Tea on Toubkal

By Jamie Layzell

From the moment I left the airport, everything felt a very long way from the UK.

It was a lot hotter than I had expected - it didn’t help I’d worn my walking boots and insulated jacket to save weight in my luggage - and men instantly began thrusting signs in my face and insisting that I get into their taxi in a mixture of French and broken English. I had read about this and how to deal with it back home, so I asked how much they were charging and, on their (extortionate) offer, I’d sigh and walk off. As unnatural as this technique felt, it seemed work after a while and I got the price down to about a third of what they were asking in the first place!

I had wanted to visit the High Atlas for a while after reading a few articles about the mountains and the traditional Berber culture there; climbing Toubkal seemed the logical choice for a great short trip. At 4,167 m, it is a good height and doesn't involve any serious acclimatisation. I would be climbing just as the Winter conditions were fading, which would make it a simple hike to the top. There are many different ways to climb via different routes or using various methods of support, but I decided to carry everything I would need with me and to camp rather than use one of the two refuges below Toubkal. This would make the journey a bit tougher, but the sense of achievement upon completion would be worth it.

As the taxi left Marrakech and ventured further into the mountains, everything felt very different. The people were more relaxed and friendly, the temperature cooled, and it was obvious that where we were headed really was going to be remote. As soon as I reached the village of Imlil at 1,800 I met a man named Lahcen who offered me a room for the night. I accepted his offer and he led me up the hill to a great guesthouse calledAuberge Dar Adous,tucked away in a small valley. For the rest of the evening I explored the village and drank tea, chatting to other travellers about their experiences in the surrounding mountains.

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