The High Atlas – Trek day 1

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Dear Mum,

The day has passed like a storybook of what you think hiking with the berber should look like. Wide-mouthed, tooth filled Moroccans greeted us in Imlil and immediately we knew we were in for a good time. They spread out the map and basically said where do you want to go?! No booking ahead here! They might not have even blinked if we didn’t show up! Mint Tea aplenty, we were already laughing and joking about whilst watching an array of colour parade itself ( in the form of brightly coloured rugs adorned on the mules) waltzing down the street. They also like a good bit of rubble here in Morocco, a chip off the Albanian Block.

We were introduced to our muleer Ahmed! What a character! The lines of sun were etched into his face and he exuded warmth (and cheekiness). With a route decided, our bags were hoisted onto our deer mule ( which we have named Harry much to Ahmed’s amusement) and Ahmed rode Harry right out of Imlil. The cherry blossoms bent to meet us as we hiked out of the valley to behold Toubkal and Imlil like a miniature village plonked into the side of a mountain. Of course, on the way we had to visit the family home (more mint tea).

Here in Morocco they are very relaxed about money. Their payment is mostly in service i.e  I do this for you at some point you will help me with something I need – much better!!  Our guide is Lasson. He is 25 and grew up in Imlil. He has learnt English from the tourists. We have barely seen any though. It feels like just us and the locals. Up we went to the pass with Lasson, Ahmed and Harry. What a riot. The climb was easy…. the smell of pine was in the air and the temperature just perfect.

At the top, Ahmed gave Harry a rest and he cooked us an absolute feast. It could have fed 6! It was wondrous sitting looking out over 3 villages with the river snaking down from the mountains making the valleys green, lush and fertile. The mosque echoed calling out for prayer and it was one of those magic “I can’t believe I’m here” moments. Absolutely stuffed, we trundled down the valley asking Lasson a million questions about life in Morocco.

Walking the valley villages was like a picture book. There is so much to observe, both culture and natural beauty. The snowy peaks towered above us and the sun in the afternoon made the green glow and come alive. The streams bubbled, the cherry blossoms rustled in the breeze and truly, life could not have been more serene. The doors in the villages are bright burnt colours, like splashes of ochre against stone. Children played amongst the stones and their laughter filled the air. We got many “bonjours” and enquiries of chocolate?? Madame??  Luckily we brought some and the sweet joy of being able to bring them something special was happily embraced. The women were ploughing fields, washing vibrant dyes and picking fruits and grass. Always something interesting going on wherever you look. Even the children don’t like photos so any pictures need to be discreet. They are very perceptive and savvy.

We arrived in our village in the afternoon and were given a magnificent welcome from the guesthouse owner. It is the only guesthouse in the village. A little old man who is as sweet as Biggy (my grandfather)  in a robe and hood. His grandchildren play patty cakes under a big tree in the courtyard overlooking the river. He says, through Lasson, “my home is your home”. More mint tea. Our room is  a rock walled vibrant piece of comfort. Huge bright rugs adorn the floor. It feels like home. I love it. I am so content and love the simple life. We are right amongst the villagers and can see everything going on.

In the dusk we taught Lasson some card games. Ahmed  joined in with his limited English and he was grinning from ear to ear – absolutely loving it!! He had some thrifty and shifty hands going on as well as he got the hang of it. Laughter echoed through the valley as the sun set and a lightbulb was illuminated in the tree for a magnificent Tajine. The food is to die for! I cannot believe that Ahmed has brought it all with him…poor Harry. We are learning a lot of berber words thanks to Lasson. As the card game ensured we learnt all the numbers, as Ahmed played in berber so we caught on fast… but the numbers kept slipping through our mind which makes it even funnier every time we mistakenly tell Ahmed with gusto to “go fish”!!!

More mint tea and the stars popped out, the mountain illuminated by a lustrous moon. By the way, when we were playing cards, the call to prayer sounded. Ahmed brought his mat out and prayed right there. Lasson disappeared to the Mosque….it’s a different life. I wish you were here.

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