Saturday, March 21.
We’re woken up eeearly from our tents.
I’m chilly, and groggy from insufficient sleep. But right now, that doesn’t even matter.
The sun is beginning to rise.
I’m slower than everyone else in getting to the lookout point. I’m incoherent and still trying to wake up.
So I bring up the rear, walking over with Will, who didn’t get much sleep in the tent and isn’t looking all that hot. His head cold definitely has a grip on him.
Probably about 100 metres away, I decide to make a run for it before I miss the sun rise completely.
And, panting, I see it, just as it’s peeking over the distant dune. It’s perfectly round and not yet blinding, but that soft yellow hue. It’s picking up its pace, quickly rising.
We all stand there for a few more minutes, watching the view, before we turn and head back to camp.
We switch camels for the ride back. And although I get a dromedary with a nicer hump, I can feel I know the damage has been done.
My lady bits are destroyed.
No part of the trip is better than the other. It hurts THE ENTIRE TIME.
We grab our typical breakfast – bread and Berber pancakes (now cold), with a choice of butter, jam, or mini Babybel cheese – and then it’s back in the minibus for our next destination …
A day and a half in a place called the Todra Gorge, located on the eastern side of the High Atlas Mountains. I can only characterize it as Morocco’s answer to the Grand Canyon.
As I’ll find out, it’s a place of great natural beauty. But as the minibus bumps along towards a paved surface, all that Todra means to me for the moment is the promise of a hot shower, laundry, and a great night’s sleep.
We stop in a small town so people can stock up on things – especially booze. While we wait next to the van, across the road, we see these three little boys of varying ages, sitting outside what looks like a little construction job next door. They look to me like they’re brothers, probably as dark-skinned as myself.
(Looking back, I regret not taking a picture of them now, because they were SO cute.)
Cathy and I wave. One of them – perhaps the middle child – shyly looks away, then back at us, smiling. We wave again – the tiniest one waves back. We play “the waving game” for a couple moments more, until everyone returns. It just warms my heart.
It’s not long – or doesn’t seem like it – before we hit the Todra Gorge and reach our hotel. The building – which is the terracotta colour of the rock face surrounding us – is nestled amid some of the lushest palms and vegetation I’ve seen.
It almost seems as if the whole place is a mirage.
We grab our backpacks and make our way across the road and to the hotel, passing by an older man painting a metal railing and crossing over a bridge which is fairly solid (despite earlier accounts that it’ll be rickety).
We drop our bags in the main sitting room and plunk our weary bodies down into the cushiony seating as we wait for tea. After catching our collective breaths, we get our room assignments.
And this time, I get my OWN. ROOM.
I love this place.
Seconds after I enter my lodging, I’m looking for clean clothes and soap. I check out the bathroom. The wall is completely covered in tile on two sides. The sink and toilet are closest to the “door”, which is basically a shower curtain. The shower is in the corner. Literally.
Sure, it sounds weird. But that hot shower is heaven.
Some time later, we assemble for a short tour of the area surrounding the hotel. We’re led by Aziz, one of the guys that works there.
He shows us the different kinds of vegetables grown in the small gardens by families in the area – maize, beans, dates, figs, and so on.
He even makes a few of the group members little camel “necklaces” woven from palm leaves. It was his first job as a kid, making and selling them by the side of the road to tourists who would stop.
After returning to the hotel, we relax, sitting around drinking wine or playing card games.
We go to another room for dinner. And it’s fantastic. I have a Berber 0melette. It’s nothing like I’ve ever tasted. And I finish it all.
We were told earlier that there would be drumming. But perhaps another night – all the travelling and food has made us tired.
But that’s okay. Perhaps tomorrow – we’ll have a full day ahead of us to explore what the area has to offer.