From Meknes we took the approximate seven hour train trip to Marrakech; as immortalised in the song, Marrakesh Express. All aboard that train!
The next day we had the experience of a grand taxi. There are two types of taxis in Morocco: petit taxis and grand taxis. Both are easily recognizable on the streets: the petit taxis are small and blue, the grand taxis are large and white, silver or blue. The former are like taxis we are accustomed all over the world: they carry a single passenger or party directly to the desired destination, and payment is determined by meter. The grand taxis take a car load of strangers who are going in the one general direction.
Prior to undertaking the trek in the high Atlas and ascent of Mt Toubkal, Neil and I spent a few days as tourists exploring the country. We had flown to Gibraltar and after a couple of days exploring The Rock took the ferry to Tangier from Algerciras in Andalucia, Spain. Sailing from Europe to Africa is the way to go – it felt like an adventure, especially as we didn’t have accommodation booked for the whole trip.
We were expecting to be hustled for business by taxi drivers as soon as we came out of the ferry terminal building and we were. We even had one guy offering to take us to the ATM to get some cash before our ride. No thanks! We walked the 100m to the ATM and from there found a nice taxi driver who chatted away to us as he took us to the railway station.
The final morning on trek we had a short walk down the valley to the village of Imlil at the road end where our mules and muleteers left us. From there we were transferred back to Marrakesh by minibus.
The last full day’s walking was all downhill as we descended the valley from Toubkal refuge to Aremd.
This approach to Toubkal was much busier than the route we had taken. Hikers bagging Jebel Toubkal in 2 days come up directly from the valley, overnight at the refuge, then ascend the mountain and descend back down the valley the second day. Also many day trippers hike to Toubkal base camp (the refuge) for views of the mountain. It was strange to be part of such a mass of hikers after a few days in the relative quiet of the high tops.
Summit day involved a 5am start for walking as we needed to climb the 1000m to the summit at 4167m and return to the hut before it became very hot about 1pm and before the weather changed for the worse as it did most afternoons.
We set out walking by headtorch
Sunrise over the surrounding mountains – about 6am