Our Moroccan road trip, part 3: Across the High Atlas mountain range

Driving away from Merzouga, Mattis insisted we stop in one of the fossil “Museums” along the road. By coincidence we were really lucky, and walked into a shop, in which the owner took part in scientific expeditions to excavate the fossils, and who showed us articles featuring him in National Geographic. Mattis loved the place, and spent probably an hour looking around. Meanwhile, Mohammad, the owner of the shop, told us stories about the Moroccan fossils, and taught us how to test if the very fancy ones are real (see if they melt when they are burned…). In the end Mattis could only afford one type of fossil, so it was very easy for him to choose, but he was very happy.

That afternoon, we reached the Todra Gorge, in which we had booked a room for the night. It turned out that our hotel was a gorgeous little place, with a wonderful view of the gorge from the terrace. After booking dinner at the hotel for the evening, we took a walk in the gorge, which was only one kilometer from the hotel. Runa and Mattis walked in the little stream that ran through the gorge, though the locals were worried about their safety. As it turned out, they should have been worried about us walking on the street, as we suddenly heard what sounded like a gunshot, and then saw how large pieces of rock came tumbling down the side of the gorge, landing on the road not far from us. Luckily, only a couple of cars were hit by rocks, but we decided that we had seen enough for that day and walked back to the hotel. Here, our host had been preparing our dinner for a couple of hours, and we had probably the most delicious meal of soup and tagine of the whole trip. Sitting on the terrace, listening to the stream below us, just made it an even better experience.

We had been driving quiet far every day up until now, so we decided to take it easy the next day. We had booked a room in a Kasbah, an old fort, for the night, where we knew they had a swimming pool and sold beer. It turned out that the swimming pool was so cold that Mattis told us his heart had stopped when he jumped in – but playing around the pool was just fine.

Skoura

A very cold pool in Skoura

It was time to turn northward again, and on the way we would have to cross the High Atlas mountain range. We decided to not take the largest road, but rather a smaller one that was a bit shorter. We started driving upwards, and soon the road became very narrow, with very sharp bends, and very steep slopes on both sides. Our speed was reduced significantly, and we realized that this would end up taking much longer than we had thought. The view was breathtaking, though, and on the first half of the trip we hardly saw any people.

As the day passed we were getting hungry, having thought that we would have reached the next town for lunch. And suddenly, we saw a little house with an old sign saying “restaurant”. We didn’t really have much choice, so we stopped and talked to the old man, Hassan, who was sitting at the door. He soon took us downstairs, where he had two rooms he rented out to tourists – but unfortunately almost nobody came this way. He got his wife to make us a Moroccan omelet for lunch, and chatted to us in French about his years as a tourist guide in the Atlas Mountains. If we had known about Hassan’s place beforehand we would have loved to have spent a couple of nights here, but as it was, it didn’t really fit in our plans. So after talking to his english speaking son, telling him about how they could make money through airbnb, we made our way onwards. The road didn’t exactly get any better, but now we came through little villages, and met trucks on the road, which were transporting everything on their roofs – people, cows, you name it. To us they were scary, since they would take the corners at full speed, without knowing if anybody were coming against them. We honked away at every corner to make sure we wouldn’t be pushed off the road by one of them.

That evening we finally arrived at our hotel by the Ouzoud waterfall. We knew this place to be one of Morocco’s main tourist attractions, so we decided to go down to the waterfalls early the next morning. Here, we saw how beautiful nature can be completely destroyed when nobody cares about anything but money. The whole hillside was plastered with little shops, even though many of them were sliding down in the water, they didn’t seem to care. The waterfall was of course beautiful, but the amount of plastic littered all around was not nice. So we soon moved on.

Ouzoud

Yes, the waterfalls are impressive

We were now closer to the more wealthy part of Morocco, and soon drove onto a brand new highway. And for the next hour we were completely alone, clearly people weren’t willing to pay to drive on the big new road.

Our plan for the day was to make it to Mediyah Plage, just north of Rabat, and then go back to Chip-Chip the next day. Mediyah Plage is apparently a place where the rich go to enjoy the beach, but our impression was that the place was terribly run down, and not a place where we would like to spend too much time. And when we arrived in the accommodation, the owner wanted much more money than agreed upon, and later told us we had been paying with fake money. So we took the money and left, to drive the last couple of hours back to Tangier. An annoying ending to an otherwise very nice trip, but at the same time it was nice to be home again. The guards had been taking good care of Chip-Chip, and the solar panels had made sure that our battery still were 100% charged. So all was fine.

We had been a little worried leaving Chip-Chip for 10 days, and we had been a little worried about being cheated regarding the rental car (which now couldn’t start at all). But in the end we didn’t have any problems (apart from the starter), and we are really happy that we chose to take the road trip which taught us a lot about this big and beautiful, but dysfunctional country.

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4 thoughts on “Our Moroccan road trip, part 3: Across the High Atlas mountain range

  1. Fantastisk spændende tur med mange oplevelser i et kontrastfyldt land. Flotte billeder. Dejligt at læse om, og vi havde jo lidt forhåndsviden da vi så billederne og hørte om på La Gomera.

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  2. Kære alle. Vi følger jer på jeres spændende sejltur, og nyder de flotte fotos. Vi kunne godt bruge lidt sol og sommer her, det har regnet helt vildt den sidste uges tid. Nu kan vi forstå at I skal sejle i mange dage, så vi ønsker jer fortsat god og spændende rejse. Kærlig hilsen fra farmor og Svend.

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