5 Oct 2014

Over Atlas Mountains to Valley of Roses

It was a beautiful day.

The sky was blue, the earth was red. Light breezes brought rawest scents of nature together, mixed them into this light, airy, sweet and earthy note. We were in the car crossing the infamous Atlas mountains on our way to Valley of Roses.

But before I tell you about the journey, just a few quick photos of the night before.
Yup, birthday boy received his cake. I couldn't keep the trip as a surprise for him, but at least the cake was. While booking with Riad Bamileke, I asked if they could prepare a birthday cake, and they did. Not just a cake, a homemade one.

The riad was 5 min from the main square: cool as hell, owned by a couple of lovely Italians who could cook up a real dinner, served with vino. There aren't many places in the medina where you can have a beer as soon as you arrive. Don't forget, Islam is the main religion here.

I wasn't too fond of wandering around Marrakech. It was a little too crowded for my taste, but that's just me. We spent the afternoon in the courtyard - Mr. Mackey hung out with the resident tortoise (you heard that right, they have a couple of tortoises living permanent in the courtyard, although I never saw the second one) while I started my book.
He tried to train the tortoise to be the cameraman, with no luck, of course. The trainee kept falling behind the trainer.
We then had dinner on the rooftop while the evening sun was drenching its last light over the Medina.
This little guy was adamant that the party wouldn't be good without him.
Alright, back to the road. The almighty Atlas was breath-taking.
We drove for hours on end on the winding road, through the mountain range which started off green and lush with small villages tucking on the hillsides, and bustling markets in the middle of nowhere.
Did I tell you how blue the sky was? I'd never seen sky that blue, that clear, that crystal, that high. If you go earlier in the year, you could see snow-capped peaks pieced into the sky.
Every now and then, we stopped by road side to stretch our legs, breathed in the freshest air ever, and marveled at Berber villages dotting impressive sights on the vast mountain wall.

The book I had with me was the perfect description of how I felt: humble and serene.
As we went higher up, the road turned deserted and meandering. Craggy naked hills became the only thing in sight before we arrived at the 2,260m peak.
Mr. Mackeys recorded tons of footage, but I just don't have the patience to go through them all. So here's a seconds long video.
Us goofing around on the peak.
It was incredibly windy, so having a nice photo together was juuuuuust little challenging.
Get yourself together now, Mackeys.
What the hell was WRONG with my wrist?
Aaand, finally, a decent one.
We then slowly descended into Valley of Roses. Would you look at that!
The views across the valley was sublime. Dense patchworks of olives, palm and fig trees, and of course, roses (that was harvested by now) trailed hues of green across dry and crumble earth.
Fine, I admit. I was a little gutted I missed the Rose Festival which often happen at the beginning of May. I asked so many questions that Hassan dropped me off at a co-operative so they can give me all the answers. Mr. Mackey, clearly not that interested in "smells", patiently waited outside while a middle age Berber gentleman took me through the process of extracting rose oil, showed me the equipment, and let me touch, smell everything as much as I wanted to. I was so excited I only managed to take 1 photo
I bought a small bottle of pure rose water, and we were on the road again. Remember, kids, always wear your seat bell.
Suddenly, Hassan stopped the car and ran across the road. It turned out he spotted one of the last roses of the season, so he picked it for me. I nearly cried.
We took breaks often, either by roadside or in little coffee shops, in one of which we bought a few postcards for family and friends. I love writing postcards, it's so much better than a Facebook message.
A little more into the valley, we stopped to visit the magnificent Ait Ben Haddou, which I'll have to show you another time. It's well into the night now in London, so night night, lovers. x

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