Sunday, 12 January 2014

Morocco adventures

What an amazing adventure we had!!

We headed to Marrakech last Tuesday. It is just two hours twenty minutes away but another world!! We had organised a private tour for the whole week which included airport pick ups, accommodation and most of the lunches and dinners. This was definitely the way to go as we didn't have to try and negotiate taxi prices on arrival.

We got to our riad (a traditional Morroccan home with a courtyard).

We arrived on New Year's Eve which was fine except that a city of 2 million swelled to 6 million. So all the different noises, smells, sights were all exaggereted!! We went out to try and get some dinner and walking down the narrow alleyways had to avoid getting bumped into by other people, scooters, bikes and donkeys - not easy.
With so many people the children were desperate to get off the street and for some food so we went to a kebab place. The food was fine although the service was pretty awful and we didnt get all our change back but at least we were off the street. The kids couldn't cope with all the noise so we ended up going back to the riad and all being asleep by 10.30pm.

The next day we were up bright and early and off on our tour by 8pm. We had a driver and tour guide for the next five days. We jumped into our comfy van and were off. The landscape was very dry but also very beautiful. We went up over the mountains, stopping on the way for a photo op and a coffee.

Women making oil from Argan seeds.

We went off the main road down a very bumpy, narrow road being quite surprised that this was the main route to this part of the valley. We stopped at a Kasbah which had once been a palace of the King and had a bit of a look around.

We carried on to the town of Ait Benhaddou and had our first taste of decent Moroccan food. The food consists mainly of tangines or brochettes (kebabs) and we pretty much alternated between the two over the next week. There are many different tangines including, poultry, beef and meatballs with eggs - yum!

After lunch we walked up to the village which had been the film site for the gladiator movie. We went into the Berber house which had been the cell that Russell Crow's character was imprisoned in (that's what we were told anyway!).

Weapons from the Gladiator movie

A Berber house

View from the top of the village.

We discovered that one of the advantages of travelling to Morocco in January was that it was not too hot. However one of the disadvantages was that the days were very short and it would be dark by 6pm. This meant that places that we would normally be able to see on arrival we couldn't as it was already dark! So even though we drove through the Valley of the Roses it was dark and we couldn't see much. We also, got to experience our first bout of car sickness with Jasper feeling a bit unwell.

We arrived at our Riad in the Todra Gorge which the next day we discovered was beautiful. We had lovely warm rooms although were separated into boys and girls and a fantastic dinner of kebabs (although a bit spicy). The Moroccans are very communal diners and so we would get one dish for our family to share which was great. They didn't seem to do dessert but instead would have fruit after their meals and as clementines were in season we would get a plate fill of the most delicious ones after every meal except breakfast!

We woke nice and early the next day and I had a yummy breakfast of breads and pastries while James and the kids had the GF bread we had brought from France. Luckily the Moroccans like eggs for breakfast so most mornings we got hard boiled eggs.

We jumped into our waiting van and headed up the road to the Dades Gorge. We were wowed by the extraordinary rock formations and the many photo opportunities.

Amazingly no one got car sick today!!

These rocks are know as monkeys fists.

We drove on to the Magnificent Todra Gorge.

Where we stopped for a coffee.

We carried on driving through the amazing scenery and stopped for another lovely lunch. Next stop was a nomad tent at the start of the desert where we went into the old tunnels that use to have water. Once upon a time the valley had been under water so there are a lot of fossils in this area. We had a look at the fossils and the kids got to play on the drums with the nomads. We also had a go at drawing water from the old well (no water left anymore though).

Trying to draw some water!

With our lovely guide Hassan and Hannah playing a tune with our fantastic driver!

Fossilised sand.


We were suppose to go on our camel trek today but as we didn't arrive at Merzouga until 5.30 and it was already starting to get cold and dark it was decided that the best thing to do was to take the 4wd drive to the desert camp and then go on the camels the next day.

Yah finally arriving at the Sahara!!

After a nice warm cup of tea we set off into the desert and arrived at the camp in the dark. We were shown to our tent and the kids had a great time running up and down the dunes.

We had a great evening! We had a delicious tangine and then once the kids were asleep in bed the music started and we all sat around the camp fire singing Berber songs. We even got up for a bit of a dance. Part of the ritual is for visitors to sing a song or two from there own country - as it is not a concert but more of a sharing together. We had a big group of Italians there so they got into the spirit by singing many an Itialian anthem. They discovered we were from NZ so of course insisted that James do the Haka!! Luckily I was saved since women don't do it.

Our accommodation for the night!

We all headed off to bed early but didn't really sleep as it was so cold and the beds were not that comfortable. We were happy for dawn to come and to get up to see the magic of the sun rise in the Sahara!
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