Friday, August 12, 2016

MOROCCO: DRIVING THROUGH THE HIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINS AND RIAD BADI IN MARRAKECH

The High Atlas mountain range is the Rockies of Morocco, but where the Rockies run North-South, the High Atlas creep out from the Atlantic Ocean on the west Moroccan coast and stretch eastward towards the Algerian border, a harsh, spiky demarcation between the Sahara and the Mediterranean. The only way to Marrakech from where we had been in Skoura and Ouarzazate was across, through, and up and down these bad babies.

The road led up up up and the trees disappeared, but the land was anything but barren:


Salmon sandstone, grey granite, and green fields fought for space on the landscape canvas:

Mountain after mountain flecked with snow kept appearing when we rounded the bends of roads about as wide as bicycle paths:
What a formidable barrier! No wonder the north and south sides of the country have such different cultures.


More snow-capped majesty, animate and inanimate:

We stopped for a better look at the Col du Tichka Pass, which has an elevation of 2260 meters, or 7415 feet. It is the highest major mountain pass in all of North Africa. The road we were on was built by the French military in the 1930s, and it was near here that the very last Barbary lion sighted in the Western Atlas was shot and killed in 1942.

We really loved the fresh-squeezed orange juice we found everywhere in Morocco. At one point during our drive when we stopped for gas, we were thrilled to see a typical OJ stand. It's not necessarily the most hygienic was to make your juice, but it's certainly the tastiest:

The sparrows liked the leftovers:

We headed over the crest and down the other side. Yeah, that's our road clinging to the spine of those hills with no barrier to prevent cars from slipping off the side of the cliffs:

Can you see the road in the picture below? This is the road where a famous motorcycle scene from Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation was filmed. It was the road we were about to drive on:
Our driver Aziz put on the Michael Jackson song "Bad," and we headed down.

The road was closed off and on for a total of 22 days in 2014 for the filming. People were paid to close their shops and stay inside. It was a BIG deal for this area.

Check out scenes from the movie, with shots of the road starting at about :23:


I was grateful that there was heavy construction going on--it made Tom Cruise-style driving impossible:


I'm not sure what these women were doing, but they seemed to be part of the road crew:

If we didn't pay attention as we drove along, we might miss the little villages camouflaged in Moroccan brown:

Can you find the donkey in the photo below?

How about the laundromat?

There it is--at least there are the dryers (aka tree branches):

The best relief for Winding-Road-Stomach, no matter the language:

After a two days of driving on narrow, twisting roads, it was a relief to finally arrive in Marrakesh and to check in to our third and final riad:
 

As with our other two riad experiences in Morocco, our room (one of seven on the property) and the rest of the inn were a true oasis. There were so many nice touches, including fresh rose petals strewn across our bed and tucked into our towels:



Riad Badi has a wonderful rooftop where we ate breakfast every morning. The friendly owners Isabel and Christian keep everything meticulously clean and orderly:

They quickly learned what are preferences were, and we had hot milk and/or hot chocolate with our orange juice every morning (although Christian laughed about our hot milk with sugar--"a child's drink").

Who would not love a breakfast table so elegantly appointed?

The best part of the riad, at least for Bob, was the wall of nesting storks visible from our rooftop dining hall. He spent several of the early morning hours sitting at one of the tables watching and photographing them.  Christian, also up early, noticed his interest and brought him a cup of hot milk:
These amazing stork pictures are all Bob's. I had neither the patience nor the telephoto lens, and I certainly did not want to watch the sunrise:



3 comments:

  1. I really loved the drive over the High Atlas Mountains - such a contrast to other areas of the country we'd been. It reminded me a lot of Cajon Pass and kind of a similar context, leaving the desert to come into the coastal area. I also loved the stork views from Riad Badi. It was fun to have about six nests all in view and to be able to watch the storks uninterrupted for several mornings.

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  2. Your hotel rooms, including the camping kind, have been spectacular. I never drink chocolate milk at home, but I could learn to love it on a trip like this.

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  3. I don't know which is more awe inspiring: the laundry on the tree, that road (!), or the photos of the storks. I think I like the storks best; kudos to Bob!

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