Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Morocco - Over the High Atlas Mountains to the Sahara

After a typical Moroccan breakfast of grilled flatbread, homemade jams and fresh squeezed orange juice (even better than in Valencia!), we met our guide, Hammadi at the hotel from Journey Beyond Travel (JBT). The Andrews had nothing but great things to say about him and JBT, and we were fortunate that he was available. We happily left the dusty, bustling chaos of Marrakech and entered the lush and comparatively tranquil foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. The scenery was magnificent, with fields of bright red poppies and small Berber (the earliest inhabitants of Morocco) villages almost popping out of the green foothills. We wound our way over the Tichka pass at over 2,300 meters and I had visions of riding my bike up here someday; if only they would ban the massive 18-wheel construction trucks that come barreling up and down the pass! Perhaps trekking on foot would be a better option... Far down below, we entered the lush Draa valley with many spectacular Berber villages, which almost appeared to be carved right out the mountainside. These villages were built out of adobe - similar to what you might see in the southwest US, albeit much cruder and simpler. We had a delightful lunch (albeit another chicken tangine) on a terrace overlooking the river and one such village before making our way to the Sahara. We stopped at Ourzazate and picked up some exotic spices for cooking and also tried out some herbal remedies for smooth skin (Suzanne), snoring and headaches (me). We also passed a number of fascinating Kasbahs sitting out like islands in the lusher parts of the valley. We also passed many typical Berber villagers, who seem to live a very simple and hard life, mostly revolving around agriculture and raising animals. After a long day on the road, we arrived that evening at our guest house in Zagora, which sits at the base of an endless sea of palm trees as far as the eye can see. Much to our surprise, we were greeted with yet another chicken tangine (hey, what gives - is that all they eat here?!?) but we enjoyed sitting outside on the terrace while the kids played in the pool. The next day, we woke up refreshed and excited to begin our trek deep into the Sahara.

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