Monday, 1 October 2012

A weekend adventure

The highlights... exploring a souk in Marrakech - hiking in the Atlas mountains amonst the Berber villages - reaching the summit of the highest peak in North Africa, Jebel Toubkal
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The start...

We began our trek from the village of Imlil.  Our luggage was loaded onto the backs of trusty mules -  the main means of transport in this area.    We were intrigued by the layout of the village, its shops and displayed goods.  The sales pitch from a local vendor, "Cheaper than Asda"  made us laugh.
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Mint tea - anyone?


Enjoying a refreshing cup of mint tea from a family in the village at the beginning of our trek. 
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A short break

Taking a short break before reaching the shrine - Sidi Chamarouch.  The shrine attracts tourists and pilgrims alike.  Only Muslims are allowed to cross the stone bridge to visit the shrine itself.  We had lunch at the shrine and took the opportunity to stock up on our water supplies.  It was here that we were introduced to the delicious supply of dried fruit and nuts - we each had a "favourite" for the trip.
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Camping under the stars

We continued following the walking trail - climbing steadily to the snowline and our camp (3 206m).  We enjoyed a hearty meal - our meals tasted so delicious in that main tent.  Khalid shared some stories of the Berber way of life and told us what to expect the next day - our trek to the summit of Jebel Toubkal.

George experimented with a photographic technique that evening in tracing the movement of the stars.  Despite the wind and noises from the mules - I had my best night's rest.
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The trek to the top

Khalid woke us up as promised at 04h45.  After eating some steaming porridge and drinking our own "designer" coffees we met outside the main tent with our daypacks ready and shining headtorches.  We stopped at the refuge to replenish our water stocks.  We climbed slowly, resting every now and again to have a sip of water, snack on dried fruit and nuts and ensure that we acclimatised to the dramatically increasing altitude. 

The changing light was beautiful as the sun rose and the views along the way were magnificent. Once we reached the summit, we gathered together for some bread and cheese - Kalid made sure we didn't go hungry wherever we were!   We took about 4hrs to climb to the summit (4 165m) and about 2hrs to walk back to our camp (3 206m). We had a break for lunch and then retraced our steps down the mountain to make our way back to Aremd (1 900m) where we spent the night.  In total we alked about 13hrs that day.

The following morning we returned to Imlil (1 740m) on foot and then drove back to Marakech where we spent our final afternoon.
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A feast for the senses

We chose to spend the afternoon of our final day exploring the city's souks - a feast for the senses with sounds, colours and smells of the exotic.
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Djemma El Fna Square at night


The Koutoubia mosque and tower are beautiful at night - opposite is the Square : a chaotic confusion of noise and colour.  We spent our last evening eating at a "rooftop" restuarant - with a lovely view of the tower.  A bittersweet evening  - savouring another delicious meal and the company of our new found friends and at the same time realising it was the last get together of the group and our much loved guide, Khalid. 
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