Saturday, 9 October 2010

Mountain Madness and Marrakech Mayhem

So once I got back from racing in Amsterdam, I had 4 days at work before the August bank holiday weekend (gotta love three-day weekends!) in which to prepare a talk for a conference. Went home for the bank holiday weekend, saw the fam, and went to a friend’s house for dinner and drinks. Faded pretty quickly so called in the parentals for a taxi home, and curled up in my own bed. Straight down to Cambridge the next day, for a friend’s 30th, complete with bouncy castle in the garden. Felt really guilt because I was so tired that I snuck off back to my tent at about midnight!! Then the haul back to Southampton on the Monday lunchtime, and then conference Tuesday through Thursday.

Then comes the fun part. Caught the train up to Gatwick on Friday morning, and met up with my friend Steph. We did our undergraduate and masters degrees together, but we haven’t managed to meet up with each other since we graduated over two years ago. Every time she comes to Southampton I seem to be in a different country! Royal Air Maroc flight, all was fine apart from some pretty alarming rattles on take-off, and some HORRIFIC turbulence about 15 minutes before landing. Not a fan. Taxi from the airport into the centre of Marrakech, and then the joy of trying to find our hostel in unmarked streets. Took an afternoon walk around Djeema el-Fna and the souks, and just tried to take in some of the amazing amount of sounds and sights. We landed on the Friday that was Eid, to celebrate the end of Ramadan, so when we came back out for dinner later, the whole square was packed, total chaotic business everywhere! Met up with my other friend Steff and her friends, as they happened to be in Marrakech at the same time, and were just coming to the end of their holidays. It was actually quite useful because it meant that they’d already had a chance to do some shopping, and could tell us decent prices etc (I’m not a fan of the whole haggling for purchases malarkey, I’m always scared that I’m going to get ripped off).

Walked to the new city the next day with our massive backpacks, in the 38degree heat! We were trying to be respectful, as is suggested in all the guides, so we made sure that we had our shoulders and backs always covered, but there were a huge number of women tourists who obviously didn’t care about that..... Anyway, we finally found the hotel we were staying in to meet our hiking group, and best of all, the hotel had a swimming pool!!!!! Whooot! Instant afternoon by the pool :)

Set off the next day up into the Atlas mountains, with a group of 14 of us, from all over the world which was quite fun. Drove as far as Imlil, and then walked up to Aremd which was where we would be based for the next few days. Had some lunch, and then a few of us went for a gentle potter around before we did a couple of hours walking later in the afternoon to see the nearest village etc.

We stayed in Aremd for 4 nights, and did some fabulous days of walking. The group was a really good, friendly group, we played a lot of cards, insulted each other a lot, and generally had a fab time. Weather was fab, hot and dry during the day (such a nice change to Bermuda!) and then cooling down quite considerably at night which was lovely. We had 2 more nights at the hotel in Marrakech when we came back, and on one of the days we had a proper guide to take us around Marrakech and see some of the sights which was actually really useful. Went to a couple of cool places, some cool areas of the souks, and also to a traditional Berber pharmacy. I bought daddy some Moroccan spices :) yum yum.

Basically spent the next two days walking around Marrakech, shopping, playing cards, trying to talk French (and mostly succeeding!), and then had one last night in a hostel (with a pool!!!) before our flight home. Found a maggot in a date that I was eating and nearly threw up on Steph. Eurgh. Same horrible turbulence about 15 minutes out of the airport, but apart from us leaving an hour and a half late, not too bad. Had to drive back to Southampton from Gatwick as the boy had come to collect me, but actually probably shouldn’t have been driving, considering he’d dislocated his shoulder earlier on in the week........ eventually got back to Southampton at about midnight, unpacked my bags, repacked my bags, sorted my laundry, and set my alarm for 5.30am the following morning so that I could catch my 6am National Express coach to Heathrow, to fly to Hawaii.........

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