High Atlas Mountains + Mount Toubkal trek / 7 days / April 24 to April 30, 2019 / World Expeditions
Marrakesh to Tassa Ouirgane; Azzadene Valley; overnight in Tiziane (1700m)
Two local girls giggling in the distance, birds tweeting, warm sun with cool breezes, donkey brays, hiking clothes swinging gently as they aired out today’s exertion. Blue sky, soft clouds partially covering surrounding hills. Green trees and bushes in the distance, some of which holding clothes freshly laundered. Village houses scattered up the hill to my right, a mosque’s minaret by far the tallest structure around. These things are my panoramic view as I write this.
Today was day one of our trek through the Atlas Mountains. There were eight of us plus two guides; the other seven tourists were all from Australia – quite the coincidence! We left the riad in Marrakesh at 8am and drove the same route I did on the day trip to Tin Mel a few days prior. We stopped in Asni for a bathroom/coffee break – it wasn’t market day so things were a bit quieter than last time. We all also picked up small lighters for 2dh each – these were for burning toilet paper on the trail if we use any. At some point after Asni, we turned off from the main road and jolted our way further into and up the mountains. Eventually, we came to a little village where a white pickup truck was blocking the road, along with several mules. It was for us. From here on end, we would be walking. Our path was actually the road, but it wasn’t paved, just made up of rocks and shale. It made for an uneven walk, but it was doable.
The valley alternated between green and red soil, and the mountain sides were rocky. It was not long before I switched my windbreaker for my sun hat. We passed by about two or three villages, all very small. If there were people about, most responded with “Bonjour” if greeted. A few just stared. Several children enthusiastically waved or called out “Bonjour” as we passed. A pair of shy girls even said, “Hi!”. Some kids also asked for des bonbons (candy) but they didn’t follow us or press the issue when we didn’t give them anything – probably because we were with local guides.
So far, people in Morocco have been photogenic and I have found it tempting to take their photos. But I don’t want to face two possible responses if I took people’s pictures from close – their anger or their request for money. Not that either response would have been unjustified, but they weren’t something with which I wanted to deal. But there were many other things I was able to photograph today in the valley – landscape, doors, chickens and goats in the hills, Iris flowers, our bountiful lunch, and even a handful of human figures in the distance.
We stayed at a gite d’étape (guesthouse) just outside the village of Tiziane. I shared a room with two of the women in our group; it was small with pink and green walls, five thin dodgy looking mattresses laid out on the floor, and a bare lightbulb hanging from a wood log ceiling. All of which were totally fine, especially the lightbulb as it meant there was electricity! We were travelling with foam mattresses and sleeping bags provided by the company so both of those were quickly laid on top of the guesthouse mattresses. For the rest of the afternoon, I aired out my hiking clothes on a clothesline and chilled on the terrace. Which was odd – normally I would be bouncing around the village, exploring this new place. Maybe tomorrow… The rest of the evening consisted of snacks, mint tea, and being cooled by the air as I soaked in the sunshine. Dinner was delicious: chicken, a MASSIVE plate of vegetables and couscous, bread, and fruits. Once the sun disappeared, the mountain night was so cold – but bearable once tucked into my sleeping bag.