• SOME NEWS FROM OUR ADVENTURE

    Ngaparou, march the 1st 2019. After 11 months travelling, of which we spent 8 in West Africa, and some 25 000 kms covered since France, we are now back into Senegal and preparing to slowly make our way back up to Europe. As we have slowed down for a few days, I grab the opportunity to give you some news and impressions. Thrilling West Africa During those last 8 months, we have been filled with wonder by the secret gems of Casamance, faced the extremely muddy tracks of Guinea at the end of the rainy season, had two negative results on two malaria tests done, swam in the Senegal River with hippos, done our own chocolate from fresh fruits, discovered two ant nests in the car and one in the tent, learned how to cook bread on the fire, surfed the Volta Lake watching the monkeys laughing at us in the trees, met with ordinary and extraordinary people, understood (finally!) what permaculture can do, have tested our patience in dealing with local authorities, adopted a Togolese aloe vera, witnessed in the same day the gravity of the damage inflicted on the nature by the human hand and the wonders that can accomplish a single will… Far from the idealistic clichés or any preconceived idea we might have had before leaving, we have discovered a thrilling Africa, as fascinating as it is disconcerting, stuck with its contradictions but also full of a million possibilities! Tree Time There, we met men and women whose vison, empathy and willpower appear as trees, of which the roots are growing stronger to remain standing against the storm. Powerful and serene beings that stabilises and fertilises the ground around them, favouring connections and thus creating ideal conditions for life to thrive.  Along the way, and always under a tree, we collected the testimonies of those people, contributing each in their own way in maintaining the strong but fragile balance linking humans with nature. It will be our mission when we are back home to share their message, through a series of portraits we called Tree Time. The blog will therefore be back on track in a few months! We also wish to apologise to those who wanted to follow us closely (or less closely) on the blog, but along the way we decided to put it aside temporarily to fully live our adventure. We found out that travelling can be a full time job, requiring all your attention and energy, and that it is particularly true when travelling through Africa! Be the coconut! Besides, in the end we made the decision to turn around, and therefore not to go to South Africa. We made it our objective in the beginning, but if we have learned one thing, it’s to adapt! Our wish was to meet with people and to take the time to savour it. The geopolitical situation in central Africa is far from ideal right now, notably in Nigeria and Cameroon, and just going through countries without being able to enjoy any of what it has to offer is simply not our way of doing… Coconut travellers* for ever 😉 So we took our time in West Africa, and went through Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo and Mali before coming back to Senegal. *The coconut traveller is a traveller who, like the coconut, wanders through the ocean of life, fully packed with food, in search of his new home. Concept invented in Ghana, with our friends Lisa and Timo with whom we travelled for two months (follow them on lost-track.net), and inspired by a BBC documentary on... coconuts! The adventure is far from being over for ahead of us still lies Mauritania and the Sahara, of which we will gladly enjoy the immensity again, and Morocco that already sounds like holidays… Before coming back, here is a little overview of what we experienced for the past few months 😉   #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-1 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-1 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Gambia – Read the article #gallery-2 { margin: auto; } #gallery-2 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-2 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-2 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Gambia – Read the article Abene, Casamance – Senegal – Read the article 2018, 12th September, Abene, Casamance – Senegal – Read the article Niafarang, Casamance – Senegal – Read the article Bissau – Guinea Bissau – Read the article Kambadaga falls, Fouta Djallon region – Guinea – Read the article High Niger National Park – Guinea – Read the article #gallery-3 { margin: auto; } #gallery-3 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-3 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-3 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Road to Macenta – Guinea – Read the article #gallery-4 { margin: auto; } #gallery-4 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-4 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-4 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Fouta Djallon – Guinée – Voir l’article Mount Yende – Guinea – Read the article Ziama forest – Guinea – Read the article Aboisso – Ivory Coast – Read the article Lake Volta – Ghana – Read the article Lake Volta – Ghana – Read the article Senegal – Read the article Gonobe River – Togo – Read the article Natoun farm – Togo – Read the article Tamberma Valley – Ghana – Read the article #gallery-5 { margin: auto; } #gallery-5 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-5 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-5 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sang – Ghana – Read the article #gallery-6 { margin: auto; } #gallery-6 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-6 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-6 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ On the White Volta River’s banks – Ghana – Read the article On the White Volta River’s banks – Ghana – Read the article Mole River – Ghana – Read the article Mole National Park – Ghana – Read the article *Alexandre Poussin, Africa Trek. Expression que nous avons adoptée tellement elle est appropriée… Région de Sawla – Ghana – Voir l’article Basilica Notre Dame de la Paix, Yamoussoukro – Ivory Coast – Read the article South of Bamako – Mali – Read the article Bamako – Mali – Read the article Siby waterfall – Mali – Read the article Bamako – Mali – Read the article On the track to Djamou – Mali – Read the article Bafoulabe – Mali – Read the article Kamadjan arch, Siby – Mali – Read the article Ngaparou – Senegal – Read the article Djamou – Mali – Read the article #gallery-7 { margin: auto; } #gallery-7 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-7 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-7 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ On the track to Djamou – Mali – Read the article #gallery-8 { margin: auto; } #gallery-8 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-8 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-8 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Djamou – Mali – Read the article

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  • SKOURA, A LUXURIOUS BREAK IN AN OASIS OF HAPINESS

    Encounter with Catherine and Philippe at the Sawadi Ecolodge Our friend Ebi being on his way home, it’s now back to the two of us for the rest of the adventure. After spending a few days in the Valley of Roses (read the article), we decide to head to Skoura, where we hope to get in touch with a beekeeper working to save the endangered yellow saharan bee (read the article). Back home before leaving, our internet research had lead us to the Sawadi Ecolodge where Catherine and Philippe, the owners, had sheltered a few yellow bees hives. We had contacted them for more informations, and are now on our way to meet them. #gallery-9 { margin: auto; } #gallery-9 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-9 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-9 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article The story of a crazy guy Our GPS leads us through the maze that is this designated World Heritage palm grove, and we finally make it to Sawadi’s gates where Catherine welcomes us with a quite surprised face… Let’s say that we don’t go unnoticed! When we explain who we are and why we came here, she’s visibly thrilled and offers us some tea before taking us into her paradise. The place is stunning, with its rooms spread over four hectares where olive and fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and many many colourful flowers happily grow together. While we’re walking, Catherine explains that they arrived here twelve years ago, on a happy whim. When a friend told her about his crazy brother, who had just bought a farm in a palm grove in the very depths of Morocco, Catherine takes Philippe to meet with this guy, she haven’t seen in forty years… « I like crazy people, they always have an interesting story » she says with a big smile. They fall in love with the place, and keep coming regularly for two years, until that day when their friend Bernard told them he was selling the farm. « We didn’t think, and better not to for it was all but reasonable, we bought it. And it was worth it! » « I like crazy people, they always have an interesting story. » Catherine #gallery-10 { margin: auto; } #gallery-10 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-10 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-10 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-11 { margin: auto; } #gallery-11 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-11 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-11 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article The Sawadi adventure Located in the Skoura palm grove, designated World Heritage and one of the last ones to be inhabited and cultivated, Sawadi is among the many guest houses and luxurious hotels scattered among the palm trees. But Catherine and Philippe wanted something different, and it’s guided by their beliefs that they started to build the Sawadi project. Four hectares dedicated to well-being, permaculture and the conservation of local animal breeds, all with the help of the Sawadi team, fifteen men and women all coming the palm grove and therefore living in a five kilometres range. A luxurious oasis of happiness, where plants, animals and people live in harmony. In here, everything was designed to respect and highlight the territory, up until the garden of which the fresh products are being cooked in the restaurant. Every room was built like the old casbahs, with traditional style and materials like the pisé briques, and then decorated with the most attention. The beautiful mirror pool is lightly treated with salt, and each household product is home made from natural and biodegradable ingredients. The result of these twelve years of work is astonishing, and won them the price of best ecolodge in Morocco in 2014! Our host is no nice, and so temping is the idea of a nice bed and a swim the pool that we give in, and gladly accept a discount on the room’s price! #gallery-12 { margin: auto; } #gallery-12 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-12 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-12 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-13 { margin: auto; } #gallery-13 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-13 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-13 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Paradise for sell Seduced by our vision and our will to get involved in a permaculture project, Catherine eventually drops that even though they are absolutely not in any hurry of doing so, they would like to find a couple of young people, ready to take over and face the challenge, to hand Sawadi to… The place is still full of an immense potential, and we felt the will to really preserve the values that founded it. So to whomever might feel concerned, if you’re looking for a nice little paradise in the heart of Morocco, you should head to Sawadi 😉 #gallery-14 { margin: auto; } #gallery-14 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-14 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-14 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Sawadi – Skoura – Morocco – Read the article Contact SAWADI Website: http://www.sawadi.ma/en/ Address: BP 28 Douar Tajanate - Skoura - 45500 Morocco Phone: 00212 524 85 23 41 / 00212 666 91 79 29 E-mail: sawadi@sawadi.ma

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  • ATLAS PART 2 – VALLEY HOPPING

    Being back onto the sealed road after this incredible track between Merzouga and Zagora is not so much fun and we decide to take a shortcut to get to the Atlas foothills, north of our current position. #gallery-15 { margin: auto; } #gallery-15 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-15 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-15 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Jbel Sarhro – Morocco – Read the article A tea and maybe more… We find ourselves onto a tricky path once again, carved through the rocky mountains and leading to the many berber villages of the area. At the turning of a bend, we spot men working on making the track accessing the village below better. We wave to say hello and soon reach the village, where the women welcome us displaying the bracelets, key rings and other berber coloured crafting they sell on markets and to tourists passing by. Naïma, a young woman of a rare beauty, invites us nicely but very very firmly to have a cup of tea, and so we follow her, amused by her outspokenness (or rather her eccentricity, for we don’t really understand what she’s saying) and her spontaneity. She leads us trough the village to her house, and we have to help her feed and water her sheep before being invited to step in. #gallery-16 { margin: auto; } #gallery-16 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-16 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-16 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Jbel Sarhro – Morocco – Read the article Once seated on cushions around the table, more women join us, sisters, aunts and cousins who instantly start babbling happily in amazigh, very probably about us judging by the funny looks they openly give us. They keep looking at me and end up wrapping scarfs made of multicoloured beads around my hair. I must look funny because they start laughing and tell Toni to take a picture of me, making it very clear that the picture must be of me, not of them. It is the same all around the country, women really don’t like pictures… #gallery-17 { margin: auto; } #gallery-17 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-17 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-17 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Jbel Sarhro – Morocco – Read the article But their attention is soon diverted from me, when they understand that Toni and I are a couple and that Ebrahim… is single!! From then on, the conversation turns towards him, and Naïma sates that he is hers, for she saw him first. We’ve heard before that sometimes, berber women’s conversations could make even the most liberated westerner blush, and we can now testify of its veracity… This is not a legend, and I can tell you that in the space of a few hours, we did blush and more than once! Because they are just as much explicit with their bodies as they are with their words, that we therefore don’t need to understand to make out what’s being made very clear. And Naïma made very clear that she intended to marry Ebrahim… At the end, it’s Ebi himself who’ begging us to leave, so uncomfortable is now… So we decide get on our way before things run out of control for real, Toni and I laughing while Ebi scowls us to stop. Which will work, just a few hours later… #gallery-18 { margin: auto; } #gallery-18 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-18 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-18 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Jbel Sarhro – Morocco – Read the article The Valley of Roses After this adventure we join the main road that leads to Kelaat M’Gouna, economical, commercial and social center of the area, and gate to the famous Valley of Roses. We’re in the Atlas foothills, at the altitude of 1500 metres, and it one the very few places sheltering the perfect conditions for the Damascus rose to thrive. #gallery-19 { margin: auto; } #gallery-19 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-19 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-19 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kelaat M’Gouna – Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article So we enter the valley, looking for a spot to spend the night. Not an easy thing in a place where crops cover every flat inch by the river. In the Ebi will save the night, spotting an empty space that looks flat enough to make camp on the Google map’s satellite view (very useful!). We try to get there, but the  track is so narrow that we’re thinking about turning back, when a lady comes out and asks us if we’re the customers she’s waiting for. When we explain that we’re looking for a place to camp, she confirms that if we manage to get through, there is indeed a nice place by the river. Next morning we learn that although late of two weeks, the roses harvest have just began throughout the whole valley, and so we venture on foot on the other side of the river to admire the fields… But we soon discover that instead of extensive fields (they do exist but further down, in the plain), here the roses are planted traditionally around the subsistance wheat and alfalfa crops, in protective hedges against the goats among other things. #gallery-20 { margin: auto; } #gallery-20 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-20 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-20 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-21 { margin: auto; } #gallery-21 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-21 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-21 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article Valley of Roses – Morocco – Read the article It should be pointed out that because the people here don’t have the resources to buy expensive chemicals so treat their fields, they use instead ancestral methods of crop rotation and diversification. Therefore it is the diverse species growing that take care of each other, such as the alfalfa, which roots enriches the soil with the azote naturally present in the air… And it works, for on very little spaces they manage to produce wheat, alfalfa, figues, almonds, olives, peaches, apricots, apples, pomegranates, nuts, dattes, peas and of course the beautiful roses! Historically used for its medicinal and cosmetic properties, the Damascus rose today provides an additional source of revenue, trough the fabrication and exportation of rose water. From the moment the firsts rays of sun activates the flower photosynthesis liberating its fragrance, the women get to work. During four hours, they will harvest the blooming flowers to be distilled, along with the buds about to open to be dried and used to craft perfumed sachets. They then go to the village, where the husband (or the brother) takes over to get the bags weighed and retrieve the money… Hum. Anyway, these few hours wandering around the valley were nice, and we get back on the road after enjoying a nice berber omelette, of which I’ll soon share a personalised version of the recipe! On the oued track We leave the Valley of Roses et are now on our way the Dades gorges. We stop in front of a boulangerie so that Ebrahim can get some bread while Toni, always on the watch, checks the car and the tires… Obviously a great idea for there is an oil leak coming from the breaks! Knowing that the road will only get steeper, we decide to turn back to find a place and try to fix it. Meanwhile, Ebi gets back with a funny look on his face… A kid that was just leaving the boulangerie when he got there tried to sell him the baguettes he had just purchased for three times the normal price!! Oh but you’re right, always good to try 😉 Once settled, we take the hi lift out for the first time. We have no choice but to dismount the wheel to find the source of the leak. As a result, a loosen bolt… Not so bad, but a good reminder to always check the vehicle, specially when driving off road! The next day we’re back on the road with fixed breaks, and take a track that links to the Todra gorges, a little further on the east. Instead of a proper track, we realise that we’re driving in the bed of a dried out oued, that furrows through the volcanic peaks for some twenty kilometres… Well let’s just hope that it doesn’t rain! But the place is really worth it (if you have a 4WD) because the surroundings are astonishing, for a change. We stop for lunch at the foot of an impressive lava flow (yes you read correctly) and take our time to observe the different geological layers exposed by the water through the ages. It out it’s fascinating, even when not knowing anything about it. #gallery-22 { margin: auto; } #gallery-22 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-22 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-22 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-23 { margin: auto; } #gallery-23 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-23 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-23 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article Dadès gorges – High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-24 { margin: auto; } #gallery-24 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-24 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-24 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article Further away, we leave the oued to follow the track up the hill, until arriving on a high plateau that dominates the plain for as far as the eye can see… The main road is just over there, and will now have to find a spot for the night. Not such an easy thing when entering a super touristy place! The gorges are beautiful and quite impressive, but there is only one road and nowhere to escape… So we end up in the only camping that still have space for us, and resign to pay for the night… In the morning, Ebrahim (a photo reporter) tells us that he would like to go meet with people fighting against an aluminium extraction industry draining their wells. We know that it’s a sensitive matter in the country, as although the cause is just, it’s a bad idea for us to go there as French tourists… So we let him go on his own, wishing him good luck and hoping things go well… A few days later a meet him in Skoura. Everything was fine, even though he had to walk to several hours through the mountain not to get arrested at the police check point! #gallery-25 { margin: auto; } #gallery-25 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-25 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-25 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article High Atlas – Morocco – Read the article After this adventure, he announces us that it is time for him to go home. We have spent a month traveling together, and it was a pleasure to share these moments… We say our goodbyes until we meet again somewhere, someday, and then it’s back to the two of us!

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  • INTO THE DESERT, PART 2 – FROM MERZOUGA TO ZAGORA

    A 300 kilometres track through the desert Getting out of Merzouga, instead of staying on the main road, we turn and take the track that will lead us in the heart of the desert, through some incredible landscapes… It really isn’t easy to find words to describe the immensity of the spaces we’re crossing. One minute we have the feeling to be on the moon, and the next we’re on Mars… Finding a tree is a challenge, but we’ll have lunch in the shade after all. A crew of over equipped 4WD drive past us, and we have to jump on the food to keep it safe from the dust! After driving through a dry out lake, an absolute unique experience where the track is no longer more than a line on the map, we have to navigate visually to find our way. The sand, covering everything, just gets deeper and deeper… But we’re not ready to deflate the tires and that just makes it more and more complicated when it could easily be done… Anyway, we’re lucky on this one because at this moment we come across the crew of 4WD that passed us earlier, and they stop to tell us that further is no good, and that they even had to use the winch to get one the vehicles out. Seeing their equipment (and the light weight of their cars compared to ours), we’re thinking that if they couldn’t do it, there is no chance we can and so we turn back and follow them to the closest village. #gallery-26 { margin: auto; } #gallery-26 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-26 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-26 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article We were indeed very lucky. Because if we have had to continue for this long before getting stuck where they did, we wouldn’t have had enough petrol to turn back… That’s another lesson learned, and we’re simply grateful for our scouts! Back to the village, we get our maps and GPS out to try and find some other way around. Well, that’s to say one the crew’s driver asks us what GPS we’re using to navigate, and although we have the Garmin, we’re simply using the app maps.me and that seems to be very funny in his eyes… Anyway it is a very good app, and we do have all the tracks in there, even the way around! So when the people of the village asks us a lot of money to show us the way, we decide to turn that offer down and take our chance on our own. By the time we’re ready to leave, a French couple in a fifth 4WD joins us, and are more than happy to follow everyone and not be on their own for this tricky part (well just like us actually!). We all finally get on our way, and have to follow the dry out river bed on several kilometres before being able to cross and get on the other side to make our way around the sandiest part. There surely is less sand than on the track, but it still quite a technical bit and our first real sand experience! #gallery-27 { margin: auto; } #gallery-27 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-27 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-27 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-28 { margin: auto; } #gallery-28 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-28 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-28 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-29 { margin: auto; } #gallery-29 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-29 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-29 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Once out and back on the track, one the guys from the crew throws us a fresh beer to celebrate and they all get going. We stay back with Mahbouba and Olivier, the French couple, and decide to drive with them for a while, as we’re going in the same direction anyway. We discover ourselves a common passion for the search of special rocks and fossils, indeed we can spend hours bent in two scanning the ground… Later on, we don’t resist and make a stop in a kind of hotel, in the middle of an absolute nowhere, baring the name of Dinosaur KemKem. The owner welcomes us with a smile threatening to split his face in two, so large is his smile… A shared pleasure, for sure, specially when the giant tajine he’s prepared for us comes in! In the evening, a sand storm comes in, again, as we’re already inside the tent falling asleep. We have to pack the bottom part in emergency (the part where Ebi is sleeping in) once more… We had hopes that the walls of the hotel would protect us, but obviously nothing stops the desert winds!! The next day we manage to get to Zagora, with a lot of stars in our eyes… Being back on the sealed road is like a punishment after such an adventure, and our co-travelers, of the same mind, go their way for some new ones while we drive along the Drâa valley to meet the Atlas Mountains once again… #gallery-30 { margin: auto; } #gallery-30 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-30 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-30 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-31 { margin: auto; } #gallery-31 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-31 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-31 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article Kem Kem area – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article

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  • INTO THE DESERT, PART 1 – FROM ERRACHIDIA TO MERZOUGA

    Along the Ziz Valley After our wild ride through the cedar forest, we get back on the road in a more and more arid and rocky surrounding. We’re entering the realm of the desert and I shed my first tears (yes there will be others!) in front of this landscape that gives all its meaning to the word astonishing. The soil layers displayed gives us an insight of the forces at stake here, and the topography draws this place’s history. Enjoying a coffee break by the Ziz River, that we’ll be driving along for a hundred kilometres, I gather myself together and take this picture of this shepherd and his donkey warming themselves in the morning sun… #gallery-32 { margin: auto; } #gallery-32 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-32 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-32 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article We’re now following the canyon sheltering the river that feeds the El Hassan Addakhil dam reservoir, appearing in front of us like a turquoise mirage in the middle of nothing. We decide to turn around and take a path that goes down the canyon, close by the river. After a few sinuous kilometres, just before the dam, the path suddenly ends and we park the car to go check on foot. Just a few meters away, by the water, stands an animal that we don’t recognise straight away. For a long time, we stay still, observing with wide eyes… What is it? A dog? Or maybe a jackal? We get our answer when it jumps into the water when spotting us. The otter turns a somersault and splashes water around before slowly swimming away, while I enrage not to have had my camera with me! Enquiring on the matter, we learn that people here call them dam dogs, and that it is a very rare thing to spot one. Threatened by the value of their fur and even their meat, they also need a very good water quality and their living space decreases as ours expends. Delighted by this rare and unexpected encounter, we decide to camp on the dry river banks, and take out our spotting scope in case the otter would like to make an other appearance. We set up the camp and light a fire to cook… No otter on sight, but we enjoy the so far quiet night to practise with night photography. #gallery-33 { margin: auto; } #gallery-33 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-33 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-33 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article We had barely put the equipment away when the wind rose. In less time required to read this line, we’re packing the tent for the strong gusts filled with dust threaten to rip everything apart. We don’t know it yet, but we’ll acquire lots of training in emergency packing in the weeks to come… Looking back, it seems like a welcome gift from the desert 😉 So it is the first time we have to sleep in our hiking tent since New Zealand. And to think we almost didn’t take it because of the space it takes… But we are now glad we did, for our roof tent is obviously no so wind friendly! #gallery-34 { margin: auto; } #gallery-34 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-34 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-34 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article Next morning, we decide to move and find another spot, because the water is accessible only through the muddy banks. We find the perfect spot, upstream, but on the other side of the river… It doesn’t look too deep, but we go on foot first, just to make sure we know where to put the wheels. But the passage is quite easy (compare to what awaits us further south!) and we’ll spend two days fully enjoying this special place! #gallery-35 { margin: auto; } #gallery-35 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-35 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-35 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-36 { margin: auto; } #gallery-36 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-36 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-36 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-37 { margin: auto; } #gallery-37 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-37 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-37 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article But we still haven’t seen anything, and getting back on the road is a real treat. The landscape is changing at a crazy pace, and we spend our days being amazed with the views… We had quite a similar feeling in NZ, each time we were driving. Maybe being at the desert gates is adding to the general excitement, because we’re all feeling like fully charged batteries when jumping in the car. After some food shopping, we pass the lake and drive to find the Ziz valley again. While our eyes only see a vast rocky plain, the valley suddenly appears at the bottom of a large canyon. Like a river  furrowing between the cliffs, the lush green oasis lines the bottom of the valley. A vision all the more impressive that we’re standing right at the edge of the cliff, and the threatening sky and strong winds are adding a dramatic touch to this moment. We decide not to tempt fate and find a camp here, hoping the cliffs will provide some shelter… We spend the next day wandering in the oasis, et discover a whole world full of life and colours. Water is everywhere, coming from the river to feed the hundreds of small canals irrigating the whole valley. Birds are singing loudly to welcome spring and are feasting from the thousands insects flying all around. Alfalfa alternate with wheat fields sprinkled with red poppies, and the fig, palm, and olive trees provide a shadow maintaining constant levels of humidity throughout the entire oasis. Some turtles jump from the rock where they were sunbathing to hide in the water when seeing us, and it is hard not to step on the many many frogs for they are so well camouflaged! #gallery-38 { margin: auto; } #gallery-38 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-38 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-38 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-39 { margin: auto; } #gallery-39 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-39 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-39 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-40 { margin: auto; } #gallery-40 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-40 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-40 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-41 { margin: auto; } #gallery-41 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-41 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-41 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-42 { margin: auto; } #gallery-42 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-42 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-42 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article The Ziz Valley – Morocco – Read the article Merzouga and its sand dunes After enjoying the beauties of the oasis, we’re getting in sight of Merzouga and her famous sand dunes. Hard to describe the feeling you have when getting at the foot of these sand giants… Probably a mix between amazement and apprehension facing the power of the place! We park the car at the bottom of one of the highest dunes and wait for the sun to go down to climb up there and enjoy the view. Ebi decides to go on an expedition to try to sleep inside one the many camps at the heart of the dunes, so we wish him luck and watch him go. Sitting in the sand, filled with serenity, we’re admiring the sunset’s changing colours when the sound of an engine roaring alerts us. Two motorbikes are actually trying to climb on our dune, but the slope is so steep that we wonder if they’re not about to flip over. They somehow manage to get at the top and drive down on the other side. As we’re making our way back down too, we’re now facing five 4WD trying to make the climb… The first one will indeed get there, but the four remaining will have to finish on foot!   #gallery-43 { margin: auto; } #gallery-43 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-43 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-43 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Merzouga dunes – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-44 { margin: auto; } #gallery-44 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-44 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-44 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Merzouga dunes – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article It is now way past time we find a spot for the night, and we almost get stuck in the sand just a few meters away from the track… So it’s not a legend after all! You really have to deflate you tires if you’re to drive in the sand! We store that precious information in a corner of our brain and settle for a tree right by a mini dune. We did believe that in case we were to face a windy night, we would be sort of sheltered… Well this isn’t exactly what happened. We’re enjoying a nice moment watching this incredible landscape, when we spot the full moon, red a huuuuuuge, rising above the dunes… That instant is so beautiful it could be a postcard when suddenly the moon simply disappears. I don’t understand right away what’s going on, and I’m still wondering if my brain’s sending me the right information when a strong gust filled with sand storms on us, then another, and another. We’re in the middle of a crazy sand storm, and now we can’t see anything ten meters away. We decide to set our « storm » tent up again before it’s too dark (it will be even worse with flash lights) and have to attach it to car so it won’t blow away while we eat a very simple a rapid dinner in the car… We’ll manage to sleep somehow, hoping the tent will still stand in the morning. When we wake up, everything is calm and nice again but we realise that this tent is not exactly sand proof… Our feet are indeed buried under a dune! We’re having a breakfast, waiting for Ebi when he comes back all smiling and victorious. Taking a look at the map, we think it could be nice to join Zagora through the track running close to the Algerian border… We’re about to drive what is, still today, one the most beautiful tracks we’ve driven since we left!   #gallery-45 { margin: auto; } #gallery-45 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-45 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-45 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Merzouga sand dunes – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article The Merzouga dunes – Sahara – Morocco – Read the article

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  • ATLAS PART 1 – INTO BERBER COUNTRY

    An encounter with Mohamed and his family, shepherds in the Mediterranean Atlas Change of scenery  After this city episode in Meknes and Fes we have only one desire, getting back into the wild! Just south of we’re is the Middle Atlas, also called Mediterranean Atlas, and that’s where we’re heading. We leave the lush hills behind us to enter the mountain realm, and the more we climb in altitude, the colder and cloudier it gets. Driving through the village of Ifrane, we can see that the ground is covered in white… Surely this can’t be snow?? We get out of the car to find out and discover that it is hail stones, the size of a peanut. Obviously the storm is not far, but we have no idea where it’s heading! Earlier we spotted a lake on the map in the Khenifra National Park, and we head towards it to make our camp for the night, in a scenery feeling a lot like what we imagine Mongolian steps to look like. On the road we discover more and more tiny villages bearing the berber symbol, settled in glades and plateaux covered in short grass in the middle of a dense cedar forest, where it is rare, but not impossible to sight some wolves. #gallery-46 { margin: auto; } #gallery-46 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-46 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-46 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Ifrane – Morocco – Read the article Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article When the universe gives you a sign As the day goes by, the temperature drops but we’re still quite far away from our destination. At some point Toni pulls the car on the side of the road, saying that he doesn’t know why, but he just had a feeling that we should stop here and check out what’s on the other side of the hill. The top isn’t far and we climb the slippery slope to discover, to our biggest surprise… A big nothing! You can’t see anything through the thick mist appart from the the slope on the other side. It’s only when we turned back to climb down, laughing out loud, that we notice the reason why, maybe, Toni was hinted to stop here… A feminine silhouette, surrounded with goats and wrapped up in a thick coat, is climbing down the hill in front of us and comes to meet us. As we didn’t see any village around, we’re a little surprised to find her here, in the middle of almost nowhere, but she only seems super happy to see us. Her name is Ijja and she invites us, with lots of gestures, to follow her up the hill she just came from. We gladly accept, touched by her fond smile and curious to find out where she’s taking us. The mud and the kilos accumulate under our shoes while Ebrahim and I walk with her, as Toni struggles to follow with the car skidding on the slippery ground. As we get to the top we discover a small gathering of houses, nested in a tiny depression out of sight from the road and surrounded with a protective fence made of brushwood. Ijja introduces us to Mohamed, her husband, who in turn introduces us to his second wife (yes exactly) Melila, their 3 year old daughter Maïma strapped in her mother’s back, and his step mother (Melila’s mom) Fathma. #gallery-47 { margin: auto; } #gallery-47 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-47 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-47 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article A tea by the fire place We enter the space guarded by the fence (and the dogs, attached during the day but freed at night) and make our way towards one of the houses, made of wooden logs and several layers of plastic canvas. We take off our very muddy shoes and bow the head to step inside. A cat is comfortably installed by the fire place, settled in the middle of the room and delivering such a nice heat that I suddenly realise how cold it is outside! In the corner, the bare ground has been shaped to delimit the area where water is used and send it straight outside trough an evacuation. Mohamed invites us to sit down on the thick wooden blankets arranged around the fire place, while his wives prepare the tea. It is the first time we meet with a polygamist family, and I have to admit that it feels a little strange… Since that moment, we learned that it is still practiced in Morocco, though a lot less from the moment women got to have a say in the matter! Mohamed must feel our discomfort (not exactly the right word for we don’t feel uncomfortable) because he starts to explain us -or at least we understand- that Ijja is his first wife, that their kids are grown up and gone to the city, and he then married Melila, who came with a mother. It’s the first time we hear the language he speaks, and he tells us it’s the berber language called Amazigh. Before tea is ready, Melila brings an aiguière and a basin, allowing us to wash our hands in turns without having to move. The ritual is observed before and after each meal or snack (people just love to eat) for you traditionally eat with your right hand. We then enjoy the mint tea with fresh bred, olive oil, homemade butter and olives while the discussion goes wild despite the language barrier. Preparing the famous couscous Ijja announce that we’re going to have a couscous tonight, usually prepared on Fridays, a holy day here. As it is not Friday, we understand that they are honouring us and one of the chickens is sacrificed for the occasion. No way to avoid it, nor to wallow the chicken even though I’m so fond of the idea… But before getting started the women get in their mind to cover my hair with a scarf they tie on my head, while the men are leaving in another room. The few next hours are dedicated to the couscous preparation, and more specifically the semolina. In my recipe, it only take about 10 minutes and it’s super simple. But here it is all about art, and you have to delicately massage the grains between times of steam cooking until you get the prefect texture. Melila regularly checks up on me to make sure I’m doing good and seems happy 😉 Between two massaging sequences, I flee to go see what the men are up to, and find them in a very cold room, buried under blankets. Why come here when it’s so warm in the other room? Maybe because we’re preparing food? Or men just like to have « men conversations »? The mystery remains, but nevertheless we all enjoy the food together, in a way that is new to us: first came the chicken with an olive sauce and some bred, and after that came the semolina with the veggies and some warm and salty milk poured over the dish last minute. The combination is a little surprising in the beginning, but the milk gives the whole dish a nice smoothness and the result is quite good. #gallery-48 { margin: auto; } #gallery-48 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-48 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-48 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article A night under the blankets  As Mohamed feeds his little girl with mouthful couscous boulettes, the conversations goes on aided with a child book filled with images, really handful tool to communicate. He confirms that there is indeed wolves in the forest, and that the dogs are here to keep the camp safe. We are warned to be extra careful when going outside on our own, which he doesn’t let us do anyway! And noway we can find our route in the dark, so we’re warmly invited to stay over for the night. Melila made some beds for us in the cold room, and was about to go get the sleeping bags when I noticed we wouldn’t need it… A mountain of thick and heavy woollen blankets awaits us, and we slid ourselves inside before falling in a deep sleep, still under the weight of the blankets. At dawn, we wake to the sound of the ships loudly screaming their hunger for the world to know! We get out of the room and find ourselves plunged in the middle of the morning ritual. Take the goats out, feed the hungry ships, milk the cow, fill the troughs and the kitchen barrel… There is plenty of work to do before breakfast, that we enjoy fervently while Mohamed is getting a bag ready. He makes us understand that he wants come with us so we can drop him in the city of Mrit, some forty kilometres away. Before leaving we all gather to make some pictures, and we use our little printer to print some as a souvenir. Mohamed seems happy to go with us, but Ijja and Melila look quite sad to see us leave… Despite the shortness of the time spent together, it’s not easy to say goodbye but the idea of seeing them again someday softens the moment and we finally get on the road, with Mohamed in passenger seat and me behind, huddled by the fridge (laughs). Even though Mrit wasn’t on our route, we’re really happy to spend this moment with him. He tells us about his dream to come live in France one day, and we couldn’t find it in ourselves to explain that his life wouldn’t be any better, on the contrary… Instead, it’s our turn to offer him to come visit us, if he was ever around. By the look on his face, we understand that this really means a lot to him… #gallery-49 { margin: auto; } #gallery-49 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-49 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-49 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Auguelmam Zigza Lake – Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-50 { margin: auto; } #gallery-50 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-50 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-50 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Race against the rain in the cedar forest After dropping Mohamed in Mrit, we get on with our journey towards the Auguelmam Zigza lake, our initial destination. At the end of a track roaming through the cedars, we reach a plateau in the middle of which, leaning against the forest line is the lake. Some macaques are here and seem to be ruling the place. In front of the few berber tents set up on the shores overlooking the lake are slowly stewing tajines, appearing to insistently calling our names somehow… We too easily yield to temptation and take a sit while having a look to the map. We finally choose a track running through the forest to reach the road going east, on the other side of the mountains. As we enter the track, we run into a group of bikers turning back because of the rocks making the way too difficult for a motorbike. We keep on going anyway and the more we drive, the less we’re sure of getting through to the end. The track is roughly carved on the mountain side and as the rain begins the visibility lessens, but the 4WD does the job and we slowly make our way. When the mist arises, the views get mystical. The bottom of the valley disappears and the cedars stretching majestically up seem to defy the sky, while we navigate between earth and and sky at who knows what altitude. A multitude of sinuous streams formed with the rain runs under the trees on the ground, covered with lush green grass. We can see a perfect camping spot there, but the rain redoubles it’s efforts to keep us going… Apparently it should be better on the other side…. We drive until late to take over the rain, and leave the mountains behind us, along with the clouds still gathering upon it. We can see the rain falling in there, but our night will be dry and we’ll even get to have breakfast under the sun! #gallery-51 { margin: auto; } #gallery-51 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-51 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-51 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article #gallery-52 { margin: auto; } #gallery-52 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-52 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-52 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ #gallery-53 { margin: auto; } #gallery-53 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 50%; } #gallery-53 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-53 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Auguelmam Zigza Lake – Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article Khenifra National Park – Morocco – Read the article

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  • ENCOUNTER WITH PHILIPPE OUAKI DI GIORNO, INGENIOUS INVENTOR – MEKNES

    Enchanted break on the road After our encounter with Aziz and his family, we’re back on the road towards Meknes, for a meeting we’re quite excited about! Yet we stop just a few kilometres after, intrigued by a big nest in which we can clearly see a stork. They’re everywhere since we arrived in the south of Spain, but for the first time we have a view form above. The road is higher here but they usually nest on high electric poles or at the minarets’ top. We climb the hill beside us to get a better view, armed with our spotting scope and camera, and find out that the stork is actually brooding four babies, all grey and fluffy… In awe of the scene , we observe the family trough the spotting scope when what we suppose to be the father lands at the edge of nest. It’s time for feeding, and we feel particularly privileged to be here in this moment. It’s a good time to try to set our camera up onto the spotting scope… Well that’s gonna take us some time to figure out, given the blur images we got 😉   Arriving in Meknes We came here in Meknes to meet with Philippe Ouaki Di Giorno, an engineer who developed a moisture-binding polymer that could be used to grow plants even in the desert. We had discovered the man and his invention through an interview given by a French journalist (Frederic Lopez - you can watch the interview here though it’s in french) and had been seduced by his speech and determined personality. This meeting wasn’t suppose to happen though. We were in contact with one of his collaborators, Saber, whom we initially planned to meet with in Casablanca. The offer to meet them here came from him, for he would be accompanied with Philippe to attend the SIAM, an International agricultural fair. A rare opportunity and it is thus a little intimidated that we drive along the fortified walls surrounding the medina to get to the agreed meeting point, some parking lot by the fair main entrance. They’ll get there a few minutes after we do, accompanied with Philippe’s daughter, who’s a student in corporate communication. After the introductions, Saber goes on a mission to get their badges while we get acquainted with Philippe. He is most intrigued by our adventure and what led us to it, and he happily answer his questions before asking the one that burns our lips… What is this invention all about, and who’s the man behind it?   The encounter  Philippe is an agronomist with a passion for plants and their dynamics, who developed an organic component able to retain up to 500 times (usually between 120 to 300 times) it’s volume of water, to be distributed to plant when it actually needs it. The amount of water needed is therefore drastically reduced (down by 97%), for every drop now counts. But in truth it goes way deeper! According to Philippe (and that’s the moment I regret not recording the conversation, for we don’t know it yet, but we won’t see him again) the polymer will eventually blend with the plant’s root system and allow it to grow beyond it’s latent potential, usually never reached because of the stress induced by normal conditions (humidity, temperatures, etc). Philippe even mentions some kind of super plants (like quinoa or piment), growing up to four times quicker than usual. An invention he took 25 years to fully develop, never letting go of his formula despite the numerous offers he got from agricultural giants. I’m not interested with money for money, he told us, what I want is to give people back confidence in their lands. He is convinced that the trend that has seen countrysides emptying at the benefice of life in cities in now reversing, and that the farmers of tomorrow are today engineers, bankers or salesmen. One the biggest challenge for the future is to feed everyone, and the agriculture, when practised wisely, can widely provide what we need. For Philippe, the very notion of permaculture is only good sense, working with what the nature does best instead of working to destroy it. And it is through this vision that he plays his part, convinced that knowledge is a powerful tool, and that it is what we choose to do with it that matters. After all, chemistry also happens to be the very essence of life, he told us. Now is no longer the time to realise that something’s wrong. Now is the time for solutions! And those solutions are already in our hands, provided we can use them wisely… In the end we spent more than two hours talking together, sitting in our camping chairs (as you know we’re pretty well equipped) on the parking lot. Philippe agrees for another meeting even if his schedule is largely filled already, but he won’t make it after all… We’d have had a thousand questions to ask about his product, which seems to be offering endless possibilities (food security, bioremediation, soil stabilisation, recreation of primary forests, etc), but it’s mostly his vision, definitely positive and determined, that marked us that day.   After this unexpected but very appreciable meeting, we enjoy loosing ourselves in the maze of Meknes’ Medina before heading to Fes, for a citadin stop before crossing the Atlas Mountains… #gallery-54 { margin: auto; } #gallery-54 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-54 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-54 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article Fes – Morocco – See the article Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article Meknes – Morocco – See the article Meknes – Morocco – See the article Meknes – Morocco – See the article Meknes – Morocco – See the article Fes – Morocco – See the article Fes – Morocco – See the article Fes – Morocco – See the article

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  • THE RIF AREA – A COLOURFUL ROAD

    A vertiginous hike in the Talassemtane National Park The next day, after tasting our first cumin omelette (recipe that we instantly adopted), we drive to the mountains et stop by Akchour, in the Talassemtane National Park. The campsite is a nice place with facilities by the beautiful river, et the guy working there offers to cook a tajine for us, the very first one! We’re starving, but the time passing teaches us that a good tajine is cooked for what appears to be a looooong time!! But it’s definitely worth it and we devour it in just a few minutes. The valley here is full of possibilities for hiking lovers, and we choose to head for the Devil’s Bridge, a natural arch linking two mountains above the canyon which you access making your way alongside the cliffs. A nice and welcomed, but vertiginous, work out after those few days! #gallery-55 { margin: auto; } #gallery-55 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-55 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-55 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Talassemtane National Park – Morocco – See the article #gallery-56 { margin: auto; } #gallery-56 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 100%; } #gallery-56 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-56 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ The Devil’s Bridge, Talassemtane National Park – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen, also called the Blue City We then drive to Chefchaouen, a small town built on the mountainside also called the Blue City. We leave the car on a parking lot overviewing the city, and engulf ourselves in the maze of alleys, each one more colourful, charming and steep than the other one. The place is a living postcard. The iconic blue is everywhere, its shade varying from a pastel blue to a deep indigo, enhanced by the white and the natural shades of stone. The small shops are filled with bags full of raw pigments of all colours, spices, carpets, jewellery and I lead, with success, my first battle against a deplorable and recurrent shopping fever! By the time we get back to the car (that is to say by the time we climb back all the alleys we so easily went down) it’s already late and we decide to stay at the nearest campsite, on the edge of the town. We will there meet Juan and his friend, two Americans traveling also with a land cruiser. He started his journey in New York, traveling the continent till Ushuaia where we had his vehicle shipped al the way to South Africa. He is there met by his friend, and together they will cross all eastern Africa to reach Djibouti. They came in Morocco through Italy and should now make there way north and East, until Vietnam, and then Australia and back to New York…. Quite an adventure we must say! It leaves us full of dreams of crossing the whole continent and then the whole world 😉 #gallery-57 { margin: auto; } #gallery-57 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-57 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-57 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco – See the article Chefchaouen – Morocco Chefchaouen – Morocco Chefchaouen – Morocco Meeting with Aziz, Hurya and their three kids On the road that will lead us to Meknes, the lush green hills, covered in flowers and olive trees and full of life, flashes before our amazed eyes. Spring is definitely a special time to be in Morocco, and we enjoy our luck to be here. After a curve appears what seems to be a small village, so well blended in the landscape with its low ceilings covered in grass and flowers that we can barely see it. A unique palm tree shows its head trough one of the houses, and we glimpse children playing around. We stop the car and get out to ask if we could set the camp somewhere around… As the women shyly hide from us in the shades, the kids take us to Aziz, who happens to live in the palm tree house. He welcomes us with his immense smile and invites us to settle in his own backyard, where his two donkeys are now having a visibly very relaxing nap in the sun… We follow him into the house built with pisé, the traditional brick of dirt and hay straw, where we meet Hurya, his wife and their kids, Myriam (3) and Adam (7). The rooms are displayed around the big palm tree, by the way the only one of the valley, that arises through the roof made of bambou, canvas and dirt. A nice looking cow lives in the first room, facing the kitchen where Hurya is now preparing the traditional tea while we settle in the living room. Aziz knowing a few words in French and Ebi babbling some arabic, we manage altogether to communicate with Aziz, with lots of gesturing and laughs. Hurya brings the tea (mint tea of course) accompanied with olives, bred, fresh butter, olive oil and a glass of leben, a sort of deliciously creamy whey. We understand that Aziz owns fields of olive trees (here in Morocco they’re sponsored by the government by 70%) and that he works occasionally with a small local mint distillery during august. He shows us his beehives, hidden under some hay straw in the backyard, and takes us for a ride in his car, that he always parks on a slope so he can start it. Ebi sitting in the front, Toni and I get in the back in the trunk. Aziz wants to show us his valley and regularly stops to let us admire the landscape. Then we head for the village where we stop for a coffee. Curious, his friends joyfully join us while the kids pose for me to photograph them. A few expressos later, we meet Issa, Aziz’s oldest son coming back from school, and head home. We rapidly set our camp under some amused looks from the family, and invite them for a coffee of our own. When wanting to proudly show Aziz the multiple functionalities of our coach, we discover that our annex battery’s dead… The few kilometres since Tarifa weren’t enough to recharge it! At nightfall the carpets cautiously folded and stored during the day take place in the living room, where we share a meal lighted by a lamp mounted directly on the gaz bottle. Even if we certainly don’t understand everything, the conversation lasts until late at night and we share a really nice time before joining our four-legged roommates 😉   When we woke up Hurya had prepared a very nice and warm corn galette (the best we’ve had so far), deliciously crunchy and melty at the same time. After some warm goodbyes, we dropped Aziz at the next city and had to promise to come back to them if we ever were in the area again… After all who knows? A travel is always full of surprises! #gallery-58 { margin: auto; } #gallery-58 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-58 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-58 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article Chez Aziz et sa famille, région de Mikkes – Maroc At Aziz’s place, in the Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article At Aziz’s place, in the Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article At Aziz’s place, in the Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article At Aziz’s place, in the Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article Chez Aziz et sa famille, région de Mikkes – Maroc – See the article Chez Aziz et sa famille, région de Mikkes – Maroc – See the article Mikkes’ cafe terrace – Morocco – See the article Mikkes – Morocco – See the article Mikkes’ cafe terrace – Morocco – See the article Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article Mikkes area – Morocco – See the article

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  • TANGER MED – AN UNEXPECTED ADVENTURE

    Surprise!  After those few days of forced rest (we obviously complained a lot but hey… we have to adapt!), we finally take the ferry and cross the strait. Sunny and windy, so far so good. We take the car out of the boat and present ourselves to customs. Now that’s when things when bad… Well they did, 2 hours later, when a custom officier came to check us… His first question was very clear « Do you have a drone? ». Well… hum… hhh… yes…? Let’s say that we didn’t see it coming… That question was really not expected! The custom officer, thrilled, ask Toni to give it to him and to follow him. And just like that, we learned that importing a drone in Morocco is completely forbidden. We’re stunned, by the consequences as well as our stupidity. Not that we have had a million opportunities to check on internet… They kindly inform us that it is no problem, that we can buy one for a very cheap price, right here in Morocco… Well, what a good news really!! Strictly applying the rules, the custom officiers call the judiciary police in, and proudly take pictures of our drone with their phones while waiting for them. They arrive half an hour later, and ask to follow them with our vehicle to their offices. They will keep Toni for another two and a half hours before releasing him, the sentence clear but also giving us a way out: we have 45 days to cross back to Spain, with our drone, or it’s a gift for the government.   First night It is now past 10PM, and it is nearly impossible to find a campsite in the dark. We land in the city of Fnideq, already bitter and looking for a hotel to spend the night. We’re welcomed in by some teenagers looking for trouble and throwing eggs on the car… What a start!! We finally find a place and eat a rapid dinner before going in the room we share with Ebrahim. I throw myself in the shower only to discover that the cleaning team has forgotten the bathroom… And that it really is not clean. Toni goes down to ask if there might be another available room, but he faces a hard no, and that we can leave if we’re not happy with the one we have. Let me tell you that after what we’d been through, it didn’t take him for than 5 minutes to come back with the keys of not one, but two other rooms!! At last, something good… We finally fall asleep, furious and angry, mostly with ourselves.   First day We spend the next morning considering our possibilities: turn around and change our plans to visit Europe (oh yes, angry as we were, we really did consider), or continue without the drone? We finally take the only decision making sense. Toni will cross back, on foot, to ship the drone back to France from Gibraltar, before taking the boat back to Morocco. We enjoy the rest of day wondering around, and looking for a campsite for the night. Not so easy in this area where a lot of people try to cross illegally at night. Military forces, asked by Europe to guard the frontier, are everywhere and we need to negotiate to be allowed to spend the night. They finally accept and assign an officer, who will spend the night circling around us with his rifle on and his dog to keep us safe… A little strange but everything went well.   The waiting marathon In the morning, we head to the customs at 8am with a firm intention to get this done quickly. But from there it will take Toni 16 hours (without eating and without even a book) to manage to get the drone back, take the boat on foot (the fact that entered the country with a vehicle really didn’t help), find a post office and ship the drone back, and finally catch the last boat to come back… Meanwhile, Toni having signed a paper stating that no one would use the vehicle in his absence, Ebi and I are assigned to stay on the parking lot, not really what we had planned! But we have no choice and end up making friends with the security officer posted here. His smile and genuine fondness is contagious and soon we feel a lot better! At night fall, he shares his dinner with us, carefully prepared and packed by his wife. Bean soup with some bread, fresh fruit juice and fruits for desert… It is way past 11PM when Toni finally comes back. Tired, we drive south and stop in the first hotel we find. I must look completely desperate when asking for a room, because the manager laughed telling me that of course, we can have a room… Better than that, we can have a suite for the same price! Checking the time on the phone, it’s past midnight… It indeed is a new day, and it starts pretty well! #gallery-59 { margin: auto; } #gallery-59 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-59 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-59 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Belyounech – Morocco – See the article Belyounech beach – Morocco – See the article Oued Alian Beach – Morocco – See the article Oued El Marsa Beach – Morocco – See the article Oued El Marsa – Morocco – See the article

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  • CROSSING SPAIN, THE FIRST STEPS OF THE JOURNEY

    The moment you just have to leave Today is April the 2nd of 2018, it is 9 in the morning and we suddenly realise that time has come to leave… We finally managed to cross every single item one our to-do list, and everything is packed already in the car. We’ve said our goodbyes to our families and friends and are now alone, in the front of the house, ready to go… After being traveling for nearly two months, while writing these words, I can still feel the furious beats of my heart echoing the sound of the engine starting… What the **** are we doing?? So far it was quite simple. We were following the plan et we knew exactly what to do, for the last six months of our lives had been dedicated to get us to this very moment… And here we were. We can feel the adrenaline rush in our veins as we realise what it means. We are about to leave our confortable nest, surrounded by all the people we love, to throw ourselves into a huge unknown. By the way… Why did we decided to do that? Oh yes I know… Because that feeling is the best thing ever, and we just love it! We smile at each other and engrave this instant in our hearts before starting our journey. Settling in our new house We head straight for the Pyrenean mountains, and faced a 3 hours trafic jam before getting into Spain without even noticing. We found our first campsite by a little river, on the Spanish side of the mountains et set our tent up with the intent of sleeping in it for the first time… Yes because initially we were going to take the tent we had bought last year (the blue one) and almost entirely fixed at the time, but we got it out to put it on the car, we realised that maybe it wasn’t really fit for the adventure: the mosquito nets were very tired and the tent was no longer water -nor insect- proof… We were quite confused about what to do until Toni received an e-mail from his friend Ebrahim, whom he’d traveled with through Iran and Oman a few years ago. It turns out that he is so enthusiastic about our project that he wants to join us for a while. Decision was thus made to start this adventure with a guest 😉 After a few research on the internet, we find a very good offer for a very good tent, on a website that we already know is serious, accesoires4x4.ch. The tent is topicalised and comes with an extra water and insect proof space at the bottom, that could be used as a room for Ebrahim. It’s an extra cost, for sure, but we think it worth it and we contact the sellers… The service is perfect, and they even agree to give us a discount to support our project 😉 The tent will arrive in Ariège, our last French stop in my mother’s place, right on time for us to install it. In other words here we are, just a few days before leaving, discovering the tent and praying for the announced measurements to be right… We all cross our fingers during the process… It fits, just about nearly nothing, but it fits!! That’s the reason why we feel like children discovering their new tree house when entering our new bedroom for the first time… Our very own confortable nest that we can drive anywhere we want!! These first few days are rythmed with first times… First sunrise, first meal cooked in our kitchen, first shower in our bathroom with view, first coffee break… We travel down south alongside the cost until Almeria, where we pick Ebrahim up and make our way to Gibraltar. A peaceful retreat in Tarifa In France we say « in April do not take of clothes (and in May do what you like) »… Well it turns out we could also say, in April do not forget to take your oars, specially if you intent to cross the Gibraltar strait, and a massive storm is coming your way… We couldn’t find a better moment to get there, and after a few nights under the rain already, we happily decide to retreat and find a room for the night. After a rapid search we head to the Natural Surf Camp, close to the beach and just a few kilometres from Tarifa. Windy for windy, we might as well go where the storm will blow the strongest! We arrive under pouring rain, and discover a nice house with a living room full of people, comfortably installed, watching a movie. One them, Tomy, shows us to our rooms, arranged around an inner patio lighted (well under some sun, certainly) by a little stained glass dome. We rapidly feel at home in this warming and serein place, and enjoy already the idea of a dry night! At night, it’s in the kitchen that we get to know our hosts better: Lori, Virginia, Tommy, Christian et Eduardo. They’re all friends, Italian, and share the same love for food, that they transmit to their garden. On the table is a big basket full of beautiful and colourful vegetables coming straight from the garden that they take turns to cook for the group, beautifully we can confirm! Later on we also meet with Miguel and his beautiful dog Kira, free spirits of the camp… There is also a whole universe outside, like chill out space full of pillows, a small bar, and even a swimming pool… But let’s say that we enjoyed a more winterish side of the place 😉 With the storm still raging outside we’re not in any hurry to leave and we’ll end up staying four days recharging our batteries (and also discharging the 4WD batteries, as we'll discover lately)… A good thing we recharged our batteries before crossing, for we didn’t know it yet, but we were in for quite an adventure!! #gallery-60 { margin: auto; } #gallery-60 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-60 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-60 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Around Ametlla de Casserres – Spain – See the article Monserrat – Spain – See the article Cala Moraig beach – Spain – See the article Cala Moraig – Spain – See the article Lake de los Bermejales – Spain Lake de los Bermejales – Spain – See the article Lake de los Bermejales – Spain – See the article Alhama de Granada – Spain – See the article Alhama de Granada – Spain – See the article Alhama de Granada – Spain – See the article Alhama de Granada – Spain – See the article Mirador de la Castanares – Spain – See the article Jimera de Libar – Spain – See the article Gibraltar – See the article Gibraltar – See the article Gibraltar – See the article Tarifa – Spain – See the article Tarifa – Spain – See the article Tarifa Beach – Spain – See the article

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