Despite the bedding in the gite being relatively basic, I fall asleep quickly after finding that the best way of keeping warm is to keep a large blanket on top of the sleeping bag. This was so effective, in fact, that I woke up in the early hours of the morning, with a hot flush! It wasnít just that that had woken me up though. There was a loud noise akin to having a jet plane taking off next to me!
My ear plugs were in so I was quite surprised that I could hear anything and tried to ignore it as best as I could and get back to sleep but to no avail. The bass tone of the noise was vibrating the room and my ear plugs werenít blocking it out. *sigh* I look up trying to figure out what is going on. Itís Stephen! We shared a tent with him in the desert and he didnít snore then but tonight he most definitely is!
I contemplate chucking a cushion at him when I notice that Paul has also been woken by the noise. In the end I decide to pop out for the call of nature hoping that the Stephen naturally stops snoring. Itís cold outside the room but I pause on the way back to go out onto the terrace to check out the stars. Theyíre beautiful but my feet feel like theyíre turning blue so I hurry back and find that peace and quiet has returned to the room. Phew!
We pack in the morning and find that breakfast is last nightís bread with various spreads to make it seem just a little less stale. I manage to find a few of the softer pieces but supplement my energy levels with a Twix that I pickup from the chocolate stash in the main entrance along with a Mars bar for later on today.
We have an optional three to four hour trek up and down the mountain range that rises behind the gite. I welcome a bit of exercise so look forward to it. Mohammed warns us that it will be cold at the top so the group wears fleeces and some take gloves.
We are lead by a guide called Abdul who I later find out is sixty two. I donít think that he speaks English though he does seem to understand French. He leads us up the trail with the ease of someone who could hop up the mountainÖ. blindfolded!
Itís a clear blue sky and the sun is shining. Within a few minutes most of the group have discarded their fleeces and we huff and puff our way up. We pause now and then to drink water and rest. Abdul, of course, is enjoying his morning stroll with not even a bead of sweat on his sun darkened brow.
We have to be careful as some of the rocks are loose and I get the fleeting thought that this climb is going to be a lot harder than Iíd first thought. Luckily after about half an hour the trail becomes less steep and turns into more of a long winding one. We are in fact following a mule track up the side of the mountain, something proven when we spot a man and his mule coming up from below and quickly overtaking us!
We eventually reach the top of the range to find that our fleeces, gloves, hats etc were all redundant as we are batched in beautiful sunlight with a pleasant breeze and itís not cold at all! I munch on my Mars bar and we take turns getting our photos taken in front of the spectacular mountain vista. A bit further down we get to meet a dog whose bark is definitely worse than his bite and whoíd be no cop as a guard dog as he runs away as we approach. He appears to be guarding a goat pen. We peer in and there are loads of cute kids bleating at us. Abdul climbs in and hands one to Sarah. It turns out that sheís a natural with baby goats. Itís always useful to have a backup career skill! Her kid likes her so much in fact that it carries on trying to jump out after the pen has been closed up. Arrrrr!
The journey down takes about as long as there is a lot of loose shingle and we have to be careful. I let Paul go in front of me as my early warning system as he has a knack of revealing the loose bits of rock quite effectively. Thanks Paul!
A few of us slip up now and then and Iím sure that I annoy a few by starting to give scores out of ten for how spectacular the slip ups are! Sarah won with a 9.5 but was okay afterwards, so I hope no harm done.
We are all glad that we did the walk afterwards and we head back to the gite for a nice lunch of couscous, salad and fruit on the upstairs terrace with a spectacular vista before us.
I pop back into our room to stretch out my legs and find myself napping off. I wake up and go downstairs. Itís awfully quiet. I head out front of the gite to find Mohammed packing our bags into the back of the petrol-driven mule.
ďWhere is everyone?Ē I ask. ďEveryone is walking back to the bus,Ē he replies. Iím a bit shocked. I wonder if I had fallen asleep whether anyone would have noticed that I was missing until they all got to the bus?!
I grab my rucksack and start jogging down the trail to catch up with everyone. At one point the road splits and I start to panic. But I know that I have to pick one way and luckily go in the right direction as a few minutes later I spot the tail end of my group as little dots off in the distance. I switch to a brisk walk and catch up easily. Itís just one of those things and not worth getting angry about, especially on holiday but I am annoyed.
We make it back to our spacious(!) bus in one piece and commence the three hour journey to our next destination, Marrakech.
On the way we stop off at a small cafť (obviously for tourists) and an old man by the roadside squeezes some deliciously fresh orange juice for me using four oranges for something like 50p.
We make Marrakech late in the afternoon and find ourselves in a no frills hotel. Paul and I have three beds in a row in our room and Paul bagseys the far one so I go for the nearest. I collapse down on it to find myself sagging through almost onto the floor!
I peer under the bed and find that itís just an unfolded camp bed with a thin mattress on top! A bit of room rearrangement is called for! I whisk into action, fold up the camp bed, prop it up against the wall and pull the middle bed along instead. This is much more comfortable. Itís probably just as well that I wonít be around in the morning to hear what the maid will have to say though!
In the evening we head out to brave the city and its bustling main square. Marrakech is a complete contrast to anywhere else that we have been on this holiday. Itís definitely a lot more hectic. The wide roads are a challenge to cross as we try to make sense of the pedestrian crossings (when there are any!) and we see a lot more local people walking around dressed in a more Western style.
We approach the square and all I can see is a huge mass of people throughout with clouds of smoke coming off from one side. It turns out that these are the food stalls where locals and brave westerners can come to eat whatever they desire. I spot a few pigeons hanging up in the distance at one stall and keep a wide berth. There also appear to be rows upon rows of stalls selling oranges, each identical (how would you choose which to go to?!) and garishly dressed water sellers walk around with huge red hats with bells on letting everyone know where they are at all times.
Alison, Sarah, Paul and I have a nice meal at a restaurant, recommend to us by Mohammed and in the Lonely Planet guide, overlooking the square.
Afterwards, we decide to brave the souks. These are narrow streets with shops or stalls overflowing them selling just about everything that you could think of. The streets are packed with people and mopeds constantly rush us from behind too, which is a bit disconcerting in such a tight area. I find it all very cool and feel safe though some of the others less so.
We walk in a large circle but find that most of the places are closing up for the night. No late night haggling for us tonight! We finish off on one of those horse-drawn carriage affairs that you see in a lot of cities. The driver is very accommodating and gives us a tour of the square and parts of the city, whilst honking the horn on the side of his cab. Alison canít stop giggling every time that he does this which just makes him do it all the more. Thanks Alison!
Our tour includes the local five star luxury hotels and casino (obviously for the westerners and not the non-gambling locals?) and ends with us being dropped off at our hotel, and all for a very reasonable charge too!