A simple day today. More interesting than travel days, but less typing!
We caught a taxi up to the start of Tougra Gorge. This was at a different stand, but easy to find. As a bonus we also got to leave fairly quickly. The road up provided some good views out over the valley and city. The Palmery is in the middle of the valley, and the city built up around it. The green valley, brown buildings and red hills provided some good contrasts. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a photo of it. After a short drive we ended up at the start of the gorge. There are a few hotels here, and the river comes up out of the ground on the bottom side of the gorge itself. Huge rock walls climb up from the road, soaring a couple of hundred metres above us (so it seemed).
Following the road in, we entered the yawning chasm before us. Along the side of the road there are many stalls that were in the process of being set up. Tie-dyed scarves, saharawi dresses and African masks were on offer. We wondered why there were so many stalls. It is meant to be touristy, but that much? We were the only people here. Walking through, this part of the gorge is only a few hundred meters long, and 20 meters wide. The wind was blowing through, and made it bitterly cold, even so it was an impressive sight.
On the far side of the chasm, the valley opens up a bit, all the tourist stalls ended, and the sun had come out making quite a pleasant day. We continued walking along. Along side the river a shepherd was out with his sheep and goats. Further along it got very quite. No houses, no souvenirs, no tourists. Bliss!
We happily walked along the road. It split in two, a dirt road going up a ridge line that would provide impressive views, and the other along the base of the valley. Feeling lazy we continued along the main bitumen path. The mountains had sheer walls here, but there was a nice grassy patch about half way down. Further along the road we came to some rock climbers that were doing the lower section. About 20m high. Watching them for a while, we then continued on. The valley curls around the mountains and there is never more than a few hundred meters in view.
After a few kilometres we saw a miniature castle in the distance, however we also saw some squirrels nearby. We sat and had a bite to eat, watching the squirrels run up and down the almost vertical walls. They are very cute, and a shame we couldn’t get close to them. Through the camera you could see them going to the bushes, rising up on their long back feet and getting whatever it was they wanted out. Then they would sit on the rocks grooming themselves. Paying special attention to cleaning their tails.
Now it was time to check out the castle. It tuned out not to be a miniture, it just looked that way from the distance, as the rock wall behind it is so massive. It is a hotel/restaurant, and we were not surprised about this. It is well made, and looks better up close. They have also spent a lot of time putting out signs for walking tracks (Similar to the Pink Roadhouse,NT). These would have been handy if we were staying there, but the loops ranged between 2 and 8 hours to complete.
From here we decided to call it a day. As you don’t know when the next bus or taxi comes past we debated whether to turn back or keep going. There was no point in walking back the way we had come, so we continued forward into the unknown. Well, we did know there was a town about 10km further up. No buses went past, but we did flag down a car. There were two teachers inside, and they happily gave us a lift back down the valley.
As we passed the gorge, we were amazed at the amount of people there. All the tour buses go there, spewing out the tourists to walk the gorge and buy the scarves. It explained why there were so many shops set up.
After navigating our way through the mass of buses, it was smooth driving all the way back home. Our guest drivers today were Geology and Arabic teachers in Tinghir, they dropped us off and continued happily on their way. I know we have only hitch hiked twice, but both times we have had better results than grand taxis!
When we got back we had a few hours until we were supposed to meet whoever it was for dinner. We followed our noses and the smoke and came to a place that was cooking up meat. Deciding on an Experimental Meal we asked what it was. Apparently you buy the meat from the butchers next door, and for a small fee they cook it for you. We were game to give it a try, so we bought some mince (Kofta) and took it over. Finding a table we waited. They cook it on hot coals in a big outdoor BBQ. The smells were driving us nuts, as we were both fairly hungry by now. Apparently we had still gotten it wrong, as when it was brought over, it had tomato and onion with it. We had seen someone walking over with them, but thought it was for his meal, and not ours. It was appreciated, as it made the dish a lot better. Bread was brought over to use instead of knife and fork in the Moroccan way (Although they also brought us a knife and fork!) with tea to wash it down. All in all this experiment worked out well, although at the end it cost more than a tangine split between the two of us!
We sat around for a while waiting for 6:30 to roll up. We were meeting Whatshisname for dinner then. At the pre-determined spot we sat and waited. He eventually showed up saying he had been past a few times. Must have just missed us. The plan was to go back to his house for dinner. It was close by and not a problem. Now the plan had changed. We were supposed to take a taxi 20km to his family’s house. Explaining that our hotel had an eleven pm curfew, and we would like to stick to the original plan, we were basically told we were wrong about the hotel (It is a great excuse, and even better as it was true!) but he backed down from the taxi ride.
We walked to the Jewish quarter and up to what we thought was his house. It turned out to be a family members (or friend) and we were escorted in. Our host for this evening is Mohammed, a chef and teacher of cooking. He proudly showed us his identity card and we had a pleasant conversation. Whatshisname said he was off to buy ingredients for dinner, and wanted some money. By now the alarm bells should have jangled themselves from the wall and been rattling all over the floor. The plan had changed, we were dumped somewhere else, and now he was asking for money for a meal he had invited us to. Naively we handed some over and off he went.
The first course arrived while he was gone: Barley Porridge with off-butter (it is supposed to be healthy!). I managed to keep mine down, but Anna refused at the first whiff. Whatshisname came back, and said he had to leave to close his shop (WTF? If we had taken the taxi 20km, he wouldn’t have been able to close any shop from there…) and disappeared, never to be seen again (hopefully). Expecting a brilliant dinner of fish tangine, imagine our surprise when we were served up a plate of battered sardines with old bread! What happened to the ingredients for dinner? A tin of sardines hardly costs anything. We left fairly soon after dinner as the women in the house didn’t seem to like our presence. On leaving, Mohammed made us promise to turn up for breakfast before taking us to buy spices.
Needless to say, we were home well before curfew, and glad of our experimental meal earlier.