Dades Gorge

Monday, May 4, 2009

We only had time for one night in Marrakech where Dani could recover a bit, then a big day's travelling to the other side of the Atlas Mountains. The road was incredible, as we went over the Tizi'n'Tichka (over 2500m), a famous pass for its adrenaline inducing switchbacks. To add to the action, the driver was maneuvering the bus as if it were a sports car. The five hour bus trip left us in Ouazazate feeling pretty sick. We were quite happy to leave the bus behind to share a taxi with four others to Boumalme du Dades, the closest center to the Dades Gorge.

Eleven People in a Grand Taxi - Morocco

We officially made a new record for number of people in a Grand Taxi - 11 people in a station wagon! Fortunately it was only a short trip - just the 30kms from Boumalmes du Dades to Ait Oudinar, where we stayed for two nights in the Dades Gorge.

Travel is cheap in Morocco, the whole eight hour trip (1 bus, 2 petit taxis and two grand taxis) cost us around 370 dirham - about 33 Euro for both of us. The Auberge we stayed it was very nice, despite having issues getting hot water, its the nicest place we've stayed at. Recently having a room to ourselves has been a bit of a luxury.

Dades Gorge, Morocco
The landscape in the upper gorge is mostly like this. Strata pokes through the surface everywhere.

Le Tortue
Called Le Tortue, named for its similarity to the shape of a Tortoise.

The landscape on this side of the Atlas in amazing - its definitely in the rain shadow of the mountains. The further east you go, the closer you get to the Sahara. Over the years the soil has been stripped back to the strata of the mountains, and the hillsides are striped in warped lines of ancient sediment. In Dades Gorge, its reminds me alot of some of the landscapes of Utah, or the Northern Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Like Imlil, the Berber people have cleverly manipulated the rivers to water their pastures. This is generally their sole income, and I think each community is self sufficient. There are also nomadic Berber people who move from the Sahara in Winter to the High Atlas in summer. In the gorges you can see what appear to be derelict cave-houses, which are still used every year.

We payed for a trip up the Gorge with a guide, Daoud, from our Auberge. He's very friendly and passionate about the region. Its a shame we don't have a limitless budget because he does some amazing trips in the Sahara.

Dades Gorge, Morocco
A famous section of the Dades Gorge road. If it looks familiar, a few years back a email was circulating that pictured some of the worlds most amazing roads; this was one of them.

Dades Gorge, Morocco

In places the Gorge narrows to just ten meters of so, enough for the river and a vehicle to fit through. Each time we stopped to take a photo, some children with a box full of fossils would come up trying to sell you something. Even if you were many kilometers from a village, there was someone with some fossils for sale.

Another 10kms in and the landscape has been cut deep by the river. The road doesn't look like it'll last many more years, and recent floods have already destroyed sections.

Poppies & Barley
Fields of Barley are dotted with the red heads of poppies.


In the afternoon we walked for two hours to an area known as "The Monkey Fingers" or as our guide, Daoud, would say in broken English "Fingers Monkey!". These bizzare rock formations are some of the strangest I've ever seen, and its not hard to understand why they're called Monkey Fingers. On the way there we walked through Berber fields of barley and poppy's, decaying 200 year old Kasbahs and mud-walled villages. Local Berber folk would often ask where we were from, generally guessing French, German or English in that order. We've noticed a dramatic increase in the friendly nature and hospitality since we've left Marrakech.

Monkey Fingers
The bizzare rock formations of Monkey Fingers.

Crumbling Kasbah, Monkey Fingers
Look a little closer and you'll see the remains of a crumbling Kasbah against the background of Monkey Fingers.

Crumbling Kasbahs catch the last light of the day.

Dades Gorge
Dani and I standing near Monkey Fingers for the obligatory couple shot.

After Dades we're off to Todra Gorge to go climbing for a few days - can't wait. Its been 5 months since we've been on the rock, so I'm sure we'll be a bit rusty.

By the way, there are more photos on Flickr. Simon's stream and Dani's stream.


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