The High Atlas – Trek day 4

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Dear Susan,

You may have heard it said, ‘get back on your horse’. Well today, it was my day to do just that. One slight amendment to the saying however.. It was time for me to get back on my ‘Mule’. Fondly coined ‘Harriett’ now got another minor name change to become ‘Harriet the Chariot’. More about this later.

Again the sun decided to turn up and cover the surrounding mountains with its golden embrace, which simultaneously signals the hundreds of roosters to have a good old Cock-off! I tell you what, not even the most sophisticated of ear plugs would drown out the mighty to and fro of the Moroccan cocks. They are desperately trying to be noticed and one up each other with an even louder rendition of ‘get the hell up!’ So, thanks to the mighty cock crescendo we rose and had our breakfast on the upper terrace. We were surrounded by a Swiss couple, Spanish couple, Belgian couple and a unique Scottish lad of 20yrs young who grew up on the most remote of islands. All of them, including the wee Scottish lad, spoke in excess of three languages. There were foreign words flying all around that terrace like a pinball machine. Sadly, it was both Lauren and I that felt like the battered pinball as we sat there and conversed in our ‘safe’ English language.

Back to the ‘get back on your horse’ moment. I had the almighty decision to make – should I stay or should I go? I decided to no longer be held at bay by the fart factory that was taking residence inside of my stomach and press on with the trek. However, unbeknown to me, the first section was up an intensely rocky and steep incline. After about an hour I was spent. This is where Harriet comes in. Que the triumphant music and enter the chariot, for Harriott, now to be upgraded to noble steed status, carried me for at least 45 minutes up the rest of the mountain pass. What a hero!

In between my whispering sweet nothings into Harriet’s ears and professing my heart-felt thank you’s in my best Mule accent, there was a raucous collection of children’s voices rising up from the river below. It sounded like a Moroccan version of a school swimming carnival. Sadly, the scene was shrouded by trees, yet the sound of glee cut through the branches to meet with our own smiles as we imaged what shenanigans were taking place. Unfortunately, this bliss was often interrupted by Harriett’s own raucous voice. A new member of the fart-factory had come to centre stage and the strain of the climb was making itself known in an audible way. In some strange exchange of places, perhaps my sitting on Harriet transferred the incessant wind-passing to her, because as of that moment, my recovery was initiated.

Now at the top and over 3000 meters in elevation, we stopped to have a lunch-stop. One thing to mention about the Morrocan approach to lunch is that it is never rushed. There is always the mint tea opener, followed by the enormous salad and pasta starter (that could feed 4 burly men), the tagine main, more mint tea (with biscuits) in the interval and finally a large plate of melon and orange. The servings make American servings look like tapas dishes. Bloody ridiculous yet bloody delicious.

The mountain paths formed a delicate necklace that draped around its well-tanned neck. All we had to do was walk along the right necklace. However, with Lassen’s local knowledge he took us along a magical path that weaves up and down the mountain, all the while allowing glimpses of the sun-drenched valley floor below. The destination was two waterfalls. The destination did not disappoint. The snow melt, even at this time of year, was spurting out a torrent of water. Photos were taken, water was consumed and many path slips were made as the path was steep and littered with loose rocks.

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Funnily enough, when presented with a map, our guide struggles to read it or even pinpoint where we are. He just ‘knows’ the mountain. His years of living in the mountain is a sure GPS that doesn’t rely on sporadic satellite signals. The final destination of the day was programmed into Lassen’s mind and off we traipsed following in his wake. Another humble village was our target and we were the arrows. Lauren nor I could have expected that a bullseye would be scored. What looked like the luscious steps for a royal giant covered a whole facade of the mountain. A brilliant patchwork of green blocks were lit up under the afternoon sun. Each level brought something different: be that a mule eating the finest of fresh fodder, women carting their bundles of labour, men hoeing into the rich soil, children playing chasing games across the levels and all the while the sun danced delicately across each scene. A rarely painted live masterpiece made for a blissful event.

We stood, stared, marveled and drank in the masterpiece. Although it changed in front of our eyes, each scene was inscribed inside our mind’s eye.

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