Fes and middle Atlas

We decided to take it slow from Marrakesh to Fez so we took the back roads instead of the busy national road. We planned to stay somewhere overnight so we would have ample time for sightseeing on the way. We visited the Majorelle Gardens in Marrakesh on our way out. These gardens were owned buy Yves Saint Laurent, the french fashion designer. They are a true oasis of peace and quit right in the middle of a bustling city.
From there it was on the road and then off into the countryside. We visited a natural bridge carved through the stone by water.
Morocco offers constantly changing landscapes, reminding us one minute of the Cape just before Caledon and the next of Bavaria and the Alpes.

Fes is another old city with a lively Medina. We are staying at Road L’Artiste, again perfectly located in the Medina so exploring on foot is no problem. The car gets a rest until Thursday.

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Marrakesh, 2nd time around

Feeling that we did not had enough time in Marrakesh at the beginning of the holiday we had already planned to stay here again on our way to Fez. This time we wanted to explore the Souks with more time on hand. Marrakesh is fascinating, especially the Medina (old town) where we were staying again at Riad Tamarrakecht. The narrow cobbled streets with tiny shops left and right, people on bicycles, scooters, carts and god knows what are so different to what we are used to. After a good couples of hours exploring the Road with the little splash pool offers the kind of peace, quietness and refreshment one really wants.

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Agadir to Marrakesh via Tiz n Test pass

Getting into the car (we got our trusted golden Fiat back, more on that on a rental car post planned for the future) and get moving again felt really good. 9 days 5 star all inclusive had left the grown ups in lazy mode and Mueller stating he would like to stay for another 20 days. We made our way out of Agadir driving through endless suburbs with slightly manic traffic consisting of taxis, scooters, Docker trycycles and horse and donkey carts. The going was slow and we had 300 km ahead, having decided to give the highway a miss and going via the Tiz n Test pass. This 70 km pass road is winding its way up to 2100m and deserves a top 10 spot in my list of greatest drives, begging to be done on two wheels next time. There were roadworks and ever changing road surfaces, from good tar to bad tar, gravel, construction, something of everything. Hardly any traffic, single lane most of the time, fabulous even the Fiat. The going was rather slow, 70km in 3 hours but worth every minute. We arrived at our Road in Marrakesh tired but beeing back on the road was great.

We are going to be in Marrakesh until Sunday and then on our way to Fez.

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Agadir

Agadir is a modern city at Moroccos Atlantic coast. The old city was destroyed by an earthquake in 1969, claiming more than 15000 lives. Back then only 50000 people were living here but now Agadir has more than 600000 inhabitants. The architecture is typical 60 style and earthquake proof, understandable but rather ugly.

We are staying at Royal Atlas Hotel, right on the beach, all inclusive and 5 stars. The hotel is fantastic, huge pools, big flat screen in the room to follow the German team in Brasils world cup, everybody is happy, especially Patrick, aka Mueller. The days are spend at the pool, playing tennis and soccer on the beach and doing generally very little. We both eat too much and are looking forward to get going again on the 10th.

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M’Hamid and Sahara desert

It was with great excitement when we left Quarzazate for the Sahara desert. We booked a two night trip from M’Hamid, a small town on the edge of the desert. From there it would be 60 km by 4×4 into the desert to a tented camp at Erg Chegaga. It had been warm in Quarzazate, in the mid and upper 30s so we were wondering how hot it would be in the desert. Arriving at Kashba Sahara Services in M’Hamid the temperature was 42 degrees at 5pm. It was going to be hot… But thanks to the big pool at the lodge the heat was bearable. We had our doubts about going end of June into the desert, especially with Patrick but we were here so we went. Due to the heat we spend Saturday around the pool and explored a nearby Ksar but at 5.30pm the Land Cruiser arrived and a driver and our guide Rashied loaded our belongings plus lots of water and food and off we went. There was a small sand storm developing so visibility was not good as you can see in the pictures. But it was still a rather hot 45 degrees and the Cruisers air con was, like the power steering, tacho and instruments, not working. The two hour drive through different types of desert, from little dunes, big dunes, very soft sand, stoney desert to flat, endless plainest was fantastic. We stopped at a well where two donkeys appeared out of nowhere. The driver and Rashid got them some water an20140630_07175920140630_07144620140630_07145620140628_20104520140629_085200d took a smoke break. Smoking is big in Morocco, everybody seems to smoke and there are vendors selling loose cigarettes everywhere. We arrived at the camp to a pleasant surprise: As the basic camp was undergoing maintenance work we had been upgraded to the luxury camp which was absolutely stunning. It was like out of one of the brochures for luxury travel. We settled in and where treated to a fantastic dinner before we settled in for the night.
The next day (Sunday) started early at 6 am with breakfast because we were going on a two hour camel ride to an oasis about 10 km away where we were going to spend the day. It was great: We all had our own camel, even Patrick, and it was just the three of us with Rashied and one other guy who was in charge of the camels. After almost three hours, we arrived a the oasis and settled in for the day. It was very hot (mid to high 40s) but it was cool in the shade. We played games, read and were treated to a lekker lunch. And we drank lots of water. At around 5 we mounted the camels and trekked back to camp.

This desert trip was one of the most amazing things I have done up to date. Patrick is a fantastic little travelling companion, full of energy and interested in everything. He is friendly with the guides and Rashied and him became best buddies during the two days.

Monday morning came and we had to leave the desert with a sad feeling. It had been awesome. Now we are on our way to Agadir for the beach holiday part of our trip.20140630_07144620140627_16113320140628_18032620140628_19025020140629_08511420140629_08105920140629_08052720140629_08052720140629_08052720140629_08292220140629_110512m20140629_13324120140629_16135720140629_16135720140630_07142520140630_071759

Ouarzazate, Route de Kasbah, Gorge de Todrha, Gorge de Dades

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IMG_20140626_104132After leaving Marrakesh we drove a stunning road leading into the High Atlas mountains.The road took us over Tizi-n-Tichka Pass at 2260 meters above sea level. After a short break close to the top of the pass for some famous morrocan mint tea (Lars and Claudia) and Fanta (Patrick), we went off the beaten track and took an absolutely breathtakingly stunning back road to visit the Kasbah de Telouet at 1870 meters above sea level. This beautiful Kasbah once belonged to one of the most powerful men in Morroco, Pascha Thami El Gloui. Unfortunately a lot of the old Kasbah has been destroyed by now by wind and rain but inside one can still see remains of the beautiful wood and mosaic work. From here we continued our tour through amazing mountainous senery until reaching out stop for the day Ouarzazate. Patrick loved the big swimming pool at our hotel after this long and dusty day in the car. The next morning we were off nice and early to take the road east from Ouarzazate along the road of the Kasbahs to our final stop for the day in Dades Gorge. About 40 km after Ouarzazate, we reached the Oasis of Skoura where we visited the highly recommended Kasbah Amerhidil from the 17th century. The Kasbah was once build by a wealthy family from Saudi Arabia that came to the area with the mission to teach religion to the local people. This Kasbah has been beautifully renovated a few years ago by the family and is still being managed by this very same family. We had the most amazing guided tour here with Rezo who is one of the decendents of this family. He told us a lot about life back then and explained all aspects around architecture and daily live back then. We could visit the different rooms and levels of the Kasbah and even climb one of the defence towers. Patrick was really impressed by all that he learned from Rezo. We carried on along the road of Kasbahs until we reached Todrha Gorge. Todrha gorge is a major tourist attraction but being there on a Wednesday made it a rather quiet and uncrowded visit. Here we saw a lot of 4×4 tourist operators with their Land Cruisers. The scenery is breathtaking and after another two mint teas and a Fanta we were on our way to our overnight stop, the Kasbah de Victor in the Gorge de Dades. What a fantastic place to stay! Claudia has the fantastic ability to find stunning places in great locations for budget money. The two Berber guys running the place were the most polite people we encountered so far (on par with Sarah from Marrakech). Right now we are back in Ouarzazate, tomorrow we are off to M`Hamid on the border of the Sahara desert. Saturday we go into the desert for two nights by 4×4 and camel so our next update will only be next week.

Marrakesh

After a very pleasant drive we arrived yesterday early afternoon in Marrakesh and were greeted by rather hectic traffic in places. We managed to find the parking place where we were going to meet our hosts for the next two nights. The Road (guest house) Claudia found is absolutely stunning. Beautifully decorated rooms, a courtyard with a swimming pool and a roof top area where we had breakfast this morning. Yesterday evening we went to the town square where we were greeted by story tellers, snake handlers,men with tame monkeys and food stalls offering a vast variety of local fare. We had tangine (a stew) and they had chips for Patrick. Today we went into the old town again a visited an old palace. Morocco is fantastic, the people really friendly and you don’t get hustled and can do your own thing. Tomorrow we hit the road again.20140623_13515720140623_14311420140623_13510420140622_192523