20 club members travelled to Morocco in early May to seek adventure in The High Atlas mountain range. And adventure they found – from the mysterious pink walled city of Marrakesh to the summit of Jebel Toubkal ( 4167m). 5 days trekking along mule trodden and sometimes precarious paths ascending to the passes between the Azzadene and Imlil valleys allowed for spectacular scenery. The brown housed villages were in contrast to the green terraces where farmers harvested barley and wheat. We admired well developed irrigation systems are fed by the melting snows flowing from the towering pinnacles of the great Atlas barrier.
Mules carried our bags from the Gites to the Refugios all with different degrees of comfort. The food was superb and cooked fresh each day by our accompanying cooks. Travelling with the local company Trekking Morocco was a great bonus as the native guides loved to tell us about their customs and traditions.
We enjoyed lovely sunshine with the occasional thunder shower which didn’t dampen our spirits as we crisscrossed rivers to climb each day more than 2000m to eventually reach the foot of Jebel Tubkal at 3207. Much of our traversing different mountains was in rhythm to the meditative and love filled ;lyrics sang with passion and fervour by our guides. These echoed across the valleys as other muleteers chanted soft replies.
Climbing to the summit is unforgettable. Wearing head torches we reached the well-trodden path in a procession of light. Walking on intermittent fields of snow and shale demanded great concentration. We were glad of a break as the sun clothed the mountain in warm sunshine. It was a wonderful morning to be alive. The path skirted along the side of the rocky ridge, rising steadily and with increasing hope as the apex came within view. And then –Eureka! We had arrived.
We cried, laughed and hugged as we waved Limerick, Munster and Irish flags We had a clear view of all the peaks and could see the Sahara desert glinting to the East. No mountain is ever truly climbed until all return safely . Much of the path downwards was covered with snow now softening as the sun gained height and warmth, On reaching the Refugio we continued to the Imlill valley where we enjoyed a celebratory meal and slept soundly.
After some enjoyable haggling in the local souk we were back in Marrakesh to be again mesmerised by the scent of spices from faraway places and the taste of fat, luscious dates and figs. Colour, music and soft rays of sunset merged in our memories. We enjoyed a short sleep at our traditional Riad before heading to the airport to return home. We were the richer for having trekked in a land steeped in history and tradition.
A big thank you to William O’Connell for his time and organisational skills.