Kerri Ough - a work in progress...

Morocco Part 4: Todra Gorge to Fes

We rammed a lot into 3 or 4 days. Two massive driving days back to back from the Sahara Desert to the Todra Gorge being one of the crazier days. And then leaving Todra Gorge, we made our long and windy – and climb-y way to Fes.

By the time we left the desert I was feeling acclimatized to my new surroundings and boldly pronounced I would drive that day for as long as I could. I drove from M’Hamid through Zegora, Agdz and switched in Ouarzzazate – about 5 hours total.

I liked driving there. I spoke French to our checkpoint Gendarmerie who seemed surprised to see two women in the front seat with their gentlemen in the back seat. By this point in the trip I think allergies started to take a piece out of the guys and they were long overdue for a break from driving. We stopped in Agdz for lunch, spoke French to the waiter, shopped for rugs and enjoyed the sun on the patio. We wandered town, but not for long, because we had a big driving day ahead of us. I took to driving like a local like a pro: passing slow moving vehicles whenever I wanted, straddling the middle solid line if I felt like it, passing herds of animals in ditches and some smack dab in the middle of the road and pretty much tailgating as much as my heart desired (it did not desire that much tailgating.)  It sounds like it would be stressful, but I assure you it was not. In all my worldly driving – and I feel confident saying I’m a worldly driver having driven in Australia, England, Europe, all over the US and Canada – I would say driving in Morocco (in the daylight) was calming, if not fun. Nothing in the world compares to the madness of driving on the 401 between Mississauga and Pickering.

The first hotel we stayed in post Sahara was supposed to be our “First Real Shower” night since Chez Yacoub. But, by not reserving in advance (because we weren’t sure how much ground we would/could cover in one day and didn’t want to be limited to, or bound by plans) we had to take what we could get. And what we got was Auberge Tiz Gui which was totally passable, but it smelled of sewage and there was no shower head or towels or warm water to wash the sand away. To be fair, all we needed was a bed and a good night of sleep before leaving extra early the next morning toward Fes, and Tiz Gui would fill that need.

In the morning, we dined at a nearby hotel (the one endorsed by Lonely Planet, and obviously full of people.) It was that day, that eggs entered my life again – oh how I missed eggs!  Auberge Le Festival was beautiful inside and out. It’s where we wanted to stay the night before, but had been turned away due to a full house of tourists- who had clearly reserved in advance. Still, we went back there for an 8am breakfast and were not disappointed by the scenery, the dining experience and the kindness of the staff.  We dined in this castle below in the blazing sun of 8:30am.

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That was one of my personal highlights of the trip. Breakfast with my friends outdoors in May, in Morocco. Not sure we’ll ever get back there, so I hold this memory close to my heart now that we’re three months away from that trip.

Back in the car, maybe an hour had passed when we came across a Berber family and a herd of camels – including baby camels – a highlight for Gabrielle. She squealed in delight as we approached, passed them, and pulled over. We were respectful tourists and didn’t snap photos of people or things without asking first.  We tried communicating with the patriarch of the family with gestures.  I asked if I could take photos, motioning with my camera  – he motioned to his lips as if to smoke cigarettes. Turns out there was a half pack in our car, and we traded those for photographs of his beautiful herd. Worked for us. It was such a fun and boisterous moment leaping from the car and snapping as many photos as I could up close – without offending anyone with my paparazzi stance.

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Once satisfied, we returned to the car where Brian was making the best happy face I’ve ever seen. He pointed ahead where the troupe had carried on, to a donkey wearing a saddle blanket with four pockets, in which four baby goats resided. Possibly the cutest thing any of us had ever seen, a small animal carrying around four smaller animals … it would be like watching a toddler carrying four babies. So sweet is their love and so big the responsibility. Brian’s reaction to seeing this was a close second in my “favourite moments from the trip.”

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Through the little mountain towns the roads narrowed and the little kids who heard our car in the distance would appear from the houses and chase us. Some would run in front, or beside us with their hands out, looking for money or presents.  One girl had a water gun and shot streams of water into the car. I got a soaker. It was funny to be water shot in the face by an eight year old girl with a mischievous looks in her eyes.

Sometimes the kids would beam and wave at us frantically from the side of the road and we would wave back just as enthusiastically. The ladies in the field were threshing wheat with scythes, carrying loads on their heads or backs and carrying babies on their backs. We passed groups of men having coffee or wandering aimlessly through town or in fields. It was a day of watching locals do their thing in the Atlas Mountains.

We stopped for coffee and lunch in Imilchil where Gaby and John bought seven cushions at a Berber shop and where I bought a small ceramic piece to bring home with me. The shop is pictured below.

imilchil

The day turned to night and we switched out drivers again. We ate pizza for dinner which seemed like such a good idea at the time, but whatever was in that pizza destroyed my insides for the next 24 hours. Trip delirium set in en route to Fes, after the sun went down, and after the 5th checkpoint. We started making up stories about the King having a dog named Almonds who had been “puppyjacked” — maybe you had to be there. Also, this was the first time we had driven at night for any significant amount of time, and we must have been flashed by oncoming cars 10 times out of 12. Our headlights must have been set too high or something, it wasn’t high beams… clearly something was pissing off oncoming cars. By the 7th or 8th car, Brian quietly whispered to himself, and maybe to the rest of us “I am learning something about myself with each of these interactions.” Whatever that was, remains only in his head. We were weary, and Gaby was guiding us by the blue dog on google maps, and I was staying quiet and helpful, and John was bellowing out intermittently for Brian to pull over at the first sight of a McDonald’s. Everyone had gone mad, and it made for the funniest hour in the car yet. We got to Fes, got to Riad Mazar (possibly the prettiest place I’ve ever stayed) and drank tea and ate cookies with our host, a lovely young woman who welcomed us to Fes like a pro. We went to our rooms, crashed hard, and were dazzled by the tiles at every turn.

Riad-Mazar

 

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The pink hallway in Fes.

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My experience of Fes was that I mostly slept through it. Whatever that pizza I ate the night before did to me, my body was not happy about it. I wanted to be out and about but it just wasn’t in the cards for me. All the smells in the heat made me feel worse than I actually was, so we laid low and John and Gabrielle adventured for the day and it turned into an amazing experience for them. They bought a rug, some gifts for their families and basically roamed Fes for 7 hours. We met up for dinner at Cafe Clock and watched the sun go down on Fes.  To me, it was funny to experience such a lively night culture – not just young people, but all ages, families with strollers, babies, little kids wandering around after 9pm. I imagine it’s because it’s so hot during the day that everybody just wants a little fresh air and outside time when it feels cooler. It was bound to happen, where we would waste away a day sleeping and reading inside, but it didn’t bother Brian and I. We probably needed it after two 10-hour driving days. It felt good to be still for a day.

The next morning we left for Chefchaoen “The Blue City.” You can read about that: HERE.

 

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