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We had found a little bit of information on the internet about some climbing just north of Jebel Sirwa. Basically it was just some pictures of huge boulders in a beautiful valley and the name of a close by village, Amassine. After scouring google maps and consulting our guide book, we figured we would be able to make our way there from Ouarzazate. Our bus arrived there around noon and we wandered around for a few hours picking up supplies and making our way to the main bus station. We bought tickets for a local bus that would take us to Anezal. After a two hour bus ride through the foothills of the Anti Atlas Mountains we were in Anezal, much to the surprise of the locals. After a couple of minutes we were approached by a stocky man with a bushy mustache, wearing a white turban. In broken French he asked us where we were going. Rob told him we wanted to get to Amassine and the man pointed to a large van, “mon voiture”. I asked him how much money it would cost, but he didn’t want to talk about it. Eventually he pointed to each of us saying “dix Derham, dix Derham”, about one Euro each. We got in the van and waited for him to round up some other passengers. A couple of old men and some young school boys piled in and we were off. We flew down an old paved road through fields of wheat, eventually making our way up and around the mountains. The views were spectacular. We dropped the kids off at the first village and continued on fast as ever. An old man got out and three bubbly, withered Bereber women climbed in, chatting away in the back as a lamb screamed every time we hit a decent bump or rut in the road. After about 45 minutes the paved road ended and we continued on dirt and rock, only slightly slower. The man next to me pointed out the window, “Jebel Sirwa”, we were finally in its shadow. We crossed a stream and winded around another hill and then a village came into view. “Amassine” said our driver and he began to ask where we were sleeping and what we were going to do. We tried our best to explain that we had a tent and would be hiking and camping in the area. I’m not sure if he really understood but he shrugged and pointed out his house as we drove by it. He let us out at the end of the road, half way into the village near the crest of a hill. A short misunderstanding of money followed after I began to hand him a 20 Dirham note. Obviously he did not mean ten Dirham each back in Anezal. I asked him to write out how much he wanted since he could not give us a straight answer in French. He handed me back the paper, saying “800”. Rob and I looked at eachother confused, neither of us even had that much cash, I don’t even think I had spent that much money since entering Morocco. Rob handed him a 200 Dirham note, which he promptly accepted and handed 120 back to Rob. “Ahh catre vingt Dirham!” I exclaimed and he nodded his head smiling. We shook hands and explained to him that we would return in 3 days to find him and a ride out of town. He mentioned something about food but we missed exactly what he was saying, probably offering us a meal at his home which would have been great. Lackaday, we wandered off up the hill and out of town. We climbed another hill that was covered with boulders and proceeded to pitch our tent. After 12 hours of traveling we had made it. The view from our tent was spectacular, with Amassine tucked away down the hillside and the hills, valleys and mountains off in the distance. I woke up on my birthday after a very cold night that we spent wrapped up in most of our clothes. The shade was already disappearing and it was getting hot. We had some canned fruit and bread for breakfast then set out explroing the area. We found a little bit of climbing near a stream that flowed through the valley. We walked along it and had some canned olives and tuna for lunch on top of a big boulder. We sat in the sun with our feet dangling in the stream and I worked on a nice sun burn. We headed back to camp to watch the shepards leading their flocks back to the village. For my birthday dinner we ate canned ravioli, more tuna and Rob even made me a little cake out of some lemon bread and jam. We washed it down with some sun warmed Bourbon that we carried all the way from the Valencia airport. It was a great birthday and one that I will never forget. The days we spent in the valley were slow and relaxing. We hiked every day and relaxed by the stream when the heat got to unbarable. On our last day we were approached by two young boys from the village, probably aged 8 and 10. They gave us a bunch of cherries and proceeded to dig through our stuff, admiring my $15 watch and writing on their hands with Rob’s pen. They younger of the two showed us his slingshot and promptly set up my plastic water bottle as a target. We played some games with them, mostly just throwing rocks at my water bottle from varying ranges and passing two water bottles back in forth at the same time. As the sun went down we walked back towards the village with them. We found our driver hanging out on a stoop with a bunch of other local men and we told him we wanted to go back to Anezal the next morning. He said to meet him at his house at 7am. We walked back to the tent for our last night in the valley. When we woke up it was still cold from the night before. We broke camp and walked into town. The van rounded a corner and we joined the handful or local men also making the ride into town. After an hour of driving we got out and shook hands with our driver. He said there would be a bus back to Ouarzazate coming soon so we sat down next to the road and waited. Once in Ouarzazate we discovered we would have to back track through Marrakesh to go to Essaouira, our destination on the Atlantic Coast. We made it to Marrakesh with just 45 minutes to walk to the other bus station and catch a bus to Essaouira. After another 12+ hours of traveling we made it to the coast, looking out at the Atlantic from the roof top terrace of our hotel.


One response

  1. Gi Cochran

    Bon Dia Ethan, or good day in Portuguese. I just got off the phone with your Mom. She is sooo anxious to see her first born again . You have lived a lifetime in the past 6 months. I can’t wait to sit down with you over a nice cold Corona and hear all of this first hand. You should put your blog along with your incredible pictures in a book. It is so great that you have documented so much of your travels. And as time passes you will appreciate having done this. Have a great time with your family there. I know you must have missed them. Even though your diet has experienced many new adventures I am sure you are looking forward to Mom’s cooking again. Take care, travel safe and remember your Gi loves you, always.

    June 24, 2011 at 3:30 am

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