The Atlas Mountains and The Waterfall Trail

There were a couple of London girls who had been on our flight, and ended up in the same Riad. They had decided to take an excursion into the Atlas Mountains on one of the days and invited us to join them. Keen to see some of the country outside the walls of the city, we keenly accepted. 

Our driver for the day, was the same that had collected us from the airport and has a great relationship with our Riad. He doubled up as a fabulous tour guide on Moroccan history and Berber traditions – being of Berber descent himself, we were in good hands!

First stop was at the side of the road in a clearing. The view was incredible, so we all clambered out to take a few photos.

I never expected Morocco to be so green, but I reminded myself just how close to Europe we are! When I was younger, my family had an apartment in the South of Spain, in a beautiful place called Sotogrande.

From our balcony we could see Gibraltar and beyond that, Morocco. In the evenings, the coastline was all lit up like a Christmas Tree. So many happy memories.

Soon, the locals had found us and were pushing fake jewels in our faces, along with bracelets that they wanted us to buy. Saeed ushered us back into the car and we stopped another 30 minutes later at the side of the road.

He led us up a dirt track and knocked at a big wooden door. A little girl in a full pink outfit opened it and greeted Saeed like an old friend. She said something in the Berber language to the rest of the family and happily skipped away back to the kitchen, motioning for us all to enter.

We entered straight into a large room – the typical orange sand walls surrounding and a hard floor, but fairly basic and minimal furniture. What little decoration there was, were a few family photographs or bright throws and cushions.

Rooms filled out around the central room, which we later discovered was one of their many tea rooms. Saeed led us out the back, through the kitchen to have a look at the terrace and view from the house.

The family kept a donkey and a cow (neither of which had names – I asked) which both lived under the house in carefully built stables. I told Saeed of the donkey I had seen a few days previously with his ripped belly and he sighed and explained that it was common in the city, but that further out, families take very good care of their animals. I was pleased to hear that.

Saeed explained that the the whole family lived in this house (around 30 people!) and it was a lot bigger than a usual Berber house.

Because they have so many visitors, they’ve had to build extra rooms and have expanded the property – although they still live in a basic fashion, minus the luxuries that most of us count as necessities.

Now this made us laugh, the house has its own outdoor hammam (I’ll be describing this process in my next post!). It’s a lot smaller than a public one that you’d visit, but nethertheless, it’s a bit of a luxury!

When we’d toured the house and met all the family, it was time for tea. The family mother (who’s actually a great grandmother!) always pours the tea and the men serve it. It’s an absolute art and really interesting to watch. We sounded like children with our ‘oooh’s and ‘ahhh’s’ and ‘what’s she doing now?’

First, the ingredients;

Traditionally when a Berber couple get married, they are gifted a block of sugar  because they are so expensive. Normally, they sell it back to the vendor and keep the money because they have more use for it. But it’s a great investment all the same.

The dried leaves are mixed with the fresh, and placed into the kettle. Hot water is poured into the kettle and set down on the fire. When this has boiled, it is sloshed around (a circular motion) in the kettle and poured out high into a cup. This first cup is black and removes all the dirt and nasties from the tea – this is then thrown away.

More water is poured into the kettle and it’s heated until boiling once more. When it’s boiled, Mother pours it from a big height. This creates a froth on the top of the tea which is necessary for a good cuppa. If the froth isn’t good enough, she pours it back in the pot and pours high again, until she’s content. It’s then distributed to us thirsty lot!

Before long, it was time for us to leave the house and head on our way to the Atlas Mountains.

Another stop was had for our Camel Ride and then on. Or at least, we thought we were heading on!

The truth is, that we stopped once more at an Argan Oil farm. It was really interesting, and great to see that the women were being given a chance to work for themselves and earn their own living, but really we just wanted to be in the mountains so we could walk and be free!

Although, it was a pleasure meeting this cutie, who was the friendliest feline I’ve ever met. We wanted to take her home with us, but were bustled up back into the car before we could find out who she belonged to!

By the time we got to the mountains, we were hungry and thirsty and it was most definitely lunch time. Saeed led us to the restaurant (we assumed he had some sort of deal with the owners if we ate there) we were happy, but there are lots of restaurants all along the river so don’t feel as though you have to eat at the first place you find!

I had rabbit and mushroom pie – delicious, but a bit boney!

The gentleman had his favourite – meatball and egg tagine. Not as much sauce as the previous, but it hit the spot!

Lunch was good, not the most thrilling, but it filled us up! It was just after lunch that we had a bit of a nightmare. Saeed had asked us if we wanted a guide (he had a friend lined up for the job if we did) We wanted to explore on our own terms so politely declined. But that made us fair game to ALL the local tour guides. They follow you. Stop when you stop. Tell you that you’re going wrong and ‘the waterfalls are this way’. It is intensely frustrating and you literally can’t hear yourself think as they are right by your side telling you they’ll give you a special deal.

You tell them to leave, and they tell you that you won’t find the waterfalls without them.

You will.

We did. Yes it took us a lot longer because we had the ‘guides’ on our heels telling us we were going wrong when we weren’t – they honestly just wanted the money from us! But we made it all the same, and it’s so beautiful!

Believe it or not, the chicken won the food from the cat in this discrepancy. Took it right from the kittens mouth and ran!

If you’re going to attempt to do the Waterfall Trail, you will have a lot more fun without a guide. Plus, I was in flip flops (yes I made an exception and wore flats!) and managed it perfectly.

Cross the river on the last bridge, before the road turns the corner and the river widens.

You will need to walk directly between the buildings and up a few steps. If you pause to take pictures, you’ll probably spot a few people heading in the right direction and can slowly follow them. After that, there are huge great arrows on the rocks guiding you the right way anyway and little shops line the paths!

The higher you get, the bigger the waterfalls get. We were getting pressed for time after our long morning, so only managed to make it to the second waterfall. I would most definitely go back and spend a whole day there, we were so disappointed that we didn’t make it to the top and right up into the mountains!

We whizzed back to the city in a dream-like state, for our final night in Marrakech.