“Too many women” was Tim Strapp’s response when I asked my co-trekkers to describe in one word our recent Moroccan adventure. Not that anyone would blame a bloke who set off with 10 women (one of them his mother!!) into the wilds of the High Atlas Mountains for an eight-day trek with no respite. 10 women, 2 male guides and Strappy sure turned some heads whenever the locals encountered the group.
The rest of the team offered the following adjectives – challenging, beautiful, diverse, bloody hard, remote, rugged, tough, steep, unstable and slippery. One of the girls even (tongue firmly planted) likened it to a walk in the park – and I suppose she was right we did hike though the Toubkal National Park though it must be said with nary a tree in sight.
Now while everyone agreed that our eight days on the trail had its challenges nobody would have missed the experience. Morocco itself is well worth exploring widely. It’s a land of incredible contrasts. Soaring rocky peaks, green oases, desert, rivers, remote mountain villages, roaring waterfalls, and bustling souks in the old towns.
Our trek exposed us to all of this. From camping in the confines of a village where day-to-day life remains largely unchanged by progress to camping by a mountain lake where we could at last wash the dust from our clothes and ourselves, every day offered us new and unique experiences.
The circuit we walked took us a full 8 days. We rose at 5am and began at 6am to punch out the kilometres before the heat got the better of us. And while on paper the distances don’t seem all that far they are plenty long enough when you're only either going up or down pretty steep terrain. Not too many gentle level passages and the Toubkal Summit day is one the team won’t forget in a hurry. None of it was even vaguely easy but all of it was manageable thanks to the patience and local knowledge of the guides and the camaraderie of our group.
The end of May was perfect timing for us to set out. Great walking temperatures and most of the snow melted from the higher passes. Blessed with blue skies throughout the experience, our adventure was made that much better by our trusty porters who set up and packed up our camps every day. Everything needed, including their version of the kitchen sink, was loaded onto a team of mules who passed us each day as we toiled onwards and upwards ready and welcoming at the next overnight stop. One of the most pleasant surprises was the food. Fresh, tasty and plentiful although to be perfectly frank none of us will be ordering a vegetable tagine in the near future.
All of us, thanks to our captain Tim and our own motivation not to let the team down, were fit enough for the challenge. A tip here - do the program your trainer sets for you and then add a big chunk. Including as many practice hikes as you can get. And, pack more Band-Aids, tape and blister dressings than you think are reasonable plus a stash of sweets for the children you meet on the track.