Morocco Ride – the next days…

(To be read after Morocco Ride – day one )

And just like that, the horses and riders worked together.

The first day was,

for everyone, a surprise,

requiring much energy, patience and self control.

But here, on day two,

it felt as though we all knew what was required

and were confident we could survive

and even enjoy the seven day ride.

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It is true they were long days in the saddle.

It is true it was hot.

It is true we had tiny tents and no ablution facilities.

And it is also true that I loved every moment.

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Long hours in the saddle

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with a hot sun most of the day

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and thankfully a cooling in the evening

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our very tiny ‘homes’

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Someone made these barriers – miles and miles of them.

The long stretches of silence as I absorbed the vastness around me

The companionable times I rode alongside someone and we shared our thoughts

The kindness of “D”‘ Mohammed, the guide who ‘adopted’ me

The responsiveness of my amazing horse, Zeina,

her kindness, generosity, strength and endurance.

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the guide “Da” Mohammed who took such care of me “Da” old lady                                      (da apparently meaning ‘old/wise’ 🙂

Perhaps these photos will illustrate  where words cannot,

what was a most remarkable experience.

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We passed a Bedouin Family. I did not go in, but some did.
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The miles and miles of ‘nothing’ – with it’s own kind of beauty
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And so much room to gallop, canter and have fun
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The only ‘fresh’ water on the trip
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It was hot and dusty
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and sometimes it felt like a looooong day
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Once we rode under a ‘shield’ of shade for about 5 minutes – I remember it was heaven and I thought of the cowboy movies where they always found shade. 🙂  Perhaps the heat had made me hallucinate – who knows, but I clearly remember thinking about cowboy movies!!!!!
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Biblical in its symbolism – like so much of this trip
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pulling up water bucket by bucket

 

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to give to our horses

 

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no words,
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just vistas
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of a land
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both harsh
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and beautiful
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whichever way I
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looked

 

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Feeding our horses was a daily ritual
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required everyone’s help – even the little travellers who joined us and gave us so much joy
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as well as giving our lovely horses food

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Some played while others watched…..

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and the men hauled water
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bucket by bucket at the wells along the way (there were not many of them I might add – those horses were remarkable)

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‘Da Mohammed’  Whose kindness gave me courage. Whenever I looked around, there he was, keeping pace, watching out for me – and it wasn’t just me he cared for     He loved the horses passionately and was always working. – I shall forever remember him with fondness

And of course there was the necessity of feeding ourselves as well…..

 

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whether it was buying an orange from the locals (loved the clothes!)
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or trying to buy something to drink…
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and our daily delicious lunch – fresh salads, tinned tuna and bread pockets that were fresh on day one, not so fresh day seven 🙂
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but always prepared with such love by our amazing guides
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while we were left to search for ‘the proverbial’ ablutionary bush…… and may I add, it took some searching – good ablution bushes were few and far between.
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Our campsite was always a welcome sight – table and chairs a real treat and many happy hours we spent round that chatting and sharing

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One night we slept in luxury,

a Bedouin camp with

‘stand up tents’

and sit down toilets,

even if they didn’t actually flush

and real warm water dripping out of a shower – of sorts.

How easily we were pleased.

How quickly we learnt to appreciate what a week before we would have despised.

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A “Stand up” tent – didn’t matter that four of us slept in it – it was LUXURY – Fully lined with the most beautiful rugs
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Some even did washing!!!! Drying was not a problem

Our neighbours

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That bizarre time warp
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the juxtaposition of the modern
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and the ancient
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They munched
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and sat and pondered
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as a herder sat and munched
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and pondered

There was a particular evening which perhaps sums up how amazing this place is.

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look carefully you will see the light of our camp

We were seated at our table – 8 one side and the rest of us on this side,

it was dark, the sky ablaze with trillions of stars.

(In fact someone had counted

28 shooting stars in less than 29 minutes one night)

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Conversation and laughter was alive with energy when

out of nowhere those 8 faces opposite us

 froze for a few seconds,

then there was a collective cry of amazement.

They had all, at the same time seen something in the sky –

we are yet to define it precisely.

Suffice to say, this meteor, comet, or something else flashed across the sky,

so vividly and for such a long time

that they were stunned into silent awe

while those of us who had our backs to this wonder

were left amazed

at their amazement.

They were speechless at first

and then

could not stop speaking – all at once,

trying to explain what they had just seen,

clearly frustrated

that no words could adequate describe their collective vision.

This is in many ways

an ‘other worldly place’

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a speck in the sky
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grew larger
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to reveal an Air Morocco plane – how appropriate!!!

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a night of singing with drums and a fire – our guides leading the way, as usual

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One day,

We went over a mountain pass .

I write it so casually,

but it was anything but a casual passing through a pass

(I seem to remember another pass that was less casual then casual 🙂

Always read the fine print. Really? )

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We went over on foot

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It was steep
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It was hot

We lead our horses, always hoping they did  not step on our heels 🙂

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it was Up and Up

 

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taking a break whenever we could…
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leaning on each other while we took a breather….
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or some photographs
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it felt like there was no end…
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… to the slog.
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and the heat.
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and then we were
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at the top – recovering and

 

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and contemplating the
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amazing vastness ahead.

It was a very real and yet at the same time very surreal experience.

And as I sat there, catching by breathe and looking

at the land before me,

I was drawn to The Book and the Promised Land.

And the time warp took me there –

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I couldn’t help but think of Moses (Deuteronomy 34),

who was allowed to see the that promised land

but was not allowed to cross over into it.

Craziness, Heat, Weariness?

Or perhaps this place truly is something different.

Of course I wasn’t looking at The Promised land.

For one thing I was in the wrong country.

For another thing,

there was nothing attractive about what lay in front of me.

Stones, sand

and no milk or honey.

And yet that is where my mind kept taking me.

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Promised land?

And then began the descent….

Mercifully in the shade of the mountains for a short while.

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Coaxing our horses we began the descent
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Down and
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down.. careful step…

 

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by careful step
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Until finally we could ride again.

Welcome shade, for a short while,

and then the sun again.

As I said.

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It was a very real and yet at the same time very surreal experience.

Trudging along, with my horse, with the heat, with no idea of what was ahead,

and in my head a picture of

Mary and Jesus going to Egypt as refugees,

trudging along, with their donkey, with the heat, with no idea of what was ahead

and once again this amazing country

took me into a time warp.

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Images along the way……

From shopping and eating…

To sights and views

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Jan, who gave this ride a miss and was always waiting to welcome us with Such a Lovely Smile…..
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That sun and dusk was something to behold
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and so we pretended to be masked bandits 🙂
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The most precious commodity in the desert
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alone in an almost alien world
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with the occasional sign of habitation
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and then again signs of absolutely
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absolutely nothing……..
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but miles of stone and sand
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and occasional ‘hills’
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follow my leader for 7 days.

A truly remarkable experience.

 

Thank you Jo, for all your lovely photographs. 

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Morocco Ride – day one…..

The thought of ‘thundering’ through the plains of Mongolia

was what got me on a horse in the first place;

and here I was,

about to ‘thunder’ across the plains of  Morocco, on a horse!

Who would have thought!

And while I am still to see the Mongolian plains,

I have seen miles and miles of the Sahara desert,

some 100 something kilometers I believe.

Nor I am complaining.

After all they both show up on the world map,

both begin with an M, 

and both are exotic sounding.     

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And so after some adventures along the way Always read the fine print. Really? 

which reminded me this was an exploratory trip,

I was relieved to find that we were not going to Tombouctou

appealing as the name is….

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(although I always thought it was Tim Buck Too)

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Because 52 days of travel was not appealing at all – again I suggest you ‘read the fine print’ to find out more 🙂
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some of the crew – full of anticipation….

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Instead,

we found ourselves in Zagora

where we needed to stop,

regroup,

shop,

stock up

and meet our horses.

 

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Not one of our horses, but certainly ‘the stables’ where we found our horses 🙂

Did I mention this ride began on my birthday?

No, I don’t believe I did – but there you have it.

To celebrate my 65th birthday I was about to ride a horse for 7 days in the Sahara.

Tells you something about what has happened to my mind in my old age!!!!!

And so the first night, spent at the ‘stables’ as shown above was round a table with delicious food and celebratory musicians.

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delicious food
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enthusiastic musicians

Sadly I do not have any of the promised Professional photographs yet but these lovely ones are largely thanks to Jo – so very much appreciated.

Where they fail, use your imagination.

We had two belly dancers and a group of male musicians all of whom wanted to party long after we were all ready to retire!

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Beginning to wish they were as ready for bed as we were !!!!

 

So far so good,

We had all had much fun,

survived the drive from (or was it too?) hell to get here

and  were about to begin a different ride bright and early

the day after the night before.

 

So how do I explain our first morning?

Maybe refer to my rough notes which I show below.

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They say:

“WOW!!!!!!  CHAOS

Barb & Arab horses.   

Good riders and still chaotic.   

What am I doing here

Fractured wrist and all

Stomach churning,

Ready to bail 

 But do what? 

Sit in the truck with no one speaking English?

Stayed – so nervous couldn’t even see the views”

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Really difficult to explain how hectic this morning was.

18 riders, more than I have ridden with before.

All of them much better riders than I am and still they had their hands full.

Of course these photos hastily taken by someone show tranquility –

that is because when there wasn’t (tranquility) which was most of the time that morning,

no one Could take photos 🙂

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Waiting as they saddled
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our horses, which took
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a looong time

Luckily for me I had Not done my homework on the Barb horse (or Berber)

because they are described as :

” generally possessing a fiery temperament and an atypical sport-horse conformation,

but nevertheless has influenced modern breeds”.   

It would appear even the Andalusian was bred through the Barb.   

 I certainly saw some of that fiery temperament on that morning.

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I did learn that they had been fed oats for a few days prior,

with no work,

in anticipation of the 7 day ride ahead.

Oats apparently makes them ‘full of energy’.

 

And so I was here – for better or for worse.

Finally I was allocated a mount, Zeina, a flea bitten gray (again)

although this time a Barb Arab cross and happily for me,

the kindest, most willing, even tempered friend I could ever ask to spend 7 days with.

Fortunately too, I was the last to be saddled up

so I did not have to keep her tranquil for ages waiting for the others.

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My flea bitten gray – Zeina and I. The sweetest soul in the Sahara…

So what were the views I according to my notes not see thanks to my nerves?

Well we left the ‘stables’ and found ourselves in the streets of Zagora.

Narrow lanes really,

where the sound of horses feet on the ground brought people rushing out from

every nook and cranny (of which there were many)

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people appeared
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from everywhere…..
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and apparently nowhere to….
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watch and even try to touch
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observing us as we
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passed through – and not just people stared at us!!!!!

Finally and thankfully we were out of the ‘crowds’ and could settle our horses and ourselves.

For what lay ahead……

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Finally “Far from
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The Madding Crowd”
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we became the mad crowd  🙂

Which was fascinating.

The Draa Valley to begin with.

(the Draa river when it flows is Morocco’s longest river, 1 100 km)

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a river valley filled with palm trees
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with occasional ‘farms’
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The Draa Valley
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those ‘farms’
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silent walking…
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and sometimes talking
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but always observing the scenery

It was an incredibly long day,

both in terms of hours in the saddle,

and emotionally as we settled with our horses

and worked through the Adrenalin of our start.

And my notes remind me we arrived at camp well past dusk,

weary, grateful for an AMAZING meal, and our tiny tents.

I for one, didn’t care that I wasn’t going to shower or wash,

I was just pleased to crawl into a warm sleeping bag, with a nourished body.

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The mobile ‘kitchen’…
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from which amazing meals were created
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our mobile ‘homes’
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Our Amazing support crew – 1 truck. All our gear, tents, food & horse food etc
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Time to put our heads down for the night

Always read the fine print. Really?

If you have a legal brain,

 if you are naturally suspicious.

or if you don’t want any surprises.

 

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I, of course, do not have a legal brain,

and am,

some would say,

naively trusting

and since my life has been one surprise after another,

I am somewhat inured to the unpleasant ones and the good ones give me

no cause to complain.

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So I have No reason to worry about the fine print.

I usually scan read whatever it is,

decide if it is interesting enough to read more than every fifth word

and if it is still interesting,

I sign the dotted line.

 

And so it was that I signed up to do a horse ride in Morocco.

I read all about the exploratory nature of the ride,

the Barb/Arab horses, the camping, the sand dunes, the Daar Valley

and what I read ticked all ‘my boxes’ so I ticked all their boxes and signed on the dotted line.

‘Somewhat lazy’ must stand alongside ‘naively trusting’

so I said,

“whatever you decide,

I’ll go along with”

…….

And go along I did.

On a long trip,

which had nothing to do with horses,

(that was still to come, all 7 days of it.)

Rather this had much to do with a vehicle

and a road,

Over the Atlas Mountains,

from Marrakech to Ouarzazate

which as you can see, ‘Google’ says will take 3 hours and 51 minutes.

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And so it was that we happily jumped into our vehicle.

Oblivious of what lay ahead,

confident in our Google map information and

full of energy in anticipation of our horse riding adventure soon to begin.

Twelve of us squeezed into our van,

 every seat occupied, off we went.

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We went over the Atlas Mountains,

using the Tichka Pass.

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The Atlas Mountains – ethereal, like a mirage

If only we spoke or even understood Berber,

we would have known that Tichka meant ‘difficult’ and

this pass is listed amongst the

ten most dangerous mountain passes in the world!

Although even if we had spoken Berber,

we did not discover the name of the pass until we reached the top

and saw a sign the first sign marking the Tichka Pass.

But we didn’t speak Berber so it didn’t mean anything to us.

I jump ahead of myself –

forgive me, for we were not there yet.

We were leaving Marrakech, looking at the scenery,

ooing and aahing at this and that and

taking snapshots through the windows.

And then the ascent.

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As we left the lowlands,

those on one side of the vehicle looked downwards to a bottomless space

while the others side looked out at a dark wall of rock that blocked the light and stretched I presume to heaven, we could not tell.

As we left the lowlands,

conversation slowed, windows were opened, photography ceased and

slowly it dawned on me that we were in for a long day.

A long day

of winding roads, sick passengers and no way of preventing either.

And so it was.

We stopped when we could,

everyone descended to gasp for air,

empty our stomachs,

(again and again and again)

decide who would be best at which window,

fill water bottles and those who could, at any time,

take a photograph or two.

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But for the majority of the team,

this was a road to and/or from hell.

It seemed pointless to discuss this objectively since it was clear

that as far as they were concerned, death would be a welcome relief

from the hell of this road.

This road, which Google confidently forecast would take us 3 hours 51 minutes

actually took us close to 6 hours.

Which made me wonder if Google knew that there was traffic, an ascent and more bends and turns than in a game of snakes and ladders

followed of course

by a steep descent,

with another game of snakes and ladders!!!!!!

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Shadows of our former selves !

And I feel confident when I say that for many,

those 6 hours felt longer than the entire 7 days on horseback.

After the event,

hindsight being a wonderful thing – don’t we all know that,

I discovered the following tips:788eaad4-8c20-4a46-92ff-f6df41d4813d-drunkemoji3110

1) Hire a driver with an air conditioned vehicle who will stop every hour or more.

2) Take plenty of water to avoid dehydration – you are travelling to the Sahara desert and the temperatures and altitudes will be extreme

3) Take travel sickness tablets before travelling

4) Avoid eating too much – it may not stay down!!!!!

And the final line was a challenge :

What about you, are you brave enough to see the Atlas Mountains via the Tichka Pass?

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If only we had read the fine print !!!!!

 

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Keeping our spirits up at a stop along the way

 

Epilogue

Some of our team refused to do the return trip,

wisely finding an aeroplane to take them back from Zagora to Marakech.

Others elected to be passengers again,

but going back,

better prepared,

we seemed to fare better.

Perhaps reading the fine print isn’t such a bad idea?

Just a thought.

 

Thanks to Jo for many of the photos.

A Hammam – Spot the difference☺️ (not to be confused with A Hammam but to be read alongside it!)

One of the joys of travelling, after exposing myself to new ideas and challenging my perception of how one ‘should’ live,

is returning home.

And so it was that I found myself happily (and sadly at the same time)

back home after riding a Stunning Arab cross

(horse🐴that is, not anything other😉)

for 5 days in beautiful Tasmania;  

not camping but definitely ‘making like the locals’ in terms of

food and wine (plenty of it) 😍

Our little band of riders were closely observed by many of those around us who thought we must be mad, maybe not dogs, (as in Englishmen and that midday sun☀️) but clearly crazy with an enviable giddy kind of joy.

Because that ride was a wonderful exhilarating experience.  

However it is not the topic for day.

Rather I want to share a differentexperience.  

One I shared with my beautiful daughter.

Today.

We were each given a Christmas gift of self-indulgence

and when she suggested we went the day after 5 day’s horse riding, why wouldn’t I?

And so we did.

We hopped into my little car,

and drove to the appointed place without getting lost.

This could not be described as an unprepossessing building.

On the contrary it is anything but – bright, new, shiny and filled with exotic shops, people and a very large, very bold sign lest we had any doubts:

The Glen Shopping Centre.

I had read what was on offer,

and felt an involuntary tremor go through my body

as I recalled a travel experience 😳that I vowed

not to repeat, anywhere, anytime, ever again 😔

(https://leepowrie.com/2019/01/09/a-hammam/  )

 😳

I read how :

“You will LOVE it.   

You lie on hot stones, you get wrapped in a clay/mud mask and rest and then you are massaged with oils and your hair is washed and you feel SOOO good and rested. “

And yet here I was again.

Breathing deeply, focusing on gratitude

– it was after all a gift

And A Gift it was.

This time it was just OUR gift.

We were still in a small room,

but there were no wooden benches

and no other women, naked or clothed.

Just the two of us as we undressed,

placed our clothes in beautiful baskets,

put my glasses and jewellery into a tiny elegant purse

and then lay down on warm towels,

spread lavishly on a soft bed

(one bed each) ;😉

And

not a spot of linoleum anywhere in sight.

The only noise was the sound of a reed bass and wind chimes, simulating, I suppose a gentle breeze

(except of course a breeze is never as even as the music was –

I did muse on that – but I digress)

I lay happily on my tummy as my back and legs and arms were massaged, oiled and treated with hot stones

(or at least hot something as the lights were dimmed and my head hung through a hole in the bed) 🙃

When I was asked to turn over,

it was with a great sigh of relief that I knew I need not keep my eyes open;

ever alert to avoid being hit by swinging anythings – large or small 😂

The clay was applied with much TLC, the breezy music continued and I wallowed in nothingness till it was all gently removed. (the clay that is 😉)

Dry, snug, oiled, pampered and feeling SOO good,

we finally dragged ourselves away,

to enjoy a drink to Savour the memory rather than Expunge it.

And so it is that the same words are used to describe two very different experiences.

Strange that…🤔….

A Hammam

One of my reasons  for travelling is to expose myself to new ideas and challenge  my perception of how one ‘should’ live.   

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And so it was that I found myself in Morocco riding a Barb/Arab horse in the Sahara Desert, camping and ‘making like the locals’ for 6 nights and 7 days.  No, let me rephrase that – the locals do not  by choice do what we did; only mad dogs and Englishmen (or similar) go out in the midday sun, let alone in the desert, on the back of a horse 🙃.    Our mob definitely fitted the mould of (or similar) 🐎🙄

And that ride was in itself a remarkable experience

but not the topic for today 🙂

Rather, I want to share a different experience.   

And I use the word ‘different’ fully aware of the many meanings it can convey.

Throughout our time in Morocco we heard tales of how wonderful a Hammam was.

So what was this?

The word is derived from the Arabic meaning ‘bath’ – delve further into the history and ‘communal’ appears 😉.

Moroccans along the way gave us varied descriptions but essentially

“You will LOVE it.   You lie on hot stones, you get wrapped in a clay/mud mask and rest and then you are massaged with oils and your hair is washed and you feel SOOO good and rested.  It is amazing.” 

Or words to that effect. 

While ‘Google’,  describes it as follows.

“A hammam is a traditional cleansing and beauty ritual.

At the heart of the Spa, an authentic hammam provides guests with a signature bathing ritual that combines heat, fragranced steam, warm water, ‘marocMaroc’ hammam products and a cold plunge pool to revitalise the body and soul.”

A Hammam

It is important to understand that we had been in the saddle,

in the desert for 7 days

with only one brief shower during that entire time.   

And while we were exhilarated by That adventure,

we were also dusty and saddle weary by the time we found ourselves back in Zagora.   

So when our inimitable guide,

whose name I have forgotten, but whose smile I will not, 

(it was a little too welcoming, a little too joyous, a little too jolly

and clearly as we were about to learn he was a lot smarter than we were)

suggested a Hammam, well we positively leapt at the opportunity.

Wouldn’t you?

IMAGES LOOMED……. 

And so it was that with the anticipation of an hour or two

of quiet, tranquil, relaxing, muscle soothing pampering,

the six of us women

(who were still to tackle the 8 hour road trip home over

on the the 10 most dangerous passes in the world the following day,)

jumped at the opportunity.

No warning bells sounded at the speed with which this was organised for so many of us all at the same time.

No unease appeared when we were quoted only MAD 100 each (less than A$20).

And still we were enthusiastic when we were told to hurry and come just as we were.

Because we knew all about the Hammams – Didn’t we?

We had heard about them for weeks.

And so we paid our smiling guide MAD 100 each

We Paid

and squeezed into a tiny vehicle to go to our Hammam.

We squeezed in and off we went 

Not directly though, as our driver managed to get lost;

but eventually, after several u-turns, mobile phone calls and general chaos we did arrive.

……….

At a most unprepossessing building with no signage to indicate this was anything at all – it may have been a factory, a closed shop except for the no windows. It could have been a disused warehouse, or in fact a deserted prison. It was not.

It was in fact, our Hammam.

Well therein lies the rub.

This Was Our Hammam.

It was also the Hammam used by Every woman

(and None of the tourists) in Zagora!!!!

Our smiling guide shoved us through the door before we had a chance to say anything. It closed behind us and …….

He was gone. We weren’t.

And then again we were.

Or at least for an instant it felt like we had gone,

we were not sure where,

but certainly we must have left our planet and …..

…….well each of us had our own picture of where we were now….

and it was nowhere any of us had ever even considered a reality.

However, this was VERY REAL.

We were in a small room with a line of low wooden benches along 3 walls. The 4th wall had a high counter in front of it on which two women leaned; watching us. They were clothed from head to, I presume toe (I couldn’t see behind the counter) while the women, old and young seated on the benches were either naked, or in the process of becoming so. Quite happily it would appear.

And it was SO noisy.

That I think was the first thing to register in my mind after the first 3 or 4 seconds of blind shock!!! There were the voices, all raised, laughing, talking, shouting across at one another. There was a sound of water and steam and it all bounced off the tiled walls and floor so that one decibel instantly became five

And 6 Anglo tourists ranging in age from 65+ to 26+ stood amongst the Arab women, like rabbits caught in a hunter’s headlight.

Although, of course, no one was ‘hunting us’ (or perhaps our guide already had as turned out the locals paid less than MAD10 each for this adventure, we had paid 10 times that 😂

There was not much to be done now except ‘go forward bravely’ because, to quote Macbeth, to go back were as difficult as to go ….etc.

Breathing deeply, I decided to ‘go forth’ and slowly took my sweaty, (very sweaty, 7 day old riding shirt) off my equally sweaty body and stood there.

Waiting.

I am not sure what for but after a few seconds of standing there feeling very foolish, I removed my bra.

And rather like a reluctant strip tease dancer I slowly and very carefully took off my boots and socks (the tiles were damp and slippery), and then hesitantly my riding pants.

I was now as good as naked, my arms piled high with dirty clothes and heavy riding boots which I handed to one of the ladies behind the counter, along with my handbag.

In ‘our’ world, you would have received a receipt for these goods – not here. They just disappeared behind the counter somewhere and I wondered if they would ever reappear.

So I stood, on a wet, clammy tiled floor, stark naked apart from a tiny pair of lacy knickers which did nothing to ease my sense of exposure and vulnerability when the lady behind the counter indicated I should hand over my glasses. I refused as politely as I could under the circumstances. I felt vulnerable enough without losing my sight as well 😐

For a brief second in the chaos of emotions I was experiencing I was reminded of another time and different showers and the loss of identity. It took a strong ‘self talk second’ to get things into perspective.

My friends were on their own journey of ‘exposure’ so to speak until finally there were 6 very white bodies clad only in knickers (and my pair of glasses) standing sheepishly in what I shall call the ‘reception’ room.

The craziness of the whole thing struck some of us then and we could laugh at ourselves. Nervous laughter, perhaps, but still a laugh as we looked around at the equally naked women watching us and going about their business with No sense of unease, despite their nudity.

And their business was?

Well having their weekly Hammam of course.

Dressing, or undressing in this room

and then walking naked into the next room while carrying their basket of “cleaning materials”.

All the while talking loudly and laughing and thoroughly enjoying their time here. This is their weekly gathering place, a chance to say hi, to catch up on gossip, share recipes, joys, sorrows, to look for prospective daughter in laws (all 10 fingers, child bearing hips.. you get the picture),

and savour the most precious commodity in that part of the world – water.

There were elderly weathered bodies, young lithe ones, children, babies in mother’s arms, teenage friends.

All naked, all comfortable and sitting around either on low wooden benches or on the tiled floor. Watching us as two very large, very black women, wearing ‘almost’ knickers, silver necklaces and nothing else appeared and ‘herded’ us from the reception room through a middle room into the last room and pointed to the floor against the wall.

(By this time my glasses had completely steamed up and I had no choice but to walk back to the ‘reception’ and hand them over – not knowing if I would ever see them again, or I guess, whether I would ever see again full stop. (My spare pair was far away in a bag in what seemed like another planet at that moment in time.)

Back though, to the floor against the back wall where we now all sat, facing into that room and beyond that into the middle room.

Ah, if that was all we were doing – facing.

But not so.

We were facing and looking directly at pendulous breasts and huge thighs occupying low benches along the walls, all at eye level. And it didn’t matter which way your eye went, there was another body or part of a body. 😂 The rooms were filled with bodies.

We watched arms, legs, thighs, all being massaged by either the owner of said limbs or in some instances by someone else.

And everywhere NOISE and heat and buckets of water into which ladles were dipped and water poured over bodies.

It is difficult to describe this place and how like ducks out of water we felt, even though we were actually in water.

Slippery water all over the floor which was diligently swept away by a naked lady with a large broom. She moved the water around and with it, mandarin peels, banana skins and you don’t really want to know what else.

The experience continued with our ‘black herders’ (for that is what they felt like to me, the lamb being herded) ladeling water over us, giving us slippery black soap to massage into our bodies (which we duly did). Surprising how submissive one becomes when out of one’s comfort zone, just following orders whether verbal or otherwise.

So there we were on the hard wet tiled floor (for some reason I was given a tatty piece of linoleum to sit on – go figure). Our two ‘ladies’ then came back and poured more water over us to rinse the soap off. With sign language we realised we were to lie down on our stomachs (on the hard wet tiled floor) while our bodies were subjected to a brief but very severe ‘massage’ with a loofah glove that had been who knows where 😫😅.

And Yup, you got it, we were turned over and the process was repeated on our other side, with equal vigour only now I was facing my ‘masseur’ and her very large free swinging bosoms which hovered before me so I dare not move for fear of making contact with one or both!!! 😳 That completed I saw Jo alongside me, with complicated sign language say, ‘yes please she would like her hair washed’ and ‘no she had no shampoo’.

No problem apparently, as our large lady simply poured water over her head from a bucket. I watched Jo splutter and spit like a child caught unawares under a shower, have her hair ruffled by said lady who poured more water over Jo’s head and hey presto –

Hair Washed.

I declined the hair wash

One more bucket of water over me, (and the others) cooler this time, and we were ‘free to go’.
Back the way we came –

through the middle room,

into the reception room –

not only naked (bar the skimpy knickers) but sopping wet too.

At this point we realised what the ladies had in their baskets apart from shampoo –

towels and dry clothes.

We had none of those and while our ‘used clothes’ along with handbags, boots and glasses were returned we struggled to get dressed on a sopping wet floor with now damp as well as dirty clothes, and of course in full view of our gallery of voyeurs.

But dress we did and with a HUGE sigh of relief

walked out of the front door.

Away from the heat, away from the noise, away from the complete strangeness of the local Hammam.

Some of us were still laughing at the craziness of this adventure, some were close to tears.

All of us needed a drink (or two or three) and so we crossed the road to a tea house and sat down with a deep inhalation of clean air.

While we may have wanted something stronger, no alcohol is served in Morocco (or at least that is the official position) and we settled for several cups of coffee while we discussed and digested our experience and waited for our guide to meet us again.

I go back to where this all started:

One of my reasons  for travelling is to expose myself to new ideas and challenge  my perception of how one ‘should’ live.”

I was most certainly exposed 😜today – in more ways than one!

And yet, we all lived to tell the tale – and quite a tale it was.