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Imlil: Trekking the High Atlas mountains

Posted by daveb on March 20th, 2008

It was my stellar idea to undertake a two day trek in the High Atlas mountains in Morocco. Originally I had wanted to go the whole hog and climb Jebel Toubkal, northern Africa’s highest mountain, but our Berber guide said that the recent snowfall had made it too dangerous for us to attempt now. Squiffy’s expression suggested to me that we should perhaps go for a more leisurely stroll around the base instead. Good job too, as I’m writing this entry two days after completing the trek with a stinking head-cold with complements from the mountains and neither of us have yet regained our ability to walk properly as our calf-muscles are so tight. It appears that our guide’s interpretation of “mostly flat” is somewhat different to ours.

The town of Imlil is considered the basecamp for the mountain range and is about an hour-and-a-half grande taxi ride from Marrakesh. We met up with the two Mohammed’s, our mountain guide and muleteer, and Muesli the mule — who would be carrying most of our stuff. Poor thing.

Our trek took us through a number of genuine Berber villages, in which the mountain folk still thrive. Many villages do not have electricity, and we didn’t see a single one with running water or sewerage… which obviously raises a few awkward questions. It was like walking into the Yorvik Viking Centre — a museum from the past — and we were both left scratching our heads, wondering how people lived this way:

  • There are only a few roads. In one village, the weekly market was a three day walk away.
  • Some villages had recently been connected to electricity — the first thing each family bought thereafter was a TV and a satellite dish!
  • They keep goats, sheep and mules in their houses.
  • Without electricity (and thus TV), the villagers had no idea about how other people live. Without TV advertising creating a desire for possessions, the Berber people appear to be happy with their lot.
  • Squiffy & I were wearing modern hiking footwear and slipping around the mountain scree paths. The Berber kids were wearing flat soled shoes (slippers, even) and were racing up and down the same terrain.

Hats off to the two Mohammed’s who were very knowledgeable about the land and the people. The food that they prepared for us was better than I had eaten in Marrakesh. Special thanks to Muesli the mule who had the rough end of the stick from the start…


Comment from Mum N.
Time: March 21, 2008, 4:28 pm

I am ashamed to say that I had to look up the meaning of the word ” stellar “, Dave – I thought it was possibly connected with having drunk too much lager ( or perhaps it is !! ). However, I am now enlightened. The mountains look fascinating, the food looks great, and I know just how Muesli feels ! Love Mum ( aka Eeyore ) x

Comment from andrew b
Time: March 23, 2008, 3:46 pm

no electricity? Satellite dishes? Blimey! Got an iPhone now so will be checking more often :)

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