Monday, 17 October 2016

Exodus - Mount Toubkal climb trip - Day 7 - the Milky Way and Marrakech



I delayed this post because I wanted to illustrate the utter magic of the starry mountain skies. The most intensely starry sky I have ever been lucky enough to experience. Obviously I have no photos, I didn't even retrieve my crappy EE phone from my room that night.

So I started work on a piece to try and convey it. It remains unfinished. I planned to paint an inky background and then cut out the tiny multitude of stars. The background I painted is toooo inky/blotchy and too small. How can I begin to represent that night on a piece of A2?

I've been using the painting as a backdrop for Instagram photos. And I'm just going to post this post and maybe I'll let you know if I ever manage to paint and cut an illustration.

Previous Morocco posts: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5, Day 6

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I woke up at 4:00 needing to use the bathroom and when I came out the sky was utterly amazing. 
The moon was gone and there were layers upon layers of stars. The milky way was a misty ribbon near the outline of the mountains.

It was probably the most beautiful sky I’ve ever seen. I stood and stared and stared and stared for a long time.

Then I whispered into the girls room that “the stars are amazing if anyone’s awake” (they were not awake).

Then I softly knocked on Hobs’s door and window. I was all worried because I was sure Hobs would want to see and photograph this, but not sure enough to actually go in and wake him (What if he was cross at being woken? Also it seemed inappropriate) so I carried on staring at the stars alone, with intermittent attempts to tap on Hobs’s window.

For a while I tried to go back to bed but couldn’t stop thinking about how beautiful the sky was so when the call to prayer sounded at 5:00, I grabbed my fleece and got up again.

When I got outside, I could see someone else was up. It was Hobs! Yay! He got to see the amazingness! I told him how glad I was that he woke up and that I’d tried tapping on his window. He told me he actually heard it but just thought it was a weird tapping noise. We agreed that we should have agreed whether or not I was to wake him. We could had a window tapping code. I could have tapped out Jingle Bells.

When I said I was worried he’d be cross if I woke him he said “Yes, I would’ve said ‘I hate stars! How dare you wake me to look at them!’” And we laughed and took lots of photos and played with the settings on his fancy camera and gradually the milky way disappeared and the stars disappeared and the sky got lighter and we sat on the wall and watched and listened as the village woke up.

We saw walkers with torches coming out of the trees on the mountain and we pretended they’d been at a star party in the mountains. Crickets started chirping. A sprinkler started spraying. A man started his car and left it running for ages for no apparent reason. People started waking. A hot breeze started blowing. I thought my hammam things had blown away but Emma Jane had taken them into our room. It was officially morning.

The women who had been sick felt loads better but now 2 of the guys (including poor lovely Tony) were sick. Argh.

It was a shortish walk (less than an hour) from the village to Imlil. More shops and sellers now. We passed pretty doors and displays of carpet and souvenirs. My blister toes were now painful. Hobs said “Don’t complain to me about blisters.” Because his blisters were horrifying.


As we headed through Imlil and down to get the bus back to Marrakech (passing many other groups of walkers as we went), a seller latched on to friendly Eley and badgered him to buy a bracelet all the way down the hill.

Once on the bus, I dozed intermittently. Eley counted how many 1970’s Mercedes E class cars we passed (45). Hobs woke me at one point by exclaiming that he could now see why I call Mickey Mouse cactus, Mickey Mouse cactus (resemblance previously denied) and I was so pleased I didn’t mind being woken at all.

We arrived back in Marrakech around 11 in the morning and I had the exact same hotel room again (Hobs and Eley had a different one).

We dumped our bags and went to the supermarket to buy lunch things and also some of the chili sauce we had been putting in our soup all week while camping.

Hobs got stressed because he couldn’t find a cashpoint and he was worried about having to break big notes and then disappeared before I could finish trying to reassure him. I was distracted by chili sauce. So for a bit, me and Eley were waiting outside the supermarket, unsure if Hobs was in there or if he was god knows where, looking for a cash point. Turned out he was buying food as he came out of the supermarket before too long.

We made our sandwiches in Hobs and Eley’s room. Half for now and half for later. Eley’s sandwich looked especially epic even though I don’t like ham or pickles. Mine was not so much a sandwich, more just me dipping my baguette into walnutty soft cheese. I also got olives and a banana, to be healthy. I had to get my single banana weighed, priced and stickered at a special produce station before going to the tills.

After food, I popped to my room to change and came out just as Hobs and Eley came down the stairs. Perfect timing. So we headed to the pool together. We got straight in the pool and the cold water felt so nice. Hot weather and cold water is amazing.

We had to get dressed and down to the lobby for 2:00, for our optional city tour. Hassan introduced us to our guide though I didn’t catch his name and have no idea what it was. Only 5 of us went as of the other 5 of us, 2 of the guys were busy being ill and the 3 other women decided to stay at the hotel for massages. (Which were apparently pretty weird, Jingle Bells was playing and the therapist wished them a Merry Christmas).


Our guide took us on the bus to the Koutoubia Mosque and then we walked to the Saadian Tombs, the Bahia Palace, a ‘pharmacy’, then through the souks to the square and back on the bus back to the hotel. My blister popped, yay.

He gave us lots of historical information which I’ve pretty immediately forgotten.



I loved the Bahia Palace though. It was intensely decorated and built to be cool and the gardens were lush. The colours were bright, the carvings were intricate. The trees were full of fruit and the tiled floors had sprinkles of fallen pink petals. Hobs wasn’t impressed by the petals.


The ‘pharmacy’ was an exercise in selling but the lady was very nice and spoke excellent English as she explained how argan oil is produced and various herbal remedies. I liked the baskets of petals and things outside. Eley bought some hammam soap.


Walking through the souks with a guide was a treat. All the pleasure of the colour and pattern and variety and wonderful objects without the fear of harassment or getting lost. We went through different sections where craftsmen were at work. We also passed some tiny, tiny kittens snuggled into their mother and we all stopped to squeak at the cuteness (Eley spotted them) and the man next to them said “Yes, I have many cats (gesturing at 3 or 4 more cats)…and this is my shop!” It is WELL worth having a guide in the souks.

We took the bus back to the hotel and when I jumped off I jumped straight into some kind of metal pole and now I have a massive lumpy bruise. It hurt. Also, it was a bit embarrassing because it was stupid, even though no one saw.

Back at the hotel, it was back to the pool till it was time to get ready for dinner.
I was glad I decided last minute to pack my maxi skirt so I felt normal for dinner rather than an out of place hiker. The men mostly wore the same clothes but the other women had properly nice dresses on and looked really pretty.

Hassan had booked a table at a place 5 minutes down the road for our final night group dinner (minus poor lovely Tony who was too sick). It was very hot in there with sweaty fake leather seats and not much for vegetarians on the menu. But it seemed nice for meat and they served alcohol so I think most people were happy.

After, the 5 of us who had done the city tour (the other 5 went to bed) went on to a nearby rooftop bar, which was pretty cheesy. All ‘fancy’ with shiny surfaces and coloured lights and clubby music. It was table service and I panicked when ordering and just joined the others in having beer. Which was pretty refreshing, though I had to pace carefully. I felt drunk really quickly in a really lethargic, slowed down kind of way (not usual for me) and Eley actually helped me out by gesticulating wildly and knocking most of my beer into my shoes.

Conversation is blurred.

We left around half one, hungry. Me and Hobs started talking about eating the other half of our sandwiches. Eley said “No. Those are for the airport.” “What?! Who put you in charge of the sandwiches!?”

I went back to Hobs and Eley’s room to eat the other half of our sandwiches. Eley almost ate his whole box of pickles but didn’t quite manage it. And we hung out till 3am talking.




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