our guide Aco showed us how to jump from one rock to the next without getting our shoes wet. The crossing was accompanied by loud laughter whenever someone looked like they might fall into the cold water, but eventually we all made it across safely. Throughout the long hike we took pictures of the beautiful landscape, chatted and drank freshly squeezed orange juice. An hour’s walk below the hut we encountered the first patches of snow, a sign that this year the Atlas has been experiencing unusually heavy snowfall. Before sunset we reached the hut, where dinner awaited us: of course we had tagine, what else. The next morning we waited for the majority of mountaineers to leave the hut, before putting on our crampons and starting up the firm snowy slope ourselves. I was a little worried about my father, but he walked at a solid pace, closely following our guide, who quickly led us to the summit ridge, which had no snow. When our breathing got faster because of the high altitude, we would have a short rest and drink some energy drinks. The final steps towards the top were on snow again and soon we reached the summit of Jebel Toubkal, 4,167m. We were happy beyond words. I looked for a can of beer in my backpack and started to sing “Happy Birthday”. Aco and Franc immediately joined in and we wished Bojan happy birthday and congratulated him on reaching the summit. After taking some photos we quietly enjoyed the warm sun and contemplated the fantastic scenery which surrounded us: white snow mixing with red rocks, green-blue colours of the valleys, brown and green colours of the desert… It was definitely worth the effort. The descent was much faster and less tiring than the way up, and soon we were basking in the warm sun again, this time next to the welcoming hut. We scoured the numerous peaks around us, looking for potential lines up their snowy faces and couloirs and wishing that we had more time to explore them. Instead, we were scheduled to leave for Marrakech the very next day.
MARRAKECH (2.5.15, 6.5.15, 8.5.15)
We returned from the peaceful village at the foot of the Atlas to the sprawling city of Marrakech, which neatly illustrated the variety Morocco has to offer. It was difficult to get used to the bustling city, the incessant tradesmen, the countless innkeepers… They will stop at nothing in their quest to sell their products at ridiculous prices and you have to be quite savvy if you want to bargain for a fair price. Marrakech’s bazaar is one of the most famous in the world, and the botanical garden of Y. S. Laurent was equally impressive.
ROCK CLIMBING IN THE TODRA GORGE (4.5.2015)
To reach Todra from Marrakech, you have to travel more than 700km by car. Although the road is good, there are numerous mountain passes along the way, with one of them rising over 2,000m. The views from this pass were again breathtaking. The landscape was gradually changing from green to brown, and soon we reached the small village of Ait Benhaddou, where several films have been shot. Because of the intense heat we didn’t stop in Ouarzazate, which is the centre of modern filmmaking in Morocco. But, as we arrived in Tinghir, we were in for a surprise. Our idyllic hotel in the Todra Gorge had been closed due to rockfall, but Aco quickly found a suitable replacement, which even had a pool. The next morning we were very eager to try our hand at rock climbing. Aco was a great mentor and we all had a wonderful time, especially my father, who at first had been reluctant to climb, saying that he was too old for this kind of thing. It turned out that this was far from being true and he climbed several sport climbing routes before tackling a via ferrata close by, where Aco of course accompanied him. After a successful day of climbing we had a relaxing swim in the pool, enjoyed excellent tagin, and listened to our guide’s stories from all over the world, which were so amusing that we insisted that Aco should write them down in a book. Franc concluded the evening with his now famous sentence, which we’d been hearing every single evening: “You know, Aco, today has been a wonderful day!”
BIVOUAC IN THE SAHARA DESERT (5.5.2015-6.5.2015)
We slept throughout most of the drive to Merzouga, which turned out to be the best thing to do, since the drive was long and uneventful and the temperatures were scorching, plus a hot wind had started up and was blowing the desert sand high into the air. When we finally stepped out of the van in Merzouga, the heat and the dust almost stifled us. For the first time during our trip I became really worried whether my father would be fit enough for the rest of the adventure, but things worked out beautifully. The wind died down a little, the temperatures dropped, and the camel ride went great. We watched the sunset over the unforgettable Sahara dunes, walked barefoot across the warm sand, and took countless unforgettable photos. The sand on our skin no longer bothered us, and we reached our campsite just before dark. After an excellent dinner we fell asleep to the rhythm of drums and the sounds of singing around the campfire. The next morning, we watched the sunrise in similar settings to last night’s sunset, with the added benefit of no wind and complete silence.
The idyllic fishing harbour with its picturesque city walls and a beautiful sandy beach boasts numerous narrow streets, a bazaar, artists from the whole world and music festivals. We thoroughly enjoyed this seaside city with its numerous attractions, excellent seafood, great peppermint tea and quality shopping. On our way back to Marrakech we even stopped to have a look at how argan oil is made.
A varied country with beautiful landscape, marvellous architecture, peaceful villages, and nice people: all these things make Morocco a worthwhile destination. A big thank you to the Alpguide team for the excellent trip and our guide Aco for being such a great guy. We had a really great time!
Text: Polona Povše
Photos: Franc Runovc, Bojan Okrogar, Polona Povše
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