Wendy and I hiked with our guides Hassan and Mustapha in the Atlas Mountains from Gadji Valley to Ourika Valley, starting high in the mountains after a picnic in a Berber village. Walking for hours on a rocky trail cut into the side of a canyon, we descended through steep terrain suited only for goat and sheep grazing to a lush valley of cultivated terraces and groves. At the end of the valley, the 4 x 4 sports vehicle driven by our driver Mohamed picked us up and carried us to our hotel.
Epic is how I would describe this hike for its beauty, challenging terrain and duration. I am slightly afraid of heights and the sheer drop-offs combined with narrow rocky trails required a great deal of focus and some coaching support from Mustapha in navigating slippery sections. But even more than the hike, the car ride to the hotel offered many thrills as Mohamed made our way through impossibly rocky, rutted and constricted dirt roads, streams and steep inclines. On this and subsequent days in the mountains, the 4×4 cut across mountain sides on rock-strewn roads that were more like trails, with no shoulder or guard rails, feet away from drop-offs of a thousand feet (it seemed to me). I sat in the back, inside seat, with eyes down, hands sweating, not daring to look up for fear of the heights outside the car. Never have I seen such skillful and careful driving like that done by Mohamed, who is a licensed professional driver. We were never in danger, but driving in these conditions is something I do not experience at home. Driving in rugged terrain is part of going to remote areas, and I am sure that I will do this again when I return to Morocco.