The flight seemed quicker than normal, perhaps several years of anticipation of getting moving again made it all just whizz past. I can’t ever remember flying into Marrakech during the day, always the night, so picking out sights as we came into land, made me realise that the city whilst heavily populated is actually quite small. As I wandered into one of the few hotels I normally use, Mohammed on the reception immediately jumped up and offered a Moroccan hug, it’s been a while, exchanges about families were made and although we were a bit blitzed from one of those daft 5am flights, it was time to explore!
This was my 15 or 16th trip to Morocco and my better half had never been, so I adopted the classic ‘let me show you around’ role, feeling like a released caged man, we set off….The day ended with some fine Moroccan wine, clearly priced by some cheeky landlord from down south, but it was worth it!
The following day was a mission, picked up and driven over the High Atlas Mountains, we hung a left as we tickled the Sahara and drove through the Valley of the Roses, apparently this is the longest named residential road in Morocco, bit of a bugger for the postman as it truly is long!
This days journey was just incredible and with the new road in place so much easier than the last time. Then, I picked up the hire car from Marrkaech and drove ourselves, this has a few obvious advantages, but the disadvantages of getting stopped by the Police for imaginary road offences and suffering flat tires literally in the middle of nowhere kind of grew a little tiring! It’s a full 7 hours of exciting travelling and as we drove into Todra gorge, it was as beautiful as I remember.
My French is not amazing, Brahim’s English is even worse, but amusingly through charades we worked out that it’s been 4 years since I last visited. His Berber hospitality is genuinely warm, generous, open and exactly we we needed after a journey as long as that, I needed to stretch my tired legs so wandered down to the main gorge, it hadn’t changed much, still as stunning…
We’d come to climb and Brahim’s family home is well located in the village allowing us a stroll to the crags, sharing our pennies amongst different small shops for our daily picnic of water and snacks. After a monster breakfast and 3 course evening meal, it wasn’t like we needed to eat during the day anyway!
As you walk down the ‘high street’ these huge towering walls start closing in, these are truly impressive chucks of rock, as you enter the gorge it funnels the winds and creates a cooling breeze - every day through was a flip flop day, pretty hard to beat.
The climbing was immaculate, the rock being sharp, unpolished limestone, mostly fairly stable, but an adventurous head is needed! They reckon over 40 nationalities have bolted here, how true that is I’ve no idea, some routes have been well thought out, considered bolts, reasonable spacing, good positions to clip from, others are more adventurous in the sense there clearly hasn’t been much thought given or they’ve run out of money! A trad head works well on these routes, questing above the bolt not really knowing where the next one is, or when you spot it, your first response being ‘holy f$@k that’s a long way!’ There’s a twisted enjoyment here…
The edge of the Sahara obviously brought rain for a day, so with the internet being as slow as old fashioned dial up, a wander between showers in the palmarie and reading a book seemed the order of the day, this just slowed the whole day down turning it into a relaxing pleasure, I was knackered by the end, I’m not used to doing not a lot, suppose it demonstrates how busy normal life can be!
Single and multi pitch on bolts are the reason to come here, there are a few trad routes still hanging in there, but with some new development over the last few years, I wonder for how long. The opportunities are endless and if this area existed in Europe it would have thousands of routes, but maybe because of the effort required to get here, it’s not heaving with teams and that is a good thing!
The drive back over the Altas mountains involved many ‘nodding dog’ impressions in the car and dropping back into the craziness of Marrakech which is always a bit hectic and takes some time to adjust.
A quick spin over to the coast to one of my favourite towns for a little ‘us’ time was the perfect way to round off a fab trip, one that we’ve waited for quite some while to do.
So good to be travelling again….