The High Atlas – Trek day 3

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Dear Mum,

Well today started with the crowing of not one but many cocks. Joel remarked they were having a cock-off. Sadly the night had brought no respite for Joel and it was a downcast face that met me. I ate breakfast alone and we fast established that Joel was in no state to tackle a 6hr hike. Soberly we made plans to return to Imlil and the pharmacy. Lasson was sweet and empathetic and he and Ahmed did not hesitate to change the plans. Nothing is straightforward in Morocco, yet everything is simple. The simple fact that there is a bus that runs along the nearby (thankfully) road. Yet the not-so-straight forward part is that every bus/taxi is RAMMED…..like people hanging out the door type of rammed!

Joel bravely decided to attempt the walk to Imlil, however didn’t make if far until being placed by Ahmed high and lofty upon Harriet. Joel and his bowels bounced up and down, whilst I turned my eyes to the local life by the winding river. We have learnt from Lasson so much about how the Berbers live, and it really is beautiful. I watched women in colourful shawls bending over the reeds by the river, collecting feed for the animals. They gather it together into a parcel three times their size, and trudge back to their closest village. Not a man to be seen, except for when the ground needs to be ploughed – they come out of the woodwork for the manual labour. There is usually a smile, a wave and a ‘bonjour’ as you pass – unless of course you are trying to take a photo, then the guard comes up. We have become experts of discreet photography.

Despite my Berber encouragement of “Irrrr boo” for Harriet (go faster), Joel was fading under the sun and with the effort of holding onto Harriet. With the snaking river below us, and the snow capped mountains painted across the horizon, we experienced a true Berber initiation = the bus! Even the way Lasson flagged it down was hilarious, flapping like a turkey to his mate. In a microsecond we were loaded on aka ‘thrust on’. Lasson barely made it and was dragged for several metres before hauling himself on board. I didn’t know where to put my feet, face, hands….anything really. If I had not liked the smell of the person to my left, right, front or back, that would have been too bad. We were practically hugging. I think perhaps in the UK the bus would have been licensed for 18 or so, but there would have been double crammed into that tiny space. What a riot!

Entertainment everywhere we unloaded at the other end and straight to the drug store. First smile from Joel in 24 hours. Back to the guest house and further smiles from Joel as we discovered a hot shower, toilet with a lid, and bright and cheerful room. We re-planned the rest of the trip and rejoiced over the discovery of WiFi. As the sun started to drop in the sky, we meandered from our Gite to a smooth bolder in the dried riverbed which became our dusk sun-bed. We caught up on some reading and observed the women and children arriving to collect the array of speckled rugs littering the exposed rocks in the river. What started out as a miserable morning was spent jubilantly wandering the verdant terraces of little villages occupying the river banks up into the hills. The jubilation was due to Joel lacking any bowel movements since consuming the meds.

This afternoon’s stroll encapsulated everything I have come to love about the Berbers. Stray hens and chicks pecking their way around the village, colourful rustic facades, cherry blossoms dipping towards the last rays of light, children running with dirt smudged on their faces, the towering Mosque, dilapidated pens for the animals, women carrying the produce from the field on their backs, elders sitting around serenely pondering life, and roaming goats, sheep, cows and mules. As the sun sank below the snow capped mountains we were reminded of how extraordinarily blessed we were to be immersed in such a wondrous and pure culture. Joel sank bleary eyed into a deep slumber and I rounded off the day dominating at cards with other guests at the gite…..another reason I love travelling so.

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