Clambering up the Atlas mountain in Morocco
Seeing the Atlas mountain, North Africa’s greatest mountain range was an important part of my itinerary in Morocco. I was told and expected a trek when I booked myself on a tour to realise this dream. A long and arduous walk on a path that runs across the Atlas mountains was not beyond my expectations. Instead, what I ended up doing was a scary clamber up the Atlas mountain, perhaps about 2000 metres, if that. This was by no means serious mountain climbing, but neither was it the the casual hiking I had bargained for.
The 45 minute, or so ride to the Atlas mountain from Marrakesh was filled with gorgeous scenery especially of the snow capped Atlas mountain and the numerous small waterfalls on the way. We drove past an argan oil store where we stopped briefly. We also stopped briefly for those in my party who had never experienced riding on a camel back to break their duck. In total, there were 10 people on my tour bus from as far afield as America. There was a Saudi couple on their honey moon, 2 Spanish, a couple of French citizens and a couple of Dutch.
I became extremely interested in Berbere culture whilst in Marrakesh. The Atlas was Berbere land. This was their territory. Dotted along the path up the mountain were pit stops manned by local Berberes selling tagine pots, sculptures, incredibly tasting fresh orange juice and the ubiquitous mint tea. Our guide a local Berbere was superb. For some reason he took to calling me Mustafah, the man whose job it seems it was, to carry a bulky DSLR camera snapping away whilst everybody else concentrated on keeping their footing. Going up the mountain was a challenge, especially without the right climbing footwear. Literally one slip on this watery surfaced mountain and you’d be flying several feet down into the valley. Safety was definitely not a priority I began to think for the local tourist board. There were no harnesses nor anything else that could possibly break a fall. We depended totally on the skill and mastery of the route and mountain of our guide. The first thing I did when I came back to my hotel was to google if there had been any casualties of trekkers on this mountain. Had I done this piece of research before hand, I would have had second thoughts.
In hindsight the difficulty and risk made this mini adventure a worthwhile accomplishment. I wouldn’t do it again, but neither would I fail to boast about it.
The descent was easier. Catching the sight of Berbere villages in the distance and watching some of the locals skip up and down past us carrying rocks for construction was a sight to behold. It felt as though their feet were glued to the watery and slippery surface of the mountain. They showed no fear whatsoever. This was their territory after all. That much was evident.
After a well deserved meal at the starting point, we made our way back to Marrakesh carrying with us the arrogance of victors, the swagger of conquerors and memories that would stay with each of us until our bones turn powdery.