Behind the door No.1 of the Outdoor Blogger Advent calendar hides a Christmas story from Morocco.
Tafraoute, Monkeys and Merry Christmas
We have been in the country for 20 days now and have been in Tafraoute for a few days now. Somehow we fell for the charm of the little town and stay a few more days. Yesterday we moved out of the hotel Tangier and moved to the campsite to protect the travel fund.
This morning we finally dare to feed the monkeys, who frolic, argue and love on the walling of the square. We can hardly believe it, monkeys! These are definitely Berber monkeys. Anyway, they are on mandarins, and the alpha male hisses us even when we get too close, or he just wants more mandarins. Respectfully, we hold ourselves back.
In the afternoon we go to town for shopping, strolling around the market, eating a fresh Omlette Berber. Drink a tea, palate with hands and feet. So many tourists are not on the way. But we are not an attraction, as in other parts of the country. It is really pleasant here.
We will come back to the campsite late. Two palm fronds tied together in a cross lean against the tent. We understand only when the old campsite overseer holds us toothless grinning a smoked joint and laughing us "Merry Christmas!" Wishes. Hach, it's Christmas today! Of course we smoke the thing with Him, drink tea and talk about religion, about important holidays here and there. Later there are tagines, more tea and a happy night.
Incidentally, the monkeys broke out of a circus. When we went shopping, some gentlemen with long poles and one with a suit and tie showed up trying to catch them. That was an excellent spectacle!
A deep, dark valley in Jbel Sarhro
A few days later, we are urged to go. We cross the Jbel Sarhro, from north to south, on a route that is nowhere described, nowhere indicated. GoogleEarth was a great help in the planning: always along the north-south axis through valleys, here and there green spots, so water points.
The first days there were still slopes, footpaths, trails, we just kept the north-south direction. Then it got steeper, more lonely. In our estimation we need one more, at the most two days, until we come back to a village, from there it should be possible to hitchhike to Agdz.
Just before a pass, an old, abandoned mine. Above we see tents. Nomads. Very good, they know where to get water. We need up to 5 liters, per person. At every opportunity we fill up. But nobody is at home except the dogs that bark. We continue, deeper into the valley. In the corner of my eye I see a movement, a woman waves to us.
"Agdz?" I shout and point into the valley - and reap shaking head, far-reaching arm movements in the opposite direction. The close goal in mind, we still go into the valley. Imperceptibly it narrows, hours later it becomes a pretty narrow canyon. Damn, we should have listened to the woman after all. It starts to dawn punctually at five o'clock. Morocco is already so close to the equator that there is about half an hour of dusk between daylight and pitch dark.
Lost in thought - we have made a mistake, we still find a halfway flat camp, opens up in front of me a black hole. Only a crack, maybe two meters wide. I see the opposite side still in the dusk. But bottomless darkness down. I throw a stone, one, two, three, plonk. Shit. Despair is spreading. Now do not panic, think, think. A short break, a drink, a date. Without a backpack, climb up the left, slightly less steep but rutted wall of the gorge. At the top I have to smile, because the view is terrific. Deep below me, two valleys collide, ours opens into a broader space, from the left. The terrain is ruby, rocky. If we're careful, we can make it down there in twenty or thirty minutes.
In the light of the headlamps we can do it, meanwhile it's dark. We continue to stumble. Not ten minutes later, a deep water hole, a shallow gravel bank. Here we set up the tent, pumping water through the filter and decide to postpone Sylvester by one day. Today is the 31.12.2011.