05 September 2014

Morocco day 11: Aroumd

We made an early start this morning as this was another long travel day – and, for the first time, I snoozed a little in the bus, though luckily I did manage to stay awake for the most spectacular parts of the drive. In fact, this particular road is rated one of the world’s top 10, according to our tour leader, and it certainly is impressive.

We drove across the High Atlas Mountains via the Tizi ‘n Tichka pass, at 2260 metres the highest mountain pass in North Africa. Surprisingly – or perhaps not! – the top of the pass was covered in souvenir shops, whose staff raced out to try to entice us in as soon as our van stopped. Shops also clung precariously to every available inch of space alongside the road as it wound its way back down the other side of the mountains.

Our drive continued into the Toubkal region to the small town of Imlil, where we unloaded and locked away our larger pieces of luggage, then set off with just our overnight things on a hike to the village of Aroumd (also called Armed or Aremd). Though I am reasonably fit, it was a tough hike for me, up 250 metres in 45 minutes in the midday heat after a tiring drive and little sleep the previous night. Some of the team had hired mules but I think riding them along the narrow path would have freaked me out and my bones were still recovering from our camel rides.

After the strenuous exercise, we all tucked in to a large delicious lunch after arriving at our gite, the large family home where we would spend the night. The setting was sublime – al fresco dining at its best, on a terrace set high above the river, with spectacular views of Morocco’s highest mountains all around. Toubkal, at 4167 metres the tallest mountain in North Africa, was within walking distance, while Jebel Aguelzim (3428 metres) was even closer. Not surprisingly, the village is used as a base for the even-more-intrepid travellers who hike and climb in this area.

The afternoon was free – some of the group chose to go on a 4-hour hike around the valley and surrounding hills, I chose to catch up on writing my journal and then to snooze. I must have slept quite deeply as I also missed the 6pm 1-hour village walk and didn’t awaken until 7pm, when I heard the chatter of the various walkers on the terrace below my window. I had been feeling a little sniffy, with a scratchy throat and a bit of cough, but the rest refreshed and revived me.

We enjoyed a wonderful dinner of tagines and vegetables, bread and fruit, and chatted away till late evening, when I sloped off to bed once more. I left the window open, to enjoy the cool mountain breeze – it felt good to snuggle under a thick blanket after the heat of previous days – and I delighted in the sparkling display of stars until my eyes would no longer stay open. 

Aroumd, from the other side of the valley