Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spring Break

The long, cold, wet winter is over and spring has sprung in glorious fashion. With a week off from school, I decided to travel to the Moyen Atlas and visit a part of Morocco I had yet to see.

We started our journey with an 8 hour drive to the big cascade (waterfall) in Morocco; Cascades D’Ouzoud. The drive took us through the most wonderful countryside that was filled with wildflowers; red poppies, calendula, some undefined purple flowers and sprigs of white. The surrounding mountains were still snow-capped and the valleys were incredibly green. I saw one of the most beautiful meadows filled with wildflowers that I have ever seen in my life! And with a daily shower of rain, there were rainbows to see everyday!

Cascades D’Ouzoud is basically a campground with hiking trails which lead down to a meandering riverbed of muddy waters. The heavy rains are responsible for the muddiness; I’m told most of the year the waters are crystal clear. And there are monkeys that live in the surrounding forest and they are quite humorous to watch. They have a blond fur and are incredibly playful. They come very close to you and leap into the trees with great dexterity. It was fun to watch them.

After the waterfalls, we carried on through Tizi N’Tichka to Ait Benhaddou. An oasis with great palmeries and a place called the Thousand Casbahs. You had to cross a riverbed on donkeys to get to the casbahs and thereafter you could wander around the city and climb to the top to view a Jewish cemetery. We spent the night at a nice place next to the river. The room was grander than anything else we encountered in our budget range and included dinner and breakfast. Both of which were pretty dreadful. But, you can’t have everything!

The next day we went to the Dades Valley and the Gorges via Ouarzazate, which is known as ‘Hollywood in the desert’. It is here that many films have been produced including Sheltering Sky, Gladiator, Mummy I & II and The Last Temptation of Christ. We saw two beautiful canyons. One with the weirdest rock formations and the other with sheer cliffs filled with serious rock climbers. We pressed on to Erfoud in the Sahara desert.

Erfoud was a nice relaxing town. We spent the night in a step up from a fleabag hotel and visited with some friends of Hassan’s. His brother met up with us in Rissani and helped with the long drive home. Upon leaving Erfoud, we were stopped by the police who said we were going 56km in a 40km zone. After a long harangue they divested us of 100 dirham. We drove back through town to see this 40km sign. After traveling the length of the town and seeing no evidence of a sign, we went back to the police and insisted they return our money. They did so with great reluctance but with fear in their hearts that I would go to the gendarmerie and report them. One more stop along the way to a farm where yet more acquaintances lived and we picked up another passenger for the ride to Fes. We arrived safe and sound, having travelled nearly 7,000 km in 4 days.