Thursday, 4 August 2016

Exodus - Mount Toubkal climb trip - Day 2 - The Atlas Mountains!

7 am breakfast (accidentally buttered a slice of cake, thinking it was bread – it was delicious), 8 am we were on the bus to the mountains!

It was a quiet ride, I think we were all excited but tired and dazed and just gazing through the windows. I sat by Eley and then too late I wondered if I shouldn’t have as the seats were very small and I thought I might be squashing him in. Hobs was across the aisle. I told him the story of the man, the boy and the donkey, I imagine because we were worrying about the mules that would be carrying our heavy bags etc. (A team of mules and mule guys carried the tents, food, cooking things, sleeping mats and all our big exodus bags). 

Around half 9, we all hopped off the bus on to the side of the road where a couple of mules were standing. Everyone put their hats on and refreshed their sun cream. (Have you got your hat on? You don’t deal well with the heat!) And we set off with a ‘Yalla!’ from Hassan. I understand ‘yalla’ to mean ‘let’s go’.

The first hour/hour and a half were intense. I did not cope well. (Dammit, I really don’t do well with the heat!) It was steep uphill in the scorching sun and my heart and my head were pounding so hard I was frightened. And I remembered how it used to feel as I approached fainting and I really didn’t want to faint so I just kept stopping and breathing hard and holding up Hobs and Eley who were behind me. I think everyone was finding it tough but I was the most useless. 

Hassan came to check I was ok and told me not to stop, just to keep moving slowly and breathing but that if needed, I could ride the mule. I did not want to ride the mule of shame so I kept moving slowly and breathing and it got better.

When we finally stopped for a short rest, Hassan poured my water on my head and on my hat to cool me down, and sat next to me. My skin felt granulated with salt from my sweat and pink dust from the ground.

As we walked on, it got easier and easier. And cooler.

Then, a proper rest, beneath a tree. I went for my first outdoor wee of the trip.

Hassan shared a big bag of delicious dates, nuts and biscuit bits. Mmm.

We walked further round the mountains before stopping beneath a walnut tree for an epic lunch. Pretty mats (actually our sleeping mats for camping) were laid out in a square and bowls of water and soap had been set out so we could wash our hot, grubby, swollen-in-the-heat hands.
We were given little glasses of mint tea and metal bowls filled with Moroccan salad (finely chopped tomato, pepper and herbs), rice and vegetables in sauce. Then fruit after. 
It was a very nice long break, maybe 2 hours. Hobs thought it was too long. He also couldn’t finish his lunch because he usually has a small lunch. It was weird seeing him not finish though because I so often give him my food to finish when I’m too full!

Eventually Hassan said “Yalla” and we continued walking. Around the mountain, along a road, past/through villages/hamlets, chatting and getting to know people in the group. 

There were lots of tiny yellow daisies on long straight stalks in clumps.

Finally we reached our campsite, in woodland beyond the last village, with a lovely clear stream running past. Our team of mules and mule guys had got there ahead of us and set everything up beautifully (except the toilet tent which wasn’t done yet). We sat straight down to tea and biscuits on stripy folding stools at a little table covered in plastic tablecloth. I ouched myself on the hot metal cup and Hassan tsked my silliness in a very sweet way. It began to rain, which felt so refreshing. But it got pretty hard so we all moved into the dinner tent to continue talking.

After the rain, I really needed to wee but I was too shy and the toilet tent wasn’t up and I procrastinated for ages before finally weeing behind a rock. When I was done, I was pretty sure I saw a guy up the hill looking at me. Oops, wrong place to wee.

Meanwhile, Hobs had found a lovely pool part of the clear stream, so me, Hobs and Eley headed to it to have a clothed wash and rinse away the grimy dust and sweat. Hobs and Eley fully submerged,
which looked amazing, but I didn’t want to get my trousers wet. Slightly regret that now though. The water was so cold and fresh and delicious.

Young people were playing a very excitable game of football on a small sort of ‘pitch’ nearby.

We chatted on the foldy stools near our tents till it was time for dinner (again amazing and beautifully presented) which was soup and bread followed by pasta and lentils (I think) and then fruit. We ate at the table outside and stayed there till it got dark and we were given 2 little candles stuck to a rock. Hobs kept trying to feed wax back to prolong the flame. And I realised I had forgotten to have another look for my missing head torch when I was packing, so I was head torch less and would be reliant on my crappy phone/the kindness of others. 

I headed to bed, braving the toilet tent for a last wee before I went, borrowing a head torch. It was grim, a hole lined with rocks which were hard to balance on, and it was full of flies and extremely creepy spider things.  Never mind!

It was a bit of a restless night and I was never sure when I was asleep (I think due to altitude and over-excitement). At one point I dreamed Stu was in the tent and we were talking and I was worried that we were disturbing the other tents. Then I realised Stu was in England and I was in Morocco so this couldn’t possibly have happened. I got up a couple times to wee behind the rock. My tent was inconvenient, right at the wrong end from the rock. And all the mule guys were sleeping on mats on the ground near the tents and I was worried I would disturb them but fortunately I don't think I did.

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