May 2009

Part 8: The Gorges

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Todra Gorge (May 12th, day 15)

This was still the day which we had started in the desert at Erg Chebbi. After cameling back to the hotel and visiting Rissani and Erfud we drove to the Todra Gorge, one of Morocco's two famous gorges.

Village on the way to the Todra gorge Right ahead the road enters the Todra gorge
Inside the Todra gorge The other end of the main gorge

There are two hotels in the main gorge itself. It was getting late and since we saw a lot of tourist busses driving in and out of the gorge we were worried the hotels would be full, but as it turned we were the only guests in our hotel, despite its magnificent location at the foot of a huge vertical rock wall.

The two hotels in the Todra gorge, at the foot of one of the gorge's vertical walls. We stayed in Hotel Yasmina on the left. Lotte trying the bed

At night we walked outside and unlike the night before in the desert, the sky was totally clear and I got to see a heaven full of stars in a totally dark region - a magnificent sight I'd never seen before. Actually I've spent nights in remote areas before, but my interest in astronomy is a new thing so this was the first time I really paid attention. Since we were at the bottom of this gorge we could only see about 20% of the sky between the rock walls, but it was still great :)

Todra Gorge Hike (May 13th, day 16)

Next morning I left the hotel at 7am to do a hike which was mentioned in the LP, while Lotte slept late. I was supposed to do a three-hour loop that would take me out of the gorge on one end, cross two mountain passes above the gorge and then take me down to the other end of the gorge. It turned out a bit differently.

Climbing out of the Todra gorge. The water in the distance is the Todra. View to my right as I neared the first pass.

Beyond the pass I was supposed to go down and then walk along the base of the opposite mountain, but instead I decided to climb the mountain I was on. This was easy enough and I was rewarded with some excellent views.

View to the mountain across View in the direction I'd come from - the gorge to my right View in the direction I had to go to - the gorge to my left
I always have to do this when I'm on top of something Same view still

Here's a panoramic movie I shot from the top.

Alright it was about 9:15 now. I had told Lotte I'd be back in the hotel by 10am, certainly no later than 11am, and that she could always call me. However, at this point I realised I'd left my mobile in the hotel, so I had to hurry up before Lotte would get worried.

I was feeling adventurous and decided to forget about the rest of the hike and just take what looked like the shortest route down: a crack through which water had run. That was a bad idea.

I figured that following this crack down would take me to the bottom of the gorge again. Hmm getting steeper. Getting steeper still.

It gradually got harder and harder to climb down, and since I was in a hurry I was faced with a classic dilemma: turn back and lose a lot of time, potentially for no reason; or push on and potentially lose even more time. Well I pushed on hoping the going would get easier any minute now.

Instead it just got more dangerous and as I scrambled down the rocks scenarios in which I'd fall and break a leg and wouldn't be found for days started unfolding in the back of my mind. In the end I reached a place that really was too steep to go down and I had to turn back after all. If you think I'm a pussy, look at the second pic.

Here I had to stop. The two plastic bags on the bottom right indicated someone had been here before to mark this spot as one not to pass. Looking back up at the same spot. I'd spent the last half hour climbing down this and now I had to climb up again.

When I'd climbed up again to where I'd come from it was 10am and I was supposed to be in the hotel already. I now walked off the mountain in another direction, but soon realised it was just getting steeper and steeper again. This time I didn't push on as far as I could but finally decided to find the route of the hike again so I was at least sure to find my way back to the gorge.

In hindsight, I could have known I couldn't just walk off the mountain I was on by looking at the mountain across the gorge (e.g. look at the first pic of the set of three above): on top it's flat and grassy but as it goes down it gets rocky and ever steeper; no way to just scramble down.

To get back on the route I had to go down and up again. I was going as fast as I could and soon caught up with a group of Americans who had just been small specks at first - the first other people I saw that day btw! I rushed past them, running where I could.

The path was on this opposite mountain, so I first had to get there before I could continue. Catching up with the group of Americans. One of them brought his dog.

I was back on the route of the hike now and it was just lovely, look at those rocks.

That village down there was my goal, from there I could walk back to the gorge. Getting closer

The valley floor was full of lush green palmeraies, fields full of palm trees. I tried another shortcut and ended up having to walk across someone's field and through a family's back garden before I got on the road.

Descending into the palmerai. This is where I had tried to climb down earlier.

Back on the road I still had to walk quite a distance to get back to the main gorge and then through it back to the hotel. I arrived there at 11:30, 1.5 hours late, completely exhausted and fully expecting Lotte to be in half a panic and angry that I'd made her worry for so long. Instead I found her still very much asleep :)

Todra to Dades

A while later we were on the road again, driving to the town Boumalne du Dades which lies at the entrance to the second valley we were going to visit, that of the Dades. We just spent the rest of that day relaxing though.

Some modern architecture in Boumalne du Dades, very refreshing in a region where every singly building tries to look like a kasbah.

Dades Gorge (May 14th, day 17)

The next morning we got in the car for a ride up and down the Dades valley. At first I thought it couldn't match the Todra valley but it just got better and better and all in all it has far more sights.

Beginning of the Dades valley Beginning of the Dades valley Beginning of the Dades valley
Bubbly rocks above a palmeraie Same spot

Some 25km into the Dades valley it becomes a canyon and the makes hairpins against one side of it.

Beginning of the canyon Same spot Road curling up
The canyon part of the Dades valley The canyon part of the Dades valley The canyon part of the Dades valley

Finally we reached a little gorge, but it's not nearly as spectacular as the Todra gorge.

Little gorge Beyond the gorge

A little beyond the gorge the landscape turned monotonous and we turned back. Near the gorge there was a hotel with a souvenir shop with tapestries hanging from its walls, one of which we really liked and bought, it now graces the floor of our living room.

To Ouarzazate

Once out of the valley we turned west, heading for Ouarzazate.

Lunch at the restaurant Rosa D'Amaskina, with a lovely sight on the river bed Some royal residence by a big, bright blue lake near Ouarzazate
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Vivien Sat 13 Nov 2010 @ 21:36
Beautiful photos and well narrated travelog. It gave us a good preview of the trip we planned for this April. We are planning a twelve day trip to Morocco following a similar itinerary. Thank you for sharing.

Curtis Reynolds Wed 28 Jul 2010 @ 04:20
Great photos... However I lived in Morocco in 1973 and my photos are also impressive. Give me a little fed back.


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