The Road to Morocco – Facts and Figures

Laetitia and Pete

Here is some beta (facts and figures) to help other potential Moroccan adventurers…

Flights:
We flew from Geneva, however, both Ryanair and EasyJet do the usual job from numerous airports in the UK. For Tafraoute it’s probably better flying to Agadir, and for Todra Gorge probably Marrakech.

From Marrakech we took the scenic route to Tafraoute (about 10 hours!). Some of the roads had been washed away in the rain, but usually the whole route should be on tarmac. Jon flew to Agadir, spent a night in the car ( 😮 ) near Tiznit and then drove on to Tafraoute. Later, he, Rebecca and Mina drove from Tafraoute to Todra for some bolted sport climbing.

A view of Tafraoute

Car Hire:
We used Auto-Europe. The car was a bit of a banger (they all seem to be in Morocco), but it did us proud over the rough terrain.

Hotel:
We stayed at Les Amandiers. My advice is to phone them direct and mention that you are climbing to get a good deal (be prepared to speak French). The hotel isn’t exactly in a romantic Moroccan Riad style, and it’s a bit old fashioned, but it’s clean, the service is excellent, it sells alcohol, and it has free WiFi. Dinner costs 120 dirhams (starter 35, main 65, and desert 20). The menu doesn’t change much, but it’s not all tagine and couscous 😉 . Beer was 55 dirhams for 2 bottles – not bad for a ‘dry’ country.

Hotels and food are a bit cheaper in the centre of Tafraoute.

Alternative accommodation for climbs in the north is Tizourgane Kasbah (follow the French link, the English one wasn’t working when I tried).

Guidebooks:
The obvious one is Climbing in the Moroccan Anti-Atlas by Claude Davies. There are loads more routes now, which have mostly been logged in the many route books kept at reception at Les Amandiers. There’s also the on-line data documented by Steve Broadbent. Claude’s book doesn’t provide intricate detail of the routes, but that adds to the adventure 😛 . And of course, you can easily go and find a new route, but don’t forget to add it to the new routes book so it can be included in a new guide.

When to Go:
I would recommend early March. It was bit hot for us in late March, mostly above 25 degrees. The heavy rain in late February did provide us with a wonderful array of spring flowers…


What to Buy:
If you want to buy presents and things, I’ve heard Tafraoute is cheaper than Marrakech. Of course it’s all in the haggling, and the reality is, if you’re happy with the goods and happy with the price, then you’ve probably got a decent deal. I bought a rug (of course) 🙂 .

Essaouira
After all that climbing, and shopping, we took a road trip from Tafraoute to Essaouria, which lies on the coast about 170km west of Marrakech. The journey, via Agadir, took about 5 hours. Here are some views along the way…

We hadn’t booked a hotel in advance, but we found a beautiful Riad, Dar L’Oussia, near the port just inside the Medina.

Essaouira is a UNESCO World Heritage Listed city…

Essaouira
The busy port

Marrakech:
And finally Marrakech. An overwhelming place of sights and sounds!

We stayed in Riad Nomades which was reasonably quiet… until the birds woke us up early. :angry:

Here are some pictures from Marrakech…

Tea and cakes... of course
Snake charmers in Djeema el Fna
Djeema el Fna

More Moroccan Adventure

The adventure in Morocco continues…

Friday – Tizgut Gorge
Little Jon, Rebecca and Mina left Tafraoute early on Friday morning to drive to Todra Gorge – long before we got up. The day was looking like it was going to be hot, so we stayed close to Tafraoute and went to Tizgut Gorge hoping for some shade – we didn’t really get it.
We climbed Tizgut Arete in three pitches, carefully avoiding the prickly Euphorbia en route.

After we got back to the sacks, we considered another route, but we were being roasted so decided to call it a day.

Prickly Euphorbia - to be avoided at all cost

Pete on Tizgut Arete
Laetitia on the final pitch of Tizgut Arete

Saturday – Napoleon’s Hat, Painted Rocks, and Gorges Tizerine
Today was even hotter and we were still drained from yesterday’s route so we decided a day off was required to do some sight seeing.

Just south of Tafraoute we found Napoleon’s Hat(!) and continued on to look for the Painted Rocks. For some strange reason an artist decided to paint some granite rocks in the desert a few years ago. Now they seem to be a tourist attraction and they are being repainted.

Napoleon's Hat apparently?
Painted rocks
Rocks being re-painted
Mixing the paint

We had an exciting adventure off roading, despite the inappropriate car…

Adventure off road

We then drove on and found a beautiful oasis (Ait Mansour), before leaving the tarmac road for another off road adventure as we headed cross country back to Tafraoute via Gorge Tizerine. The road went through dry rocky ground, through another oasis or two and back to terraced land. Luckily there were a few signs so we knew we were on the right road.

Palm trees at Ait Mansour
An oasis in a dry country
More off road adventure
The road to Tafraoute

On the way we saw lots of beautiful flowers…

Spring meadow flowers

Flowers in the granite desert

Figs

Sunday – White Dome and a Flying Carpet for a Watch
On Sunday it was even hotter, but we went climbing. We went to the north side to try and find shade at White Dome, which is also quite high – we were hoping for a cool breeze, but we didn’t get much of one. We did a a couple of easy enough routes and headed back.

Leatitia leading a tasty little slab
More spring flowers

After we got back to Tafraoute I decided it was time to get down to the serious business of buying a rug. I know just the spot where a genuine Moroccan rug could go, so I was a woman on a mission. After spending a bit of time deciding on the type (Beduin, Nomad), material (Camel Wool, Silk) and colour (any you can imagine), I made a choice, but was of course flabbergasted by the initial price. I had a budget and was quite prepared to walk away. But Pete started the art of haggling. He started low, very low…. and after 20 minutes we still hadn’t gone higher. The low was actually my budget, so I couldn’t go any higher. The salesman wasn’t so happy… and then he saw my watch, my old battered and scratched Swatch watch which I’ve used climbing over the past decade! Within minutes a deal was done. My budget plus the watch – thank goodness I wasn’t wearing an expensive watch!!!

A fair exchange?!?!

Monday – Black Groove
Another hot day, so we decided to climb Black Groove. The groove is on the south side (Crag U), in full sun, but Claude was sure it would be shaded as the groove is so deep – he did write the guidebook so he should know. It was a mere (!) one hour walk up a steep hill. I thought I was going to faint with heat exposure, but luckily the start of the climb was in shade, so I was able to cool down. This crux of the climb was a very traditional style pitch – 50m of bridging, back and footing, and a little dirty in places with a few loose stones – but 250m later we made it to the top, exhausted and dehydrated.

Walking up to Crag U (Crag W can be seen in the background)
Pete on the first pitch of Black Groove

And now we are sitting in the hotel, listening to the call for payer… I think that means it’s time for a G&T.

Road to Tafraoute

On Monday our adventure in Morocco began.

We landed in Marrakech shortly after 9am and fairly quickly negotiated our way through passport control and luggage retrieval. We picked up the car hire, got some Moroccan cash, met up with Rebecca and Mina, squished the luggage and us into the tiny car, and we were on the road by 10.30.

We had decided to take the scenic route over the pass which runs to the west of the Atlas Mountains. It was very long, but gave us great views of snowy mountains, tiny mountain villages, and kasbahs. The contrast of the blue skies, red earth, green trees, and snowy mountain tops in the distance was beautiful.

At the highest point we stopped for mint tea.

Leaving the Atlas Mountains behind, we headed further south into the Anti-Atlas Mountains, negotiating river crossings and more long and twisting roads. Finally we arrived at our destination, Hotel Les Amandiers in Tafraoute, at nearly 8pm. It had been a long day, but we were greeted by our other friends who had already been there for a few days.

On Tuesday we took advantage of our friends knowledge of the area. They have been coming here for that last 15 years or so, developing the area, every day only climbing new routes. Mike and and Marj took us to an area north of the main climbing area to test out our abilities on the Moroccan rock. We made the second ascent on Perfect Arete which was a lovely three pitched E1.

In the mean time Rebecca and Mina had a mad day on some hired bicycles and met up with Little Jon.

On Wednesday we all climbed together on a crag near Anergui. We all opted for Naseby, 250m of lovely climbing with a couple of pitches of 5a. The crux was stepping off a large (unstable looking) pinnacle with a massive void to our left. The guidebook doesn’t exactly give you much detail, basically you just have to follow your nose and instinct, which adds to the excitement.

Driving up to the village was exciting in itself as we climbed up a very very steep road, breaking through the low hazy clouds into glorious sunshine.

That night, over a feast of Moroccan lamb, we discussed the route with Chris and Derek, who explained why they called it that… the altitude is the date of the Battle of Naseby.