14 November 2012

Skoura to Kelaat Mgouna with taxi
Kelaat Mgouna to Amjgog with minibus
Valley of the roses
Gite D’Etape Oulnou
Walk and dinner
Arabic lessons

Better luck today?  We are in search of Amjgog.  Stopping of at the Wifi cafe for our morning cup of tea, the same cheerful happy guy was there.  We said we were setting out, and he called a few people over to help us.  Pointed us in the direction of the grand taxi we needed to take to get half way and disappeared.  When we went to pay, he was busy talking to people.  We had time to wait, and when he was done, a big piece of paper was pushed towards us.  It was an address in Amjgog.  Apparently it is the only place to stay in town, and is the closest to the gorge.  He had even rung up to check if it was avaliable for us to stay there!

With this all sorted we wandered over to the grand taxi, and loaded our bags.  A bit of waiting and we were off.  This taxi took us to Kelaat Mgouna on the highway.  It was a pretty good trip, and actually comfortable!  When we got there, we paid the exorbitant fee of 50Dh each, and went to find the minibus stop.  Our driver came running up after dealing with everyone else.  We had misunderstood.  It was 50 for the two of us, and he wanted to give us our change.  He also wanted to help with anything, and finding out we wanted a minibus to Amjgog, he waved us back to the taxi, where he promptly drove us around the corner and dropped us off right outside the buses.  Calling out to find which one we needed.  There are some fantastic people in Morocco that deserve special mention.  He is one.  We don’t trust taxi drivers as a rule, and he is the exception.

Kelaat Mgouna is in the Rose Valley.  During April/May, apparently the entire valley is filled with Roses.  Now you can only see the trees.  However in town there are countless shops selling anything you can think of with roses in it.  Distilleries for Rose Water, Soap & Shampoo, perfumes and much more.  The valley stretches West and North from here, and we want to go north.

Will it make it up the Mountain?
Place your bets here!

The bus station is in the old market place.  Apparently they demolished a lot of buildings to make it, but the market grew too quickly and had to move out of town.  This has left a bare dusty patch of earth in town that has been taken over by the buses.  We throw our bags onto our bus and wait for it to go.  Unfortunately you are not given a departure time, and we couldn’t wander far to check out the village.  We do meet an ex-teacher though, and he tells us all about the region, Berber Migration, the best places to go walking and the like.  (He also nicked my last lighter!)  It was a good way to spend the time waiting for the bus to be ready.  A few hours after this it is finally time to go.  We could have had a good look around town, gone out to the markets that are on today, and made it back in plenty of time.  Or the bus could have left 5min after we got there.  Morocco time!

The bus trip up the Valley is spectacular.  Most of the way the road follows a small river through the steep valley.  As you traverse the walls, you pass through many small towns, and a larger one.  As we make our way further up into the mountains, the valley gets a bit narrower, but still not a gorge.  There is cultivation everywhere.  Rose trees (blobs in the distance) and walnuts, figs and fields spread along the base of the valley itself.  As there are few street signs, we have no idea how far it is, or what towns we are passing through.

Sleepy country village

At one point we see Amjgog written roughly on the wall of a school, and think we are there.  Most people depart the bus at the mosque, but we are told to stay on.  The bus continues up through the one street town.  Buildings above and below the road until it reaches the end, where it stops and we are let out.  They had driven us all the way to the place we will be staying.  Gite D’Etape Oulnou.  Gite D’Etape Anna assures me is a basic place to stay, and we have no idea what we are in for, or how much it will cost.  It is the only place to stay in town, and we are now here.

The only place in town.

An old man greets us, and shows us inside.  It is basic, but that is all we need.  There is a large central room with a basin, two plastic tables and a few plastic chairs.  The room we are shown to is a standard long room with carpets and a couple of pillows.  It is also very colourfully painted, which is a bit less common.  Overall it looked pretty good.
The old man only speaks Berber.  No Arabic or French.  He gestures for us to sit at the table, and he gets us some tea.  We are now very nervous.  We are not sure if we were expected to bring everything we needed to stay here, however it turns out our fears are misplaced.  Two mattresses turn up, along with blankets, and we start to relax a bit.  The man is very friendly, and takes us up to the terrace to show us the views from there.  It is the start of the off season, and he is getting some work done on the building.  They are putting in a western toilet, and fixing the showers.  So we have no showers, and the toilet….

Economies out here are set by how much little old ladies can carry on their backs!

Having settled in, we head out for a walk around town.  The town is one street as mentioned, but there were lots of lane ways leading to houses above and below.  The town is built on the hill, so as to not take up any of the fertile flood plane near the river.  Kids are out playing hopscotch, or soccer, and on seeing us start yelling out bonjour and other things.  We have no idea what, but it doesn’t stop them from coming over and trying to talk to us.  Most of town is mud brick, but there are some newer ones that are cement.  The Mosque is very new, and its grey colour harshly contradicts the natural colours of the rest of the buildings.  Back at the start of town, we cut down to the river.  They have a very complicated aqueduct system in place that is well maintained and working (Sorry Jordan, but they have it all over you here), spreading the water out over the fields as necessary.  The water itself must come from a fair way up the valley, as it is a few meters above river level.

Century old methods in fertile fields

It also looks as if most of the river water has been diverted into these aqueducts, as it is very small here, and although flowing quickly, is barely a metre wide and a few centimetres deep.  Many people are working the fields at the moment.  Ploughing with the Mules, hoeing, and planting.  It is all happening.  Most of the work being done by the women.  As they walk back to town, they grab massive bags of firewood and leaves, others are carrying heavy packs of god knows what.  The people here do not look the happiest, although we are still greeted with hello every time we walk past someone and even the occasional smile.

As we are fairly high in the mountains, stuck in a deep valley, sunset is quite early, and by 5 we have to be back at Oulnou as it is getting dark.  This does not worry us, as it has been a long exhausting day of doing mainly nothing.  We have thought before that when you are doing nothing by choice, it is quite relaxing, however when you are doing nothing waiting for something to happen, it is quite tiring.

Its only 5pm!

The old man gestured asking if we wanted dinner.  As there is nowhere else to eat in town, we hastily agreed.  So we retired to our room to play a few rounds of cards.  When dinner arrived, they brought in a low table for us to eat at, and a massive tangine was delivered by one of his sons.  We were a bit surprised when he stayed to eat with us.  The tagine was delicious, as most have been, and we found out that most of the vegetables had been grown in town.  Except for the tomatoes, as it is too cold up here to grow them.  The son only speaks some Arabic, Berber and Spanish.  He has spent the last six years in Spain, and this is his first visit home.  He is due to go back in a couple of days.  It seems as if he was sent to entertain us, as he is about the same age as us.  He does not look the happiest to be here.  To fill the awkward silence, Andrew pulls out his piece of paper which we have been using to try and learn some Arabic, and starts another lesson.  This is a bit haphazard and mostly results in blank stares, but we make some progress.  When it starts to get late, we try to say that he is only in town for a few more days, and would be better off spending time with the family.  It takes half an hour, and we finally get the point across by saying we want to go to sleep.

The place is ok, the food is good, and we think that we would like to spend a few days here.  Recharge a bit, as the constant Moroccan hospitality is taking it out of us, and we want a few quiet days by ourselves wandering through the valleys.  We also have to catch up on the blog.  There may not be internet here, but we can at least type the last ten days or so we are behind.  Although not tonight.



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