Thursday, April 8, 2010

Gorgeous Gorges

(written on the 6th/7th)....
Did I forget to mention the sunrise in the Sahara, climbing the dunes, ghost stories and jokes in the tent until we were told to be quiet….oh, and there’s the no bathroom (did the guide really tell us it’s all one big bathroom?), you have to bring your own water-wait-we’re in the Sahara desert and you might want to tell me this in advance so I bring enough, sleep inside the stuffy tent instead of under the stars ‘cuz the sand is blowing so strong you’d be buried by morning? Oh, and that you have to know how to do the Chinese splits in order to ride a camel? But forget all of that-we had a grand time! Besides, camel trekking in the Sahara makes for some pretty fine photo opps. Will load some later.

We did make it to the Dades Gorges late last night. Sara, another PCV, lives down in the gorges and her Moroccan fiancé, Brahim, hooked us up w/transport to and a hotel in the Gorges, so we could wake up there rather than in the tourist town on the main road. Filled our bellies w/brochette and Harira, took showers (no hot water-but a cold shower after 4 days is better than no shower), opened the window to the sound of the river rushing by below us and slept like babies. Ham du Ellen.

We got up this morning to hike w/Brahim. He’s a “faux guide”-not an official tourist guide-you have to go to special schooling for that-but he knows this terrain like the back of his hand, having grown up here. We “hired” him to take us on a hike to see the Gorges. We went by Sara’s Neddi (where the women weave woolen saks and carpets) to say hi and went by Brahim’s house for fresh-made yogurt (Lisa would be happy-she just did the cheese workshop down here). Hiked up and around for about 4 hours-that was enough. Just after we turned to come back, we stopped and had tea with a Berber nomad woman that Brahim knows-she had her little pot with her and we brought the tea and bread. What a site. No photos-she didn’t want her picture taken, so just imagine it….up on a rocky precipice, sheep and goat around us, looking down to the green oasis of the river and the red mud houses climbing the river banks, with a Berber woman squatted in front of a fire of twigs with a small pot of tea-made with a plant that Brahim picked that only grows here.

We get back down from the hike to the village and Sara is back (she just returned from Rabat). We are introduced to Brahim’s family and sit down to finish off the couscous lunch they were eating. Sit around a bit before walking thru the river-side fields back to the Auberge. Another cold shower to freshen up and a bit of a rest. I’m typing on my blog and Lindsay asks if I have wifi. I remind here where we are, and that we just had tea on a mountain w/a Berber nomad, of course there’s no wifi. Then she reminds me that one of the guys guiding the camels in the Sahara was on his cell phone, so maybe it’s not so far fetched a possibility.

Our good travel karma stays with us, as Angie (another PCV) has made it over from her village, approx 2 km away. This is no small task, as she just returned form Spring Camp in Figuig-as close as you can get to the Algerian border in SE Morocco. She needed to get to all of her Coop women to confirm their upcoming workshop and participation at the Marche Maroc Marrakech. See, if you leave town for a few days, the plans you’ve put in place and that everyone’s agreed to are likely to fall apart, so you need to reconfirm w/everyone when you return. Anyway, she meets us at the Aberge and Brahim has hooked us up w/a ride up to the Riad Blue Africa that his family is building right up above the tip of the gorge. It’s a stunning vew and awesome location for their Riad-they are still building it and hoping that the town extends electricity up there-until then they work off of generators and solar panels. We sit out on the terrace, overlooking the gorge, and Brahim brings us OJ w/firewater. OK, so the firewater is actually “fig whiskey”-made from his homemade still. Actually pretty tasty-and we’re all cheap drunks anyway. We move inside for a wonderful meal of salad, yummy tagine, a sweet fruit tagine and more beverages, all consumed to the music of Brahim, his brother and friend on the tomtom drums. Nice.

We walk our way back down from the gorge to the Auberge, stopping along the way to ask a friend of Brahim’s if he can give Angie a ride to her town-hashuma for her to walk alone. No problem, she gets the ride.

Morning comes too early, but we must get up to get back into Boulmane Dades to catch the CTM bus to Marrakech. We settle the bill-get Sara to help us know what a fair price is to pay Brahim for his guiding us on the trek, hotel and meals (incl. money for the Riad Blue Africa dinner that Brahim was not going to have us pay for). For approx. $60 we’ve spent 2 nights, ate and drank very well, hiked w/a guide, incl. the amazing tea w/nomadic Berber woman. Thanks to Ellen!

The public transits aren’t really running to Boulmane Dades, so the Auberge guy asks some Spanish guests headed that way if they’ll give us a ride. Yup. And we’re off!

As I type this, we’re on the bus-just passed thru The Valley of the Roses. Big annual Rose Festival every year the first weekend in May. Looking forward to the view of all those roses. Not a one in sight. Huh? Oh well, now we’re back to the dusty terrain to Ourzazate before weaving thru the High Atlas to Marrakech.

I’ve been a lifelong planner-incl. my travels-planning the trip in advance. Morocco has taught me to let my heart be my guide. Be open to whatever hand reaches out to me and follow it. Our short visit to the Gorges has proved the value of this approach.

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