Gotta get back over the mountains (March 18, 2018)

We all woke early. Must be the way of the Sahara. Some even got up in time to hike a dune or two and watch the sun rise. We were not in that group. Having walls two wool blankets thick, Dan and I woke up wondering if the noises we heard in the night were any indication that Cyd and Barb had been sick. Our suspicions were soon confirmed when we saw how green and tired they were after a really rough night. They resigned themselves to a day of bread, water, and stomach meds administered on a routine basis.

Our tent camp was nestled between small dunes, so after breakfast we hiked up and out, made our way to our four by fours for the ride out of the dunes, and drove back to the bus. The day’s objective was to get back over the mountains which meant a full but interesting day riding.

As is the tradition in this part of the country, we began seeing more older women covered from head to toe in black robes and scarves. Young women were often dressed in European clothing but they, too, had head scarves. Boys and men walked separate from girls and women.

We drove through the longest town in Morocco. Safi told us the road was built first and then the town sprang up right along the road making it long and narrow. Basically one street deep.

We all love the livestock and never tire of pointing out the shepherds with their small flocks of goats, sheep, and not as often camels (dromedaries) and cows. It’s always exciting when we see babies trailing their moms. We often spot them in the middle of nowhere making us wonder if they go home (wherever that is) at night. Sometimes the animals are brought to the very edge of the the two-lane road to graze, always attended by a shepherd carrying a stick.

Safi explained that once a piece of property has been purchased, no matter its intended use, the owner is encouraged to somehow indicate it is privately owned. In this area that is done with adobe walls made of varying sizes of brick. In other areas we have seen it done with rock walls. We’ve seen barbed wire but not often and always as we approached large towns and cities.

The adobe brick that is used to make the walls is also used in the construction of homes and businesses. Its shelf life is about 75 years. It is common here to abandon these structures at the end of their lifespan and build anew close by. Because of this we have driven through what look like ghost towns with all the old skeletons of decaying homes and businesses and we’ve also driven through towns with sections abandoned and others brand spanking new. In some areas foreigners and wealthy Moroccans have built gigantic vacation homes which are in stark contrast to their neighbors’ humble homes and simple surroundings.

There were almost shocking changes in landscape throughout the day. From verdant green to barren rock, from date palms to evergreens. In places it looks like our desert Southwest without the cacti or tumbleweed. We saw barren hills as well as steep, narrow gorges. We even drove through the rose district of the country, home to a festival aptly named something like Rose Festival. Rose water is from here. We were too early for the blooms.

My favorite stop of the day was at a cluster of ancient wells a ways away from the base of the mountains. There were maybe 100 of them total. From a distance they looked like gigantic (as tall as a man), gray ant hills. Safi explained that they were engineered long ago to capture the water that runs off the mountains in spring. I loved them without understanding how they worked.

My favorite scene of the day was seeing women gathered at the river’s edge to wash rugs and do laundry. We saw some of it drying on roof tops and in branches of trees.

Laugh of the day: No matter where we were, to include small pull-offs along the road, gentlemen were at the door of the bus when we got off in hopes of enticing us to buy. We heard more than once, “Why you no help me feed my family?,”  “I give you best price,” and “Very good quality.” We were sent on our way with big smiles and wishes for a happy trip even when we did not buy.

Lots of bicycles! and scooters were on the road today along with all the charming mule and donkey drawn carts and wagons as well as one lone roller blader.

Our hotel for the night was Ksar Ighnda. Our room was charming with a bamboo ceiling, walk-in shower, hand of Fatima hardware on the closet doors, and draft dodgers at the base of both sides of the door to our room. Presumably to keep sand from blowing in. If our one night was any indication, wind is a Big Issue here. Pretty embroidered tablecloths were on all the tables in the dining room and enormous (four feet across maybe) basket weave light fixtures made a beautiful impression in the lobby.

Another wonderful day!

Schools are often painted in bright, deep pastels making them pop against the drab, brown architecture.


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