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Toubkal is just the cherry on the cake!

It's 8:09am on our fourth trekking day in the High Atlas. Just over an hour earlier our Berber guide, Hassan, had reminded us of the day's goal: to re... Read more
Toubkal is just the cherry on the cake!

It's 8:09am on our fourth trekking day in the High Atlas. Just over an hour earlier our Berber guide, Hassan, had reminded us of the day's goal: to reach the Neltner Refuge, aka 'Toubkal base camp', from where we'd make our summit the day after. As the valley shadow receded, we all sensed it would be another day of gorgeous mountain panoramas, rewarding trails, energising Moroccan sunshine and clear azure skies. Everything we'd come to expect and more. So why remember this exact time?

Because I’d already completely forgotten that we were on our way to summit Mount Toubkal. Bizarrely, I'd been forgetting this basic fact all week - even though I'd spent the previous two months telling myself and anyone who'd listen, "I'm going to climb North Africa's highest peak!" It prompted a quick mental note: Morocco is far more fascinating than I’d ever expected, really Toubkal is just the cherry on the cake! Or is it the olive atop the Moroccan salad? Whichever it is, I’ve since been telling friends, “Just go – you’ll love it!”

I have never felt more looked after. Our guide Hassan was the first person we met at Marrakech airport and the last we saw on departure. His passion for sharing the best of Morocco simply knew no bounds. Knowledgeable and caring, he definitely made the trip – and I mention this knowing fully well that KE Travellers invariably highlight the local guides. In fact, as I write this, there are already two five-star-reviews from my group saying the same thing. So believe us, they are special people.

Brilliant support also came from our Berber chef and muleteers. We got to learn about the differences between the Toubkal and Bougmez regions they came from, how every family owned and lived off a mule, what typical households and days looked like. It all felt so exotically different. My personal highlight was getting to experience some traditional Berber songs, improvised with cooking pans and the like for instruments. I think the group will always be able to picture Hassan “playing” a tea tray!

Then there was the “Berber experience” more broadly. I felt immensely privileged and never safer than when passing through their secluded valleys and vibrant villages. I couldn’t imagine a friendlier reception, especially as we were often the only trekkers they’d see that day. No one in the group tired of Berber children gleefully wishing you a ‘bonjour!’ Or the mint teas! Excellent accompaniment for our trail mix and chats with Hassan about the local traditions and histories.

Summiting Mount Toubkal was still, of course, an incredible highlight and real accomplishment, offering the perfect pinnacle to a week's worth of amazing walking. Our group encouraged each other every step of the way, eager for that eye-catching photo by the iconic triangle we’d had in our sights so long. As we stood together at the top of North Africa – yes, 4167 metres high, the top of North Africa! – it was Berber smiles all round.

In many ways returning to Marrakech felt like visiting a different country. The energetic chatter and bustling colours of the souks proved bedazzling at first, there’s just so much to absorb. But quickly curiosity takes over and it becomes bewitching, like you’ve fallen down the rabbit hole to another land! If I could plan my visit again, I would definitely extend my time here. The souks, museums and palaces could easily fill several days. I’d also love to experience the serenity of a Riad – but which one I don’t know, as each seems to have its own personality and quirks. I'll no doubt take a colleague's recommendation, over 90% of KE staff having travelled in Morocco - and now I can see why.

It's been over a week and still I am amazed all this exotic “otherness” is less than four hours away. With so much to explore - mountains, cities, coasts and desert - I am already planning my return visit. Magical Morocco indeed.


>> Read more about Climbing Mount Toubkal


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