Thursday,March 7, 2017 | Spain – Andalusia, Sevilla | Petra
VALLEYS GORGES MOUNTAINS
PICTURE BOOK MOROCCO
Between our two trips to the desert of Erg Chegaga and Erg Chebbi we are certainly not lazy. For a week we travel around trough thrilling mountains along Oued Drâa in the region of Anti-Atlas and High Atlas.
It’s still cold in the mountains. This year winter has been extremly heavy. But no doubts spring is on it’s way. We already can smell it. It smells as familiar as at home in Germany.
GREEN VALLEY OF DRÂA
With our perfectly repaired battery console we leave M’Hamid to go Zagora. In former times Zagora used to be a caravan station, today it will be a spot on our route. We want to drive throgh the Valley of Drâa to Ouarzazate.
Meanwhile the team of the red fire engine has different ideas. Thus we arrange a vague appointment to meet somewhere in the eastern part of the country soon.
The valley of Drâa is a beautiful riverine oasis. A green fertile strip with big palm tree plantations meanders more than 200 kilometers through the landscape. We pass high mountains, impressive Kasbahs and traditional loam villages.
Partially the houses of loam are left to rot, like everywhere in the country. It is most unfortunate, because this type of building coverage with rammed clay is organic architecture in pure form.
The material is made by nature, it is locally and sufficiently available, it keeps warm in winter and cool in summer. As well the houses fit into landscape harmoniously. Due to the fact that rammed clay has to be attended and fixed regularly, more and more Maroccans prefer bricks, cement and cold concrete when building a house.
Everyday in the villages we can see how unfinished buildings of concrete spoil the landscape with their ugly ruins. Houses of rammed clay instead will be natural clay again at the end. If there will be a change of thinking one day?
Our thoughts should not restrain us from seeing the beauty of the country and it’s friendly residents. They are everywhere along the main road. Men sitting in cafes, in front of shops or workshops. Women do the washing at the river, school kids flock home and goat herders wave hello when we pass.
At each police checkpoint we get free way. It is only a few years ago, Stefan told us once, when tourists often were checked by the police and charged a fine for some sort of (fictional) offense. Sometimes 20 Euro, sometimes 30 Euro. A profitable source of income for the private pocket. Nowadays it is completely different. At each police check point – you get them a lot – tourists get free way with a friendly hello (or no interest at all). Easy going.
This is how many small towns in Morocco look like – we have no idea where we took this picture
At Ouarzazate, the region of Drâa-Tafilale, we allow ourselves a touristic cultural program. For today is a very special day. We are on our world tour since six months or 183 days. It feels a little bit like birthday – just celebrative.
We treat ourselves with a gift and invite us to visit Kasbah Taourirt. In fact it is a quite young castle built in the 20th century. But it is a castle and it looks interesting and Maroccan. We prefer to visit the facility on our own and not be guided by a payed self-appointed guide. We bravely to set the warning of the guide “It is like a labyrinth. You will get lost.” at naught.
Upstairs and downstairs we stroll through the big and small rooms, explore the winding corridors and push ourselves stooped through small doorways. We marvel at colorful wall paintings and the vista to the old Kasbah neighborhood below.
Despite every objection we pick our way through the historical “labyrinth”. Now we do have a precise idea of fortifications made of rammed clay.
It is already afternoon when we leave Ouarzazate. Right hand the big reservoir Mansour Ad Dahbi appears and tempts us to his shore. We turn right on a sandy piste and slowly drive down to a promontry. Four campers already park here roomily. Isn’t it a perfect spot to spend the night?
The continuation of our journey we easily postpone until tomorrow. We are looking forward to see the Gorge of Dades, we heard about so much.
Quite rightly Gorge Dades earns the attribute “precious”. We drive into the beautiful spectacle of Nature and are impressed by the rocks soaring steeply into the sky. With our big powerful truck we corner sharply uphill. It gets colder more and more and on the top of the Mountains is still some snow left. Even here the residents of the small mountain villages are looking forward to spring and the warmer season after this long, cold winter. Hiking here in April or May must be fantastic. Now it is to cold for our liking. Or are we just too lazy?!
It is too bad that we can’t take the mountain road that connects Gorge Dades with Gorge Todra. It must be wonderful and we would have loved to drive along there. For a vehicle of our dimension it must be impassable. It was just yesterday when people told us who already did the tour before. Well, all right, so let’s take the simple version along the national road.
Our visit of Gorge Todra is done faster than we expected. We only drive some kilometers into the gorge to reach the famous passage that we saw on pictures before. That’s it.
It looks nice even it is more touristic and less lonesome than at Gorge Dades. During main season it is certainly crowded. It’s a pity because it is a beautiful spot. The clear, cold water of river Todra quickly runs between rockface and road. Soon when everything is in bloom it certainly will look lovely. Whether we should jump into our hiking boots?
At the reservoir Barrage Al Mansour Ad Dahbi (what a less conspicuous code name) we find our place for the night
The mighty rocks of Gorge Todra
OASIS OF HOSPITALITY
At Oasis La Source Bleue de Meski we are already exected by the fire department. It is late afternoon when we arrive and meet Susanne und Stefan as appointed. On the small camp ground under tall palm trees Mohammad treats us with a carpet at the entrance of our truck to protect us from the dusty floor. Of course the color matches perfectly with our vehicle. And we will get some tea, he tells us. “But first come in and take a rest. We’ll meet later”, he tells us in perfect german language.
Mohammad runs a souvenir shop here on the camp ground and he is a phenomenon. Not only that he speaks several languages. The young guy also speaks Bavarian. Apart from this he knows Pistenkuh and he has very good notion of German geography. He perfectly knows how to deal with the needs of European tourists. We are impressed by his hospitality and it is nice to chat with him. In the evening he play African music together with Annsofian. Susanne dances with abondan, Win claps his hands with enthusiasm and I accompany their drums with my improvised percussions – pasta in a tin. Shake it, Baby!
Generously Mohammad invites us for Couscous, cooked by his Mum herself. What must be, must be and sales talk are initiated. He can’t win us over to a Maroccan woven carpet, even not for jewelery or a woolen blanket. We don’t deed anything – nothing, zero, nothing at all. Fortunately Susanne has needs and invests a medium fortune of Dirham for a colorful, handwoven woolen blanket.
On our way back from Erg Chebbi we visit the Oasis and Mohammad a second time. Again we are his guests. We get a delicious tajine, bread and – I can’t believe it – red wine! We get weak the moment he offers argan oil, the gold of Morocco. We do the deal and close the bargain with a round of tea. There we go!
Mohammad (left) and Annsofian invite us to participate in their love for music – this is Africaaaa
HIGH AND MIDDLE ATLAS
Bit by bit we move on northbound. We would like to visit the city of Fès and Marrakesh next. We take the route via High and Middle Atlas to Fès. There ist still some snow on the mountains of High Atlas, so we have to relinquish a tour in the mountains.
We allow ourselves two days for the arrival at Fès. And that’s good thing, because the landscape is glorious and worth to pay attention to it.
At the early afternoon we feel quite hungry and find a very nice quiet place for cooking lunch off the main road. Viewing snow-covered mountains I cut onions and vegetables to cook a tasty vegetable-noodle-soup.
It is wonderful to sit in the sun and to eat with relish. We have just finished lunch when a young man slowly comes up the road. Visitors are comming, no more viewing the landscape!
We welcome him and ask with “La bas?” how he is.
Hassan is the name of the young guy. He would like to invite us for tea. We would get some Tajine. And tea. We already had some food just this minute we refuse his invitation with much regret. We offer Hassan a cup of coffee instead and invite him to take a seat.
It is incredibly nice, when the people here invite foreigners to their home. They do it in honesty and they love to do it. Unfortunately right now we prefer to have a rest, silence, no talking, no friendly conversation. Just watching the landscape. Sip the coffee. Watch the landscape again. Breath. Watch.
So what, let’s postpone the placid scene and chat with Hassan as good as our knowledge of French allows. Stay flexible when traveling.
Soon the coffee is finished and we intimate that we want to move on. We pack all our stuff and a take a picture with Win and Hassan. We say good bye and leave this beautiful spot much earlier than we would have liked to do.
As we sit in the driver’s cab Win says: “I believe, that this was the one and only Hassan, Stefan told me about. They also parked anywhere viewing snow-covered mountains when they were visited by a young guy. They couldn’t get rid of him and so they had to leave the place in a hurry.”
We are very much amused imagine that we experienced exactly the same situation at the same place at a different time like Susanne and Stefan did some days before.
Indeed the picture we took approves our suspicion. It is exactly the same Hassan at the same place in the same situation. We suppose that Hassan tries to find a wife that way who takes him with her to Europe. He told Susanne he would never marry an Maroccan woman, he prefers a French. Now we know about.
Short brake at reservoir Ziz in the north of Er-Rachidia
The smooth hills of Middle Atlas rise in front of us