We were up before the sun reached the peaks surrounding the alpine meadow in which the Cafe d’Atlas stood and packed up our stuff while the little man (we never did find out his name!) cooked us omelettes with cheese, and coffee for breakfast.
The icy wind was still howling down off the peaks, rattling the windows of the hut and shaking the bare branches of the walnut tree outside.
We paid the bill, which came to 127 Dirhams¹ all up then left the little man in his little cafe in that windswept alpine basin and drove off down the steep, winding road. The views were magnificent, with brown, eroded hills cut by deep gorges, with high, snow-capped peaks above.
The wind continued to blast off the tops, making it damn cold when we stopped for photos or to look at little craft shops beside the road. As well as pottery and polished stones, the shops all sold beautiful examples of geodes: amethyst, calcite, agate and other minerals found in these hills. Some of the larger geodes had been painted bright green or orange to make ordinary quartz look like something more exotic. Mike had found out about this scam to his cost the previous day, having bought what he thought was a geode of amethyst only to find that the purple colour of the crystals rubbed off to reveal palin quartz beneath!
As we neared the bottom of the valley, the individual crops growing there could be made out. vegetables, olives & walnuts were growing in the fertile soil at the foot of the pine-clad hills, and many small villages dotted the roadside. As always, the snowy mountains made a backdrop to the quiet and peaceful valley farms.
We stopped mid-morning for coffee at a cafe overlooking a wide, tree-clad valley then dropped down the last few miles of the High Atlas and out onto the plains near Marrakech.
We drove into the city through olive groves and orange tree orchards and found the Hotel de Foucauld, a palace of a place compared to the tents we have lived in over the last 3 1/2 months! The room Linda and I were in had a bath/shower, a SIT DOWN DUNNY² and 2 comfy beds. Two large wooden door opened onto a small balcony overlooking a park.
We settled in to all that opulent luxury for a while, then Rob, Pete, Linda and I walked over to the market. We had a fresh orange juice in the square outside the market, then entered the dim and exciting labyrinth of passages and streets that make up the Old Town of Marrakech, a place that has attracted travellers for decades.
Every new turn produced two more paths to choose from and from every door the merchants, some of them old and cheerful, others cunning and devious-looking younger men, called us to look at their wares.
It was too much to take in so we went and had a hot chocolate at a rooftop cafe with a view out over the central Market Square.
Later in the evening, we returned to the square to eat at the food stalls and have our pockets picked by vagabond kids.³ I bought a small set of Moroccan drums off a kid for £2-00.
¹The Moroccan unit of currency is the Dirham.
² DUNNY is Australian slang for a toilet.
³I thwacked an urchin that had its grubby little hand in Linda’s pocket.