Trekking the High Atlas (part II)
After leaving the Valley of the Roses, the real climb through the High Atlas Mountains began. There are two single-track routes you can take South to North – via the Todra or Dades gorges. We chose the Todra, which entails driving through a series of limestone river canyons – unfortunately always very busy with tourists, which spoils the experience a bit. We were headed to Agoudal for the night, at 2,700-metres, Morocco’s highest inhabited town. The temperature dropped the higher we climbed and Agoudal was only 1ºC at night, sparse and rocky. The hotel – Auberge Afoud – was basic and unfinished in parts but the welcome as with everywhere in Morocco, was warm. Agoudal is also world famous for the great number of meteorites found there, and the hotel owner was proud to show off his personal collection.
So what do you do in a place like Agoudal with an afternoon to spare? Well…always up for adventure, we followed directions into the mountains in search of a secret cave and waterfall. Off road, of course, and after crossing a small river, we came to a clearing with a solitary car parked there and set off on foot into a deep river valley. We hadn’t gone far when a Berber shepherd came charging down the slopes to offer us his services as a tour guide. He was a nomad and very proud of it, very poorly dressed with sandals made of old rubber tyres, but he was nimble and lead us up to a snowy ledge that overlooked the hidden waterfall. We would never have found it alone.
I was not keen to scramble up the rest of the way in the snow but my partner kept going and eventually reached the natural cave that was a pitch-black labyrinth with little streams of freezing cold water. The two of them wandered around by the light of my head torch, climbed metal ladders fixed to the cave walls and dropped rocks into the deepest main chasm. Our nomad lead us back to the car, skipping along and giggling every time we struggled as we crossed the bolder-strewn river.
Thinking back, it could have been dangerous to allow ourselves to be taken off into the mountains by an unknown Moroccan man who was probably high on smoking something, just appeared from nowhere and spoke only his own Berber dialect…but think what we would have missed if we didn’t!
Read the Trekking the High Atlas (part III) here.