Morocco : Snow capped mountains to the Atlantic Ocean

The scenery never fails to amaze me. This is a country so diverse….you can ride camels in the desert, and then be in the snow capped Atlas Mountains….red rocks in the foreground, and snow capped peaks in the background.

We drove over the spectacular Tizi n’ Tichka Pass (2250 metres above sea level), and headed to The town of Imil where we stored our main luggage. Our day packs were carried up the steep incline to our homestay by our trusty mule.

Our one hour trek took us to our home stay at the traditional mountain village of Amoud. It was chilly here tonight, but they lit a fire in the common area to keep us warm. The home stay was modest, and cozy. Gals shared one room, guys shared another. We all played our new favorite international game of Uno….brings out the competitive nature in us….each “country” playing for bragging rights! Everyone gets along so well, it’s been amazing travelling with them. Many in our group are solo travellers, and everyday someone says they can’t believe how well we all get along and how lucky we are. We all have a great, teasing sense of humor and bonded quickly. Blessed😀

The next day was to start with a four hour hike, but the forecast was for snow and it was going to be wet. Instead, three of the group went on a short hike, came back for us, and then we did a 2 hour hike through the mountain village and back to the town below where we stored our bags.

The views from the home stay terrace were spectacular!

On the way back down, I had my own adventure….stopping to take photos, I got behind and lost my group…whoops! The village pathways are so windy and narrow, I couldn’t find my way until a couple of locals helped me out. They had one of the boys take me through the village to find my peeps. First group we found….wrong one…. so, we went a different direction, and we found them! I have a feeling this wasn’t the first time he helped a lost soul :). I gave him 50 dirhams…about $6 Canadian, which is quite a bit for here, and he was pretty excited. I figured it was worth it! He did a great job, and I wasn’t worried at all….just adds to the experience!

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We made our way to town and headed to Essaouira which will be our home base for two nights. Along the way we stopped at a winery as well as an argon Oil cooperative. Argon oil is a plant oil from the argan tree endemic to Morocco. It is used in cooking oil, cosmetics, and also honey…..some honey is coming back with me 🙂

We have now checked into our riad in the Medina of Essaouira. We had a wonderful seafood dinner at a restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. A beautiful spot.

We are enjoying every minute of our time here….we have a few more days, and while it will be nice to move on….to Spain for me, and home for others, it will be bitter sweet. But, in the interim, we have some exploring to do in Essaouira and Marrakech.

Ait Benhaddoun the Caravan Route

On day 9 we are heading west, with our final destination a guest house in Ait Benhaddou. This was to be a long travel day…about 4 hours driving, but with stops along the way.

After our regular stops for tea and cafe au lait, we made our way to Atlas Studios. This was an optional tour, for about $10 Canadian. We had a guide take us through and share different movie sets with us, and tell us what was filmed here. Some of the films were Black Hawk dawn, Jewel of the Nile, The Way Back, and Lawrence of Arabia. We thought Game of Thrones was on the tour…but it’s a separate one….we could see one of the sets from the distance. An interesting tour, but I’d have to say not my favorite part of my visit here…I prefer to see the history and landscape. It was something different, and there were some interesting sets and graffiti art.

Next stop was our guesthouse at Ait Benhaddou. This was one of the many highlights for me. The guesthouse was “cozy” as Nicky from Wales called it. Each room had beautiful lookouts over the site, and the common areas really made us feel at home.

Ait Benhaddou is an old village along the old caravan route. It has been featured in many films, including Gladiator. It was very cold here, so I was happy to have my Canadian toque and mitts!

After a tour of the village, we made our way back to the guest house, stopping for many photos along the way.

Finally, a wonderful dinner with wine we purchased in town earlier that day at the bottle shop. It is prohibited to drink alcohol publicly here. You can purchase at the shop, but it has to be concealed in a bag, and you can’t take it out, or show it in public. We have found some great wines here…Sahara Millennium and Eclipse….both reds are fantastic!

Two nights at Todra Gorge, Morocco

We spent two days at our hotel in Todra Gorge. It was nice to spend some extra time in one spot, and to have some down time as well. It has been a whirlwind, and has not disappointed! This truly is the best of Morocco….very well named trip!

The group had three options for the first morning…a four hour hike that had an elevation gain of 600 metres, a 2 hour hike, or take the minivan and meet up with everyone for lunch in the Berber village and then shopping for Morocco carpets at a cooperative. I was fighting a chest cold, and altitude isn’t my friend, so I spent the morning soaking in the sun, and drove out with the van to meet the group.

The crew had a great morning, and I still had the opportunity to see the gorge. Oh, so many tourists here! The gorge is amazing, and busy!

We had another amazing home cooked meal of soup, Berber “pizza” and seasonal fruits. The oranges are amazing, so fresh and sweet!

Next up, the famous Morocco carpets, at a women’s cooperative. The amount of work that goes into the handicrafts is unbelievable. Many on the tour made one or two purchases, and had them wrapped up and ready to go back home! Prices ranged…the most expensive purchased was 8000 dirham….about $1100 Canadian. No rugs for me….no room at home….I’m only taking a few small things back with me.

We had dinner back at our hotel tonight, and a few of the workers played drums for us, and a mean game of musical chairs broke our…lol! Luca from our group won…bragging rights over the gal from another Italian tour group.

We are odd to Ait Benhaddou tomorrow….a Unesco World Heritage Site.

Onwards to Todra Gorge, Berber visit along the way

We are on the move again! This time we are headed to the todra gorge where we will be spending two nights in a hotel. Another 5 hour drive, with our regular tea stop 🙂

We visited a fossil shop and artisan place along the way….always time for some shopping!

Next stop as a Berber village and cooperative where we had lunch….this time I opted for kebabs instead of tangine. We had a great time in the village, exploring their Berber museum and enjoying the entertainment

Our guide participated in the entertainment and the group joined in the dancing with the locals. Such a cool experience, and one of the things I love best about Intrepid. You really do get to experience the culture with this company. So blessed.

We arrived at todra gorge in the evening and enjoyed dinner together as a group.

The Sahara…camels and glamping

Today is camel riding day! This is a part of the tour that I had been looking forward to and it did not disappoint!

We headed out early for the 5 hour drive toward the Sahara Desert. The trip was broken up with stops for tea, a picnic lunch, and lookout views of beautiful oasis. The oasis are amazing….lush greenery in the middle of dry, barren land.

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We made it to a local hotel, where we stored our large bags. We could only take a small overnight bag with us, as we were going to be camping overnight. Now, when I heard camping, I was expecting sleeping bags in the ground and a cold night. So we all packed extra jackets, and I packed a toque and mitts….more on this later.

Others warned us that riding a camel was uncomfortable….so I had very low expectations. But, that wasn’t the case….I thought it was more comfortable than riding a horse! However, I later learned it was all dependant on your size of camel, and the saddle it had on it…..most of mine were excellent!

Our first camel ride was to see the sunset. We all got on our camels, and headed out…..we were led out by our camel “jockeys”. They told us our camels didn’t have names….just camel 1 and camel 2…..I named mine Henry :).

We all made our way to the top of a dune to watch the sunset….but didn’t quite make it to sunset. It was so windy, that we left before the end of the day and headed to camp.

Camping turned out to be a very pleasant glamping experience. We all had great twin beds with thick, lush blankets. Once we put our day packs away, we played a mean game of uno, had dinner, and gathered around a b fire for music and African dancing. Such a cool experience!

We had an option the next day for a sunrise camel ride. Most of the group headed out at 6 am and had an amazing time watching the sun come up.

Favorite experience so far!

Making memories in Midelt, Morocco

Howdy folks…..Kim has been so busy on her Morocco trip, she said she doesn’t know if she is coming or going. She has had so many great experiences, it’s hard to keep track…. she offered to take over the blog for a bit and keep us all up to date. Isn’t that great! Over to you…

Wow! What can I say Teddy? This is a great adventure, and we still have a week to go! Last year, I didn’t think I’d make it here, what with my little heart incident. I’m very blessed to be able to be on this Intrepid trip, Best of Morocco and tour this vast, diverse country.

Last we left off, we were in Fes exploring the city and the Medinas. We were there for 2 days and then headed for the countryside, Midelt was our destination. We are heading south and the terrain is changing, and it’s getting warmer. We have some fairly long days in our minivan, but the days are broken up with stops for mint tea (a staple here), visits to sites, and picnics.

We got up at 9:00 am and headed out….stopping at a local grocery store to stock up for a picnic lunch, and of course an hour later we stopped for tea, some of us had cafe :).

The terrain was very lush, with cedar forests, farmlands and orchards. We stopped at a local spot to see the Barbary Apes, North Africa’s only monkey. The locals take advantage of this touristy spot, setting up small roadside stands to sell their goods….scarfs are a hot seller here 😀

We made it to our guesthouse in Midelt, which is a market town. Our guesthouse was pretty cool….looked like a castle.

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Our amazing Intrepid group headed out to walk to a nearby gorge and then through the Berber village of Berrem. Berbers are the indigenous people of North Africa and they made us welcome. We toured the village with our guide, who is also Berber, as he explained about the people and the culture. We enjoyed meeting them, especially the children who followed us and were quick to give us high fives and big smiles!

Dinner was tangine, a staple food here….I think we have had it everyday.

Another amazing day with a great group….Luca from Switzerland, Lisa and Dave from New Zealand, Steve from England, Nicky from Wales, Edwina and Paula from Australia, Wendy and Kate from Australia and of course Kim and Bern from Canada!

Hanging out in Fez, Morocco

Well, the adventure continues with a long day in Fez…but Kim said it was a great day!

Amina was their guide for the day. The group all jumped in their van and headed out. First stop was a palace….boy was it busy! They couldn’t go inside, but they took a lot of pictures while their guide talked about the history.

They then walked down the street, past the palace into the Jewish quarter. The buildings had a Spanish influence, with balconies on the outside of them. Many people were out today…many tourists.

Thy also stopped at a ceramics collective where Bern tried her hand at making pottery. They both also made a couple of purchases 🙂

And then they headed to the Medina. Thank goodness they had a guide…very narrow passageways with lots of shops. Kim said you could get really get lost in here! They saw the tannery, a unesco site where they still use the traditional ways of preparing and dying leather.

And, of course they stopped for lunch! Kim had the chicken pastille….she said it’s kind of like a chicken pie, covered with phyllo pastry topped with cinnamon and sugar..weird, lol! But she said it was good!

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That was a full day! Kim did make a couple of purchases today, some ceramics and some scarves…small things. She said her luggage is already too heavy. Lol

Later…..Teddy

Always be pawsitive