Thursday, April 22, 2010

MOROCCO TRIP - Day Nine - Ouarzazate to Marrakech

This morning we didn't have a particularly early start so Dominick visited the hammam within the hotel. A hammam is a traditional 'spa' type facility. He thoroughly enjoyed it and came back looking gently boiled!

We went and ate breakfast on the hotel terrace overlooking the river before meeting up with Said and Brahim.

Our first stop of the morning was a nearby lake which was teeming with birdlife. Once again I was thrown into the role of bird guide but by now I was getting into my stride a little more and so was able to do a reasonable job with ID's. There were lots of Crested Larks hopping around on the track in front of us. As you can see their cryptic colouring is a great advantage to these birds that spend so much time on the ground.

The water birds were as shy as ever but we did manage to get a quick shot of this beautiful Shoveler working the shallows.

In the distance were numerous cormorants and it wasn't until I put my binoculars on them that I spotted the interloper!

An Osprey! Brahim had quite got into this whole 'birding' thing by this stage so I was explaining to him the differences in fishing techniques between a cormorant and an osprey. With such a limit on English vocabulary this really put my miming skills to the test! It's that crazy English lady again - we'll just humour her she'll be going home soon!!

With my birding ration over for the day we were back to the kasbahs!

Ouarzazate was a very odd mix of the traditional Moroccan structures

And bizarre remnants of film sets and locations!

After we had seen our share of Gladiator movie posters we headed for the Ait Ben Haddou, a traditional pre-Saharan habitat from the eighteenth century. For me the highlight was the means of travel to get to this particular kasbah that appealed the most.

Riding a donkey or mule across the river!

Not such a highlight for Dominick though.

Although in this particular instance my sympathy was with the poor old mule! That is one heck of a load he is carrying!

I got to go across solo which was a great relief to me and probably to the donkey too!

There was an alternative means of transport but I don't think any amount of money would have got Dominick back on a camel at this point!

When we had safely made it across we began the climb up through a labyrinth of narrow streets and stairways.

All the way to the very top where we were rewarded with spectacular views in every direction.

Then we strolled back down, caught our four-legged transportation back across the river and went back to the vehicle.

The next section of our drive involved going off road through an area of the Atlas mountains called the Ounial Valley.

Once again we were bombarded with endless expanses of spell-binding scenery. In stark contrast to the desert, it was cold enough up here that even some of the donkies were wearing coats!

We eventually rejoined the tar road and continued to climb.

We stopped at the signpost marking the highest point of the road to take the obligatory photo.

That is in meters of course!

Somewhere along the way we were supposed to visit another kasbah but we were both feeling a little 'kasbahed out' by this stage, apart from the fact the scenery was just so spectacular we were more than happy just to spend time enjoying it.

Having gotten over the highest point we started to wind our way slowly back down. And what am I photographing here?

Well this handsome fellow of course! Although I don't think he really appreciated my interrupting his courtship of the lady frogs!

I was now beginning to feel very sad as we were heading back to the city and the end of our trip. It was hard not to feel a little winsome at the aching beauty of everything around us and the magical moments we have experienced over the last few days.

As we descended out of the hills the land suddenly flattened out completely and we found ourselves in the outskirts of Marrakech. We drove to our Riad which was another spectacular establishment, our room was beautiful but somehow we didn't remember to take any photos of it! Sorry.
Later in the evening Said and Brahim led us through the maze of streets to a private house were we had a delicious dinner. (Brahim and I had hatched a plan earlier in the day to arrange an 'oriental dancer' for Dominick after dinner!) So Dominick got an excellent belly dancer as his after dinner entertainment which I think he rather enjoyed! We then made our way slowly back to our Riad for the night.

Photo Credits - CJT & Dominick V

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