Saturday, 26 November 2011

Tinghir, todra gorge and the end of the loop

The story of Tinghir is a quick one.  We found a great little hostel just out of town next to the oasis, the appropriately named ‘Retour au Calme’ where we recuperated and organised a taxi to do a tour of the Todra Gorge which was a beautiful trip into the mountains.

gorge1It would’ve been to nice to have had a couple of extra days here to hike through the gorge, as there are numerous trails and camping sites with lots of people heading off through the valley. It’s amazing because the valleys are so lush and green - in stark contrast to the desert and bare cliffs of the gorge.
Our tour ran a bit late which meant that we missed the ‘luxury’ bus to Ouarzazate, but since local buses run quite frequently it wasn’t a big problem. The thing we found a bit strange was the locals bus is only 1.50 USD cheaper than the luxury one and yet so much worse to travel on!

gorge2As per usual we literally jumped straight on the bus and didn’t have time to buy water so at one of the stops Sarah asked the driver how long we would be stopped for and he replied around 5-10 minutes, which was heaps of time to buy water. So Sarah walked into the shop right next to the bus and had just grabbed a water from the fridge when the bus started to pull out! As she heard the honk she threw the change at the waiter and raced after the bus. Luckily they left the back door open so she could jump on.  So much for 5 minutes, more like a 30 second stop!

Arriving at Ouarzazate in the late afternoon we skilfully avoided a tout who’d been harassing us for the last 4 hours on the bus and checked into the best hotel we had all trip.

Hotel Marmar was not only clean and spacious, but the owner, Iddir, was a great guy who greeted us in the traditional way with a mint tea. Dave had been suffering from a bad tummy for the last 2 days and was worried that the required 8 spoons of sugar would upset things again, so we asked him if we could have our tea with no sugar - he looked at us a bit strange but said no worries and went to brew the tea. When he sat down with us to drink it, he filled two cups but in the third poured only a cm of tea out. He sheepishly explained to us that he didn’t want to be rude and break tradition by not drinking with us, but that he couldn’t drink it without sugar so he only had a mouthful. We thought that was really thoughtful of him, but we didn’t quite understand why he didn’t just add some sugar cubes to his cup once he’d poured the tea out….

kasbahSince the hotel was so nice and Dave was getting sicker we extended our stay in Ouarzazate for a few days longer than planned. We checked out Kasbah Taourirt (which is apparently a backdrop in the old Star Wars movies) and also visited the much more impressive Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou. It’s great travelling in low season except when you need other tourists to share a cab with. After being harassed by touts, we eventually gave up and negotiated our own taxi  for the day trip out to Ait Ben Haddou (we figured we’d done alright when we negotiated less then the Lonely Planet given price….)

The river that typically surrounds the Kasbah was completely dried up so we simply strolled across and tried to enter the Kasbah. It’s free, everyone knows it’s free, and yet the touts were so persistent that we gave up on that particular entrance and instead walked around the back way, passing by the famous arena where Gladiator was filmed (seriously looks like a dried up football pitc...). To give some bearings on how to get into the back entrance, if you’re facing the Kasbah with the bridge on the left and some small entrances in front, there is a small trail on the right that leads around the back.. follow this trail (which has exit painted by the locals on the walls).

We climbed up to the top and had an amazing view over the Kasbah and the oasis in the valley. We explored all the alleyways in the Kasbah, which actually didn’t take that long, then enjoyed a coffee with a view over the Kasbah in a restaurant at the end of the main concrete bridge.

The next day we jumped on the CTM bus to complete our loop and headed back to Marrakesh. The drive itself was both amazing and a little bit scary as we climbed up and over the Atlas mountain range (and also a bit smelly as our record of someone throwing up on every bus trip continued multiple times).

We celebrated our last night in Morocco with a rooftop terrace dinner and a last wonder around the souks. It really was an amazing trip – completely unforgettable!!

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