Out from Marrakesh in the morning; Into the Atlas Mountains with rattling bones; A shallow lake, or puddle; Vallée des Roches and Boumaine-Dadès; Gorges du Dadès; Another hotel which is classier than we deserve; Accidental imprisonment

There were some initial issues getting started in the morning - the man at the riad who was supposed to get us breakfast, store our bags and take us to the tour assembly point had to be rousted out of bed, and then we had to wait for another couple who were also going on the tour. Finally though, we wound up at the assembly point in Djemaa el-Fnaa (which we could have found ourselves, easily) on time. I took some photos of the empty square while we waited for the driver to show up. When he did, he turned out to be a complete madman who talked and sang to himself in a constant stream, and burst into raucous laughter for no apparent reason. He was fun, though. We (us three and a Brazilian and Australian couple, Deividi and Marion) joined the five already present in the tour van - two British girls and three Japanese. The van itself, though far from new, was much better than I was expecting. This was a good thing, because there was a lot more driving than we understood.

We pushed off from Marrakesh into the outskirts around 7:30 in the morning. I took a few shots from the windows, but mostly contented myself with watching. We made a few stops for photos and drinks in the foothills of the Atlas mountains - an old, barren mountain chain, baked yellow and red and eaten by time and erosion into fantastic shapes. The road was very twisty and we drove at what felt like a breakneck pace. Milie started to feel sick, and she wasn’t the only one. I myself was fine, though it felt as if my head was being rattled off my skull and I was happy to stop.

The first stop in the morning was in a very small, very poor village, where the buildings were made of mud and straw. We had half an hour and could have walked up the hill to the kasbah, but it was very hot and we poked around the village instead. There were only two or three shops, and after it became obvious that we weren’t going to buy anything the shopkeepers were friendly and chatty, and we mostly discussed the heat, which I think is the main topic of conversation in rural Morocco in the same way that the cold is the main topic at home. I had a hard time convincing one older man that when I said twenty degrees below zero, I really meant it - he’d never had to conceive of temperatures below zero before. There’s snow in the peaks of the High Atlas in the winter, so at least I didn’t have to try and explain what it was, but he’d never felt it and only knew what it looked like from a distance. He’d probably, in fact, never been cold in his life.

After lunch, the next stop was a strange little brackish lake in the middle of a wasteland. I’m not sure if it was artificial, but it was very shallow and very warm. Sheryl went swimming, and Milie and I got our feet wet. Later on in the day we passed through the Vallée des Roches, which is a beautiful gorge in the mountains where the cliff walls look like huge piles of boulders, and every step you take reveals new shapes in the rocks. We had to tear Sheryl away from it. The last stop before the hotel, and after ten hours of driving (we’d thought five) was a high viewpoint overlooking the town or village of Boumaine-Dadès, nestled between the reddest rock cliffs and peaks I’ve ever seen.

Finally we made it to the hotel, around 7:30pm. I’d expected something bare-bones, if not an actual dive, but the place turned out to be quite charming and luxurious, with a very nice room for the three of us, an elegant dining room, and several rooftop terraces. It was at the bottom of the Gorges du Dadès, with a sheer red rock cliff on one side and a small river, bright blue-green from the minerals in the rock. Standing in the room looking out the window, our field of vision was completely filled with rock and trees, with no sky to be seen. Enchanted, we went for a walk before dinner, along the road and down beside the river. Sheryl noticed some holes in the rock that she thought might be caves, and made plans to explore them the next day.

Dinner was fun and very good food - couscous and tagine - though we were all tired from the long drive. I’d planned to sit up on the terrace writing after dinner, but an amusing mishap prevented that. Milie was very tired and went to bed right after dinner, and as I tried to leave the room after saying goodnight to her, I realized I was trapped! We had only one key, and Sheryl had taken it with her when she left, locking the door behind her, as one naturally does. Neither of us thought for a second that it wouldn’t be possible to open the door from the inside. She’d gone up to the terrace and couldn’t hear me discreetly shouting from the window, so I gave up and sat by the door with a flashlight and read my book quietly so as not to wake Milie. Eventually Sheryl got annoyed with my antisocial behaviour and came and let me out of prison, and we went back up to the terrace and watched the stars.


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One Comment on this Dispatch:

August 6th, 2008

Wow…imagine never being cold. Gotta get me a ticket to Morocco! You really seem to capture the essence of the country in your photos and words…what an experience. I’m jealous. :) Glad to see you guys looking healthy and happy.

¬ Nicola
Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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