Monday, October 06, 2014

Imlil, Atlas mountains

Sun, 17/8/14

Farewell Marrakech

We would be going to Imlil at the Atlas Mountains today, about 70km or 1.5 hour away from Marrakech. The night before, we chatted with Aziz, one of the Riad staffs and asked him how much it would cost to take a taxi to Imlil. He wasn't really sure, but he could take us to the taxi stand. I've read on the internet it would cost about MAD400/taxi (RM148)  for 1 way. Aziz wasn't really proficient in English, but he tried his best. Somehow, we managed to convey what we intended to say / ask, so it was all good. Aziz is a Berber and came from the Atlas mountains; his village is nearby to Imlil. One of his brothers is a tour guide and could speak a few languages. Aziz himself is currently taking English classes. Good for him :)

After yet another fabulous breakfast by Sanaa, we bade farewell, with Aziz leading the way to the taxi stand and also bringing my luggage. It was not far from Jemaa El-Fnaa. The taxi driver asked for MAD 350 (RM129) for a grand taxi (the bigger old Mercedes which locals share the taxi). We chose for a private transfer so we agreed to it since it was slightly cheaper than the one I read on the internet. We gave Aziz MAD40 (RM15) as tip for his good service. It was really wonderful that we found an honest young man

lovely breakfast
Sanaa is 2nd from left
our taxi driver

our grande taxi

Journey to Imlil

The journey to Imlil was an interesting one. The driver was really fast passing through the narrow and winding road of the mountain. We buckled up and prayed for our safety, yet managed to snap beautiful pictures of the panoramic vista. Locals were seen picnicking by the almost dried up stream of the summer months. Water is scarce here in Morocco, so never waste water, especially in front of them. They can take wudhuk (ablution) with using little water, about the amount of a small mineral water bottle. We can actually take a lesson from here to not take water for granted.

Argan plantation otw

cactus along the way before climbing

red brick houses on the way
mountain view

going up the mountain

more mountain vista

waterfall otw

almost dried up stream near our riad

Riad Atlas Toubkal

Upon reaching the taxi point at Imlil, our driver went down for a while and then re-emerged, asking for additional MAD 50 (RM 18.50) to take us straight to our riad. Since we didn't know how far it was, and comparable to the price quoted from our internet research, we said OK. It turned out that our riad was only about 300m away up the hill! We were cheated yet again. I guess you'd have to prepare some additional 'rip off' in case it happens.

taxi driver is in blue. riad staff with vest. paymaster giving salute (he likes to do that)

The riad staff helped carry my luggage as it was quite some climbing to reach our room, which is located in another connected buliding which was further up. We entered through Dar Imlil, which is associated with Riad Atlas Toubkal.

strong pakcik!
Partner in Crime asks me to bring a backpack instead of suitcase. I never listen, do I :-p

The riad was an absolute gem, perched against the Atlas Mountains with its beautiful interior decoration. Our room was lovely as well, with a balcony facing the mountains to boot! I'm loving the riad already. We could also relax at the roof top terrace while enjoying the magnificent views. Simply marvellous! And it is really cheap at EUR 25 (RM 100) / room / night with breakfast

Hold your breath now:

charming Moroccan interior decor
lovely staircase

dining room for breakfast
room with balcony with view of mountain

Wait till you see what's in store at the rooftop terrace:

fantastic view from the rooftop!

yes these view were taken from the rooftop terrace!

relaxing at the rooftop. do bring a book!

When we arrived around 11am, it was still scorching hot although we were at the mountains. So we decided to relax a bit, making tea (a jug kettle is provided in the room) before venturing out to find something to eat. The riad offered a 3 course dinner meal for EUR 20, but we felt it was too expensive so we declined.

Imlil village

We settled for a nearby restaurant where we sat at the top floor to get a nice view of the charming little village. At 1,740 metres (5,710 ft) above sea level, Imlil is actually a base point for hikers climbing the Atlas Mountains who wants to reach the highest summit in North Africa - Jebel Toubkal . The Toubkal National Park is located here. Imlil is the end of the tarmac road. From here, hikers will continue the trek by foot or riding donkeys. A couple who was also staying at our riad was overheard saying they planned to take the donkeys, while another group was planning to camp at the Sahara dessert, possibly on their way down after finishing their hike. But for both of us, we were just planning to chill and relax here, no hiking intended ;)



Toubkal National Park sign

For lunch today, we had beef tagine (MAD 70 or RM 26). It tasted better than the one we had at Jemaa El-Fnaa food stall. And more expensive as we are high up at the mountains so supply cost is higher. We then went back to our riad for more relaxation then went up to roof top terrace again to take pictures of the mountains at sunset. Such bliss. The other 2 groups were relaxing with sipping wine, which I presume were brought in from Marrakech / outside as there do not seem any shops selling alcohol here.

beef tagine. the meat is hidden beneath the potatoes

view at dusk

The next morning we went to our favourite haven - the rooftop terrace to catch the sunrise view. However, since we are not at the summit, we the sun has also risen elsewhere so we couldn't see the transition.

view at sunrise

It was then time for breakfast. It starts at 7am, but you have to notify the riad staff the day before what time you want to have breakfast. We had a bad incident on our second morning when the staff was late, coming in at almost 8am when our taxi would be arriving at 8.30am. This was probably because on the first morning, there were another 2 groups having breakfast as well at 7am, but on the second morning only both of us were still staying at the riad. So somehow the staff had 'forgotten' us. Luckily we had just enough time to eat, but not to indulge.

Nevertheless, breakfast was simply lovely with local bread, jam, cheese, milk, fresh orange juice, cereals and mint tea! We were well satiated.

big breakfast

Village hike

After the big breakfast and yet more rest, we took a short hike upwards from our Riad to the next village - Tamatert. Such a beautiful view of the village from here and it was so calm and peaceful. We passed by  lovely local Berber village houses and fruit orchards.

view otw to Tamatert

fruit trees
fruit orchard
sheep in white and black. not the red one

For lunch today, we headed to the restaurant next to the one we visited yesterday. We ordered beef tagine yet again (MAD 70 or RM 26), which came with mint tea. This was the tastiest tagine we tasted so far! We loved it and finished up everything that was on our plate. We were eating tagine the wrong way all this time. We saw a local family do it - use the bread to dip into the tagine because there is a lovely gravy beneath it.

that's the beef beneath the potatoes

dip it with bread

tagine cooking!

the mint tea that comes with our tagine

Due to the late lunch we had and still full, we decided to take away our dinner. We ordered beef  pizza from another restaurant (MAD 60 or RM 22) which comes with 'dessert' which turns out to be 2 tubs of yogurt. The restaurant never had patrons take away their meal I guess because they put our pizza into a huge box. We had our dinner at our favourite roof top terrace at sunset with a pack of orange juice. It turned out that it would be better to avoid ordering pizza in Imlil as this was just not their trade. Stick to tagine and cous cous please.

our pizza
nampak macam sedap

That afternoon we wanted to try the village hammam, but for couples, it can only be used at 5pm. We only  needed a small fee (I couldn't remember) but then we decided to forego it as we have to do it on our own, no masseuse for scrubbing or massaging. It was sort of a public bathing place with steam and hot water. This is after all, a village hammam. If you want to get spanked by the masseuse, you need to go to a spa type hammam. There is none in Imlil. The hammam at our riad unfortunately was out of order.

the hammam from outside

Another relaxing night tonight before we proceed to our next destination tomorrow - Rabat, Morocco's capital city which is about 400km away, a long journey after 2 days of relaxation for Partner In Crime ;) We would be taking the train from Marrakech to Rabat. For our transportation from Imlil to the Marrakech train station, we asked around at the public transportation station (where our incoming taxi first stopped) how much it would cost. We were quoted MAD 250 (RM 92 ) for a private grande taxi so we immediately agreed to it! And the taxi would pick us up from our riad so I didn't have to drag my luggage about 300m down.



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