Here's a tip: when your wife makes arrangements with a tour company to run a hike for us, and she asks them to combine their two day hike into one day, be afraid. Be very afraid. That's exactly what my beloved did. And so rather than a leasurely stroll through the mountains, we had a trek against time, trying to pack in the miles before the sun set.
In typical Moroccan fashion, as we were preparing to start our hike, they asked us if we wanted to sit down and have some mint tea. We were already behind schedule and had 7+ hours of hiking ahead of us, and they wanted to know if we wanted tea?! We passed.
The hike ended up being a 10 mile, almost circuit. We slogged up the first pass for a couple of hours, and then descended for a few more, before we had a classic Moroccan meal of tea, salad, veggie tajine and pomegranate seeds. And then it was back on the trail for another massive uphill to a pass, and then back down the other side.
I logged the whole trip using Run Keeper, but apparently the elevation data got totally whacked. According to the GPS, we had a total gain of 12,000 feet, a number which isn't technically possible. Perhaps the GPS was set to a sort of feels-like? Because heck yeah, it *felt* like we climbed 12,000 feet!
I definitely found myself sucking wind while climbing that first monster pass. Our guide walked up it like it was nothing. So typical.
The area doesn't have a whole lot of vegetation or obvious wildlife. We passed through distinctive smelling juniper trees, which was a treat, and saw an awwwwww inducing herd of goats. They were more than happy to eat our orange peels (now that's recycling!). We also saw a number of mules, which are the region's preferred method of hauling materials from point A to B. The views more than made up for any lack of unusual flora or fauna.
We passed through a number of Berber villages, which are apparently very much in use today. The villages appear to subsist on very little: a winter wheat field here; a hammam (bath) there. Each village has its own mosque and imam, and our guide was very clear on the point that all Moroccans practice the exact same form of Islam. From the smallest mosque in a tiny village, to the massive mosques in Marrakesh, everyone is on the same page, if you will.
We received almost the exact same messages from our guide as we did from the young shopkeeper we spoke to in Rabat: they're proud of the security measures the government has put in place to make Morocco safer, and they are acutely aware of the damage that's been done to Islam by the latest attacks in Paris. Our guide make it very clear that in his mind, the terrorists in France absolutely do not represent the religion he and his countrymen practice.
After our epic hike and a hot shower, neither Shira nor I could imagine going out for a fancy sit down dinner. So we stepped outside our hotel, and purchased a few essentials: a persimmon ($1.00), a pomegranate ($0.70), two pita sized pieces of bread ($0.20) and a heaping box of pastries ($6.00) and had a fantastic improvised meal.
It's off to bed, where I'll probably be dreaming of a steep climb that never ends, as that was my reality earlier today.