Atlas to Marrakech and back again

Berber villages in the western high Atlas
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.

Snow capped mountains, Morocco's two highest peaks are over 4,000m tall.

Snow capped mountains, Morocco’s two highest peaks are over 4,000m tall.


An Atlas farmstead. The brown adobe plastered building has ancient Berber letters painted on.

An Atlas farmstead. The brown adobe plastered building has ancient Berber letters painted on.


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.
Charcoal makers

Charcoal makers


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.
camped behind Sidi Rahhal

camped behind Sidi Rahhal


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.
Picnic in the evening, after a hot day the air gets very cool as the sun dips.

Picnic in the evening, after a hot day the air gets very cool as the sun dips.

Atlas lakes

Barrage Abdelmoumen

Barrage Abdelmoumen


Things are moving in our direction. We spent a night parked on some waste land beside Marjane supermarket in Agadir. Then found the DAF shop and got a fan belt. It is located on the northern by-pass (N1). They only had one belt for a Daf-95 XF and no oil filter but I am still happy not to have to go to Casablanca.

Agadir is a smart city. The buildings are all new. The streets are wide with many boulevards lined with palms. There are many students at the University, good public transport, loads of parks, bike lanes. The French influence is obvious with the many stores of patisseries, boulangeries and chic clothes stores.

New plate welded onto the belt wheel is much stronger - and a new belt.

New plate welded onto the belt wheel is much stronger – and a new belt.


So we have fitted the belt pronto and headed out of the city along the N8 which is the free road parallel to the wide, empty toll road (A7). Right now we are stopped in a wide mountain valley. We turned off the N8 onto rough scrub which sort of trails down to a wide open lake, barrage Abdelmoumen. It is a damned lake that holds water for irrigation mainly with a lesser amount held for Agadir. The place is so peaceful we have decided to stay the night. It is sheltered from the wind, the sun is hot, the water cool, in the distance can be seen snow capped mountains, Miki’s meal of tripe, lung and rice is simmering, we have just eaten pancakes and millet grain, camaron de la isla is playing in the foreground, Anika is reading a Tintin book, her toys are neatly arranged outside.
Trying out the water

Trying out the water


The girls turn

The girls turn

Agadir

On the way up through Western Sahara

On the way up through Western Sahara


Just a quick post to say we are in Agadir. We have now said our sad farewells to Bertrand and Lenka. It has been a good few days spent together. For me its great to have another male around – and to wake up each morning to a coffee and chat about mechanics! Anika found an older sister/girl friend in Lenka who took alot of time with her, going for walks, playing games and even allowing Anika a sleep over. We may meet them again at the waterfalls in a few days time.
Stopping for snail soup in Guelmim

Stopping for snail soup in Guelmim


For now we are on a mission to find a fan belt (two fan belts). The Daf dealers in Agadir seems to have shut but I have been told there is a Daf store still there – we shall find out tomorrow. For now we are parked outside the Marjane supermarket – a temple to food. Still, whilst its wonderful to walk the towering aisles of international food stuffs, its not the same magic as walking through a town market, stopping for a snail soup, trying a few dates, ordering a live chicken.
Parked up in Guelmim. Fantastic town!

Parked up in Guelmim. Fantastic town!