We left Merzouga behind with the heater turned up high to try to warm up, its winter and freezing. After refueling with diesel we began a 2 hour drive to Todra Gorge. We had no sooner began our journey, when we were forced to stop. You have heard of a zebra crossing, but have you heard of a camel crossing? Well today we did.
Driving to and from Merzouga we passed several herds of roaming camels, today was a group of about 6 or 7 camels, who decided the grass was greener on the other-side. We didn’t mind stopping and taking a few photos while we were at it.
Today’s drive took us to Morocco’s smaller versions of the Grand Canyon, Todra and Dades Gorge. While Todra Gorge is generally more about the mass organised tourism, Dadès Gorge is visited by more independent travelers. That being said we are here in January and it is winter and very few tourists around. We pretty much had the place to ourselves.
We reached the town of Tinerhir and then began the 15 km, winding uphill route through oasis of date palm, pomegranate, fig and olive trees, some less than 100 feet wide between the two cliffs. The gorge was created by water erosion by the Todra River, which also feeds the vegetation that makes up the Todra Oasis. The gorge area has been inhabited for centuries by the Aït Atta tribe of Berbers.
Near the spring area there are hiking trails, climbing and souvenir vendors, but also a picturesque landscape.
After a quick Moroccan soup break at Boumalne du Dades, we began our ascent up the narrow roadways, headed for Dades Gorge where we would stop halfway for the night. The route takes you past kasbahs, some now abandoned with the backdrop of emerald green oasis or wind-sculpted geological formations.
While we have had very little hassle throughout Morocco so far, today we did and by the pint sized version, yes kids. We stopped so I could take a few photos and while I did, we had about 5 or 6 kids run downhill towards us. This is not an unusual occurance and they usually greet you, sometimes ask for money or a pen. I quickly found myself surrounded by kids who all wanting money, food or drink. I quickly made my way back to the car and while I got the car door open, a young very persistant boy of about 5 years old was trying to grab things out of my side of the car. I managed to squeeze myself in, but he wouldn’t let me shut the door. I kept saying no, no and Andrew repeated the same thing, but he didn’t give up. Eventually I got my door shut. Unfortunately, had they been polite about it, I would have given them something, but the pushing and snatching left a bad taste in my mouth and a reluctance to stop again.
We arrived at our accommodation for the night, Auberge Kasbah Ait Marghad and while Andrew recovered from 5 hours of driving, the kids and I went for a short walk across a bridge to a small village set among the rock formations. The backdrop was beautiful even in the winter.
Our host had given us directions and I must say I was floored at how amazing it was. It was not one, but a few small villages made of the traditional Berber mud brick homes, but there were also many abandoned kasbahs and all of this set among the stunning rock formations. We passed many local women who were all very friendly and said ‘Bonjour’ to us. It was an amazing experience, definitely away from the tourist beaten track.
Andrew found a local restaurant not far from where we were staying for dinner and so we set off, all feeling quite hungry. We stopped at a lookout to take a few photos at sunset.
Unfortunately as it is not peak tourist time, we ended up driving half an hour back down to the start of the gorge to find something open for dinner. It was not only a long wait for dinner, but the food was very disappointing. Can’t win them all I guess.