Wednesday 22 November

High Atlas Walk

Rugged Hilltops


Hassan’s Shop

I spend most of the night trying to stay on a mattress that is thicker one side than the other. It is less cold than I expected despite there being no heating in the gîte. The morning is bright and clear. From the roof I can see out over a patchwork of ploughed fields interspersed with poplar trees, with the dry stony hills behind and in the far distance a few patches of snow on the mountaintops.

In this very conservative Muslim area, we are advised to wear long trousers and sleeves to walk through the village until we get a suitable distance away and are able to more-fully appreciate the sunshine. On the hills above the village little grows — what trees there are are gnarled and stunted. Our plan is to rendez-vous with lunch, which is being brought up by mule by a couple of the staff from the gîte. The spot is marked by a wind-eroded rock at the end of an outcrop.

We are early, so there is plenty of time to sit in the sun. The wind is chilly though. Lunch turns out to be a rather impressive affair. Salad (washed in the stream — will we all be ill tomorrow?), cooked rice and sardines, etc. Tangerines of course. There is more dusty walking back through the village later. Children are waving and giggling at us — slightly disconcertingly I feel.

It is time to get some more postcards done when we arrive back at the gîte, and then a hot shower. After dinner we play a few rounds of knockout whist, and then casino blackjack. I quickly lose all my chips, and then just as quickly all of Clare’s. As Dennis points out, this is of course why they have casinos.