Walking the shadows of the Todra and Dades Gorge
Nobody likes losing things, especially something personal. I felt sad when my words departed on a bus to Marrakech, as I stood helplessly, in a state of panic and confusion at the side of the road. They were more than just words, they were ideas; thoughts; emotions; and feelings about myself, and the people around me. It’s not the loss of them that bothers me so much, as we lose them everyday in our head, it’s the thought of somebody else reading them. I just hope my words fall into the hands of somebody who can’t read English, or who has the decency to do the right thing with them.
The bus network – like everything else in Morocco – is chaos. Buses run late; people run around screaming; and if you take a local bus it’s even worse. People will try and sell you things; you will see the ticket man hanging from the bus, pulling people on as it’s moving; people running after the bus, as it threatens to leave them at a temporary stop; expect to haggle for your ticket; and just pray the bus doesn’t fall apart before reaching your destination. The CTM bus service offered a decent level of orderly behaviour, and it was them who I used to travel the road east of Ouarzazate, to the small mining town of Tinerhir. I was in a fragile state of mind upon arrival, and the last thing I needed was to be harassed by three Moroccans, following me around, trying to push their mediocre services on me. They got a piece of my mind of course, and then I retreated to a nearby cafe to get my head together – it was my second case of Moroccan rage.
After cooling down, I took a grand taxi to the Todra Gorge. As we approached, the huge rock faces narrowed to reveal a looming passage into darkness. I wondered curiously, mesmerised by the sheer power and beauty of the gorge. The blistery, rain stricken winds; the jagged shadow drops, revealed in contrast by the soft lights of local accommodation; I felt a deep connection with the gorge as I danced through the fading light, drenched by tears of the sky, overcome with joy and emotion; my evening had took a turn for the better. The next morning I awoke to the gushing sound of the river, it’s more of a deafening sound than tranquil I must say – I’m thinking of how much of an old man I sound right now. I took the three hour hike up and around the gorge, as detailed in Lonely Planet. It was a good challenge, both the hike, and navigating past the nomadic dog who barked after me all the way out of the valley – bitch! should have gave her that Dirham afterall… I slept soundly that night, helped I suppose, by the multiple servings of Moroccan “medicine” I generously received from the proprietor and his friends – it was a good night.
I hitched my first ever ride out of the gorge from a Spanish couple in a van. My tactic worked perfectly; they drove past initally, but it had started to rain, so I held my hands out to show it was raining, and looked to the clouds with a sad face – they soon stopped. They kindly dropped my off in Boumalne Dades which upon arrival, quickly won an award for the most digusting toilets I’ve ever been in. From the town, I took a minibus to a cluster of hotels in the middle of the Dades Gorge where I searched in the pouring rain for accommodation. “Inshallah, Inshallah” are the words which remind me of the hotel, and it’s mellowed out owner of whom I chose to stay with – it was his answer for everything which never failed to make me giggle. My room had a double bed, an en suite, a balcony overlooking the river, and to my surprise, they even supplied toilet roll and a bath towel – very posh! I made the most of my day, despite the rain, and crossed the swelling river into a valley which marked the start of many hikes through the gorge. After ten minutes of walking, the gorge quickly narrowed into the most surreal environment for walking I’ve ever experienced. The dull, rainy weather; the ever narrowing gorge; the shimmer of the stone with the sharpness of the rocks, all contributed in created an intense feeling, much like the end of the world. I sheltered at times in small caves within the walls of the gorge, where embers still burned from meals cooked by the local Berber people who lived in the mountain’s villages – it all added to an incredible nomadic experience.
It turned out that I was the only one staying in the hotel that evening, and Mr Inshallah had left me alone in the hotel watching English films on his satellite T.V which I was more than happy doing. it turned out fo be a bad idea because as the ill-equipped hotel manager, I had to turn down several guests that evening who knocked on the door for a room.The rain continued throughout the night, and by morning the river had swelled, making it impassable, so I could’nt explore the route into the gorge. Instead, I took to the nearby hills which overlooked the gorge, and it’s vast agricultural land which ran alongside the river. From spending time in many Berber villages I have experienced their interest in the exchange of goods for goods, instead of goods for money. It was nearing the end of my long walk that day where I sat down in a small shop, and took part in such exchange. After about an hour of haggling we had come to a deal, and I swapped him some clothes; jewellery; a pair of headphones; and a tennis ball, for some silver jewellery and leather items. We both went away very happy from it all with him feeling more Westernised, and me wishing all exchanges could be done like that.
A week ago, my friend Michel from Marrakech had suggested we go on a road trip to the small coastal town of Sidi Kaouki. Even though it was a six hour return journey, I decided to do it because I didn’t get to say goodbye properly on my last visit, and it would be great to catch up, especially by the sea, which we both have a special liking towards. I’m going to be driving, so let’s hope we can first make it out alive from the madness of Marrakech – never mind the journey as a whole – so I can keep you updated with life on the road whilst Backpacking Solo.
Until next time guys, peace and love, Jonathan x
Backpackers Tips and Advice
Hotel Restaurant la Vallee offers cheap, clean accommodation with good food in the Todra Gorge.
Take a minibus into the Dades Gorge, and ask to get dropped off outside the Du Vieux Chateau Du Dades; just down the road there are a few cheap hotels (the one I stayed at was the second to last one with the reception on your right as you enter).