Gorges of the Todra

From my journal for November 5th and 6th, 1997:

Tinerhir about 4:30 is bustling but not inviting.  (Two Michelin stars for its huge palmeraie, largely invisible.)  So we go on thru a pass to the Gorges of the Todra.  Pay 5 Dhs fee to enter the park to an official with whistle and ID and receipt.  Also at the entrance was a tout with English explanation and an invitation to his shop.

At the end of the driveable road is Hotel Jasmina.  Since they have 16 rooms reserved for a group at 6:30 (and the lights are off till then) they can give us our choice of an almost-windowless cell at 110 Dhs (about $12 US) or a room on the roof with communal shower & toilet and men working with cement for 70.  Gloria cleverly gets us a room with two windows and a private shower and toilet.  Heaven - except for the smell of shit.  I dump a bucket of water near the drain from the room above and we keep the bathroom door shut.  It's bearable.

The 16 room group turns out to be 8 French couples with about 15 children and one dog.  The kids are noisy at dinner - and fun to watch at the next table, where all 7 girls, ages 5 to 12, sit. Dad fusses and later spanks the 5-year-old for leaving the table with the older girls.  Later, he rubs her back a bit.  Still later maman comes for a hug.

Lots of squash soup - satisfying.  I had Tagine of Viande, which was better than average, with potato, carrot, string beans, peas, and a good sauce.  Gloria had 3 or 4 skewers of kebab with the same vegetables.  I had a second serving of vegetables.  Oranges and figs for desert. 90 Dh each plus 7 for water.  If we had known to ask the owner, he would have found us some wine.

Talk to the Italian couple we saw earlier in the Dades.  They're about our age, live in Venice, born in Rome, have been to Argentina, Brazil, US (including Bryce and Grand Canyons, Las Vegas, NYC), Turkey, Israel, Yemen.  Most impressive was their trip from Pakistan thru the Karakorum pass to China and up to the Gobi Desert.

A restless night in our tiny room with bolstered bed.  With the windows open, dogs are barking.  Wind comes up and rattles the window, so I lock it and miss the rain.  In the morning, the generator is off, so I shower with warm water in the near-dark.

We're the last in to breakfast in the dining room lit by a single LPgas-fed mantle light.  Leftover bread, jelly, coffee - 16 Dhs each.  Cheap and exactly what I expected.

Walk an hour up the gorge.  It's cool, silent, empty.  Very few touts - it's too early.
Women work their tiny irrigated plots with murelles (little foot-high mud walls like a kid would build) between.  Not as impressive or scary as the pise murs (big square mud walls) in the south.  Because of the rain overnight, the Todra is running hard enough to have real rapids and waterfalls, but it's only a little creek - not much volume.  A few local busses go up and down the pise (a French word that applies to bicycle tracks and also to this roughly graded dirt road.)  In some places it's easier to walk on the un-machined path.

Gloria, in Chanel: Todra gorgeGloria in the Todra gorge.  She always wears Chanel to walk in the country.

 Pack and leave the Jasmina with the first two tour busses already there before noon.  (The Jasmina gets most of its revenue from the many tour busses that include lunch in the tour.  The whole park area comes to life for the tours.  As in many places, it's best to be there before or after the tours.)  We watch a rock climber in red tights climb the vertical face with his bare hands.  He sets a piton and rope every 20 feet or so, with a girl below holding the rope.  Doesn't look like she could hold his weight if he fell - and the rope isn't wrapped around her body for friction.  Another climber follows him, using the same rope.  Red tights is 2/3 of the way up when we leave.

The narrow part of the gorge with overhangs at the Jasmina is the best part.  Gloria likes the overhang, I like the narrowness just beyond the hotel's generator.


ToutEarly in the morning we walked into the beautiful Todra gorge.  After an enjoyable hour of solitude this fellow just happened to appear, in a bright pink djellaba.  He walked with us for 10 minutes without saying anything before he made us some proposition or other.  We didn't take it.

Jasmina swabs the floors and turns on the electricity for the lunchers, which are their main business.  About 8 busses x 30 = 340 lunches @ 70 Dhs (discounted price?) = 16,800 Dhs, for the two hotels, Jasmina and Hotel des Roches next door.  Overnight people spent about 6800 for Jasmina only.

About 5 km down the road on the way out, there's an accident.  A Grand Taxi and another car didn't leave each other room on the narrow road.  Windshield of the GT smashed, but apparently just because it popped out - nobody seems bloody.  This blocks the road for more than a half hour, waiting for the police, who never come (after all it's a holiday.)  Eventually a dozen or more men move one car aside.  This starts the jockeying to be the first thru.  Traffic is directed by mountain-motorcyclists in gaudy leather, but not before I yell obscenities at a car who wants to be first thru the bottleneck and thoroughly corks it.  My yelling (in English) breaks up the Frenchman in the car in front - which breaks up Gloria.

The road soon leaves the palmeraie along the creek and winds thru cliffs and hills to Tinerhir, where we go up to the top for canned orange juice and omlette/salad at the high-end but seedy Hotel Sarho.  Absolutely super panorama of at least 270 degrees.  Took 6 photos to get it all.  Red mountains/ green palmeraie / distant Moyen Atlas / more.  Nobody else there except a group of Moroccan men at a cocktail table in the corner inside, drinking beer (not coffee!) on this holiday.  Both the waiter and the man in charge suggest we stay there instead of Ouazarzate.  Another demerit for the hotel: because the urinals are mounted so high I have to stand on tiptoe to pee.

Butenet bottom bar
This page last updated Jan 5, 2004.

home | john | max