The High Atlas:
The way south from Fatima's farm took us through some of the most spectacular mountain landscape ever. We climbed narrow roads only just clinging to the mountainsides with high sheer walls on one side and cavernous drops on the other, 1000 metres to the valley floor. In every direction hardly a sign of life save for the occasional stone-built cube of mountain hut. The geology of the region is written large upon the landscape here with sedimentary strata waving and meandering across the bare sides of the slopes, with hard rock less weathered away jutting out sharply from the softer sediments underneath, with still, blue crater lakes in old volcanic calderas reflecting the sky.
And down in the valleys, definite signs of life in small villages and fields by almost, but not quite, dry riverbeds. Here the life of the country goes on with donkeys pulling wooden ploughs, men scattering seeds by hand, women clearing the weeds or harvesting the crops. Everywhere are wide shallow wadis, pebble lined and dry, with the roads across them scoured and broken. What a sight they must be when the rains or the snow melt arrive. Most must be impassable.
Donkey trains of Berber families carried the worldly goods of Berber families on their backs. The animals were laden with rugs, cooking pots, tents, clothes, tools. A herd of goats, some sheep and occasionally some camels accompanied the family heading to the higher regions before the hot summer really sets in.
The bigger campervans with us were reluctant to spend another day travelling over roads like this again, so they headed off down the main highway to the campsite we were due to arrive at in another day's time. The two little vans, us and Paul and Liz in their VW, along with Ray, Steve and Hamid, cut across the highway and kept heading west to spend our third wild camping night next to some old buildings that were once the accommodation for families of political prisoners held not too far away. Now used by miners who seemed to come and go in trucks every few hours, it was a dry desolate place.
With just the small numbers in the group for the night, we all got together at dinner time. Hamid cooked up a big tagine of chicken and vegetables which was delicious. Real Moroccan food!
The location should have suggested we would have a quiet night and a good sleep, but some wild dogs decided to bark fiercely all night - ALL night. And some small black beetles took a shine to our van, and us - no-one else had them invade. We gathered up dozens of them but more seemed to get in every time we opened the door. They got into our bedding and spent the night burrowing between us and the sheets. All night we felt their sharp claws digging, and we would have to find them and toss them out! Even if we could have slept through the dogs' barking and howling, the beetles would have deprived us of sleep anyway…