The Tafraoute rocks in Morocco

The Tafraoute rocks in Morocco

The Tafraoute rocks in Morocco

The Tafraoute rocks in Morocco: I’d already been driving for hours, and I was tired. I know because I was starting to say things that didn’t make sense, and I was laughing at everything, or rather at nothing. That laughter that takes you over like an intoxication. When you’re in the extremes between gaiety and sadness. That’s where I was. Certainly, we were alternating at the wheel… yet my limbs were stiffening and my brain was beginning to slow down.

From the High Atlas to Taroudant:

From the High Atlas Mountains, we descended to Taroudant. This town was a bit of an obligatory break to eat, restock and cool down the engine. Not particularly exceptional, we’d already passed through it on other occasions, and we had to drive many kilometers to reach our next stop. Not wasting time was essential. What’s more, riding at night in Morocco was not part of our ideals… the dark of night, a goat, a Moroccan, a cart, accidents happen all too quickly around here.

Road trip to Morocco in summer:

We had to keep going, and in the intense heat of August. When I say intense, I don’t mean to romanticize the moment. It was around 50 degrees. I’d never experienced anything like it before. A heavy heat as if someone were pressing down on your head to crush you. We’d been riding for a while through endless stone deserts, flooded with sun and seemingly devoid of life. Occasionally, a bump in this flatness, a few dry cliffs, it climbed, zigzagged and on the other side, the same immense expanse offered itself to us. The further south we went, the more solid the air seemed, saturated with dust, barely breathable. The surrounding hills could now be seen through a beige filter. I had the impression that the landscape had been blurred, softer, like in a dream whose colors and contours you don’t really remember…

Tafraoute, this little Berber town nestled in a cirque of pink granite rocks in the Anti-Atlas, arid mountains dotted with timeless villages. It was the next stop on our Morocco Road Trip.

Tafraoute, desert and gorges:

The Tafraoute rocks in Morocco: We knew we were approaching a town when we saw the blue stains in the trees and on the ground. Oh, look! What are they?

Plastic bags. It was plastic bags! Everywhere, the cyan or sometimes khaki green bags that every good Moroccan uses for shopping. The landscape was littered with them. It was sad and a little disconcerting. The guesthouse was located in the village of Tandilt, 5 kilometers from Tafraoute. We left the only tarmac road for a track dotted with a few dwellings.

The Tafraoute of Morocco:

The dust, growing into a voluminous cloud behind the car, managed to creep into our atmosphere, even with the windows closed. We were already unable to breathe normally, so a little more a little less… On the side of the road, something had moved. Stop right there. Two little dying dogs. They were in the dirt, dirty and lousy. Glassy-eyed, maybe only a month or two old. No longer able to bark, one of them barely shivered. Don’t touch them, they look sick. An empty bun packet was used to make a makeshift bowl. We put water in it. We had nothing else. Crap. The strongest one can survive, he’s a fighter, he can drink on his own.

Heartbroken, we got back in the car and slowly drove on. The spirit was gone. This approach had broken the mood. The area even seemed a little squalid, abandoned. And yet, the mountains of sandstone and pink granite surrounded us warmly. We were over 1,000 m high without really realizing it. The peaks of Jebel Lekst and Adrar Mquorn watched over us. The rocks here had names and, who knows, perhaps eyes to cry into. We could make out the Tête du Lion just above the settlements.

Jacques and Yamina from Tafraoute

The arrival at Yamina’s guest house finished off our hustle and bustle. This time in the other direction. A traditional villa with glowing lime walls, surrounded by cactus and flowering trees. A house straight out of a magazine, a Hispanic touch in this desert. The entrance hall had a dirt floor and a dark passageway with exposed stone walls. We would later learn that this was a traditional Berber house. A charming little lady received us without too many words, a rather shy Moroccan who made us understand that to get to our room we’d have to use this corridor from another era. That was enough to make me smile. The mysterious access narrowed to a narrow staircase leading to a small landing. I already loved this place.

We were totally exhausted and the discovery of the bed was a blessing. A small square window, enclosed by a wrought-iron grille, opened onto a large terrace furnished with benches, cushions and hangings. A sort of Harem open to the world. We hurried to sample all this to regain our strength.

Guest house in Tafraoute:

Staying at a guesthouse also means making a minimal gesture of presence towards your hosts. And so it was that, from meal to coffee, we discovered the owner of the place, a character from a novel in his own right. He was a rather elderly man, but robust and authoritative. He had travelled the seas and oceans, from Panama to Morocco, and took us along in his tales of entrepreneur and ambitious adventurer. We enjoyed drinking beers with him as we listened to his life story. Encounters that sometimes slap you in the face and make you question principles you thought you held dear.

The Aït Mansour Gorges towards Tafraoute:

Sated and rested, it was time to get back to nature. And here, it was even more vast than elsewhere! In the mornings, when the air was cooler, the sun competed with the blue sky in a battle of colorful contrasts. It was in all these colors that we discovered the Gorges d’Aït Mansour.

The Gorges d’Aït Mansour in summer:

The Tafraoute rocks in Morocco: While these gorges are normally very popular with Tafraoute’s inhabitants and tourists alike, we came across them in a different light – perfectly dehumanized! No, I don’t know the King of Morocco personally, and I don’t have the millions to invoke the privatization of a public space. However, I am crazy enough to Morocco Tours during Ramadan in the middle of summer with temperatures averaging 45 degrees.

And that’s discouraging for most people. For us, it’s a real treat. Admittedly, when my feet touched the ground, I thought my flip-flops were going to melt. Of course, we have to limit our movements and never consider going off-trail. At the same time, we wouldn’t have had time for a trek, and the gorges are already splendid as they are.

Eating in the Gorges d’Aït Mansour:

After kilometers of immense, dry, stony landscapes, crossed by rugged mountains, this narrow, orange canyon seemed an apparition, a mirage. The road twisted between the ochre cliffs, penetrating an oasis of lush vegetation. A haven of peace where palm trees, fig trees, olive trees and almond trees mingled. A trickle of water persisted bravely, and frogs tried to survive.

Let’s stop here, I’m hungry and there’s nothing else to eat! It was true that this cliff-side stall didn’t appeal to us all that much. A Moroccan man in the shadows was sleeping on a mat, and we wondered if he’d seen anyone but us that day… Can we eat here? As he answered Yes, no problem, what do you want to eat? we heard: I’ve got nothing in stock, it’s Ramadan, what am I going to do to them… What you’ve got friend, make us something good.

We waited with our stomachs in crisis under the palm trees, stretched out on wooden benches, the tables covered with tablecloths cut from lino advertising posters. We had the Pepsi table. The little cat, too, was surprised to have company. He was doing relatively well for a Moroccan cat. There was good living to be had in a supernatural oasis with a cook for a master.

Ideal route to Tafraoute:

When the dishes arrived, we greeted them with round, greedy eyes! We each had a small, dented cast-iron frying pan with a kind of pea and laughing cow omelette. With the addition of spices, it was a pure marvel. The day continued in this vein, naturally, opening our eyes wider at every turn, every landscape. We couldn’t get enough of it.

It was a world of rocks, scattered across totally deserted areas. American Western landscapes. Sometimes grand and imposing, sometimes bare and desolate.

The painted rocks of the Tafraoute desert:

The Tafraoute rocks in Morocco: As we approached Tafraoute, we could admire the painted rocks of artist Jean Vérame. The work dates back to 1985, when nature took over, gradually washing away the colors the artist had painstakingly applied to these blocks of pink granite. Red and blue turned to pastel, and we fell into the colors of layettes. These gigantic papier-mâché boulders with their surreal colors were original and unsettling.

A sort of Land Art perhaps… It was even attractive. We left the car, braving the heat, bottle in hand so as not to succumb on the spot. We had to spray ourselves with water every 5 minutes to endure those heavy minutes outside the cockpit. On Mars, that must have been it. My mind wandered through the yellowish haze that surrounded us, plunging the landscape into an Italian Renaissance sfumato. I was on Mars, between two arts… quickly, quickly I had to get back into the air-conditioned vehicle, and my mind too!

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