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Europe/Africa 2014: Day 14 (Morocco 09): Oct 18

This morning we decided to hit the Gardens of Majorelle, Yves Saint Laurent first, then a visit a waterfall.

The garden was nice, flowers and plants from all around the world. Pomegranate trees, banana trees, cactuses, bamboo… The gardens also had a memorial pillar for Yves Saint Laurent and his house repurposed as a museum.

After so many pictures, the next destination was kinda up in the air still. Abdul told us the day before that, although the Ouzoud waterfalls are nice, there is absolutely nothing along the way. You take some steps down to the bottom, and steps back up. So he suggested we take a look at Ourika Valley instead. It would be a more scenic drive, a hike, and he always enjoyed his day trips here. There were 7 small waterfalls that still do not really compare to Ouzoud’s. However, we were split, we couldn’t decide. Karen voted for Ouzoud while Michelle and I chose Ourika. It was now up to Sameer… Who chose Ouzoud, just to tie it, in order to decide by coin toss. Yup, in the parking lot, flipping a coin for our next destination. OURIKA WINS! haha… Off we go.

Drive, drive, drive… First stop, a random shop. We walk up onto the roof and take a look at an olive tree garden. Waking up from a nap, this was very confusing for me. Anyways, “no more sleeping”, Abdul says, as we continue the drive.

Soon, we start passing the mountain side and through Berber villages, roadside souvenir shops or artisanal crafts as well as natural minerals (rocks, fossils). Most of the souvenirs available in Marrakech, if not made there, is brought down from the Ourika Valley. The road forks, one way to Setti Fatima and the other leads to the Ski Resort. Yup, ski resort. However, during the off seasons, it is essentially empty, while Ourika Valley is still an active spot even for local Moroccans to visit and relax. Driving along, there were a number of bridges built out of wire, steel, wood, to cross the river bed. The further we were from the waterfalls, the less water was flowing as most of it was being redirected around the city of Fatima. We made a stop at one of the bridges, just to walk across and back, the first portion of it made of thick branches then planks. Our next stop, for cactus fruit. Abdul had mentioned a couple of days earlier that cactus fruit was very sweet but going out of season, but we never had the chance to have any. So we stopped at a random parking lot where an old man was selling cactus fruit. He cut the ends off, and rolled it open. The flesh of the fruit is very much like persimmon. Very sweet, pretty good, but it had a lot of seeds that could just be swallowed.

Arriving at the restaurant we would eventually have lunch, Abdul hooks us up with a guide. We kind of wanted to venture it on our own, but we went along with it anyways. He said it would take about an hour up and an hour down. I think our guide’s name was Matthew or something, or it sounded like that. We walked through the village as he randomly gave us information. There are 25 other villages beyond the mountain, and it would take about 3 days to travel to each of them via mountain pass… He kept walking and walking through the village, leading us in and around random shops, all leading up and then through a path that was lined with souvenir shops. The unique shops having small handcrafted figures made out of alabaster stone, found in the mountain. Soon, stairs led up, and tourists started to multiply. I really liked this guide, he saw that a group was taking their time on the stairs so he went around them along another path for the four of us.

Walking higher and higher, through rocks and cliffs, there were so many people. Even a couple of babies, we all questioned why they would bring them, the climb up wasn’t exactly that safe… As part of the irrigation system from the waterfalls, many of the shops had water systems setup that would have the water hit a small fan and spread that cold water over their drinks. The Berber refrigeration method. Climbing up the rocks, that should be completely unsafe and not open to the public, we reach the first base of the waterfalls, beside it, a small restaurant. It was so busy as well, so many people sitting around looking at the waterfall, in the waterfall, brave ones venturing to the top of it, the path looking quite steep and dangerous… It was here that most visitors would turn back.

But us, we venture further up of course. The next route actually had a ladder for a small part of it, as it was impassable otherwise… Good sign? It seemed like we were climbing up rocks that once used to be part of the waterfall, now mostly dried up but still slippery if water was applied. Finally making it up, we arrived at another small rest stop. Selling drinks, snacks, offering an awesome view as well. After quickly taking a couple of shots, we continue on up.

The climb up wasn’t too bad, I really enjoyed the hike, the rocks, the view of the falls, cliffs, mountains, and the Berber villages. Going up to the next spot, we found ourselves at another waterfall, but this one, empty. We had it all to ourselves. It was small but it looked cool enough, a log was wedged into a spot just in front of the falls that was perfect for posing. So obviously, we did. A group of locals came up and started taking pictures and posing at that log as well, which pushed us to do the same. The water was really cold. But for the photos, it was worth it. Haha… I also got pulled into some pictures with the locals, them replying with “Facebook” *thumbs up. As we took our photos, our mountain guide was waiting and then started picking up the garbage that happened to be around. It’s unfortunate that such a natural place has so much litter from tourists and locals alike.

Making our way back down was much easier, taking the fork from the second rest stop. Through the village, you could see that there were a LOT of rocks and boulders. So much so that they were incorporated into the structure of the village, they were used as steps when possible, and just left as an obstruction other times. It was still a lot of walking back to the restaurant where we had lunch. Lunch by the stream was nice, rabbit tajine. Yum. A bee flew into my drink, I saved it’s life.

Driving back to Marrakech was a blur as we feel asleep very quickly. Our plan was to walk around the market for a little bit and then go to a fancier dinner at Le Comptoir.

Abdul met us at the usual spot and dropped us off at the restaurant. They said something about me and my shorts, as we saw a bunch of people walking in with suits and dresses… Oops. But we got in just fine, ordered our expensive water and food, and awaited the belly dancing show for our last dinner in Marrakech. It was hilarious and awkward seeing a family with two sons watching the belly dancing, with their mother right beside them… The show wasn’t bad, the most impressive would be the older ladies balancing some candles and stuff on their head.

One more half day in Morocco.

Cacti at Yves Saint Laurent's GardenFlowers at Yves Saint Laurent's GardenCactus Fruit guyOurika Valley, CliffBalancing at the Waterfall, Ourika Valley

Cacti at Yves Saint Laurent’s Garden, Flowers at Yves Saint Laurent’s Garden, Cactus Fruit guy, Ourika Valley Cliff, Ourika Valley Waterfall

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