Travelling west across Morocco, climbing deep into the High Atlas mountains, the landscape changes quickly. Pine and juniper trees give way to a desolate mix of rocky scree and smooth, domed expanses dusted in a rainbow of colours. The steep roads wind past areas of greens, oranges, yellows, reds and even blacks as they approach the highest mountain pass in all of Morocco. The Tizi n’Tichka pass, situated at 2260m altitude, affords sweeping vistas and is also surprisingly a hotspot for enthusiastic salesmen peddling geod rocks.
On the other side of the pass lush vegetation lines the valleys and the architecture of the mountainside towns changes from the traditional mud brick to stone and wood. Cars can only go so far then all transport is on foot or by donkey. Narrow, granite paved laneways zigzag past terraced houses that appear to have a Japanese and Indian influence. Laneways blend into a single, well worn earthen track that leads up to the peaceful village of Aroumd. Enroute, the dappled shade provided by giant walnut trees and the skirting of iridescent grasses, provides a lovely rest stop for donkeys carrying everything from hiking and camping equipment to the week’s groceries and even bicycles!
Climbing north Africa’s highest peak, Mount Toubkal, is a major draw bringing tourists to Aroumd. Family-run gites, perched on the edge of great, rocky outcrops, are a restful place to spend the night before commencing the big ascent. From the elevation of their balconies, birds can be seen soaring up close to the backdrop of the sheer mountains, and from their low ceilinged bedrooms the sound of the of the babbling stream far below can be heard as you drift off to sleep. There are not many mountainous hikes that start through apple fields, pass through tiny shops selling everything from clothes to carpets and even wander past a petite mosque. Only in Morocco!