Run into Samlal
Bus to Beni Mellal
Countryside with snow
End up in Imilchil
We decided not to go to breakfast with Mohammed, as it seemed to turn into a spice buying “opportunity”.
today we just wanted a simple breakfast and then leave town. We had asked around and apparently it was not so difficult to catch a bus over the Atlas mountains to Beni Mellal on the other side. This way do not have to go via Erichida and the long way around. As we have to be in Marrakesh on the 26th to meet friends, we did not have time to do that.
Breakfast to go and a quick coffee at the hotel. While sitting at the terrace we run into Samlal from Boulmalne again! Morocco is a very small country.. He does not have much time as he is doing business in town today and will head back to Portugal soon. Still nice to see him again.
At the buses there was a bit of confusion. We were told there is no direct bus to Beni Mellal. We can get the minibus to Imilchil and there change over. That sounds fine, but finding out when the bus leaves was a problem. We got anywhere between 13.00 and 19.00. Confusion all around until one guy starts yelling. A bus will leave soon, so we get on this one. Leaving soon turned out to be 1,5 hours later. During the time we were standing outside waiting, Who should turn up? Mohammed. Going on about how we had promised to go to breakfast. At the same time the guy that took us to the carpet shop also appeared, with him ranting at us about not buying a carpet. I almost lost my cool, and wanted to say that we had forked out a small fortune for tinned sardines, and never wanted to buy a carpet in the first place, but managed to hold my temper.
We had some friendly help then, as we were pulled away to load our bags on the bus, leaving the two of them to argue with each other. Now we had to resort to hiding on the bus. This was not the best of ideas, as we had forgotten that Moroccans will follow you anywhere, however they eventually left. The bus did as well. Eventually. The first part of the drive was the bit we had already done. Up the valley into the gorge. Out the other side. Onwards and upwards. We just hadn’t realised how far upwards. The drive took forever. Zigzagging our way up the mountains. Past the tree line, and the already denuded landscape got even more so.
Now we were on a big plateau, dotted with hamlets. Although the ground is barren, it is still beautiful with the different colours in the rocks, and the ridges or lines sticking out. This was a large plateau, but not the top. We drove through it, and went upwards again. At the top of the mountains we got to take a small break. We had been seeing patches of snow dotting the landscape for some time now, and when we got out of the bus to stretch our legs (and pray as the case may be) there was still an icy snow on the side of the road. Not much, as it has been warm the last few days (I know, I have been freezing, but it has still been in the positive during the day) and most has melted to feed the streams further down, but it was still good to see this patch. We ruined it by standing in it. Now we can say we have stood in snow in Morocco. Not that special here, but it was for us.
Back on the bus and off again. We were roughly half way. Imilchil, we thought was at the top of the range, apparently not, it is in a small plateau between the higher peaks. As we wound down the other side, we saw large swaths of cultivation. Most of the land was now ploughed, and there was green everywhere.
It looked a little like the rice paddies in Asia, flooded with water, yet the snow covered mountains rising up behind it. On arriving in town, we got out of the bus. Instantly I was assailed by people for taxies and hotels. I was not happy about this. Then we found out that there was no bus onwards to where we were going, and we would have to hire a taxi for just the two of us to continue. I thought it was the taxi drivers lying to us so we would take the taxi instead, and finally lost my temper. Storming off, I left Anna to find out if this was correct surrounded by people clamouring to take their hotel, or this taxi. Anna finally caught up, and we walked through the town. Low and behold, there was a tourist information here. I do not understand this, as it is only the third we have seen in the entire country, and it is in the middle of nowhere! Asking the person sitting out the front having tea what was possible for us, he said the same thing. There would be a minibus in the morning, or we could pay the 300Dh for a private taxi. During this time a shared taxi went past proving that we had been lied to at the bus station, as they had said there wasn’t even a shared taxi. The person from Tourist info flagged down a passing truck, but it wasn’t going very far. As it was so cold, and approaching sunset, we decided to stay in town for the night. I was not happy about this, but thought the chances of hitch hiking at this hour were slim.
One of the people from the bus station had driven up to try and help. He offered us a room at his hotel for 80dh including a hot shower. So we decided to walk back into town. Asking at one hotel, we found it was 120dh for the night including food. However they had cold showers, and we really wanted a warm one. A boy on a bike pulled up and offered his hotel for 100dh including dinner and a hot shower, so we decided to look at it. On the way down we passed many places for accommodation, and the small town in the middle of nowhere was starting to look like a tourist trap. We passed the hotel of the first guy, and he had a discussion with the boy. The price of that hotel suddenly went to 100dh each with no food? OK we will look at his hotel. Anna waited with the bags, and I went if for a look. The room was big,and had clean sheets. He also promised to bring in a portable heater to take the chill off it. I didn’t care about the size, but the heater was a plus. He showed me one of the bathrooms (a squat) and was proud of how clean it was (It didn’t even smell) and gestured to a door at the end of the corridor saying the shower and other toilet was through there. He hadn’t lied to me about the room, so I took it for granted and didn’t check. My mistake. Dropping our bags, we went back outside to look at the sunset over the hills.
The town is built on a slope, with fields below. Behind this the snow covered mountains rise up. The village is 2100m above sea level, and the mountains go up another 1000m easily (Mgoune is 4000m+) From the balcony it is a very impressive view. The temperature was dropping steadily, and we went back indoors. He cranked up a small wood stove to give the room some heat.
This was a blessing, as we were already wrapped in blankets, and it was the first fire we have seen in Morocco. It was great. He offered us dinner, and although expensive, we accepted (What we saved on the room, we overpaid on dinner). An omelet came out, and although nice, wasn’t worth what we paid for it. Two Spanish men turned up, and we spent some time trying to talk to them. They had been to the waterfall on the far side of the mountain, where we were planning to go tomorrow. The lonely planet came out, and we saw that Imilchil is in the top ten places to see. This explains all the hotels, and it would be fantastic hiking here in spring or summer.
Anna went for her hot shower, to find out that the water was heated by a wood fire, and he needed to get it going. When the water was finally warm she went up. Only now did we find out that you have to go outside for the shower! While in, he came up to check, and tested the temperature on a tap in the next room, taking away all the hot water… At the end, you have to go outside (as mentioned) to get back into the main building, taking away any benefit of the shower, as you are colder now than before you had it. I decided to pass.
Still we had 4 big blankets,and the bed eventually warmed up enough to go to sleep.