Sunday, 6 May 2012

Long-Weekend Hiking Adventures

The Dry river valley we followed for a lot of the trip

Took advantage of the long-weekend that we got this past weekend and headed south with one other guy where we had ambitious plans to hike from Todra Gorge, which we’d already been to during our spring break road-trip, over to Dades Gorge, which we never managed to visit on our first time through the area.  According to google earth, the distance we would have to travel was around 30-35 km or so, so we planned to try to make the trip in three days. Finally made up our minds about actually doing the trip Thursday night, so Friday was kind of a scramble as we packed all our stuff up, consulted some google earth topographical images of where we’d have to hike thoruhg, armed ourselves with some print outs of google maps of the general area as directions and headed south for a good time. 

Got down to Errachidia where we jumped onto a chicken bus and headed west towards Tinghir.  I don’t know how they got their names, other than maybe packing people onto them as if it was a massive crate and we were a bunch of chickens, because it was pretty crowded by the time we finally pulled out of the station and started our way towards Tinghir.  The ride itself was quite uneventful for the first half.  It was super hot so felt pretty gross and sweaty after only a couple of minutes.  Didn’t help that I had my pack on my lap, but thankfully we’d bought some water before we’d left and it was still cool, so we tried to lower our body temperatures by sticking them our shirts.  Worked for a little bit I guess.  Somewhere along the way, at one of the stops that we made an interesting character got on, who ended up at the back of the bus sitting next to me, sipping red wine that he had not very well concealed in a black plastic bag.  Quite loud and on a number of occasions tried to convert me to Islam or just entertained himself by asking me random questions like when my birthday was or whether I was single or married.  He seemed quite excited and got pretty loud announcing the fact when I told him that I wasn’t married.  I’ve never considered it before, thinking only girls got harassed about such stuff, but it might not be such a bad idea to carry a ring around, keep some creeps away when needed.  It did help to pass the trip though, which definitely lasted longer than was hoped and it wasn’t until around 9:30pm or so that we finally rolled into Tinghir where we then headed out to find, first a place to eat, and then a place to spend the night.  

We found food at a small café restaurant place that was still open where we got some sandwich poulet and jus d’avocat, definitely a good start to our trip.  Once finished with our food we moved on to the next thing on our schedule and managed to find a place to spend the night nearby in a shady establishment that gave us our moneys worth for sure.  We paid 45Dhs each and got a bare room with three small beds in it, (one with a blanket on it and two with pillows, though we did end up getting another blanket later) a small sink a towel rack that fell off the wall when Christo hung his shirt on it, and a faded sign on the back of the door that had a list of instructions for all patrons of the place to abide by including, “no noise after 11pm,” “No alcohol in the rooms” and “no doing prostitution in the rooms.”  Thankfully we didn’t have any problems with any of the rules and went to sleep pretty fast.  Chirsto refused to use the blankets and pulled out his sleeping bag, but I just ignored the spots and fuzzy patches and went to sleep wrapped in my blanket anyways. 

The next morning we grabbed a breakfast of omelets, bread, tea and some yogurt before finding the marche where we loaded up on enough food and water to hopefully last us for the three days that we’d be gone; bread, happy cow cheese, figs, chocolate, almonds, sugar covered peanuts and 6 liters of water each.  We went back to the café where we’d had breakfast and ordered a couple more jus d’avocat while we repacked and organized our packs and got them ready.  Packed and full of omelet jus d’avocat we grabbed a taxi that took us up to the gorges where we officially began our hike. 

The next several hours were spent hiking in what we hoped was the right general direction, and eventually, after a couple of wrong directions, where we had to backtrack, we made it into a dry river valley that ran in the right direction and that we hoped would take us all the way across, or at least deposit us somewhere not too far off from where we should be.  We were literally on our own out there, and after a couple of hours of hiking we lost cell phone reception as well.  Fastest way out of there in case of emergency would probably have been finding the nearest nomad that we came across occasionally in their mud huts and tents huddled along the mountain side with their flocks of sheep and goats and camels living off of who-knows-what and getting them to carry us out on one of their donkeys.  Not an altogether relishing thought knowing the terrain that would have to be covered, which no doubt would not be all that pleasant riding on a donkey, even if you weren’t injured or in pain.  We tried our best to not get hurt.  Hiked for most of the day, stopping for a couple of breaks for lunch of bread and happy cow cheese washed down with water and snacks of figs and almonds. with  Further along, in the afternoon, we came across a small creek that steadily grew bigger the further we hiked up the slightly narrowing, now more rocky river bed until we finally stopped for the night in an area a couple of trees and a relatively flat, less rocky area where we decided to spend the night.  Despite the less rocky aspect of the area where we chose to spend the night, it wasn’t very comfortable and ended up getting colder during the night than we had anticipated.  After a supper of less-than-fresh bread and happy cow cheese improved slightly with some figs and mars bars we bedded down and tried to get as much sleep as we could.  I can’t say that I slept a lot, but the night did go by faster than I thought it was going to at first, so I guess that means I got at least a couple hours of sleep before the sun woke us up.
Our awesome place where we spent the nights trying not to destroy our bodies on the rocks 
Quick break before turning back after the gorge rejected us
Packed up and filled with more bread and cheese we moved further up the river valley, only to discover that it increasingly got narrower and narrower the further we hiked up, until it eventually ended in a dead end gorge with no way through, except over the top, which was out of our reach.  We took a break, indulged in a couple of mars bars and decided to head back to Tinghir instead of trying to go back and looking for a different route that we couldn’t be sure would lead us in the right direction.  We established after the first couple of hours into our trip that our maps were pretty much useless, so didn’t want to try anything stupid and actually get lost out there without cell reception.  The hike back was pretty straight forward, retracing our footsteps the way we had come the day before, and knowing we weren’t going to run out of food or water now, we definitely used up more than one days rations giving what we had left afterwards to a Berber women near the end of the hike who we followed for the last stretch back to Tinghir.  It felt good to get back to the gorge, especially knowing that we weren’t going to have to spend the night on a bed of gravel again.  We hitched a ride with two young guys in their Mercedes back down from the gorge and got them to drop us off at our friend Ali’s hotel where we’d stayed at during spring break.  Met up with Dylan and Guilia there and spent an awesome evening, having tea overlooking the oasis, later cooking our own tagine for supper and messing around with some drums and Berber music. 

On our way back looking down to the Todra gorge valley and the road running through it
Went back up to the gorges the next morning after breakfast, hitching a ride in the back of a semi-truck so Dylan could check out the gorges and shortly after that around noon started our trek back to Errachidia and then northwards back up to Ifrane, which we reached after about 7 hours of traveling in three of four different grand taxis that each took us one step closer to our destination.  Definitely a good trip overall, and well worth the sunburn that I managed to get.  

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