Friday, April 30, 2010

The middle Atlas

The mountain range in Morroco is called the Atlas mountains with Mt Toukbal being the highest peak. Middle Atlas is lush and at the same time rugged. Spring is the best time to visit, there is the water from the rain and he snow melt and the whole place is covered with wild flowers. I never saw anything like it. Summer time can get extremely hot. The grass dies and everything is brown. It is so similar to Southern California. There is a lot of sheep grazing everywhere but we never tire of taking their pictures.Once in a while our driver stops for us to take pictures, otherwise most of them are taken from the moving taxi. We couldn't communicate with him what we like to see. Of course we can ask him to stop and he does.The trees are beginning to sprout leaves and a lot are blossoming. It's an incredible sight.All roads lead to Marrakech, it seems. One take the overland route to get to Marrakech from Fes or do what we did, take the train to Casablanca and then on to Marrakech. It takes 7 hours by train.I forgot why we stopped, Oh, I think I know, our driver thought we would like to look at the roadside stalls that were selling Morrocan pottery but instead we found this patch of orange colored flowers more interesting. Driving out from Fes we passed some beautiful farms, olive trees, vegetable gardens and those glorious wild flowers. So here we are up close to a patch of them and we go hog wild. Little did we know we would see more and more as the trip progressed.There's a certain beauty to this ruggedness.I said to Sophie, 'take it from this angle, it'll give the impression of a bigger patch of flowers than it really is'. Little did I know I didn't have to do that because later in the trip we would be in huge fields of wild flowers and we would see so much more. Wow, what a beautiful countryside!This is Sophie's picture, we've merged our work, she took pictures of me and I have pictures of her. Isn't this cute, quaint and refreshing, Sophie's pic again.Again Sophie's.Sophie's pic, again. Looking at these pictures again brings back haunting memories. I've yet to see anything so beautiful. I thought Sicilian Spring was amazing. This tops it!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Berbers of Morroco

Our first Berber sighting and we got so excited, we took these pictures from our moving taxi. We will be in close contact with more Berbers as the trip progressed. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxI couldn't stop snapping, they were on my side of the taxi. For the rest of the trip, for some reason, they were mostly on Sophie's side, so I have to use her pictures. Berber sighting.....................It was the same for my first trip to China, I didn't go to Beijing or Shanghai, who wants to see another Han Chinese, I can look at myself in the mirror. I chose Yunnan Province because of its concentration of very colorful minorities. I wasn't disappointed. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxAn idyllic Berber homestead in moyen Atlas. There are at least 3 different kinds of Berbers, some live in the High Atlas and the third group lives in the Northern coast of Morroco.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Le lac

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxIt's hard to imagine that high in the Atlas is this huge and beautiful lake. I read it is busy during the weekends because families from around the area would come and have picnics here, do some water sports and ride horses. It is a week day when we were here and we almost had the place to ourselves. There a few other tourists who, like us, came in hired grand taxis. If you don't want to drive, just hire a grand taxi and be driven around. This little fellow is ready with his horse offering rides to visitors, he beckoned to us to ride his horse but we declined since we were on a schedule. We took his picture and gave him some money. He was having fun, galloping on his horse.There is sheep grazing everywhere. There is always a shepherd or a shepherdess watching over the sheep and they graze non stop. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThere was another visitor besides us at the lake. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThe lake area is also home to a lot of birdlife but the only birds we saw was a handful of ducks swimming in the lake. Maybe even the ducks have been hunted down and eaten by the locals. There are a few conservation minded people in Morroco. Maybe they are too few and too far between.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ifrane

This is a strange place in Morroco, high in the mountains, we see a thoroughly European town. The Morrocans are very proud of this place, they like to show it off. I read it was built by the French when Morroco was a French protectorate. I guess the French were homesick and they decided to build a place that is like home. There are chalets here like that in Switzerland. It even snows here in the wintertime. The King of Morroco has a palace here.

We weren't really interested in checking this place out. We went to the bathroom and asked to be driven off to our next destination.

Day trip to moyen Atlas

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxThis is me walking by the roadside. We stopped to take pictures of the storks on top of the houses on the other side of the road when I spotted some orange colored wild flowers on this side of the road. Up to this point we've only seen the countryside from moving trains and moving cars. So I was antsy and couldn't wait to get into the thick of wild flower season. When we checked into our hotel in Fes the day before we asked the owner about tours to the countryside. Every hotel knows people who for a fee can take you out of the city. In and around town the means of transportation is petit taxis, the sign will be posted on top of the car, they are different colors in different cities but to go further, one uses the old Mercedes Benz cars called grand taxis. So the owner of the hotel arranged for a grand taxi and driver to take us out to visit 'le route touristique', a day trip to moyen (middle) Atlas. I thought I would be taken to authentic Berber villages and meet Berbers but the driver didn't speak English and he stuck to the same route tha everybody gets taken on. I tried to impress upon him that I wanted to see something else but my lack of French failed me, 'je taime le villages ancien' and 'je taime les fleurs savage'. He just nodded, I thought he understood but he didn't but we decided they have selective hearing! I would only reaslise the significance of the trip after we returned home and having watched a documentary on the wild life in Morroco. The places he took us has real significance but we weren't impressed at that time. When we look at a map of Morroco we'll notice that the country runs from north to south in one corner of Africa so it encompasses coastline, mountains and deserts and is really very varied in terrain and fascinating. Each place is different and has their own charm. The middle Atlas is different from the high Atlas. It wasn't long after we left the city of Fes that we begin to see the fields and the lushness of the countryside and as one climb up into the Atlas, the land becomes more arid and rocky. It is here that one sees the last big forest of cedars, the ancient cedar trees (of Lebanon) spoken in the bible where anything of value is built with cedar wood, the prized cedar trees. This is the last of such a huge forest of cedars in the world and is endangered. Every where there is sheep grazing and this grazing is putting pressure on the pristine environment. Spring comes early and the fruit trees are in bloom. Storks are busy in their nests. The cost of this trip was much less than the ones in Marrakech. There are less tourists in Fes but much more in Marrakech. So everything in Marrakech costs much more.