Desert route across the mountains to Agouim
Children, these individuals we happen to have the most intensive contact with. Sometimes demanding, not letting us go and continue our journey before giving something, anything, a sweet = a bon-bon, a ballpoint, a little notebook. But how can we deliver, be just to all of them.
A truck-load of ballpoints (stylos) would not last a week. Sometimes when the number of children becomes too big (more then 50, clinging at the vehicle, blocking the road) I try to explain, how many stylos (pens) I would have to carry travelling Morocco for weeks or month visiting a couple of villages every day with more then 50 children in any of them. They nod in disbelieve, somehow understand and let me go, sometimes.
Road from Aboulouz to Agouim
After Marrakech we go to Essaouira on the coast and further down to Agadir. A standard tourist drive. On 19th of March after stocking up in Agadir with food and beer supplies we go east.
Via Taroudant, a laid-back but busy place which I want to come back for we head north-east. We don't take the Tizi-n-Test route but the piste some 50km further east which goes north to Agouim just after Aboulouz.
A rough mountain track takes us higher and higher most of the day to an altitude of 2.250m. Following a valley with a stream that forms the source of live for the Berber population living here, furnishes enough water throughout the year to allow basic agriculture. Spring is just about to arrive to this mountain region.The higher we climb the chillier temperatures get.
Not sure about the mountain in the back. It is definitely not J. Toubkal (which is a few kilometres further to the left of the picture) but belongs to the same mountain range.
After 108km and 8 and a half hours we settle in Agouime for the night, Mike in a hotel, I in the Land Rover.
Road from Telouet to Ouarzazate
Next day we make our way to Telouet, a bastion of the Glaoui rule in the High Atlas. This place was inhabited until 50 years ago with up to 1.000 slaves serving the pasha.
The Glaoui are infamously identified, amongst other things for helping the French's colonial ambitions. As a monument to treason not much care is taken to date to preserve an astonishing building complex that forms a central part of Moroccan history of the region.
From Telouet we go south following the oasis valley.
The road is steep and narrow, winding up and down for hours. This keeps my adrenalin levels high and at some stage I feel pretty exhausted - not just from the heat.
We join the main (sealed) road and the tour busses just before Ait-Benhaddou. Ait-Benhaddou is a marvel and one of Morocco's' main tourist attractions.
The town featured in various Hollywood productions and was actually rebuilt and modified by film directors to more adequately conform to what their image of a desert town is.
Tourists don't care. Nor did we and it is beautiful indeed. But read this, a résumé outlining what the typical (Africa) traveler/tourist wants to see, perceives and is being delivered.
We stay in Ouarzazate some 30km south of Ait-Benhaddou for the night. Ouarzazate is the regional centre and the place to stock up with beer.
Desert Crossing Foum-Zguid to Zagora
On 22nd of March we leave Ouarzazate go south-east to Agdz then east to Tazenakht and further south to Foum-Zgui. Just before Foum-Zguide, already in the afternoon, we leave the tarred roads behind us and for 120km of desert piste to Zagora. Some where in the middle we camp for the night.
We reach Zagora in the Draa valley late in the afternoon the next day.
The Draa, one of several big streams in Morocco, drains the Anti Atlas mountains and flows south for some 200km to dissipate in the Sahara. The beauty lies in the contrast between the blue sky, sunbaked molded desert mountains and the lush green of the palm groves in between.
A system of irrigation channels makes sure no drop of the precious water is being wasted. All housing (kasbahs and ksour) is confined to the desert wasteland at the edges of the irrigationable land.
The kasbahs and ksour are built of mud and earth. Colours reflect the colours of the surrounding ground. These structures don't hold forever and decay effortlessly back into the ground once their time of use is over
At the top of the Draa valley near Agdz is Tamnougalt. It is marked as an attraction in the guidebook. It has two hotels but not many visitors. It's kasbah and ksar is easier to be visited and reached then elsewhere. Locals are used to tourists.
But the Draa valley has many places like this. Just that in other places it would be more intrusive to walk in.