Meski to Tamtatouchte:
The pool was hard to leave but not much else about the Meski campsite would have made us stay even if we could. The facilities for the whole campground were two toilets and one cold shower. If you wanted hot, you had to pay extra, but with the temperatures in the high 30s, the cold one was all that was needed … that is, if you could get sufficient water! The hand-held showerhead dribbled water constantly and the difference between the tap being on or off was barely discernable. And after our lack of sleep the night before spent listening to dogs barking and fighting the invasion of the small black beetles, we were dying for a good sleep. But… loud music drifted down from the town, with a thumping beat that ear-plugs could not defeat, lasting till after 3am. The odd dog added to the cacophony and then a bloody owl started up with a noise that sounded like the reversing beep of a truck. (We are told it's a Scopes Owl and we shall avoid them like the plague in future.) And young men in cars and on bikes called out and drove back and forth near us until the early hours.
We left the plains and the dry desert again, heading west then north into the High Atlas again. One of the large vans again chose not to drive this route but go straight to the campsite - one occasionally wonders why they came on this particular trip which clearly was to be off the beaten track; they have missed so much. The other van however decided to be brave.
The route took us through the most incredible gorges. Every turn in the road revealed new wonders to gasp at. Rocks overhung the road, cliffs and caves rose above us, dry wadis trailed along beside us. Small villages clung to the watercourses with the inevitable bursts of green fields, women washed rugs in the rivers, Bedouin families hauled their donkeys and camels along. And hardly another car on the road. The camera has been clicking overtime! Unfortunately a wind had been blowing - and continued - and the air was full of fine dust, ruining the clear views of the very high peaks of the Haut Atlas in the distance.
Our camp for two nights was in the little village of Tamtatouchte. In amongst the dust storms and strong gusts, we tucked ourselves into as sheltered a spot as we could find (…not very). This is a relatively flash place for a village like this, but it seems there are lots of walks around and some famous gorges close by so there is quite a lot of accommodation. The Hotel Baddou where we are camped has a swimming pool (freezing cold again), a restaurant and 3 Bedouin style tents under which you can laze on cushions and have mint tea. The group had a meal together in the restaurant, a fixed meal of mixed chopped salad, a chicken and rice tagine, and yoghurt and honey for dessert, all downed with 2012 vintage Fanta.
In the morning we went for a wander through the village, mainly to find some bread and tomatoes. Small shops are tucked away in houses behind big steel doors. We found one that had tomatoes and picked out the least soft ones we could find. In all we bought a kilo of tomatoes, a half kilo of red onions, two loaves of bread and a large bottle of Fanta for …27 Dirhams. That's about $3, and the Fanta would have been most of that. After we left, the shopkeeper came running after us, wanting to swap our Fanta for a cold one.
In the village we were accosted by the usual kids, some of whom were after 'bon-bons' or stylos', but we never give in to these inevitable demands and they soon lose interest. Many, however, only want to wave and say hello in French. Everyone in town that we passed bid us 'Bonjour' or 'ça va?. One man in western clothes, but chatting to two traditionally robed and hooded men, started a conversation, first in French which went beyond me, but then in quite good English. He was an engineer who worked in Casablanca but came back to his village on weekends because he liked the people and the peace and quiet.
And the wind blew and blew - and continues to blow - and has coved the van, inside and out, in a fine coating of dust. It has given us some time to catch up on the blog, organise the photos and rest up a bit. And yes, last night we had a wonderful night's sleep!