Morocco 2011 – Good end to stretching trip

Now on flight home and everything has gone smoothly so far.

It has been an extremely successful trip. The students have been brilliant from both schools. The trek, as in the itinerary, was probably a little bit too ambitious, but the trek taken was perfect. It stretched the group, tested their stamina and resolve. The camel trek, while it was good, and the camp on the beach was superb, did not fulfil expectations. I imagined we would spend more time following the coast and more dunes encountered.

When we bring a similar group to Morocco again I would want a similar trek but the camel trek would have to be in the Sahara.

Morocco 2011 – Back to Marrakech

Put a sling on Tom’s arm and gave him a pink pill. I don’t think there is any serious damage, just bruising, and he is susceptible to knocking it. A sling should remind him to take care and act as a warning to others. I don’t think he would relish spending his last morning in a Moroccan hospital. I certainly wouldn’t.

Most of the group wanted to go shopping, whether they had gone the previous evening or not. This time I did not have any responsibility, other than being there if anybody needed me, so I was able to photograph and buy some CDs which might provide the soundtrack for the film. Returning to the hotel we ventured across the road to the same pizza restaurant for an early lunch, after which the minibuses took us back to Marrakech, a journey of about 2½ hours.

We decided not to run the risk of allowing the students out into the souk and beyond to Jeema El Fna. Too risky with bicycles and motor bikes mixing with pedestrians in the narrow alleyways. It was a shame that we decided not to allow the KSW students to venture out but we did not want to discriminate. However, that did not stop Angela, myself, Caz and Alistair and Tracy going out. The hotel was remarkably close to the square and it was just beginning to liven up for the evening as we sat on a restaurant terrace sipping coke. Later we ate in the hotel – not the best meal but very convenient. I would stay in the hotel again for its location but I would eat out every time.

Morocco 2011 – Hash cakes (nearly)

Slept well on the beach but woke to a thundering sea as high tide brought the water’s edge only metres from the tents. A number of dogs joined camp, following the potential food trail from the kitchen tent. During the night there was some barking commotion, which lasted for a few minutes. In the morning there was a dead fox behind the mess tent, the cause of the barking and a victim of pack mentality. The strange thing was that the fox appeared unmarked. There was a slightly eerie atmosphere on the beach as there was a light mist coming off the sea. The waves were even larger this morning and much better formed as the wind had died.

Camel visionAfter breakfast we retraced our steps along the beach and up the steep track into the Argon Forest. Angela was riding a camel this time and soon found herself and Caz trailing behind the rest of the group. Caz’s camel did not like mornings! They eventually caught up, having had a spell of trotting, once they had reached more level ground.
The Argon Forest was much thinner now, not that it was ever dense, and the landscape took on a more general agricultural appearance. Towards the end of the trek we descended towards the sea to pick up a sand dune (the only one we encountered). Soon lunch was reached, which heralded the end of our camel trek. We said farewell to our camel crew and then the two cooks, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsey, before we piled into the minibuses again for the 45 minute journey to Essaouira and the Hotel Myramar.
We all had a welcome shower.

Feeling the texture of the paintingA number of the group wished to go shopping while others preferred to stay in the hotel and use the pool. I took charge of Krishan and guided him to the bazaar in the old part of town. He was very particular about what he wanted to buy and took quite some time making up his mind. It would have been nice to have sat in one of the street cafes for a drink and a chance to people watch but that was proving impractical. It was also Krishan’s time so I decided not to even consider doing any shopping for myself.

A Chameleon momentJoining up with Angela and Russ, Kate and Richard Wheatley for the return to the hotel, we decided to walk along the sea front. On the promenade I felt something in my back and Russ quickly pointed his camera at me, not wishing to miss a photo opportunity. The something on my back was then placed on my head. It was a chameleon. Krishan, Kate and Richard were given it to hold and they were really enjoying the experience. Its owner also had a tray of home made biscuits and small cakes. He kept trying to put one in Krishan’s mouth but we had to stop him because of his nut allergy. In order to show our appreciation of the chameleon opportunity Russ and I decided to buy some. We were choosing a selection when the vendor told us that a chocolaty looking one contained hash. We chose to avoid that one. While we were buying an Englishman, walking past, stopped to alert us to the fact that the biscuits and cakes contained hash. I said I knew and that it was all right. He then commented that he wouldn’t feed them to his children. Unfortunately I did not have a quick and ready answer but shortly afterwards I realised I should have said, ‘Oh, it’s all right, this is a school trip.’ The best lines always come too late.
Returning to the hotel, we discovered that the tiling around the pool was quite slippery; Sam having taken a tumble and bruised his hip and Tom, not having learnt from Sam’s experience, did the same and hurt his arm!
In the evening we ventured across the road to a pizza restaurant for our evening meal. Chicken tagine and a beer – lovely!
Having settled for the night, Tom came to our room complaining about his arm. I suggested he take a couple of paracetamol and I’d deal with it in the morning.

Morocco 2011 – Fun in the sea

Another glorious wake up call, with the sound of the sea breaking on the shoreline complimented by the much closer sound of camels chewing the cud amongst the tents.
Camp was quickly packed away after breakfast and the camels organised. The group really appreciated the opportunity to ride the camels. We headed inland, taking tracks through the Argon Forest. After an hour the riders changed. Those who weren’t riding walked alongside. After three hours we stopped for lunch in the shade of some argon trees and then continued for a further hour and a half. I had a go for the last 45 minutes, which saw us descend to a beach and our campsite on the sand, under the cliffs. It is absolutely stunning. The sea was particularly impressive with the waves having twelve foot faces on them.

Running towards the sea as the sun setsMany of the students went into the sea but not before we had clearly given them the rules. They could not go above waist deep, which would mean they were well short of the breaking waves but would still have to cope with the extensive wash and the second, smaller wave. There was a very strong back wash which made it doubly important for them to abide by the rules and look after each other. Despite the rules and the fact that the water was quite chilly, they had a good time. Phil, Russ and I policed them from within the water while Angela and Tracey watched from the water’s edge.

After sunset we had a camp fire and a sing-song with the camel crew who had a banjo and an empty water container for drums.
A fabulous day.

Morocco 2011 – Early morning call

We were still above 2000m where we camped and we woke up with ice on the tents for the first time, despite it not feeling as cold. Perhaps the lack of wind allowed the ice to form. However, we were all woken much earlier, at 4.37am, by the call to prayer which boomed from speakers mounted on the top of the minaret above the mosque. This was repeated with a reminder a few minutes later. I wonder how many people actually respond to the call?

Three minibuses came to collect us and while the kit was being secured on the roof racks a few of us chose to visit the nearby school. One or two of the NCW students had bits and pieces to give them and they also wanted to give some money to the school. I took the opportunity to hand over my bag of balloons, there not having been much opportunity to get them out previously. They won’t last long with so many prickly bushes around.
We said goodbye to the muleteers and piled into the minibuses for the 7 – 8 hour journey to meet our camel team. It appeared there was some confusion about the number of camels we were having. I was determined we would not miss out on riding them this time so I phoned the office to find it had already been resolved and we were to have eight camels for riding in addition to the eight that were to carry the kit.

The journey was very pleasant, very little traffic, on good roads. I thought we might have seen something of Tallodine, an ancient walled city, but we by-passed it and saw nothing.
Between Tallodine and Agadir we were stopped by the police and our driver was fined for speeding. The road was dead straight with a speed limit of 100km per hour. Temporary 60km per hour signs were put up at the side of the road, hardly visible, and he got caught. There was some discussion, which became animated at times. Unfortunately, the police had the upper hand and a uniform on their side. The trick is to fine drivers for speeding, which has a statutory 700 Dirhams fine. In the police records they put the offence down as not wearing a seatbelt which carries a 300 Dirhams fine. Therefore, 400 Dirhams ends up in the pockets of the police. Nice one.

We stopped near Agadir airport for a drink and again at a huge, French influenced, supermarket, where we casually shopped while Jamal and the remaining members of the team bought lunch.

We did not see a great deal of Agadir either but it is a modern city rebuilt after it was flattened by the 1960 earthquake. The coastline, which we followed for some miles north of Agadir, was beautiful and we stopped for lunch at a cliff top pull in a few miles up the coast. Further up the coast road we turned inland and through the Argon Forest. We later headed back towards the sea and our camping site just behind the beach. While the tents were being set up by the camel crew we took a stroll on to the beach and the students played at the water’s edge as the sun set out to sea. It was stunning.