HIKING IN THE HIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINS OF MOROCCO

HIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINS | MOROCCO

[HIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINS, MOROCCO] — I didn’t know there’d be a donkey involved.

Actually, I didn’t really know what all would be involved. But there he was, on a foot bridge spanning a roaring river. Staring at me like “Really?”. It would be hard to be a donkey, actually. Getting all the shit jobs that man doesn’t want to do, in this case, carrying my pack and our lunch for the day. And the flies. Man, the flies. A constant swarm of pesky varmints, always, poking your eyes, biting your knees, and just all-around being annoying. 24/7. I hate flies and if I was a donkey, I’d really hate flies. A constant shake of the head to shake them away. My tail in continuous motion to swat them away. My leg muscles in a constant twitch to shoo their annoying bites. Constantly. Man, I’d hate to be a donkey.

And yet, there we were. Me. My Berber guide Mohamed. And his even more-Berber compatriot whose name I got the gist was “Lassoo.” And the donkey. (I couldn’t make out his name, either, but it was something like “Gently”…either that or both were pulling my leg with their names…)  I asked my hotel, the glamorous Kasbah Tamadot a few clicks down the road, for something a little more strenuous than the previously-arranged two hour jaunt up a neighboring peak. Ahmed, the amazingly helpful Guest Services Manager of the hotel suggested this hike that we were about to take. “We call it ‘hard-trekking. More like five hours, more if you want, but you should see how you feel after five.” he said. “Sign me up.”

HIKE ONE:

The plan was, hike up one pass, hit two to three villages, then hike up another pass that takes us down to Imlil and the gorgeous valley in the Toubkal National Park. From the top of the pass, we could decide if we wanted to keep going. There will be a lunch involved. That’s about what I knew. I was all in, itchin’ to get some hiking in in such a remarkable place. But I wasn’t expecting a donkey. Nor Lassoo. Nor what lied ahead. But when they took my pack, with my ten pound DLSR — dubbed “my little brother” —  water and layers of clothes and packed it on Gently’s side packs, I thought “Wow, I like donkeys.” And up we went.

 I didn’t know there’d be a donkey involved.

Mohamed bolts out of the gate like Ussain Bolt. Straight up. These are not gentle National Park Service trails that gently move you on switchbacks up the mountain, these trails pretty much go Up. I couldn’t see our destination, just a massive green wall we were climbing at an incredible speed. I tried to act cool. But I was dying. Mohamed, with legs of steel, pushed on. We hit the top of the pass, catch our breath then descend down the next valley. Picturesque towns cling to the hillsides, the roar of the river audible from the top of the pass. It is 9am. The sun and sweet air are nourishing…at least since we are going down now.

I’d love to give you the names of the towns we passed, but I’m doing my best to remember the route and match it to Google Maps, which often has different spelling of names, but roughly, it looks like this:

Trekking path from Aguer Siobal to Tamatert Pass.

This is roughly the path from Aguer Siobal to Tamatert Pass

This was a cool, but difficult hike. The valleys and towns were stunning, but it is a lot of UP, a bunch of down, then strolling along the roaring river, then a killer ending UP. Like a three thousand foot vertical ascent at the end of a hike. It completely kicked my butt. And when you get to the top of the pass, there is a road. And a bar. A van load of French tourists in flipflops even drove up, got out at the same mountain top that I had “worked” to achieve the views, got back in their van and drove away.

This is where I learned the difference between “trekking” and what we typically call “hiking”.  Where I come from, a you hike UP to see something cool that nobody else can get to, then hike back down. With trekking, you’re just walking somewhere, from town to town, that maybe you could have just driven a car.  So when someone asks you if you want to go trekking, clarify, then say “Why don’t we just drive there?”  🙂

Here’s how beautiful this place is in the storyboard below. CLICK ON THE THUMBNAILS TO OPEN THE GALLERY.

Here’s some Zen of Goat for you, expand it and hit HD:

HIKE TWO: IMLIL TO ARMED

Okay, so I told Mohamed, I don’t want to distance, I want the waterfalls. So he took me to some waterfalls, good ones. And then on up to the highest village in the valley, Armed, also his home village.

From there, we’d get the Toubkal views I was looking for and we stopped by his family’s home — ummmm his five hundred year old family home

From there, we’d get the Toubkal views I was looking for and we stopped by his family’s home — ummmm his five hundred year old family home — for tea, then have a nice tagine lunch overlooking Toubkal and the beautiful green valley below. All set. Much easier on the calves. No Lassoo or Gently. Just the two of us.

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