Monday, 22 October 2012

Mount Toubkal & Marrakech

Best laid plans and all that!!

I had been planning to write this post yesterday but had a mini disaster. I managed to drop my external hard drive that has all of my photographs - that's over 300 GB onto a tiled floor. Needless to say it didn't bounce and now sounds as though there's a trapped bird inside it (which I'm sure there isn't!). So the hard drive is now toast. Thankfully I think I've got most of the photos backed up on another drive at home but even so there are few hours ahead of moving files into the right library (I use Aperture on my Mac).

So being suitable fed up, Caroline and I (well mainly me) consoled ourselves with a plate full of cakes - true comfort food. Alcohol would have been my first choice but as Morocco is a Muslim country it's not easy to come by.

Ok so back to Mount Toubkal the highest mountain in North Africa. I really enjoyed it and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone. You start off from Imlil at 1700m,  through walnut trees and past apple orchards. The path then steepens and is quite rocky up to the Refuge at 3207m.  In all the walk including stops and an excellent freshly prepared lunch took us seven hours.

The Refuge

We stayed in the Club Alpin Francais refuge which was very full and apparently holds up to 150 people. We were in a dormitory of around 25 people. Very thoughtfully and Gallic, you get mixed up together that is men and women and snorers and non-snorers!! It's the latter that stops you from getting any sleep rather than trying not to roll on top of the young Italian lady next to you!

Caroline had decided 3207m would be her altitude record and chose to stay asleep when the alarm went off at 4.00am.  The early start took me straight back to Everest reminding me of  the bitter cold.

After breakfast it was up and off as I tried desperately to keep up Lachen, my guide who knew the route so well he could follow it without a head torch. We were the first to arrive at the top  (4167m) and enjoyed 25 minutes just soaking up the views and the tranquility. It had been a breathtakingly beautiful dawn and now being able to see the Sahara in the distance was truly magical.

The top!!

A quick decent avoiding slipping on the snowy track meant we got back to find Caroline finishing off breakfast. After a welcome glass of Berber whisky (ie mint tea) we set off at a leisurely pace back down to Imlil.

After fond farewell to our guide we were driven back to Marrakech, which took just under two hours, and to our hotel the Al Fassia.

Having been away for so much of the year and away again for a month before Christmas I was under strict instructions to book somewhere decent. Well the Al Fassia doesn't disappoint and I would thoroughly recommend it to those looking for some peace and calm away from the melee that is the Medina. Check out Tripadvisor for some of the glowing reviews. 

True it's expensive and when I was quoted the price I had to double check that I wasn't buying the suite on a time-share basis! Oh well Caroline's worth it (well she is when she's just been looking over my shoulder).

This is my second visit to Marrakech and I was pleased to see Caroline’s reaction upon arrival. Within the city walls of the Medina there is a heady mix of noise, colour and a vibrancy that is at times almost overwhelming. The best thing to do is to head to one of the many roof top terraces and enjoy a very reasonably priced coffee and just soak up the atmosphere.

Dried fruits galore!!

I’ll certainly be offering a trip next year for those that want to push themselves to over 4000m and experience the affects of altitude whilst also having the opportunity to visit what is undoubtedly one of the most magical cities in the world. Keep an eye on the website for details.

Fishing for your supper - well actually a drink

Bye for now.


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