Holidays from the Island

After chilling out in the sleepy town of Essaouira, we headed for the Atlas Mountains.  These are located to east of Marrakech so it was quite a long drive to get to them from the coast.

We only has a couple of days here and stayed at a lovely hotel called La Bergerie which was nestled in a valley and surrounded by olive and almond groves. The scenery reminded me of the Alpujarras in Spain where I used to live.

Luckily the hotel had a swimming pool as we arrived in the middle of a heat wave! Whilst Marrakech was hot at least we had air conditioning there, not so out in the sticks! It was over 30C a night and not a breath of wind. Our room had a private garden so we slept with all the windows open and no bedclothes on, not realising that the gardener began work quite early in the morning. I think he got a bit of a shock - we certainly did!

He, and the other gardeners did a lovely job on the gardens though. You could walk along paths edged with flowers and herbs, gently aromatic in the hot sun intermixed with some interesting rustic sculptures.

As we'd had a wonderful lunch on the way there we just relaxed the first day and booked a hike for the next morning. As we only got a couple of hours sleep we had mixed feelings about doing the hike, but as the guide had turned up we thought we might as well go. Sayeed, our guide, assured us it was an easy hike across the hills to a local village and then a stop for lunch in a local house. Enough said, we were on our way!

The scenery was quite stunning with the brick red earth making wonderful formations from water erosion.

Above us eagles and falcon circled, looking for their lunch!

After crossing the first set of hills, we suddenly came upon a football pitch - seemingly located in the middle of nowhere. This must be one of the remotest pitches in the world! You just can't get away from it can you!

We walked alongside acequias, traditional irrigation systems which were full with water even at this time of year. In the hills we could glimpse some incredible houses which must have amazing views.

As we proceeded along an almost dried up river bed, Sayeed suddenly started shouting "roller, roller". Well we could hear a machine working off in the distance so we wondered what the fuss was about. Then saw two flashes of blue fly across the gorge.

Although they looked liked kingfishers to us, they were in fact blue bellied rollers. Stunningly beautiful birds.

Thanks to http://www.colszoo.org/animalareas/aforest/broll.html for this picture!

Next we came across a frog. We had met up with these the night before when as we were having dinner, we found that the ground was littered with them. Very dangerous - for them - if you didn't have a torch!

After a few hours we reached out destination, the village. Here we came upon some traditional house building, where mud is packed within a frame and then tamped down to give it a solid structure. Now we knoew what the holes were that we had seen in the walls of many st4ructures, including the medina walls in Marrakech - they hold the scaffolding supports to steady the frame.

Next we were shown into a local house where we met Brahin and his wife Fatima. Farah cooked us a wonderful meal - tagine of course and served copious amounts of mint tea. Brahin kept us entertained with his stories and then decided that he wanted to marry me! However, in modern times he is only allowed one wife- Phew! I think Fatima really has her hands full with him.

We had then intended to walk back to the hotel but Tricia had developed a blister, so thanks to the wonders of modern technology - a mobile phone - we were picked up and transported back by taxi!

This left us to relax by the pool for the rest of the afternoon supping cold beer- its a hard life!

At one point I looked up from my book only to see my that my shoe had moved across the lawn and was being chewed by a wonderful puppy - Kena. She kept us entertained as nothing was sacred!

The food at the hotel was absolutely wonderful and enough to feed a small army. We washed it down with rose wine - my favourite was Siroua. We did get a bit of a shock when we got the bill though - we had spent 76 euros in two days and we hadn't really drank that much. Being a Muslim culture, alcohol is expensive, so be warned. A spirit will be around 6e, beer 5e a pint and wine around 15e a bottle.

So ended our trip to Morocco. It is a wonderful country with some lovely people and scrumptious food. I will be back!

Corinne Sellens