I’ve traveled few routes more scenic than the one throughout the Ourika Valley; a picturesque piece of Earth split between meandering rivers and villages, set against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains painted into the sky―our eyes lost in the scene, and suddenly we’re thinking: How do we get out of this?
We’re sitting at the tip of North Africa, honestly trying to avoid hiking one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world. Looking back, we should have been deported at the thought. In our defense, our Bus2alps trip guides bounced back and forth between the phrases “it’s pretty intense” and “it’s not so bad.” (Hm. Ok well, is it pretty intense or not so bad? Like, yeah—hi, where might I find myself on the 0 to Death scale?) A nearly two hour hike, 1,300 meters up…we were Prima Donna non-hikers and fucking scared.
While we waited for our local guide, I briefly wandered. The village was endearing, with variegated, patterned rugs plastered against the walls and draped across multistory terraces. Like in the city souks, pretty, cheap silver jewelry spewed across almost every surface, while beaded necklaces draped from the hands of men and women who’d follow you, just trying to make a living.
And so we went. Whether we finally reached the realization that we’d regret not going for the rest of our lives, or simply were too embarrassed to openly admit this was actually a dreaded activity, we began following the long-limbed, light-footed native guide on the tour. Besides, how intense could it be?
Well, it was pretty fucking intense. The journey started off gradually (though still obviously uphill), across rickety bridges and through beautiful riverside cafés, but before we knew it, we were climbing vertically, up waterfalls and through loose dirt and rocky paths that taunted our every step. I’d be performing a balancing act and questioning my survival, only to glance up and find our guide scurrying across jagged rocks and rivers like an animal; quick to take my hand and guide me and others individually to the other side. You could tell he’d done this a thousand times, but more than that, that he really loved it…and I realized I did, too.
We eventually came to a point of that met an uneasy rock formation connected by a narrow, slippery latter. I noticed a few people bail out, but I hadn’t come this far to stop–not only that, novice or not, I was eagerly flying through it. So, we kept going, higher and higher, and finally, we reached a panoramic view I’d like to live in.
We took a different route down, which was more or less a downward stride through a more desert-like terrain, and with our lives no longer on the line, we were allowed a different perspective of both the valley and mountains―truly captivating sights all the same.
Exhausted and starving, we arrived at a riverside cafe, with a single, long table fit for what must have been at least 40 of us, and chairs teasing the water’s edge. As we were serenaded by two men; one playing a rebab, a traditional stringed instrument, the other tapping a tangerine, countless servers raced back and forth with salads, rice, chicken and vegetable tajine and, finally, sliced oranges sprinkled with cinnamon; a seemingly infinite buffet I was happy to share with the cat at my feet.