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!

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 😉

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!

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