Morocco to Madrid 7: Todra Gorge

So I’m currently writing this entry next to a pool, in the middle of a desert, next to the biggest piles of sand I’ve ever seen.

More on that tomorrow.

When we got to our guesthouse yesterday – the AMAZING Palmeraie Guest House on the road to the Todra Gorge – Rashid, the manager, told me about a walk he organizes through the palmeraie, where a local takes you all the way to the Todra Gorge, walking through the palms, farms, a kasbah and a berber village.  I asked him if this was a walk we could do on our own, and he said “It’s better to take a guide, it’s been raining.”

It was definitely better to take a guide.

We woke up at 7 for breakfast and were out the palms a bit before eight.  The first thing we saw was a crumbling kasbah up in the hills, followed by locals farming their crops (alfalfa and almonds today, mostly), a few donkeys wandering by, and some trickling streams.  We had to take our shoes off to make some river crossings, which included my least favourite outdoor activity, walking across rocks in bare feet.  Like, anytime I see a picture of somebody standing barefoot on a rocky beach or in a stream, all I can think is “ouch.”

I have sensitive feet.

Anyway, we kept on moving towards the Gorge, making a few more crossings and having find a few creative paths where none existed.  We stopped at a pond of “Sacred Fish”, and I never could really get an answer as to why they are sacred, so I just thought “okay, good for the fish.”  A few more rough crossings including one big jump down that landed Daina on his butt (though, to be fair, he will tell you he landed on his feet first), some sampling of some ripe figs, and soon enough, we were in a kasbah.

Now, we have experienced the “Authentic Berber House” so many times on this trip that I feel it should have a “TM” next to it.  This one, though, was lovely, and the guy wasn’t pressuring us to buy a carpet.  We could have walked away at any time.

We kinda didn’t.

The condo needs a runner, they had some amazing looking ones, so, at the end of the day, we bought an authentic Berber carpet from mud kasbah in Morocco.  And negotiated a good price.  At least, that’s what everybody told us.

They did this amazing wrapping job to get it nice and compact (it’s a runner, so not huge), and we continued to the Gorge.

While the Dades Gorge yesterday had Todra beat in terms of driving scenery, Todra itself is much more impressive.  The rock just juts out of the ground, surrounding both sides of the road, with a riverbed and even a few guesthouses located directly in the Gorge.  Oddest sight was a Japanese guy pulling a donkey with what looked like a covered ice cream cart behind it – there was a story behind that, I’m sure, but our guide didn’t know what it was and we weren’t sure how to find out.  Still, odd.

The extra road space alongside this gorge means more tourism, and of course more people trying to sell you things, but overall, still an enjoyable experience.  After taking our pictures, we grabbed a 5 dirham “taxi” (more like a shuttle van) back to the guesthouse to shower, pack and move.

We ended up getting “stuck” in Tinerhir, the city closest to the Todra Gorge, for way longer than we wanted.  First, we had to get gas and money.  Then, we had to find a place to eat, and most that were restaurants were “closed” for food, and were only serving drinks when we were there.  We stopped at a Maroc Poste to get stamps for postcards, and then finally found the Oasis Hotel, which was serving lunch after the cook came back from his break.

While we were there, we met a Dutch-Moroccan who was in town because his car had broken down and he was getting it serviced.  Nice guy, spoke near-perfect English, gave us some tips on what to buy going out to the desert and where to get them cheap.  Chatted us up about Canada and such before lunch came, and once we were done, he offered to take us down to the “Women’s Market” to buy scarves for the desert.

Now, at a certain point, this started to feel like the “I’m going to take you to my friend’s shop” scam, so I tried to get Daina’s view by using our new “Scam Code Word.”  Daina forgot what it was, so we kept on going, and I’ll say that, once we got there, if it was a scam, it wasn’t a particularly well-put together one.  The guy selling us scarves quoted us numbers all around what our friend from the restaurant did and, by the time we got to a negotiated price, he actually gave us back more change than he needed to. So, if it was a “scam”, we got exactly what we needed for the price we wanted.  So I think it ended up okay.

Anyway, after this LONG experience, we were finally on the road to the desert.  Which is where we are now.  And let me tell you, it deserves its own post, and will get one tomorrow.

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