From the desert campsite near Merzouga we had to backtrack a bit to Erfoud and then took a long way around through the desert and up into the high Atlas mountains again and through the “Gorge du Todra” to the village of Todra. Around every bend there was a more impressive sight than the last and the mountain formations were amazing. We did have to cross the river several times but it was luckily not too deep. The children would come running when they saw the van and we handed out handfuls of sweets for the little ones. Most didn’t want their photo taken but some were happy for me to take a picture. When we waved at everyone we passed they also waved back and some shouted “Bonjour”.

The main mode of taxi transport seemed to be ancient Mercedes Benz usually carrying seven or eight people and we saw many Renault Dacias and ancient Bedford trucks. The drivers were all very relaxed and courteous (which for some reason we didn’t expect) and the most of the trucks would move over to
let you pass. You only got a beep if you were too slow at the traffic lights. The road signs were very good and all printed in French not Arabic.

The drive from the Sahara to “Camping Atlas” in Todra was another spectacular one travelling through the very high Atlas and through the “Gorges du Todra”. Camping Atlas’s hotel had fallen down after 40 years and they were in the process of rebuilding it and upgrading all their facilities. A pity
we were not there later as it all looked very well constructed and there was going to be a big Berber tent and swimming pool added later. We had another evening storm but without the sand thank goodness. There was little traffic and again we were the only campers in the place which was beautifully located right on the river with high mountains either side and an ancient Kasbah on the opposite steep hill.
It was a lovely small campsite with palm trees, roses and grapevines and we could look up and see the mountains all around us.

We had a huge day’s work cleaning the van inside and out and washing clothes. We couldn’t believe how much sand and dust had got into us and the van. It was also an excuse to give it a really good spring clean and organise things again. It was dry and hot during the day so the clothes dried in a minute but by five o’clock the clouds came up and another summer storm was underway with a lot of thunder and lightning but not much rain. The guy running the hotel took us down the road to another hotel for dinner of vegetable tagine and moroccan salad (tomatoes,onion and capsicum very finely chopped). The hotel owner took us back to the campsite and we collapsed into bed.

We were going to go to the “Kasbah Ancienne” across the river but with the recent rain the river was flowing and we couldn’t get across so we opted for a walk across the fields instead and over the bridge and down and up concrete steps to the other side of Todra which overlooked the abandoned houses of the Kasbah. A little old lady beckoned us to see the village further up and we ran into her son who had been doing some shopping for her (she was 90). He was chatty and wished us “bonnes vacances”.
We walked further up and past an open gate to a large house where a family was sitting outside on their Berber rug. The man we saw jumped up and invited us in. They gave Maurice a chair and brought us very sweet mint tea. Hamu told us that he had only been married three days and introduced his wife who still had her heavily henna decorated hands and feet. He proceeded to show us the whole house – all two storeys of bedrooms and lounges with heavily embroidered red and gold cushions. The terrace was large and overlooked the village and surrounding mountains. He worked in the local flour mill and
was very proud of his parent’s house. There were ten family members living there.
He insisted we stay for some couscous which his wife brought out for Hamu, his nephew and us. We did say we had no long eaten breakfast and were vegetarian so didn’t have to eat the pieces of horse tongue mixed through the couscous which was a mixture of corn and wheat. We just had a taste of the couscous.
Hamu’s father who we had by chance met walking his donkey down the valley came home and was a fit 75 year old man who walked down to the valley each day with the donkey for fodder for their animals, the donkey,one cow and several sheep that they kept. Later his mother arrived with the day’s mint and another vegetable. The other women of the house were busy hosing and cleaning the courtyard when we arrived. Hamu told us that the wedding was over three days with any guests and
much food and music and they all looked pretty exhausted.

We made a note of where the house was located before making our way back across the river to the campsite. We wanted to go back the next day before we left Todra and give them something. They were so hospitable and friendly. We found the house the next day and saw Hamu’s wife who was lovely but only spoke a couple of words of French so we gave her our gifts and moved on towards Ourzazate.

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