February 14: Between Asni and Ourigane (Outside Douar Marigha)

Today's ride takes the group along the Nfis River from its lake basin in the valley up into the deep gorges formed years ago as the river water twisted and turned down from the High Atlas Mountain range that encircles the Oorigane Valley. Each turn of the road produces a different vista as the road climbs to the sky. Vegetation changes with altitude and which side of the mountain the road happens to be traversing. Arid, wind swept hillsides give way to trees, cactus and bushes as the route crosses over the pass and heads to another valley below. After a few kilometers it snakes its way once again up into the higher altitude offering another beautiful vista of the mountain range. The road is a narrow two lane with occasional potholes, so beside the sharp bends in the road, one must be alert to the road surface itself. Traffic is very minimal, so the possibility of two vehicles passing in opposite directions in the same spot is almost non-existent. The biggest challenge is to remember that the air thins as one goes higher, so that heavy panting in a direct result of the lack of oxygen and not a lack of physical fitness!!

The mountains are also the home of many Berber villages tucked neatly into the sides of the river banks and along the roadway. Each community is a separate tribe -- many of which survive by producing a common product that is then sold to venders in Marrakech for an income. Pottery is a prime example of such a product. The generations of inhabitants each have their role in the production of ceramic pieces, from bowls to tagines. The children -- mostly young boys, when not in school function as "gophers" and apprentices for their fathers or grandfathers. The men throw the pots on spinning wheels exactly as taught by their elders. The newly thrown pot is dried in the sun and then placed in the kiln carved into the hillside. Shrub brush is the initial heat source which ignites the wood surrounding the pottery. The finished product is then stored until market day in the city.

A special treat is lunch at a Berber family run restaurant. Once again the tagine appear with the steam rising out of the dish that smells of cumin and coriander. Each meal is accompanied with the traditional mint tea -- this one with a hint of rosemary in it. The fragrance of the meals is almost a meal in itself. Before the tongue touches the meal the nose has already absorbed the essence of the dish.

The final treat of the day after such a long ride is a visit to an ancient mosque. Tin Mal Mosque is one of only a few that non-Muslims are allowed to enter in Morocco and dates from approximately 1153. While in a state of restoration it does show the beauty that once covered the interior walls. The Christian symbol of the shell, the star of David along with the Muslim symbols while gracing the walls illustrate the tolerance that the people of Morocco had and have for all religions. No one is absolute.

Nfis River Basin

Home on the Lake

Up We Go!

Higher and Higher

Nfis River

Atlas Mountains

Water Break Part Way Up (Lauren, Marilyn, Maryann, Kit, Elaine)

The Faithful Steed!

Elaine and Kit

Jackie

The Backup Steed!

Goat Herder and His Goats

Starting to Get a Little Greener

And the Road Goes On and On and UP!

More Green and More Road!

Almost There

Berber Village For Lunch!

Saaid: "Mint Tea?"

Lunch Time

The Boys

Pottery Family Home From Across the River

"Over the Bridge and Through the Woods To Pottery We Go"

Kit Entering the Village

Kiln

Pottery (Tagine Pots) Drying in the Sun

Pots Being Thrown

Henna Hands!

Beginning of the Kiln Process

Village Mother and Child

Happy, Silly Little Boys!

Tin Mal Mosque

The Group Inside

Lesson in the History

Young Visiting Family