Among other things. we planned to walk out to a few caves today. The first thing we needed was to sleep in. The early bus rides are over for now, and we had the chance to catch up. A breakfast of fried egg, and we were off. The first cave is only about 2km away. Easy walking distance. The town is on top of the ridge, so as we walked away, there was a nice downward slope. This was good to start our walk, but thought it could be interesting on the way back up.
On our descent into the hills, we could see the old towers that have been put up on the higher points. Not sure what they are. Most likely they have been erected as early warning towers for fires, but could have been set up by the Spanish during the Riff Rebellion.
At the base of the hill, we came across a nice park ground. There was even a waterfall off to one side. Pretty, and, if you could ignore all the garbage that had flown over the edge, a good place for camping. Knowing the first cave (The Pigeon Cave) should be around here, we went up a few of the paths. There is an old cottage further up, and we went to try there. Continuing up revealed the entrance. It is covered from the road. There is now a big fence all across the entrance, and the gate has been wired shut. No-one has been in or out for a while. We assume it will be re-opened next tourist season, but for us, it will remain a mystery.
The next cave (The cave of the Camel) is a good 6km from here, so no time to dawdle. As we walked along, we could appreciate the views of the mountains from here. They were already starting to rise around us.
Stopping a man on his bike to find out how far it is, we found out that we had only walked another kilometre, but he was willing to give us all a lift if we didn’t mind the smell of fish. Not minding in the least, we all piled onto the tray attached to the back of the bike.
In this way we got to travel in style. Open aired, 360 degree views, some shock absorbers. What more could you ask for? Well, you could ask for a cushion, but that would be taking it that little bit too far.
It was lucky we got the lift though. The next bit would have been tough. The road gets really steep, and starts to descend dramatically. The slope gets more extreme, and it starts to look like a ravine. Kicking the bike into neutral, we start to cruise down, oblivious to the cliff leading to certain death on one side. It was a good ride, and when we got to the bottom, he even drove us right up to the main entrance. A sweet guy, and even wanted to pose for a few photos.
At this point we run into someone else. He is holding a wire across the road to stop traffic. This is just because they are doing some work on the road, and irrigation canals. He told us the cave was closed, but we could go up to the entrance. We had come all the way, so we may as well.
He walked with us, and indicated we should go up some fresh concrete steps. Thinking this would be the cave entrance, we went up.
It was a bit of a grotto, with a donkey tied up inside, with his hay and water. Looking in the back, there were the remains of thousands of spider webs. These made the roof look like the sky, dotted with black stars against the white darkness.
Back on the path, it looked like we had acquired a guide, as he kept walking with us, happily chatting away with Sophia. Leading us along the road, the stream gurgling away below us. Crossing a bridge over a dry riverbed, we made our way back to where the stream was issuing from the rock. This is more like it. The opening was large, and as we walked up to it, we were wondering if we would have to get soaked or not going in. There was a way in, but the entrance narrowed quickly to just a small hole with water rushing out. The space above it has been filled with briers to prevent people getting in. A bit disappointed, we went to walk around the area. Our guide tells us that we are not at the entrance, this is just where the stream comes out.
It is on a different path. This zig-zags up the side of the mountain. Before long, we come to a rectangular hole. This is obviously man made. You can tell from the concrete. It too, is plugged with briers. What made it interesting, was the hot humid air being ejected from the hole. It didn’t smell sulphurous or anything, just hot and wet.
Breaking for lunch, between the two, on an outcrop overlooking the valley. We had picked up some bread and “Cheese” as well as a couple of torches before we left. It looked as if we would not need the torch, but the food came in handy. Our guide thought he had spent enough time away from his job, and ran back. He was just being friendly. It is frustrating that we have grown too cynical. We want to trust people. the guy on the bike, this fellow, and others are fantastic. It is just a shame we are so used to people putting up their hands, that we treat them with mistrust.
The only thing we needed to do now, was walk along the gorge for a bit. This is pretty. Different to the ones on the other side of the high atlas. Steep walls, and a small dried stream bed filled with boulders. No irrigation here, no people, or towns. Just a small gorge. Enjoying making our way over and around the house sized rocks was fun, when we passed a corner, and saw a few holes up in the cliffs. Thinking, stupidly, that it would be interesting to go up and see what was there, David and I started our ascent. It was not too hard, but there was some scrambling involved. The further up we got, the steeper it was. Climbing up to the lip, we found we were not the first people to get here. There was an ancient scene depicted. I think it is now commonly referred to as a picnic. A few napkins, 3 tea cups, and a big bottle of juice.
From here, we could see that there had been a cave here in the distant past, but now was blocked by a massive stone that had fallen down. Blocking the entire entrance. There was still signs of activity within the cave, but impossible to go anywhere.
We decided to try and cross over to the other hole. It was on about the same level, and you have to scale the cliff to get there. This was not as hard as it seems, just don’t look down! Climbing the last part of the way, we were disappointed to find there was nothing there. Just a bit of graffiti left from other people that have made the effort to get here.
Going back down was a lot easier, as we could see something that resembled a path, and followed that most of the way. Back at the bottom, it was time to go. The sun was setting, and we had no idea on how we were going to get back to town. We surely didn’t want to have to hike our way up the mountain, especially in the dark.
Just outside where the repair works were still going on, we encountered a person that was willing to give us all a lift back to town. He lives in Oujda, but has spent a lot of time in the Netherlands, and spoke Dutch with the Dutch accent. We found out that he was 5 when he moved there.
Being dark when we finally got back to town, we said our goodbyes, and headed to one of the restaurants on the main street for a feed. The restaurant guy helped us cut up a strange fruit we bought from a passing salesman. We have forgotten what it was called, but the fruits grow wild in the mountains. Apparently men eat it for strenght and other obvious reasons 🙂 It didn’t taste too bad, just a bit bitter.
All of us happy with the day, if somewhat tired.