UGHHHHH i just had the most traumatic day... but since the days leading up to today were wonderful and magnificent, i don't want to ruin this entry by mentioning it right now, so i'll save it for another timee. instead i'll talk about the past 4 days where i was chilllllllennn in both in the literal and figurative sense. I trekked up Mount Toubkal, North Africa's highest peak, and then headed to Essaouira, a costal town for some well-deserved R&R :) All in all, it was an amazing experience.
SO EHRM where to start.. basically when I was in Marrakech I met a guy at my hostel, Osmon, who mentioned him and this German dude (Kilian) were going to trek up Mount Toubkal.. and mee being mee, i asked whether i could join since I wanted to hike and the excursion i was initially going to book included a lot of sitting in a bus and a quick stop at Dades Gorge (LAMEEEEeEEe) and he said sure.. so it was gonna be the 3 of us plus my new Australian friend, Brian (only girl again.. SIGH!!!!!!!!!!)
Anywhose, we were supposed to leave the next night and drive about an hour away to spend the night in a little place a called Imlill so we could start our hike early the next day... however the original person we booked it with was from SKETCHVILLE and it seemed like he was trying to rip us off so we decided to change operators and leave in the morning.. So the next day we got up at around 8am for breakfast and got to the office at 9am.. and of course, since this is Morocco, we ended up waiting around for another hour... and eventually two more Canadian guys joined us (Kevin and Evan). We then all jumped in a “grand taxi” which is really an old mercedes (German engineering) that people share and started our drive. it was a scenic route through the mountains and once we got to the town…we started hiking and walked up for about 5 hours. the path wasn’t too badd and we had a nice dinner together where the guys stuffed themselves full of chicken which was so tasty and we just chatted and i laughed a ton… BUT THE WORST WAS YET TO COME. DUNDUNDUN.
So after the long day of hiking, i was looking forward to bed at night at this cute lil “refuge” which was really a nice lodge in the middle of the mountains.. unfortunately i had an allergic reaction to the blanket so i broke out into hives and spent the whole night scratching myself and barely got any rest before our 5AM wake up call… we started our trek around 6 and it was freezingggg… in our first 10 minutes we got to an extremely steep hill covered with snow and ice.. i was slipping and sliding everywhere and thinking “WHY DO I ALWAYS DO THIS?!?” (masocist) The hike didn’t get much easier TBH.. it was extremely steep, really tough, and really, really high .. i had to scramble on all fours for a good portion of the time. and our guide, who only spoke Arabic and French (and none of us did!) was kind of pushy.. like literally he was pushing me up along the last stretch of the ascent at around 4000 meters (~13000 feet), where i was about to pass out from the altitude… but I MADE it (and in 3 hours.. which was only about 30ish minutes after the guys.. who were so sweet and waited for me so we could take a group picture even though it was soon coldd) and in the end, like all my other excursions, it as totally worth it. (sorry my pics are not the best i was too cold and shaking half the time)
And like the laws of physics and/or that famous song states, ‘what goes up must come down” so we spent another 5 hours descending. usually during a hike, the descent tends to go quickly, BUT THIS FELT LIKE FOREVER. my knees were so wobbly towards the end, and i definitely felt it the next day, ANYWAY, after we got back to Marrakech, which took forever because we ended up taking a local bus instead of a grand taxi… we went to get some YUMMY LAMB and then i fell asleep in an AC room.. which was sososo glorious (again, its the simple things in life you treasure when you’re traveling… i had the first good night sleep in forever.. SO GOOD in fact, we almost slept thru the alarm… but luckily Brian popped out of bed at 7 and we rushed to get our shit together to make it on time for our Supratour bus to Essaouria (pronounced essa-weera)
Essaouria is a really pretty, VERY WINDY town on the Atlantic coast… it’s a lot more CHILLED than Marrakech, both in the temperature and vibe of the place.. which was a blessing after the scorching and chaotic days i experienced there. Since its about 3 hours away from Marrakech, I initially was planning on doing a day trip, but after chatting with some people, they all convinced me to spend at least two nights there. I was glad I took their advice— there's fresh (and cheap) seafood, a flourishing art scene, cute cafes that serve delicious juices and teas (no booze though!) and play great, live music and a beautiful fortified wall which served as the backdrop to a GoT episode.. and the hostel i stayed in, Surf and Chill, was amazing.
The town was designed by the same Frenchman who designed Brittany’s most famous port town, Saint-Malo, so it definitely feels a little European on the outside, but once you’re in the medina, you definitely feel like you’re in Morocco. Mix that in with the Arab population to the north, Berber population int he south, and the Gnawa, who originally came from further south in Africa, and you get an eclectic mix of people and culture. I was fortunate enough to get to the city in the midst of the Gnaoua & World Music festival where I danced the whole night to music from Les Ambassadeurs and Aziz Sahmaoui… this despite the soreness in my legs from trekking up the mountain. It was loads of fun, even though i was completely sober.. which is definitely a first at a festival.
The best part, i’ll say, was people watching. there was a wonderful mix of young and old people dressed in both traditional and western garb, singing and clapping to traditional Moroccan songs during the set changes.. It was amazing to see how music transcends generations and how proud they are of their heritage. Anywhose, I'll leave you with this, which is from the Gnaoua & World Music website: "Music is a universal language. It is a vector for dialogue and rapprochement extending well beyond national boundaries. All peace makers hold very dear the power of music and are keen to support the artists who keep it alive."