0354. Donkey Parking Lot (Mor 186--new)

Tahannout Travel Blog

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Episode 11: Treasures of the High Atlas

Four days after getting back from my Middle Atlas tour, I set out once again... Making this my fifth trip in five weeks.  Am I getting tired?  No way.  Am I getting jaded with Morocco.  Nope—I’ve seen so much variety over these last couple of weeks... But I will admit, I’m also feeling pretty excited about soon being able to declare Morocco completely parkbenched...

Having finished the north, the Safi and Essaouira regions to the south, the Plains and the Beni Mellal Atlas regions—I have limited options for a short three day trip... I could each head down to Agadir and hit a couple more towns in that area—or the High Atlas region right south of Marakech.


I choose the latter.

So I headed up to the bus station for an early morning bus to Marrakech.  There I was told that I’d could catch buses and grand taxi heading to the mountains on the other end of town.   No problem—I need to spend a bit more time exploring Marrakech anyways.  So I head out across town, looking for streets and alleyways that I hadn’t explored yet.

I enjoy Marrakech—but I’m beginning to feel that it’s really overrated.  Folks in Casablanca think it’s the best city in the country and Europeans pour into the city by the planeload.  But now that I’ve experienced the width and breadth of Morocco, Marrakech just doesn’t feel all that special.

Sure it’s got a very big Old Medina and a lot of nice gardens throughout the city but still it’s just a very flat, hot city with a distant view of the mountains—if the sky is clear.  Frankly I’d opt for Meknes, Tetouan, Arfoud, Midelt, Chefchaouan, or even Demnate instead any day…

And once you get out of the city, there’s this endless sprawl of luxury developments and golf courses being built surrounded by barren, trash strewn fields… Sorry, I just don’t get it.  And it just seems to me that the very limited water there is in this region would be better invested in agriculture to help make Morocco more self sufficient foodwise than used to water a bunch of golf courses… But then, that might be just me…

Anyways, I’m not here to whine about Marrakech.  I’m headed for the mountains.

  Maybe I’ll even climb Mount Toubkal, the highest mountain in North Africa…

I reach the highway to Asni, Amezmiz and Eureka on the other side of town and see city buses heading off to all those directions. When I finally find a bus stop, I figure I’ll just get on whichever bus comes next—as I need to parkbench all those destinations.

The next bus is heading to Tahanoute—on the Asni/Toubkal/Taroudant highway, so that’s the one I get on.

Tahanoute is a small town right at the start of the foothills of the Atlas Mountains.  It doesn’t take me long to explore the relatively generic town and grab a tagine for lunch.  Then, as I’m about to catch a bus or taxi to the next town up the road, I see a few buildings up ahead so I figure I should check them out.  There I find the REAL Tahanoute clustered on the side of the foothills.  Not only that, but it’s market day, and the entire hillside is covered with parked donkeys as folks from the villages come to do their weekly shopping. 
The market has a bit of a different vibe to it than the other ones I’ve seen.  Being set up on a sloping hillside, it has a more frontierlike, rustic feel, with hardy mountain folks trudging about stocking up with necessary goods.

On the other side of the highway, there’s a wide, green river valley with a couple of earth colored villages on the slopes on the other side.  I hike on across Tahanoute, parkbench under a tree and then decide to go a bit further and explore one of those villages…

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photo by: nathanphil