On the road again....

Trip Start Sep 13, 2010
Trip End Sep 25, 2010

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Flag of Morocco  , Meknès-Tafilalet,
Saturday, September 18, 2010

Clearly expected to be the longest day in history, we were prepared for about 10-12 hours of travel between Fez and Erfoud with a number of stops along the way.

The travel through the Atlas Mountains and Ziz Valley were a welcome change to the dry, dusty, noisy cities.  Cooler temperatures, phenomenal geologic wonders of landscape and towering cliffs were a pleasure.  Historical significance of this road is that it was the primary caravan route to the Mediterranean.

Azrou was one of our first rest stops as we traveled south out of Fez.  A middle Atlas mountain community whose name means Rock.  Distinctive features of the town were the green-tiled roofs and green painted windows.  Just outside Azrou, we had the chance to catch a glimpse of a group of Barbary Apes who were sitting along the road.  There was a fellow there selling peanuts that you could feed to the monkeys, which we don't recommend.  They love them, but with all the people traveling along the road, that's a lot of peanuts.  Not overly friendly but willing to approach for peanuts, they are a pretty species of monkey, not actually apes.

We had a brief rest stop in Rich, but we spent so much time driving today, it goes to say that we learned more about the Berber and nomadic tribes that occupy the region and, sides of the road.  There were many beautiful brown tents and herds of sheep to be seen everywhere.  One sad note is that due to the environmental issues (drought), many nomads are actually no longer nomadic, preferring to stay in one prosperous region for longer periods and actually building stone structures in which to live.  We kept seeing mounds of rocks all over the place.  It was explained to us that these piles of rocks could mean a number of things; property marker or house line by a family, a nomadic code yet to be defined, designation of a dangerous area or notification by the govt that there would soon be some road expansion. 

The farther we got into the mountains, the more green of palm trees we saw.  The swath of green that lined parts of the valley was truly beautiful and a welcome relief to brown.  This area is Tafilalet.  We caught occasional glimpses of women doing laundry and men on donkeys moving in between fields of dates and apricots.  The large dam that you see in this region was built many years ago but it wasn't until the massive rains of last year that it was filled - leaving enough water to care for the people of Morocco until 2020. 

Road weary and Amy feeling seasick from the windy mountain roads, we were glad to be at what would turn out to be our favorite hotel and resting place.  The sucky side was that we arrived at 6:30 at night and would be waking at 3:30 am for our trek, then leaving the hotel at 9am for the next destination.  We enjoyed what we could of our surroundings which included, pc or otherwise, being greeted by two gorgeous baby camels in the courtyard, serenaded by some decent Moroccan music and dancing, albeit being done by people clearly bored with the job, a lovely courtyard with pool and tented seating area and a well-appointed room complete with kick butt shower.  Oh yeah!   Dinner was simply delicious and topped the first night's meal in Casablanca.  Tajines of lamb, chicken and seafood with numerous cooked and raw salads and vegetables, a variety of couscous and rice and once again, the delectable and coveted pastries table.  Amy is not prone to admit there were 3 types of desserts on her plate, none of which existed after about 20 minutes.  She was overheard by Julietta (our resident overly energetic friend) saying, "well, she didn't want any dessert so I had hers, besides, I wasn't sure if I would like that one."   Night all, sweet dreams even if it will be all of maybe 4 hours.  Update:  no sleep at all.
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