Walking the shadows of the Todra and Dades Gorge

Camel sign in Morocco

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.

Tinerhir

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.

Todra Gorge

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.

Dades Gorge

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.

Dades Gorge

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.

Sheperd

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).

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6 Responses

  1. Zaid says:

    Awesome read (as expected). Fully understand your reaction to the touts. They got to me in the Medinah in Fes. When they approached me I just said “no help” and they would then swear me. I did react to one person. Asked him if he speaks to his mother like that – he then walked away. In Tinghir I moved away from the bus station as soon as I could, before they could get to me.
    From Fes I took the night bus to Merouga. Just relaxed for 2 days in the village (ive ben to deserts before, so I never do a tour). Took the bus to Tinghir and took a grand taxi in an out of Todra Gorge yesterday (a bit touristy, and sad to see all the graffiti). Was also considering hitching a ride as taxis rarely drive by, but fortunately one arrived after an hour or 2 waiting. Then took a grand taxi (831000km on the clock) from Tinghir to Boumalne last night and found a cheap, clean hotel (hotel Timzirte, 100mdh private). I did not want to stay in Dades Gorge (wanted to have a number of food options available to me in town, and I understood that the Gorge gets very cold at night – tried to avoid it). I spent a few hours in the Gorge today. A few more than I needed (it takes a while to find a public bus). Amazing place. I walked up and down that windy road.
    On the bus to Ouarzazate now. Thanks for the hotel recommendation. They do not have a website to book, but I called a number that I found for Hotel Royal, and was told that Insha Allah I will have a room there for the next 2 or 3 nights.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hey Zaid!

      Really nice to here your story too! How did your time go in Ouarzazate? Did you go to the Atlantic coast? I just wrote my last post for Morocco – pretty crazy journey overall. I’m back home now for Xmas, but thinking about going into Asia at the end of January – Inshallah! 😀 Hope you are okay!

  2. chris says:

    I can’t believed you swapped your tennis ball! Ha!

  3. norasakura says:

    haaaaaaaa..ia m going there next week..
    OK…i will stock up tennis ball..HAHHAH
    farnie ~~

    anyway..nice writing..I want to try the Eliza in Essaouira..can u pls tell me, how to get to Eliza?..and we only do day trip,so..do they open at lunch ?

    Norasakura

    • Jonathan says:

      Hello Norasakura,and welcome to BackpackingSolo.com!

      Where about are you going in Morocco? If you want to do an exchange, bring a few watches which look different to what the Africans sell for cheap, they also like Nokia mobile phones. I did swap a tennis ball but I threw it in as an extra haha. The address for Eliza is … 1 Rue Agadir … they open from 7:30pm onwards. Enjoy your stay in Morocco and give me a shout if you need any more advice.

      Jonathan

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