Thursday, 7. March 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 through 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 severe. 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 to Zagora. In former times Zagora used to be a caravan station, today it will be a spot on our route. We want to drive through the Drâa Valley 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 Drâa Valley 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 throughout 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 harmoniously with the landscape. 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. You can see them 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 police checkpoints – you get a lot of it – 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. 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 to be guided by a self-appointed guide for cash. We bravely turn a deaf ear to the warning of the guide “It is like a labyrinth. You will get lost.”
Upstairs and downstairs we stroll through the big and small rooms, explore the winding corridors and push ourselves stooped through low doorways. We marvel at colorful wall paintings and the vista to the old Kasbah neighborhood below.
Despite every objection we successfully 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 its shore. We turn right on a sandy gravel road and slowly drive down to a promontry. Four other campers already park here roomily. Isn’t it a perfect spot to spend the night?
The continuation of our journey we easily postpone to the next day. We are looking forward to see the Dadès Gorges, we have heard about so much.
Quite rightly Dadès Gorges earn 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 the tops of the mountains are still covered with snow. Even here the residents of the small mountain villages are looking forward to spring and the warmer season after this long, cold winter. To hike here in April or May must be fantastic. Now it is far too cold for our liking. Or are we just too lazy?!
It is too bad that we can’t take the mountain road that connects Dadès Gorges with Todra Gorges. It must be wonderful we’ve heard and we would’ve loved to drive along there. For a vehicle with the dimensions of ours it is impassable. It was just yesterday when people told us so who already did the tour before. Well, all right, so let’s take the easy version along the national road.
Our visit of Todra Gorges is done faster than we expected. We only drive some kilometers into the gorge to reach the famous passage that we often saw on pictures before. That’s it.
The gorge looks very nice even it is more touristic and less lonesome than the Dadès Gorges. During main season it certainly is 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 all trees and flowers will be in bloom it certainly will look lovely. Whether we should jump into our hiking boots?
At the reservoir Barrage Al Mansour Ad Dahbi (A totally unsuspicious code name, isn’t it?) we find our place for the night
The mighty rocks of Todra Gorges
OASIS OF HOSPITALITY
At oasis La Source Bleue de Meski we are already expected by the fire department. It is late afternoon when we arrive and meet Susanne and Stefan there as previously arranged. On the small camp ground under tall palm trees Mohammad instantly treats us with a carpet for the entrance of our truck to protect us from the dusty floor. The color matches perfectly with our vehicle, of course. “I’ll bring you some tea. But first of all come in and take a rest. We’ll meet later”, he welcomes 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 a 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 plays African music together with Annsofian. Susanne dances with abandon, Win enthusiastically claps his hands 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. Soon it happens and sales talk is 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 cities 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 a good thing, because the landscape is glorious and worth to pay attention to.
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 coming, 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 to his home. We would get some Tajine. And tea, of course. We already had some food just a minute ago 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 I 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 exactly the same Hassan, Stefan told me about. They also parked anywhere off the main road viewing snow-covered mountains when they were visited by a young guy. He was quite attached to them and they couldn’t get rid of him. 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 the same Hassan at the same place in the same situation. We suppose that this is Hassan’s way to find a wife 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