Arriving just as the sun was setting after about 3 hours on the bus, the beach stretched out before us. We are staying at the Al Moggar Club Beach hotel complex. I don’t think I’ve holidayed in one of these before, for whatever reason. This one is straight out of the sixties or early seventies. I think there was an earthquake here in the 60s that levelled much of the town, and so I suspect this was one of the first to rise from the ruins. Despite its apparent age, it seems to be holding up, although we a definitely in 3 star territory.
Can’t complain about access to the beach though, literally out of our room door, through the gate onto the promenade, and there it is.
We wandered around the swanky marina last night, and found ourselves somewhere more humble for supper. Both of us had reached the Tagine limit, so it was good to find a half decent Italian for pizza.
Today was ripe for a good walk along the beach, particularly after the excessive breakfast (but they’ve all been a bit like that). Not helped but the breakfast item that could be best described as deep fried donut (I know they are deep fried normally, but this was like a cross between thrice cooked chips and battered fish). Probably about 1000 calories a pop. Had to be done, but probably only the once.
So the walk was about 10 miles, including a shoes off in the sea opportunity. Just so you know you rally are on the beach. Waters surprisingly warm, but not too many people prepared to brave it.
Now just wondering, what to have for supper?
Thankfully, no sitting on a car yesterday. Time to wander around Essaouira. Leisurely lunch. Much more laid back than Marrakech.
A long walk along the beach heading south, wandering through the dunes in the return, and the villages of Daibet, once visited by Jimi Hendrix allegedly, although he seems to have left nothing of note behind.
In all, the wanderings added up to 14 miles, so much better than the last few days stuck in the car, although I’ve now proven that my walking shoes are not good for long distances. Blisters. Arse. Sorry, to clarify, that is not blisters on the arse, just the feet.
This afternoon we are on the bus to Agadir so that we can Agado before we are Agadone.
A very long day in the minivan, 12 hours in total. Back through the Draa Valley, Ouarzazate and up through the mountains, this time taking the valley from Ait Ben Haddou up to Talhouet at 1800 metres. Dry and dusty would be a good description, more of a mud track near the top, along with remnants of snow and ice. Still lovely sitting outside in the sunshine at lunchtime.
The highlight was the castle at Talhouet, only abandoned in 1956 at the time of independence. Sadly it receives no outside funding despite its one time importance, so the villagers do their best from tourist income to keep the place maintained, but as its builds mostly from mud, it’s deteriorating rapidly.
After leaving Bernard in Marrakech, our driver took us on to Essaouira on the coast (a little to his surprise, as he hadn’t been informed). A stop in he way for several cups of coffee was enough to keep him going, and he never lost his smile. Stirling work.
Getting to Essaouira was a relief, and the hotel had kept the kitchen open for us, and the meal and wine was particularly well received. After desert and mountain, we move into phase two, and a week at the seaside.
A day of mostly driving with not much to stop for, but some dramatic scenery out of the windows of the minivan. All on quite a large scale which sadly is hard to capture on the camera.
The Draa Valley is well known for its Palm trees, and the valley itself is very broad with vast cliffs along the northern side, softer hills on the southern.
Our only real stop for the day was at a Koranic School which is home to 4000 volumes of scripture, both religious and generally educational (botany, history, astrology and astronomy, for example).
The hotel for the night was definitely in the faded grandeur category (a bit like the film Best Marigold Hotel). Along with Bernard we headed to the bar for a couple of beers which contributed to the mirth once we moved to the restaurant. Outnumbered by staff who had a strange habit of going outside between serving us, and an excessively opulent decor and tables which it was impossible to get your legs under. Very funny, but you probably had to be there.
More driving today, back to Marrakech, and then on to Essouira on the coast to the west of Merrakech. We’ll have covered over 1500kms by the time we see the sea. Not exactly what I had in mind for this trip, but we have a better idea of what the country had to offer.
We grabbed a few extra layers to fend off the cold and climbed about our trusty steeds. I think mine was broken, as it made a very strange bellowing and gurgling noise, accompanied by what appeared to be most of its guts coming out of its mouth like a balloon. Charming. The other two camels were much more lady like.
We travelled a couple of miles across the dunes to our camp for the night, and were shown our ‘room’, a quite well appointed tent with electric light (solar) and conventional beds. Temperature dropping rapidly after the sunset.
We went to the dining tent where we met our two other companions for the night, a Spanish couple. Along the Bernard our French companion, we fortunately found the English was the common language and were able to swap travel tales over dinner.
After food we sat around the campfire whilst our three hosts played drums and sang a couple of traditional songs. We were then asked to make a musical contribution, and so after a couple of verses of Ging-Gang-Ghoolie and Freres Jacques, our Spanish friends proved that they had a much better repertoire, accompanied by hand movements as well a words. No idea what we sang, but it added something to the evening.
After looking at the stars and the embers of the campfire it was off to bed. Cold but with all the clothes on and 6 blankets, not too bad. Morning came at 6am so that we could be on the camels for a sunrise trek back to the hotel for breakfast. Very welcome to have a hot breakfast and hot shower to bring us back to civilisation.
Heading down the other side of the Atlas Mountains and alone the valley floor to Dades Gorge. The hotel was very nice and comfortable.
The gorge has very high sides (about 300 metres) and we spent half an hour walking through the gorge which was extremely pleasant.
The rest of the day was spent driving east towards Merzouga, where we found some spectacular sand dunes, a lovely soft red hue. We walked for several miles across the dunes, climbing the ridges to get a good view, before arriving at our hotel. However, we were not staying in the room (even though we had one to leave our gear) as we headed off with some four legged friends in the desert for the night.
Up at the crack of dawn (nice girl, very accommodating) to venture off up over the Atlas Mountains, through the Tichka Pass, I think the highest in Africa. Stood in the snow, took picture, job done.
This is a full board excursion, and so far they haven’t been skimping on the food. Shame as I was trying to lose the Christmas excess, but hey ho.
We stopped at a well preserved Berber town, used as set for many a desert film, from Lawrence of Arabia to Game of Thrones. Somewhat typical tourist trap but worth a wander for an hour as long as you ignore the tat.
We have a driver, a guide, and one other touring companion, Bernard, a Frenchman enjoying both his retirement and his younger wife’s 50th birthday treat. She decided against coming due to recent events in France, but Bernard is made of sterner stuff!
Tonight’s hotel turns out to be quite lux, but tomorrow we are sleeping in a tent in the desert proper, camel ride and everything. There goes my street cred.
Our last day in Marrakech, we walked into town again to finalise details for our trip over the next four days, across the Atlas Mountains to the edge of the Sahara. Expect contrasts including snow and ice on the pass, and sun and sand in the desert.
Expect lack of Internet for a few days, then we are heading to the coast.
We are the only residents of the hotel, but yesterday a couple of Brits turned up in a campervan, so we swapped travel tales over dinner. They suggested sharing a taxi into the city today, but decided in the end to have a domestic day, as they’d been touring for weeks and the van looked a bit sorry for itself.
We deiced therefore to walk the 6 miles into the city. Farmland given way to fairly shambolic housing on the outskirts, then improving before becoming the hustle, bustle and confusing maze of the old town. Way too easy to go around in circles in the souks, places rammed with very repetitive merchandise that soon all looks the same.
We needed to plan our next steps, and ended up in a travel agents. We probably just spent too much on a few days touring the mountains and desert, but it’s all inclusive. I think we’ve obviously slipped into middle age and lost the art of travelling rough. We shall see, I hope it’s worth it.
Tomorrow we’ll be back into the city to try and discover a bit more of the city and confirm the travel plans.
Walking into the denture of the city and the main square, a hustle and bustle of people selling all sorts, but probably quiet compared to the busier months. We found a good restaurant for lunch, agreeably priced and with a view over the market stalls.
Having been up for long and walked quiet a bit with backpacks, we decided to head for the hotel which we knew was about 5 miles out of town. Research had suggested there was a bus to catch, but after waiting for an hour for a bus that should come every 25 minutes, we gave up and opted for a taxi.
That turned into the expected tourist trap they are known for. Our mistake in asking for the Ecole Americain (American School) took us to the wrong side of town. Unfortunately the town taxis can’t go out of town so we had to be taken to a main rank to get a big taxi. Part with extra money here, then get taken out to the correct place.
We were aware it was up a dirt track, and that it was. The taxi driver thought either his taxi might expire, or he might get mugged. Eventually we arrived and were greeted warmly by the owner. The taxi driver pleaded poverty and cursed the roads in order to get even more money. But in the scheme of things it’s not a lot, so no complaints here.
The hotel lived up to expectations, a little oasis well away from the bustle of the town. Perhaps too far, but there you go. Very tastefully done.
It’s even a motorhome site, should we decide to come this way with the van. Not sure the van will like the roads any more than the taxi though!