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Getting There - Aneel's Travelogue

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Gorge Dades Gorge, Morocco, Friday, 09 January 2009 4:09am

I woke up a bit too early, which is odd. I've been sleeping well for months, but today I woke up an hour and a half before my alarm.

At 9am, I was picked up at my hotel by Waled (my new guide) and Muhammad (the driver). Our first stop was at a mechanic's shop for air for the tires, then it was off towards the gorges.

We passed by the dammed reservoir that provides Ouarzazate's drinking water, and some of its electricity. Unfortunately, it seems that the dam isn't allowing enough water to reach the Draa valley and the palmeraies are drying up and the palms are dying.

Part of the route today was the "Road of a Thousand Kasbahs", which seems farfetched when you first hear it, but quickly becomes plausible when you see it. It's amusing to see new kasbah-style hotels going up right next to centuries-old kasbahs. The old ones are slowly dissolving (suddenly, the three foot long waterspouts off of the roofs make sense: water running down the wall would wash away the building!), while the new ones have fresh cinderblocks and rebar, just awaiting a red clay facing.

We stopped for some photos at a historic kasbah, and it became clear that the air leak that prompted the early stop was still active. The hissing was audible from several feet away. We were quite close to Skoura, so we had an unexpectedly long stop there while the tire was patched. Waled and I walked up the main street and back and I learned about the produce they sell on market day (the local stuff is mostly root vegetables: potatoes, carrots, and turnips), and where to buy stamps (stationery stores, not the post office).

We continued up through the Valley of Roses. I didn't see many actual roses, but I did see many signs advertising rose water for sale. We followed a dirt track instead of a road for most of the way, which took us up through gorgeous canyonland. It reminds me of Utah.

We had a quick stop at a cave dwelling, where a family lives in the side of a hill in three separate caves. Surprisingly, the kitchen cave doesn't have a chimney.

I was checked into my hotel by the early afternoon, in time for a walk out to the actual Dades gorge after lunch. It's freezing here. Literally. The puddles are iced over. I put on my thermals, anticipating being cold on the walk, and then had to take off a couple layers of shirts because I was sweating in the sun on the way. I didn't regret them at all on the return trip, though. We didn't get back until about half an hour after sunset, and I had put all of the layers back on and added the turban/scarf that Mo was kind enough to give me.

There's a drumming demonstration going on in the common room for a tour group. It's surprisingly loud, even though I'm not in the same room.

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