So, we’ve taken up residence at Camping Granite Rose just outside Tafraoute, a small town set in the spectacular scenery of the Anti Atlas mountains.
We’ve been here for a week now and could probably stay another if there wasn’t so much to see in Morocco before our ninety day visa runs out.
The town itself is fairly compact, busy, bustling and has everything you need but it’s the surrounding countryside that is so appealing here.
It’s a popular area for climbers but there are plenty of opportunities for walking and cycling which could keep you entertained for a week or two no problem.
The town is touristy but as the town serves as an administrative centre for a large surrounding area it still fulfils the needs of the wider population.
Babouches (traditional leather shoes) are the main speciality here with lots of little stalls making and selling them. One of our guidebooks even mentions the BTT (babouche tout terrain) which are go anywhere footwear with an extra thick sole to cope with the rocky terrain here.
On our first sortie into town we were approached a Berber on a moped grinning from ear to ear. We can spot a carpet seller a mile off now. As we were still in the market for a new carpet for the kitchen area we allowed ourselves to be led to his shop around the corner. And so it was that the carpet show commenced whilst tea was served. We settled in for the long haul. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve explained that we are looking for something petite as we are living an odd kind of life. Our smiling seller, who said he treats finding the right carpet as a sport, was not deterred. He layed out carpet after carpet after carpet at our feet. All too big. We continued to smile, he continued on his quest. Finally he came up with something. I quite liked it but we were still unsure if it would fit or if it would look right. No problem. Our seller suggested we take it with us to try out and to come back the next day to talk about prices and to bring with us anything we might have to barter as well. Even though the Moroccan’s treat selling as an Olympic sport they are also very trusting. So, we took it back to the van to try on so to speak. Nope, it wasn’t right. We went back the next day then armed with the carpet and a motley assortment of unwanted items like clothes, phones and electrical equipment.
After breaking it to our seller that the carpet wasn’t right the whole saga started again. He still couldn’t find anything that was just right even after suggesting he could cut one in half. No problem. He walked us to the other side of town to peruse his brother’s carpets! I’d have given up on us long ago but the Moroccans are made of sterner stuff.
We had the same problem. Everything was too long. Out of all the ones he showed us there was just one I thought would look right but it was fifty or sixty centimetres too long. No problem. It could be cut to the size we want. I have to say it pained me to think that they were just going to chop a bit off this handmade carpet that had probably taken weeks to make. But, a sale is a sale.
The husband of the lady who’d made the carpet was brought in to peruse our bag of ‘stuff’ and to take over the negotiating. The price he started out with and the price we offered were poles apart. We upped our offer and threw in a couple of old phones. He dropped his price. We sucked our teeth. He left alone us ‘to chat’. We upped our offer and threw in some shirts, trousers and a fleece. He came down a bit more on his price. We sucked our teeth some more. He left us alone again ‘to chat’. More clothes were added to the pile and we upped our offer just a tad. Finally, after what seemed forever, we gave our final offer and reached an agreement. We came away five hundred dirhams and a bag of clothes lighter but we were happy. I was glad I didn’t have to see his wife’s face when he went upstairs to ask her to cut the carpet she’d spent weeks labouring over into two pieces and then let her know ‘oh, and by the way, they are coming back at 5.00pm this afternoon to pick up both ends’. Are we happy with it? Oh, yes. Is it beige? Of course.
I don’t think I could furnish a house with Moroccan carpets as it would just be too exhausting.
But, HA-LAY-LOO-YAA, we have now thrown out our old carpets. Yay! Tim put them next to the bin outside the campsite. They’d disappeared within an hour so the old down duvet that we haven’t used for two years went next to the bin as well. That disappeared too.
Apart from carpet buying we’ve made the most of the excellent weather we’ve had here by getting out and about on foot and by bike. We had an excellent walk over to the Vallée des Ameln (Valley of Almonds) and came back over some spectacular high plateaus and rocky paths to the campsite.
I had made a minor error with the map which added another four kilometres to our already eighteen kilometre walk which Tim forgave me for…………..eventually.
We cycled out to see Napoleons Hat and the Painted Rocks.
‘Les Pierres Bleu’ was a huge art project created by Belgian landscape artist Jean Vérame in the mid eighties.
Tons of litres of blue, red and purple paint were used to cover four different areas of rocks. It looks a bit surreal from a distance but up close it all looks less appealing as the paint has faded and most of the rocks are covered in graffiti.
The views from the area though are immense and well worth the cycle ride to get to them.
I took a bike ride out to have a look at some of the small Berber villages nestled on the southern slopes of Jbel el Kest in the Vallée des Ameln.
It was nice to see some of the old housing being restored.
I vaguely remembered reading something about ‘la tête du lion’, a natural rock formation that looks like the head of a lion. Seeing on my map that it was fairly close to where I’d parked the bike I thought I’d go in search of it. Whilst on route I was lucky enough to spot a wild boar. It saw me as soon as I saw it so it shot off before I even had time to think about whipping the camera out. I wasn’t even aware there were any wild boar in Morocco with it being a pork product free country. I climbed up the rough rocky path for an hour or so but still couldn’t see anything that resembled a lion’s head.
After consulting google for a picture of it I was pretty certain I was looking at the right thing but it still looked nothing like the pictures on google images. Thirty minutes later after having scrambled up this and that rock for a view from a different angle I admitted defeat and thought the images on google had been taken at a different time of day or had been photo shopped.
Back on the bike and back to the main road through the valley I glanced to my left across to the hillside and there it was. In all its glory. Doh! Unbeknown to me it was in full view on my ride towards the valley. In fact it can be seen from the campsite. Oh, how I laughed!
Anyway, onwards to the Aït Mansour gorge thirty kilometres away.