Imlil Part 1: Dreamy Days

For once, we actually planned our trip. With only a limited time in Morocco (18 days), we decided that taking a more organised approach would help us get the most out of the country. Thinking about it logistically, we decided to fly in to Tangiers and out of Marrakech, visiting places as we worked our way south. Hotels were booked, lists of monuments written, meals researched… but so as to leave ourselves some ‘unexpected adventure’ wiggle room, we left the middle week un-planned. Visiting Rabat and Casablanca as we descended the coast would be our back-up.

By the time we got to Fez, we had to start thinking about our next stop. Now we had met enough travellers and locals to ask for recommendations, and the reviews of the capital and Casablanca were not too favourable. We momentarily considered retreating to the desert town of M’Hamid, but between the cost of transport to get there, the time it would take, PLUS the fact that we already had a desert tour organised, meant we could spend our time elsewhere.

Somehow we made the decision to head into the Atlas Mountains for a few days. It was quite a distance to travel so we opted to take the train, the quicker way to get to Marrakech. What a mistake! We spent eleven hours trapped in a metal box in 40°C heat, randomly stopped for two hours, and even witnessed a riot before finally arriving in Marrakech. The journey still wasn’t over as we then had to negotiate a taxi to take us the remaining hour and a half up into the hills. No driver wanted to set off at 9pm when there was no chance of returning passengers, but somehow we managed it. Eventually we got to Imlil, and every step of our challenging arrival paid off.

I have discovered a few places on my travels where I feel totally at peace: under the ocean, Ubud and the Gili Islands in Indonesia, Pokhara in Nepal, Darjeeling in India (where Dev and I met), and now Souka – that tiny town in the Atlas Mountains.
These are places where there is no stress, you feel totally at ease to simply do nothing, you feel compelled to give yoga a try – something you have never been interested in before! I wish everyone someday finds a spot like this.

We were met on the street corner by Jamal, who had been assigned the job of accompanying us the ten minutes from the main road to our guesthouse in the neighbouring village. We descended down the scree slope into the valley, careful not to slip and fall in the dark. I always find there is something exciting about arriving somewhere new at night – I enjoy the anticipation of waiting for daybreak to see the view. And what a view it was! The next morning we awoke to a stunning landscape of lush, green valley, offset by the hazy blue mountains in the background.

Breakfast was included at ‘Chez Les Berbers’, and we wolfed down the traditional Moroccan meal before heading up to the roof-top terrace with Jamal. He used the panoramic view to point out a few walking paths to us. Unlike most visitors to the area, we had no interest in hiking to the peak of Mt Toubkal (highest mountian in North Africa) but would love an easier track for a few hours of walking.

We set off armed with camera, water, and snacks. Jamal watched us go, shouting out when we took a wrong turn. Back on course, we started to climb. The sun was hot, but the beautiful scenery kept us distracted, with stops for photos a regular occurrence. After a while, we reached a fresh orange juice stand with a little shop attached. We stopped for a drink and had a look round at the trinkets and crafts on offer. After a bit of haggling, we struck a good bargain for a few earrings and bracelets, even getting one thrown in for free. Happy with our purchases, we finished our juice and continued the upward slog.

Next stop – a favourite local spot – the waterfall! We followed the handwritten signs and the sound of running water. These led us first to a gathering of make-shift restaurants all serving ‘tajine’, then to crowds of people. Shoes were being removed, trouser legs rolled up – the women being cautious not to expose too much skin, while care-free teenage boys stripped to their underwear and waded into the icy water. My first impression was one of joy. The people here were happy. Grandmothers sunned themselves on rocks, watching as clumsy toddlers splashed away, and mothers smiled indulgently. The teenage boys had now scrambled up the rock-face and were sitting above the waterfall, shouting and laughing. We stopped to take in the scene before enjoying the refreshing water ourselves.

Once we had cooled off, it was time for lunch. We picked a restaurant and settled down for a delicious meal of chicken and veggie tajine – the perfect way to refuel before the second half of our walk. Donkey sightings, photo ops, and coffee stops made for a relaxing afternoon in the Moroccan mountains.

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