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.
Heading west from the desert plains in Morocco the landscape abruptly cleaves into sheer gorges. Towns perch precariously on the sides and in the valleys shaded by lush date palmeries. The valley floor is a slice of bright green contrasting against the monochromatic rock and is striped with rows of crops either side of the life-giving thread of silver water. Simply lounging on a terrace here, watching the birds soaring in the sky or reading a book, is a grand way to pass a day. Another invigorating option is to wander down to the public Hamam baths with the locals for a chat and a traditional scrub with black soap made from olives.
Driving across the baking, endlessly flat volcanic plains, a tinge of orange simmers on the horizon. This sea of orange sand slowly grows in height while passing the odd stunted and lonely acacia tree; they are all that remains from what was once desert woodland. On the fringes where the plains meet the dunes, auberge after auberge begin to appear in a surprising show of civilization surviving in these harsh conditions. And beyond this is the shoreline for a mighty ocean of sand that continues as far as the eye can see; welcome to the Sahara.