Today we woke up in sunny Boutaghrar. Sunny maybe, but still not very warm. Getting out of our warm bed was difficult, but we were instantly rewarded with a great view over the hills. Breakfast was served on the terrace and we were spoiled. Coffee and bread with and assortment of jams and honey. The local bees joined us at the end.
Boutaghrar is the place where the two rivers meet in the valley and our plan was to walk up the one we had not done already. Our hotel is on the side of the river where the new town is spreading out. Walk though this, up the valley, maybe up a nice hill for a view later : a nice relaxing day.
As soon as we turned the corner away from the hotel, we ran into a group of boys playing soccer with a plastic container. Excited calls “Monsieur, monsieur!” and the plastic flying towards Andrew, got him in on the game. They were proudly showing of their skills and had fun kicking the container around. We were still, slowly now, walking in the direction we wanted to go in. When the kids realised we wanted to move on, the hands came out. “Monsieur, monsieur! Une Dirham!” Not so much asking, than ordering us to give them money. We had no intention to do so, but then they spotted the coin from Thailand in Andrew’s camera bag. This was given for them to look at, but quickly disappeared into a pocket.
By now we were left with five kids shouting at us for money, candy or anything else we might have. We thought (wrongly) that we might just give them a few coins, and get on our way. As soon as Anna unzipped her handbag it was a free-for-all. She was basically mugged. Hands everywhere, grabbing the coin from her fingers before she could even give it and now they where screaming like a hungry pack of (wolves?, birds?, camels?) annoying kids. (And by the way, these kids would not have been hungry. They where well looked after and dressed.) We called it quits and managed to get away for less than five Dirhams. Hopefully they will leave us alone now. No such luck.. they kept following us, demanding more. Andrew almost lost the keys out of his pocket. Enough. We told them very clearly in our best Arabic/French to go away. Thank god, they did. We were now completely out of the direction we intended and heading up hill. One last kid showed back up and would not back down. Turning of the road and onto the steep bit of mountain should get rid of him. Again we were wrong. Off course, these kids grow up in the mountains, this is not an effort for him at all. It was for us though, as the hill was getting steeper and steeper. A bit of a breather and sit down.
Here the kid again pestered us for money and when we would not give him any, he tried to extort it from us by trying to push us down the mountain.
Now we got fed up and told him in plain French to *#ck o## and yalla, yalla a maison!! It worked!! Finally we were on our own, but half way up a mountain we never wanted to go up. No choice now, we might as well go all the way, and get the views.
It is stunning here. The mountains are red and grey in different shades, the rivers running though the valleys in greens and silvers. With the sun out it was a perfect place for a sit down. On the top of the ridge there are lines of limestone filled with fossils. These are not the fossils we have been seeing in plates and dishes, but looked more like fossilised beds of oysters.
Going down was a bit of a challenge. People don’t usually go up this hill. There are no paths, not even goat tracks. It is steep down and the hillside is covered in loose gravely rocks. We are sliding around, trying not to tumble face down the mountain. Anna is doing part of the way on her bum, until she discovers the thistles. Slowly we make it without any broken bones. We are back in new town and head right to finally see this valley.
We walk part of the way down along the river, peeking at the women doing their laundry. It is quite busy, even laundry here is a social activity. We make it up the other side, but are put of by two big dogs barking at us. Even when we walked past in as big a loop as possible, they would not let up. Anna got worried as we had been hearing about wild dogs, and we decided to turn around. Walking back they still followed us, not sure why..
A little wonder through old town and we noticed movement at the top of the old Kasbah. Storks! We have been seeing a lot of stork nests around, but this was the first time we saw the storks themselves. A great place to spend winter!
Back to the Gite D’etappe. We are staying at Tamaloute and it has been great. Yes, the place is cold, but it is winter and not peak tourist season. Still they are very welcoming here and we would recommend this place if you are coming this way. Good food, good company (if you want some) and they can organize treks etc for you. We would surely love to return in the spring, when the river is high and the valley is filled with the smell of wild roses..