The best way to finish a season of being on the road as a tour leader, is to make a mini holiday for yourself. After my week at a surf camp, I came to Marrakesh to meet up with my colleagues for a couple of days of catching up. We only had a small group present, but we still had a lot of fun. We kicked off our party with dinner at a French restaurant, followed by some drinks at a rooftop bar. It was a great way to get to know each other a bit, because some of the team I had not had the chance to meet on the road.
For this trip they’d decided we would do the work on the bus while driving to our destinations for the day. So we were playing games and discussing improvements for next year, while staring out the window to see the landscape change. We drove into the Atlas mountains and I could never have imagined how beautiful they are. I had never even thought of going hiking in Morocco’s mountains, but now I get why people come here for that.
We only went for a short hike, with many ‘pros’ passing us equipped with backpacks and crampons. In the small town of Imlil we passed many small shops renting out camping and hiking gear. We were only at about 1900m, but saw the majestic mountains, including Toubkal, which is over 4000m high. The peaks had snow on them, but although the air felt fresh, it wasn’t cold at all. Maybe it had something to do with the climb up.
Pretty much straight away the track went uphill, zigzagging through the trees and past some houses and accommodations. Behind the buildings we walked to a waterfall and a beautiful viewpoint. Then we continued our way up and we got to see more and more of the surrounding mountains. Donkeys came down the hill and hikers rushed up the hill. Then we hit a road. It led past the apple orchard towards another town. Where the ‘pros’ continued on their way to conquer Toubkal, we took the turn to the town and were met by our hosts for a huge lunch.
In the village kids were running around and playing football. Cats were eating the leftovers or playing on the roofs. The tree above us was dropping its leaves as if it was providing us with salad. As we walked out of the village, all the women were heading out too. As it turned out there had been an accident that week and a village boy had lost his life. The women were all visiting his family to support them.
On the second day we took a much longer drive out to Essaouira. The weather was a bit grumpy, with dark clouds hanging in the sky. We drove and drove and discussed and discussed. Then I heard some screams and felt a hump. We drove right over a sheep. A young boy was taking care of them and would probably have to explain to his family where number 25 went. Our bus driver didn’t even wince and just kept driving.
In Essaouira we enjoyed the smell of the sea and some even ran through the water. Then we found a rooftop restaurant and sat down for lunch. Part of the place was covered, which turned out to be great, since it started raining. We ate and played some games for a while and then had a look around town. There was a loooong street full of shops, but here they weren’t so keen on haggling as in Marrakesh. It started raining again, but a little harder this time. By the time I was back at the bus, the rain had gone through my shoes and socks.
Since we were running late, we went straight to our dinner in the heart of Marrakesh. It was an old Riad where they served us local food: tagine and couscous. Marrakesh isn’t really what I’d expected. After seeing other parts of Morocco it felt a little unmoroccan. Only around the kasbah I found a little bit of what I’d seen in other cities. There were still very small streets with dead ends and small markets. Around all the main sites, there were so many tourists! I paid for the tombs, entered, turned the corner and saw a massive cue for one of the main sights. But it was still beautiful and Marrakesh is a great place to do some shopping in the souks.
My second visit to Morocco was definitely worth it. I still haven’t seen it all, but I think my next visit will have to wait a few years. For the meantime, I’ve got some good memories to keep me going!