A Travellerspoint blog

From the desert to the mountains

From Erg Chebbi to Todra Gorge and a philosophical debate

sunny 23 °C
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The brief camel trek consisted of one camel, Youssef (my guide) and me.
We headed out into the desert around 5pm on Friday the 26th of May, into the then windy dunes of Erg Chebbi.
Winds at around 40 knots lifted up the sand and created a layer of flying sand that created a beautiful contrast with the sand that was below.
Youssef and me had respectively an orange and blue 6 meter Tagelmust around our heads, which is used by the Tuaregs and other Berber Saharian tribes to repair themselves from the sands lifted during high winds.

I started off on the camel, but I soon grew very uncomfortable being on it by myself and having Youssef walking all the way. So I got off after 10 minutes and followed the camel led by Youssef's klnowledge of the dunes.

The idea was to head into the desert to a deserted nomad camp, witness the sunset, sleep there and wake up before sunrise (5am) getting back to the Kasbah Panorama by 8am. And so it was. But not so fast.

The trek into the dunes was very harsh, but at every new dune the scenary changed and as we proceeded deeper the light became more and more surreal, a faded yellow goverened the sky and the sands were almost white, due to the fastness of the sands flying over them.

We arrived to the camp when the sun was ready to move to further seas and lands, and Youssef pointed to a huge mountain of sand and said: "from there good picture, good sunset picture".
I hesitated, the thing mlust have been at least 60m high and I was already very tired. But the excitement of a possible amazing picture with the sand clogging the sun light and creating and the long landscape that could be seen from atop forced me to analize the easiest way to climb up.
There was no easy way, I just had to climb up.

I don't think I have ever struggled as much as this in my life, at least I cannot remember it right now.
The sand kept on melting under my feet, and every two steps I would fall back one. By one quarter of the mountain I had had it, and I just wanted to get back down.
I sat, I thought, I took my shoes off, grabbed them firmly in my right hand and restarted the climb up, barefoot this time.
It wasn't this great of an idea because I felt like I was actually doing more effort than before, but suddendly a mixed feeling took over me, and a storm of sentiments and thoughts battled inside of me. I was emotionally boosted by that and so I kept on falling on my left hand and kept on sinking in sand until I reached three quarters of the way.
I figured out that if I leaned over and took very small steps, the sand wouldn't eat my feet but it would hold my weight, so I very slowly reached the semi-flat top.

I cannot describe the feeling of reaching the top. It is something not terrain, not of this world.
I sat, took off my backpack and walked to where the sands created deep abysses.
The view from there was something that it will accompany me to my afterlife, something with no end, something not from here.

Indeed the sunlight was clogged by the sand; but it was nothing like the light on the bottom. There were infinite layers of sand that created a silhouetted landscape in which the sun was the king overlooking the various dunes that tiredly sat waiting for the winds to finally rest.

I debated for a while whether to take my camera out or not.
I didnt. I didn't because I wanted to keep this memory on my mind forever, and I didnt want a digital sensor to steal it and represent it for me. In my memory this is one of the most beautiful moments of my life, and it will remain as such forever. It will also be embellished by time, although I doubt it can be more beautiful than this.

We ate, Youssef tried to to play the tamborine but it wasn't genuine or felt so I asked him to stop. He stopped and went to sleep after a brief talk about the starry night. I was left outside with two blakets and a matress and he locked himself in a wooden cabin and slept there.

The night desert creatures frightened me, but the moon and stars reassured me, and I saw for the first time the Milky Way in all it's inegrity.
I saw five falling stars and gave my wishes to the desert.
Fell asleep after five hours of being alone outside and was cuddled by the thought of a poisonous snake or a black scorpion crawling over me.

Woke up at five and woke my guide up, took a walk and then started to head back. The way back was far more difficult than the way out, even though there was almost no wind and the sun was still young and fragile.

We reached the Kasbah and he tried to sell me some fossil stones, I refused but then decided to buy the cheapest one almost as a tip for him.
I took a long shower, had a very good breakfast and started my way into the High Atlas. On the bus from Erfoud to Tinerhir I met a couple from Canada, and had a very nice chat that prolongued all the way until they had to catch their second bus to another city called Ouarzazate. I caught a grand taxi (collective taxi) to Toudra Gorge and was stunned by the scenary I found.

It is amawing here, Ive been staying now for two nights and plan to stay another one.
I've walked into the mountains and at the end of my first late afternoon trek I was called by a Berber man from a mountain, who quickly descended and handed me over a mint plant.
He invited me over to his tent were his family was attending me and we talked in broken french about family and life.
Hassan, Fatima (the wife and mom) and the girls all were very friendly and offered me a tea which I gladly drank.
Time flew and it was dark outside, we said goodbye and I gave them 3 Dirhams as a token of appreciation.

Tomorrow I will head into the city of Ouarzazate.
I will tell you more about my trek today in whioch I will go into a very small town called Tamtattouche and walk back. It should take me 6 hours round trip.

Hope you are all well,
I shall tell you more about my trip in a few days, insha'llah
Goodbye and thanks for your time,

Andrea Trabucco Campos

PS: the pictures are in the gallery, some problem in the computer doesnt let me put them here. I will try in the next days.

Posted by atrabuccoc 03:38 Archived in Morocco Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)


mad apologies

sunny 28 °C
View Moroccan Odyssey on atrabuccoc's travel map.

I am sorry, but spent all my time available on the uploading pictures part.
I realize to have exagerated on the number a bit
I am in Todra Gorge today and will stay here two more days.

Will try to post the blog tomorrow..have a lot to tell, well you know, going from the Desert to the mountains.

you can see the pictures in this link

Posted by atrabuccoc 10:14 Archived in Morocco Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

The last two long days

from the middle to one end

sunny 27 °C
View Moroccan Odyssey on atrabuccoc's travel map.

Woke up at 8am, got ready, got my stuff together, went to the internet café, stopping before at the local shop for some bread and water.
Checked emails, wrote some, made a couple of phonecalls and started to decide on changing the route for my future days.
This is what it has become:

After finding out that the Festival des Musique du Desert was at Merzouga, I took the opportunity of what are the most beautiful dunes in Morocco: Erg Chebbi.
I found out my way to get there: bus at 10pm that will leave me near the dunes at 6am. I called the place where I'm at right now, Kasbah Panorama, and reserved the room.

I still had a day ahead. I was supposed to see the sacred city of Moulay Idriss and the ancient roman town of Volubilis.
And so I did. I find my way in a shared taxi (after leaving my bag locked up in the hotel office, thanks to the very friendly receptionist), and I payed only 10Dh to get to Moulay Idriss. I knew that Volubilis was close (4.5km) so after seeing the beautiful town and kind of easy plunging into it,
Moulay_Idriss.jpg I started the amazing trek.
The Mausoleum of Moulay Idriss is something very important in Morocco and it is said that 5 times there account for once in Mecca.

On my walk I was absolutely taken by the sorroundings, it seemed like I was walking in Tuscany, the vegetation and air were exactly the same..so where the mountains.

I arrived 30 minutes later to the Volubilis, it was mindblowing to see such structures in the middle of Morocco..two very far apart worlds, just minutes away. I would tell you a lot more but I have to go, because I hear some music far away and it is the Festival du Desert which I came all the way here to see.

Here are the pictures of Volubilis:

On the way back I basically was picked up by a very friendly taxi driver who drove me back into Meknés for just 15DH.
We talked and shared some stories until I was already getting out of the taxi.

I just waited around, watched the AC Milan - Liverpool game with a Canadian dude and then left to the bus station. (Campioni del Mondo e Campioni d'Europa!!)
The bus took off and I was on the way to the dunes.
A long time after (8hrs laterr) I got off the bus, had to deal with some hustlers and was hassled for like 10 minutes until I was able to talk them out of my sight. With smiles and nos it happened.

In a cab filled with friendly Japanese travellers I watched the dunes get closer and closer. I was very excited and couldn't believe the tallness of them.

I saw a hill and a Kasbah on top. I knew that was my place for the night. 20 Dh and half-an-hour later I was on the roof, sipping on a tea talking to Youssef the manager; he was showing me glourious pictures of his marvelous expeditions -and trust me, over 100 trips into the desert, all of them were marvelous. They built the Kasbah on that hill, his Berber family's property, and it took them two years.

I relaxed and decided to find an internet place just to solve some stuff with my worried and stranded in London girlfriend, my only love.
They lent me a bike and I battled against the high winds on the difficult volcanic terrain; I must have eaten a lot of sand, because my mouth still tastes like it.

I came back to the Kasbah and ran into so many kids saying hello and waving and running after the bike. just like in those american movies when they go to Africa. Just that this is completely real, and it feels like a dream. A very beautiful dream.
Well here is the village of Merzouga as seen from Kasbah Panorama.Merzouga.jpg
Oh by the way, from my window I can see the village of Hassi Labied with the backdrop the "official Morrocan beaches" as Youssef says, the dunes of Erg Chebbi.
A big hug to everyone, hope everything is fine,
until the next one, insha'llah

Andrea TC

Posted by atrabuccoc 13:21 Archived in Morocco Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

a forgotten Pearl..Meknés

a superb place

semi-overcast 15 °C
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going around through the Medina was a unique experience, it always is. Getting lost in it is a pleasure I not always want to risk. You never know whats on the next corner, or what side of it you're in, if it's a good side or a "bad" one.
I think that every corner has been a good one, and so far inshallah I haven't had any problems whatsoever.

At every corner a new environment of the Medina unveiled and it was a surprise after a surprise that I spent those four hours plunged into it.
Green is the color used in most of the tiles here, and the walls are usually yellow, with quite a few exceptions in pink or orange.

Before plunging I took my time eating a loaf of bread in the Place el-Hedim, a very beautiful square, and I believe the biggest in the Medina; In front of it is the very famous picturesque door of Bab el-Mansour, once built by the mighty glorious Moulay Ismail at the closure of the XVII century.
People just ran back and forth through the square and one came and asked me for a piece of my meal, which I broke a piece off and offered back with a bright smile as a response.
Kids running back and forth and different Doctors on the go who have their shops set up on the square.

I followed the indications of the book and after passing through the typical arab arch I was into another world of Meknés: the appareal Souq.
Blue neon lights and loud music welcomed me and after spending some time in it (it has become a very typical acquaintance with my eye in the Medinas of all the cities so far) I pushed forward following indications in the magical book of LP (Lonely Planet).
No luck following it though, I was spat out of that closed world into the open one where literally hundreds of people were going around.
I entered it a second time and followed the flow of the people into the Medina and was able to breach in it seeing local carpenters at work and children following their mothers. I got a feeling that the streets were about to close into each other so I stopped, and walked right back from where I came.
Minutes later i was between the hundreds and decided to go along one more time.
It is here that sceneries began to change, flowing from open appareal shops to cellphone shops to wood shops to food shops and finally to iron shops. It was a ballad of shops and it was a very harsh reality:

Meknés is a poor town. Later on deep into the Medina I was discussing with Abdul how the bombings in Casablanca have affected all of Morocco's tourism, and how places like Meknés are very sensitive to these changes. As LP rightly points out, this beautiful town is often overlooked by the mass of tourists who follow on to Fés, the king of the imperial cities. I found Meknés a much more welcoming town, without all that show that the touristy towns have put on for the tourist. Meknés has more true people and they don't have a lot of time to spend in a possible tourist buyer. The shops I was brought to were absolutely shut down when I got there and the lights were turned on for me to see..of course I did not buy, but at the third shop I got a very good deal so I spent 100 Dh on a very nice plate and a hand medallion.
That is Mohammed and me, Abdul offered to take the picture and I happily accepted. I didn't buy anything, even though I was offered on and on, but after the hassle the masks were put down and Abdul and me talked about different things, Berbers, economy, artisans, wood, tea and family.

On my way back I went all through the medina (oh by the way I did see the grand mosquee and the medersas, the islamic colleges), and I was deeply soaked into a very torn down and residential area of town.
Passing through the same streets before, a man was shown to me in the back of the Hammam (public baths). He was in charge of keeping the fire going. A man with a very powerful but docile presence.

I found it to be very common in every medina, for the people to keep very old traditions, medieval traditions, as the core of the medina commerce. Ahah, would like to go on but it seems like that is an argument for another blog, not this one.

I hope everyone receives this in great health and prosperity.
I thank you all for reading it.
Un beso a Mami y a Francesca, e un saluto a Babbo (niente mostri nel mondo, solo umani).
Inshallah will my trip follow this beautiful course.

By the way I will update just brief stuff from the other days whenever I get a chance..though I feel it is more important to write the present past, than accumulating a lot of presents in the past.

I am in Meknés, tommorow will be going to Volubilis and Moulay Idriss.

Goodbye to you all, hope you enjoy the pictures!
Bigger versions are available here http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/atrabuccoc/

Posted by atrabuccoc 13:18 Archived in Morocco Tagged foot Comments (1)

A different place.

brief headlines of my beginning days.

sunny 25 °C
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I arrived to the airport Mohammed V, very close to Casablanca, at 2 in the afternoon. I felt extremely excited when I stqrted seeing the first people and the first women in veil standing outside waiting for somebody, just like anybody does at an airport.
The clash of feelings overtook me at the airport and the way everything moved and the scent of the people and their gestures and expressions were extremely delightful to follow with the eye.
Imagine at the Casablanca station half an hour later!
I was mainly the only visible tourist at the statio (and it has been like that for me so far) so all eyes were drawn towards me, giving me a slight edge of uncomfortness which made me stand straight and turn my sight strong but still nice.
The train left from Casa to Rabat and I was finally in a situation I had been dreaming for months: sitting totally immerged in a culture I have never really been exposed to, which would make me feel uncomfortable and spill over that jar that contains all those feelings hidden to me, making me discover and shape myself a little more.

There was a loud bang inside my head when I got out of the Rabat Ville station two hours later. People everywhere in the street streets semipaved making the cars leave a flying cloud of dirt after them.
The air thick, filled with smog and those nasty externalities that the cars leave once moving. Hot, and I who was holding two bags was feeling hotter. I hadnt eaten anything from that early morning, and, when finally encouraged by a couple of strong and fine words in my head, I was walking down the street right next to my first sighted Medina, sweating profusely, and not hot but very cold.
The cold sweat was a reminder that I was the only visitor in town (Rabat, the capital that isn't a place where tourist are abbundant), and make me speed up, trying to find my goal for the day: the famous Rabatian Tower, and right after a quick "petit taxi" ride the Kasbah des Odaias, with an amazing panoramic over part of the city, but especially to the coast, where tens of surfers where catching different waves gathered in that bay thanks to the strong winds that this season is always hustled by.
I achieved my goals, and sick of the smog decided to head North a few hours before I had planned it, shooting straight to Asilah.

Arriving at the gare routiere (bus station) after a quick ride from the Kasbah, literally a handful of young Moroccans escorted me to their bus company, where I got my ticket to Asilah.
After this quick sand storm, I was left alone side by side the person who would become a companion over the four-and-a-half hour bus trek to Tanger. I also realised that such placed was not a place for tourist (the people in it all looked modest to me, same goes for the buses), which made me feel very happy of being in such place.
I think only by immerging myself with them will I be able ever to breathe their own air, and understand who they are. In contrast to many actors all around the country, putting up an act for the tourist for a little bit of money.
The talk I had with Rachid, the berber Moroccan man from Sifrou, in the bus was unique and reassuring, and it also opened that very nice side to the country I would have not found otherwise.
He was rehearsing his spanish with me, and I was testing my belongance to the human race with him.
By the gestures and expressions I've seen so far, I can pretty much comfirm what Carl Jung was saying about a collective unconscious in all of us.
The language is not collective though, so it was hard to keep up to that very special version of french and much less to the arabique (whose sound I love and intoxicates me) or the berber (the language of the perennial warriors).
At a stop halfway he invited me to a tea, which gave me time to glance at my guide for late night hostels in Asilah, and served me as a reminder of the costiness of the place.
I decided to proceed to Tanger and sleep there for the night, wake up early, visit the recommended sights and catch the bus to Chefchaouen.

And so I did. Only with a problem that took two hours to solve.
I missed the bus becuase as I was walking up the Medina, a very friendly old man tagged along asking me where I was from. I decided to use my Colombian nationality (which I do most often on this side of the world) while in Morocco, given the fact that there could be no mixed feelings about it, and he began to speak in spanish.
He brought me to scenic sights, which I will put photos of tomorrow, and through the beautiful medina. I was able to see spain from the roof of a very beautiful house he brought me inside and on top of. I was able to see the whole city, just with the naked eye or through the lens of the camera. I thanked him for everything and asked him how I could repay him (meaning I would have liked to give him two dozen dirhams for his help), but finally stopped when I realized what was going on!
I was in a house rug, and very innocently had fallen for the oldest trick in Morocco: show a few sights and guide to the friend's house to pick up a couple of things.
I refused to see anything but still was shown, and was persuaded by one of the best mint teas I've had so far. The price kept going lower with every chat we had, and I had my eyes on this one very special red rug, which I ended up buying after a lenghty negotiation.
It cost me 300 Dirhams and I think it is much more valuable, judging by the beautiful colors and textures of it, made of cashmere from the Kashmir wool.
It is pretty small so I can keep it in my bag, but extended, it makes an amazing souvenir.

Although, I don't really have that mjuch space so I won't be able to be so naive again, otherwise I'll end up with another two handbags.

Once I was escorted out of the Medina, I ran to the CTM bus station (the official tourist and high class company) to find that my bus had departed already, leaving me in Tanger.
I had to find a different way to get to Chefchaouen (four hours away), and I knew just where: le gare routiere!
A note about Tanger: it is a very neat and beautiful city where funds have been poured down by the king and international funding (gateway to both Africa and Europe, relatively to where you stand). The old Tanger is faded and this place feels almost safe -although some travellers might have had very different impressions, given that I just quickly plunged into it.

I played out my plan and finally got to Chefchaouen, again passing from the local station with nobody looking like me. The ride there was quite and nice, and the view was one of the most scenic views I've seen in my life.
There is especially one point that I would have liked to immortalize: a river entering a small lake that reflected the rays from the sun on its choppy surface with beautiful trees of all sizes around it, and the mountains acting as powerful guards to keep such a heavingly place safe for eternity.

I am in Chefchaouen and I wasnt expecting this beautiful a town. The only colors you can see are turqoise and white that toegther make such an astounding couple. I am staying at Hostal ALina now, a beautiful place, with a killer view from the roof. The place is owned by an amazing spanish fellow from granada, who just got married to a moroccan women fifteen days ago. Here I met three australian guys from Canberra, who are very friendly and we went to the local souq and bought a whole cous cous and vegetables meal that was cooked by Simon, a guy that a month ago was in Tanzania and will proceed to Spain.
We talked and shared different stories, and we ate what came out to be a delicious meal (I hadn't eaten anything for the last two days, because I wasn't hungry).

I have been writing this for a while now, because there is a lot to say.
I must mention that it feels really good to be completely by oneself in an extremely different environment, which by chance is smiling at me right now.

I hope you have gotten up until here, I know it's a long email.
I thank you for sharing your time with my experiences, and hope you've enjoyed it -not as much as I, because that is impossible!
Hopefully the next entries will be as long

This has just began, and it promises a lot of good stuff to come.

Aleykuum Salam,
au revoir,
hope everything is well for you as well,

Posted by atrabuccoc 18:01 Archived in Morocco Tagged round_the_world Comments (2)

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