Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Day 37 Fes to Erfoud

Another interesting day today, after an early start.  We were on the road by 7.00 and headed up into the Atlas Mountains.  The country changed quite rapidly as we climbed, and became quite rocky. Early today we saw lots of olive plantations, but as we climbed apple trees abounded.  We had a quick stop in the university and resort town of Ifrane, which looks like every alpine resort you've been to.

We drove through a cedar forest and and as we crossed the mid Atlases we come on a nomad encampment where we stopped for a quick visit. A young woman was there - the rest of her family were at the markets.  She invited us in and offered us a cup of tea, and bread and olive oil, and we learned a little about her life.  A real treat.

We continued across a plateau with very stony ground and the magnificent snow covered High Atlas Mountains in the distance.  We drove through a few small villages, including one where they were preparing tajines for the lunch time crowd.    It was interesting to see so many people getting around on donkeys, nomad encampments and the flocks of sheep, each with their own shepherd, existing on such barren ground.

After lunch we continued on through similar country and then climbed through a couple of high passes to another plateau.  We drove through the Ziz Gorges into the Sahara, which in this area is a very rocky area with no sand dunes to be seen.  Palm trees have started to make their appearance in villages and by the Ziz river.

We drove through a large regional city Er Rachida, which is a large military town. Because of the heat the houses are painted in ochre colours, mostly pink,  because white houses would be too glary.  We then drove beside the vast oasis of Ziz, one of the largest in the world, beautifully green with palm trees.

We arrived at our accommodation in a kasbah at Erfoud at about 3.  Its a large adobe building of 2 stories, with a large central courtyard.  Very atmospheric.

At 3.30 we set out to see sunset over the Sahara sand dunes, and it was a lovely experience.  We drove for about 45 minutes, and then climbed for about 20 mins along one of the ridges, then sat and sipped wine (or water) and watched the sunset.  Some of our group rode there on camels.  We stopped on the way back to see the stars in the desert.

We had a delicious Berber dinner at the casbah tonight - all cooked in tajines.  Yum!