Long road trip to the Atlas mountains…Beautiful scenery…Mother Nature did it again…Expectations?

As we began the ascent to the Atlas Mountains, we realized it was the first snow we’d seen in a very long time.

It’s 5:00 pm Thursday. A short time ago we checked in at the Hotel du Vieux du Dades, Ouarzazate, Morocco after an eight-hour drive through the Atlas Mountains and valleys.

At the lower elevations, we passed many small villages. The higher the elevation, the more modern the villages.

The hotel? Clean, modest. Not what we’d normally choose. But, it’s situated on a river gorge presenting a beautiful backdrop as we sit here now on the veranda, the sound of the rushing water music to our ears.

The sales as a result of tourist trade are what sustains many of the villagers.

As world travelers, having left the US a mere 15 months ago, our expectations when we travel from the vacation home of the month, are outrageously high. After all, we’ve seen exquisite Petra in Jordan, been on an extraordinary Big 5 safari in the Maasai Mara, Kenya, and lived in the free-roaming wildlife area of Marloth Park, South Africa. How does anything else compare?

Periodically, we cross a river or a creek. Many of our photos today were taken through the car window glass as we zoomed by.  I didn’t want to keep dealing with opening and closing the window during the eight-hour drive. Cloudy most of the day, we did our best to take photos.

For us, nothing else can. Nor, as we enthusiastically continue on, do we expect to top those experiences. If we do, we’ll call it “safari luck” and feel grateful. It is from this perspective that we write over these next few days, putting our expectations aside viewing today’s journey through the eyes of travelers perhaps don’t have this outlandish frame of reference.

With the snow melting at the summit, many creek beds and rivers consisted of fast-moving water.

By no means, do we imply that the beauty we witnessed today is any less than the terrain we’ve seen in many of our travels? In many ways, Morocco offers some astounding scenery that many may never see in a lifetime. And, for those who may have seen it, have it etched in their memories, relived in stories and photos they proudly share for years to come.

Of course, I squealed with delight when seeing these sheep along the side of the road. Grass-fed lamb is a frequently served dish in Morocco which we’ve enjoyed every few nights when Madame Zahra cooks for us. Tom, never a fan of eating lamb, actually likes it here for its mild flavor, tasting more like beef pot roast than lamb.

As for the hotel; the room is small, minimally appointed with the barest of essentials. If the bed, pillows, and blankets prove to be comfortable, the water is hot for the morning shower, the WiFi continues to work as well as it is at the moment and the food is reasonably good, we’ll hardly complain. 

The contrast of the clay-colored hills against the lush greenery creating a picturesque setting.

Oh, expectations! Would that they could waft away from our lives to make each new experience blissful instead of wrought with shades of the past?

In some areas, the color of the hills was a deep pink and they were orange in others.

Our goal had been to visit the Atlas Mountains, which we’ve done. Tomorrow, we’ll head to the Sahara Desert to experience the sand dunes and, if we feel ambitious, we’ll ride camels. Saturday, we’ll head back to Marrakech arriving in the late afternoon. 

Many small farms, richly green, dotted the landscape.

Over the next several days, we’ll post our zillions of photos, doing our best to describe where and what we’ve seen. Today, we reached a maximum elevation of 9708 feet, 2959 meters, above sea level, suffering no ill effects. I gasped for air once, when we were up that elevation when we stopped at an overlook rest stop filled with tourists, most of whom were smoking. Smoking is allowed everywhere in Morocco, as is the case in many countries.

The hills and mountains had endless housing areas such as this, with most of the homes occupied, as we determined from clothes hanging on lines to dry.

Another new experience befell us today. We used a co-ed restroom in a public venue, a first for both of us. 

Stopping at a popular overlook, we spotted what appeared to be a soccer field at a local school.

As for the actual driving experience, it was flawless.  Mohamed is an excellent driver for which we made a point of commending him. The two-lane mountain roads were often tricky to navigate when passing slow-moving vehicles and he exercised diligent safety in each instance putting me, particularly, at ease.  Our readers know how I love those hairpin turns, right?

Can you spot the waterfall in this photo of the Atlas Mountains? 

Tonight, Mohamed will also stay at this hotel meeting up with us in the morning after the included breakfast as we begin another day of travel making our way to the Sahara desert while hopefully putting aside those pesky expectations, to enjoy yet another day in our travels.


Photo from one year ago today, April 10, 2013:

One year ago today was when we boarded the Carnival Liberty in Belize when our bag of vitamins was confiscated by security, none of which required a prescription, all of which may be purchased over the counter. What an experience it was as we were treated like drug smugglers. This never occurred again when we’ve since used or disposed of most of the supplements to lighten our load. See Part 1 for the details by clicking here.