Despite what I wrote in my previous post, my visit to the High Atlas Mountains was wonderful. We had about a five hour drive from the gorge, plus a few stops, and the last stretch of the drive was one of the most frightening I’ve been on. The weight of our minibus must far exceed regulation when everyone and their bags are accounted for, and we twisted and turned around blind corners inches from the edge of a cliff. Needless to say, I was thrilled when we were dropped off to start the one hour hike to our gite, which is a very basic mountain lodge with dorm like rooms (although the mattresses are on the floor). The minibus is not allowed to make the journey because the road is too narrow and uneven.
The people, all of which are Berber, in the tiny village just below our gite are the friendliest and most pleasant people I have encountered in Morocco. Basically, they have been living in the mountains in the same way, for centuries. Nothing has changed except many of them have satellite television. It is almost unbelievable. They seem genuinely happy to see us and the children in particular, of which there are many, love saying “bonjour.” Not a single person asked for money and some were so generous as to offer us produce from their plants as gifts.
On arrival, we had a traditional mountain dinner and the next day an odd but good mountain lunch. Dinner was barley soup (think watery oatmeal texture) followed by spaghetti with a meat stew (or sauce). Funny how pasta makes its way into every culture. Lunch the following day was salad, tinned mackerel, Berber omelet (made in a tangine), something that resembled saffron pasta, although saffron is very expensive so I’m not sure what is actually was, and a dessert of oranges sprinkled in cinnamon (I highly recommend this and it is easy to make, just peel, slice, and sprinkle).
We spent the morning of our full day in the mountains on a hike we went for a hike, which was really more like a stroll. Anticipating this, I woke up early to go for a run first, because I haven’t had many opportunities to do so since I’ve been here. About half way through the walk, I got a bit hungry. The valley below the village is very fertile and people grow a lot of food there. Because of this, I was able to snack on fresh walnuts (that I cracked open with a rock and probably ingested the dirt/dung that was on the rock and my fingers) and apples and figs that I picked from trees as we walked. I never liked trail mix, but this falls in different category. However, I ended up with a stomach ache and had to skip dinner. I am still recovering. Oops.
There are beautiful farm animals in the surrounding hamlet and since I love animals and they kind of relate to food, I am going to include a few photos, including a shot of the cutest cow I have ever seen. Today I also saw a cat and a chicken sharing food. Bizarre.