Toubkal, first day

kb_ma15_0046Invited by Mustapha of Atlas and Sahara Tours, Karla and I started our Morocco trip getting to know the Atlas mountains. So after a night’s sleep in a budget hotel in Marrakech’s Medina, we got to our pick up point twenty minutes earlier than scheduled and were pleasantly surprised to find our driver Brahim already waiting for us. After a short introduction, we got into his brand new SUV and headed to Imlil, at the heart of the Toubkal National Park.

Shortly after leaving the city, the road crossed olive plantations, the main product in the region surrounding Marrakech, and started climbing as we drove through Tahnaout and Ansi. Two hours later we arrived at the village of Imlil and the gorgeous Riad Jnane Imlil.

Berber hospitality, a centuries old tradition, was honored by our hosts: mint tea was waiting for us on a terrace with a breathtaking view of the snow covered mountains. It was hard to leave such comfort but somehow we managed and went for a two-hour hiking through the surrounding valley to the neighbor village of Armeht and back to Imlil. Our walk followed the efficient irrigation system of the area, up mule paths and bridges. We crossed small villages hanging on the steep mountain side,  shops selling Berber handcraft and the famous argan oil, a product of the region. Donkey riders went on about their business, kids went home after school, goat herds made their timeless paths through impossible places. Even though we were conscious of the present of tourists, we could also feel the authenticity of people’s life around us, one that doesn’t seem to have changed much for the last centuries.

We got back to the Riad, tired but exhilarated, and were greeted with an amazing two-course meal of Moroccan salad and chicken tagine. After eating, we sampled the comfort of our room and planned the next days of our trip.

The smells of Berber cooking made us realize that it was already dinner time. Since it was considerably colder now, instead of the terrace the dinner was served in a cozy room with a fireplace, right outside our room. We enjoyed a generous portions of Harira, a vegetable and lentil soup, and a lamb cuscus. After dinner, we met Mustapha, the Riad manager, who told us a little about the place and the region. He said he would like to take us to the top of the Toubkal, a three-day trek, but our trip’s schedule didn’t allow it so we planned a more modest excursion for the next day.

Before going to sleep, we went to the roof to see the stars. 1700 meters over sea level, with almost no light pollution, the night sky was something to behold. Even though it was cold, the view was worth it. Nice ending for a great day in the Toubkal mountains.

Sponsored by: riadjanane

[Texto de Òscar Buenafuente/Fotos de Karla Brunet]

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