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Into the Atlas Mountains in Morrocco

Monday 15 October 2012

I'll be honest. After three days in Marrakech, I was ready to get out. I was sick of being pushed, insulted and punched.
That's not to say I was having an awful time. It's just that Marrakech is the kind of city where hassle is a part of every day life, and it can wear you down. It was definitely time for a day trip.
The people in our hotel had tried to get us to book one through them, but the trip they suggested was more expensive than others we'd seen, and we didn't want to tie ourselves down. When walking through a side street off the Jemaa el-Fnaa, we'd come across a line of people hawking various excursions.
They all seemed to be offering the same thing. It's something that I can never get my head around. Around the world you'll see it - one stand, shop or cafe opens up, and a million others soon pop up next door. In Sligo, there is a road of only dentists. Am I missing something?
Anyway, we ended up battling through the hawkers and made a choice, based on not much sense. Honestly? All of the trips are the same. They all visit the same spots, at the same time, for roughly the same price. What it comes down to is who grabs you first.
We started off by visiting a little community in a berber village, where women kept bees for honey, kneaded bread on stone and shooed cows from room to room.

We huddled in the cold and drank mint tea, along with fresh flat breads dipped in honey and olive oil. I don't think I'd ever truly tasted olive oil before that moment. It was divine.

What started to entertain us at this point was the British couple in our group, who looked the spitting image of Mary Kate and Ashley.

That morning, I'd had a dilemma about whether or not to wash my hair. Well, dilemma may not be the right word, but a quandary anyway. I was heading straight to the hammam after the trip, where I would be doused with water for an hour. So I didn't think it was necessary... but I did it anyway, after a long period of debate.
When we got onto the bus, and Mary Kate (the boy) sat in front of us, long strings of the oiliest hair I've ever seen trailing on the back of his seat, Nuz whispered in my ear
"I think you could have gotten away without washing your hair"
After the berber residence, we went to a co-op which produces argan oil. Momentarily, I got quite excited. The little shop sold a variety of oils, lotions and potions. But I had never really gotten my head around the exchange rate. Which is odd, because it's shopping maths, which I'm really good at. 11 dirham = 1 euro. Roughly. In retrospect, this is actually the EASIEST EXCHANGE RATE EVER. But, for some reason, I kept thinking it was 100 to 1. I have absolutely no idea why.
I was seeing oils for 200d, and thinking "Amazing! That's about €2. What value!" I had a little bundle in my hand, thinking I was about to get the bargain of the century. Then I copped on, and realised they were €20 each. Which... wasn't a bargain. Seriously.
So I sheepishly put them back on the shelves and ran away.
Next stop? Death Valley. We stopped at some rickety little bridge, for a unique opportunity to be part of the news. I could almost hear the intro to my story.

This didn't seem like a really fun adventure, on closer inspection. It really is just a shitty old bridge, which is just waiting for one fat tourist too many to send it shattering into a million pieces.
It didn't shatter, of course. Somewhere along the way, we stopped to look at some camels. If you had a million pounds to spare, you could ride on of them about ten meters up the road. If that didn't tickle your fancy, you could stand and look at them frothing at the mouth, and feel a little sad.

At one point, one of the camels tried to freak out and make a break for it. We were all rooting for him, really, but the camel man kicked the hell out of him.
Mary Kate and Ashley were FURIOUS. Until that moment, I hadn't heard them speak. Or really do anything, aside from hug each other. But as soon as the man's boot met the camel's back, they freaked out at him.
There was also a small horse, which was a little bitch, to be honest. I tried to go and stroke him, and he was having none of it.

OK, it looks like he hasn't moved in those two pictures, but he went for me, I swear.
Then it was into the mountains proper, where we started to regret our choice of footwear. What was described as a walk in the mountains was a full blown hike, where we scrambled up rock faces, jumped over ravines and were physically lifted over boulders. Along the way we met parents with young toddlers, older people and one pregnant woman who clearly hadn't expected the climb.
I became convinced that I would fall. It really is the kind of thing that I would do. There were wet, slippy rocks everywhere, a well worn and muddy path, and I am clumsy as fuck.
Luckily, I didn't.
Nuz, however, put her foot in the stream. If that had happened to me, I would have been furious. But, as it happened to Nuz, it was pretty damn funny. She had a wet foot all day. Hee hee hee.

After all of that excitement, we stopped for a late lunch, in a river. To be honest, it was a pretty shitty lunch. Formica tables sat in the cold river bank, and there was just one set menu, which you had to order from. Lunch was much more expensive than it would have been in the city, and it wasn't great.
Oh, and to use the toilet? You had to pay £1.
I know, boo hoo, right? But I pee every 17 minutes. If I had to pay £1 each time, I'd be broke.
So back to the city it was. I think our little excursion was around £30, without paying £1 to pretty much every person we saw. Despite my incessant whining, it was worth it. Just bring some rock climbing gear, and don't kick a camel.

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