We drove fast yesterday. In the morning we still idled away time beside the lake. A pair of Berber shepherd with their flocks passed us by. In Berber culture the woman can look after the sheep. Anika went over to them to see if she could stroke a lamb. Not understanding Anika, but feeling a mothers instinct, the lady bent and rested Anika on her knee whilst stroking her back, gurggling away in a strange tongue. The Berber ladies are renowned for their bright clothes as well as forward (no-Islamic) approach to men. Of these two one had a blue baseball cap, crimson wooly jumper, green scarf, flowing dark blue ankle length skirt. The other wore a brown wide brimmed hat, red jumper sporting a blue scarf and flowing skirt of various shades of yellow. They really stand out in landscape.
The Atlas is stunning in spring. Everywhere wild flower pushes up its tiny head, between rocks, on impossible slopes, in river beds. The valley floors are carpeted in young green wheat. It is a time of intense life whilst the snow melt waters last. The soil, a rich terracota, is scant on these rocky mountian sides, too steep for adequate terracing. The waters flash downwards, like a mighty sculptor, carving deep incisions into the landscape.
We pass tiny villages nestled in the mountain sides, south facing, sheltered from the winds. Still the cold must be brutal at the height of winter. There are few trees left for firewood, though we did pass one large charcoal makers, which gave of a wonderfully winter smell of burning logs.
Passing down the mountains on the north side we enter the plains on which sits Marrakech. This large city is unmissable as the road goes right through it. That said we did not stop to visit. I have been before. Whilst many despair of the tourist capital I have fond memories of exploring its large medina, red palace, museums, art galleries. But for us, arriving at 3pm, hungry and tired, with a dog and large truck, is not the best way to start our introductions to this city. I promise myself to bring the family back, fly in and spend a week in a riad. A riad is a traditional Moroccan building built around a central courtyard so that all the rooms/balconies look inwards. The courtyard usually has a fountain to keep it cool in the summer, perhaps some trees, orange which has a delicious smell as it blossoms. Their roofs are terraced providing a secret a view onto the city with its myriad of mosque spires.
We are aiming for Demnate. So we past by the city continuing along the N8 – route for Fes, turning onto the R210 for Denmate, pulling off the road onto a tiny tarmac lane just after Sidi Rahhal. I throw a chicken in the oven and we take in the views as it roasts. We are on a grassy hill amongst a sea of hills that rise steadily to the snow capped mountains. Below us is the plain beyond which is another smaller range of mountains. It is all very beautiful.