17th December: From London to the high Moroccan hills

We got up at 5 and caught the shuttle bus to the airport, bumping into Paul at the check in desk quite by chance. Thankfully our bags were under the allowance and nobody questioned the size of our rucksacks as hand luggage. After I’d set off the alarms at security and been frisked, we met the rest of the group for breakfast. Then, at the last call for boarding we set off to the gate. I was surprised how far the bus had to go to reach the plane. Gatwick is huge!

The flight was uneventful and went fast because John and I watched a film. Marrakech was a lovely airport, and not what I expected for my first experience of Africa. We collected our bags, changed our sterling into Moroccon dirhams, and went out to get the minibus to Imlil.

The trip was quite fascinating. We drove through desert, with some places looking really poor, but others quite nicely built. There seemed to be lots of women and children dressed in bright colours walking along the main roads and working hard, while the men just seemed to be standing around in the villages doing nothing! A lot of the men were wearing Obi Wan Kenobi capes with pointed hoods called djellabi. There were stalls set up in the villages selling traditional Moroccon goods, such as carpets, tagines and leather goods, as well as meat, fruit and veg, and lots of livestock wandering around, such as goats, sheep, chickens and even camels!

After about an hour, the road deteriorated and we started heading uphill and winding our way around the hillside. Also, there was more and more snow on the ground. At one point we were behind a minibus with a man hanging off the back!

As we reached Imlil, it was snowing. We unloaded our bags from the van and trudged through the snow to the riad. Our room is basic but lovely, with 4 of us sharing. We were grateful for a good, hot shower, probably our last until we get back to Marrakesh at the end of the week. The food has been lovely… Soup for lunch and tagine for dinner, with some tasty bread and olives. We don’t think much of the mint tea.

We’ve had a little look round the village and got our kit ready for tomorrow. Now we’re sitting chatting. Everyone is very nice. We hike up to the next hut at 3200m tomorrow, from 1700m in Imlil. There’s too much snow for the mules so we have porters to carry our kit bags. Hopefully they’ll break the trail for us! We’ll probably feel the altitude tomorrow… It’s going to be a hard day, but I’m looking forward to it.

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