Eight o’clock Sunday morning found me waiting on the corner of the grassy lawn just in front of the entrance to the Oudayas. Even though it was early it promised to be another scorcher of a day. Since we were going to a gorge I thought western clothes were called for in the circumstances. I don’t have any proper “desert clothes” with me, so it was jeans, a short sleeve pullover shirt, and Q’s snazzy little cap. I took along my silky beige djellaba top in the hope the plane would be cool enough to require sleeves. I could feel the ocean breeze blowing on my neck and I knew I would miss it today. I wasn’t at all sure where we were going, but I knew it was inland. Inland is hot! On Saturday night I had done some research and apparently Todra Gorge is a big hit with rock climbers. I have been climbing mountains since I was eighteen but I find rock climbing to be nuts. I mean you can’t see anything except the sheer rock wall in front of your face, your fingers are digging into the rockface, and it looks too easy to fall off, but then again Q has some choice words about climbing mountains.
“I don’t get it Mom. You struggle up to 26,000 feet or more, you can’t breathe, your feet are killing you, you have to haul your air up with you on your back, and when you get to the top you’re too exhausted to enjoy the view! Now exactly which part of that is fun for you Mom?
The car pulled up precisely at eight, a good beginning because after my bold acceptance I was still a bit nervous about getting into a airplane with some chap I didn’t know, lovely manners not withstanding. The driver spoke no English but I got the message – we were headed for the airport to meet Hassan who was doing a preflight on the plane. The car was blessedly cool. It was the beginning of a day where I was wrapped in a soft cocoon of foreign languages I don’t speak. I love the sound of Darjia. It has some of the bur-r-r- sounds of the Scottish highlander’s brogue and a soft blanket sound of Sanskrit. French is, well French is fabulous isn’t it? French sounds like Paris, champagne, and romance.
It took about half an hour to the airport where the car drove onto the tarmac which already smelled of heat, and delivered me to the Citation Ultra, which was ready for take off. I know it was a Citation Ultra because Hassan told me, I thought it just looked like a posh little jet! (see photographs to the right)
I didn’t take a camera because I didn’t want to look like oh-my-gods-I-never-get-out-so-I-have-to-have-photographs-of-everything idiot. Last night I went online and found the photographs for you so you would have an idea where we went – my bit for Moroccan tourism.
The flight was uneventful, as I couldn’t see much. Hassan said we would be flying IFR all the way. The air is murky in Morocco. I asked why, and he said "It seems to be a mixture of smog, (lots of old cars), dust from the Sahara and then moisture from the ocean. Even in town you can't see very far. From 3000 feet you can't see the ground." The scenery might not have been much but the plane was very plush with a couch, bar, kitchen set-up, and a bathroom with a full-length mirror! And blessedly frigid air conditioning! The seats were leather with silk cushions for your head. It was all done up in shades of beige, gold, and brown.
We sat down outside The Valley of the Kasbahs at Quarzazate airport where a driver and a 4X4 awaited our arrival. We had brunch at the Berbere Palace Hotel before heading for the Gorge. The hotel looks out over the surrounding countryside and there is a beautiful dinning room decorated in the style of Berber-does-Hollywood, but it works. Brilliant bathrooms. I am a sucker for a lovely bathroom.
After brunch we drove about an hour or less to the Todra Gorge but I was not so slowly melting in the hot sun, which was being reflected back from the sand and rock in waves. Thank goodness for the wind blowing over us as we drove, stopping was not so pleasant.
At Tineghir we took a 20 Km side-trip through the Todra River valley road through green ribbons of palm and olive groves. I saw pomegranate trees like the ones Q and I saw in Fez, and patchworks of tiny crop fields. There were about a dozen pink-grey villages before we entered the mouth of the Todra Gorge. At one point we had to stop and wait while a chap and his young son herded camels across the highway. We saw a lot of sheep and goats all along the way.
The canyon is 1,000 ft high where the river has cut through pink and green walls of rock limestone. Hassan said this is part of the High Atlas. I thought there were a lot of birds in Fez; this place is an aviary full of hunting birds and nesters in the canyon walls. You can hear birdsong all throughout the gorge. Unless you are going to climb, a 4 x 4 vehicle is essential.
About half way through you come around the turn, splash through the riverbed, and there sits several little houses and a hotel. I put a photograph for you. Apparently some people, tourists and climbers, like to stay over so they can walk the gorge at night. I don’t think so, thank you anyway, but I can see the appeal. Hassan said at night the canyon has its own climate. Apparently he IS a rock climber and spent a good bit of time here when he was younger. That could explain why when we got out to walk a bit he was as sure footed as a mountain goat of which we saw many. I on the other hand managed to stumble, fall over a bolder and bang my head on the side of the canyon and get a mouthful of sand. Graceful eh?
“Are you hurt? Are you bleeding?” he asked anxiously as he came up to me sprawled on the path like an awkward grasshopper.
My head certainly hurt enough to be bleeding. I mean really if you have that much pain you should get blood.
“Here let me check that,” as he ran his fingers over my head while I sat on the rock trying to recover my composure.
“This is not what I envisioned when I thought of you running your fingers through my hair you know,” I said.
“No? You’re not bleeding but you have a hell of a bump there and your sense of humor seems to be intact.” He has a smile like the sun coming up I swear it and smells like a cold day in Bath.
“Great. I’ll hang an earring on it and call it a third ear shall I?”
The sun only bathes the bottom of the gorge in the mornings. There is an ice-cold river that runs through, but even in the gorge the heat was impressive. We stayed about an hour or so. We had to return to the Rabat airport before 6:30 pm or they won’t let you land, they send you to Casablanca.
The best time for visiting the gorge is between is between 8.00 and 13.00, as the angle of the sun in the afternoons passes over and out of sight said the nice man at the hotel in the gorge where we had tea. The nice man who is a Moroccan and thinks you might MISS the sun.
Now this puts us at right over 1000 words which is where I try to keep the posting and the poll agreed.
As the forecast for today was 95 degrees, I intended to do my banking, pay the rent, and then be VERY STILL during the day, which I did. I made the foolish mistake of going to the roof to water the plants while the sun was still up and I thought I would burst into flame. It is going DOWN to 31 degrees C tomorrow (87 degrees F). Here I sit now in the coolness of the ocean breeze looking down on the river from the roof/terrace with Rabat spread out and sparkling to my right, thinking of all of you. Wherever you are be ready, you never know when adventure will come knocking – answer the door!
Q called to say she is having a fabulous time at the Music Festival in Fez, and to ask after M.C. Solaar – who is looking very fuzzy and growing by leaps and bounds. He does a lot of leaping and bounding actually.
Tomorrow I shall tell you about lunch and the return to Rabat shall I?