The long, hot, dusty drive from our friendly oasis in Merzouga wears on us. The vast desert scenery reminds us of Arizona, only much larger. The eternal stretch of road finally starts to show some form of life, in the form of scrub growing on rolling hills. We tire from slow driving through smoky, smelly, small towns where again, nothing but hoards of men walk the streets, with no regard for traffic. What do they do? Where are the women? We already know that the men have little option for employment, and that the women stay home, but witnessing this lifestyle still amazes us.

Todra Gorge

Eventually, we start to climb in altitude and see the likeness of Grand Canyon scenery, though not nearly so dramatic. This breath of rejuvenation brings us into the Todra Gorge, where a fault divides the high Atlas Mountains from the Jebel Sarhro. We stop and walk partway through the gorge, but…we have been here before. The red rock jutting from a small stream below reminds us of the southwest in the States, which we’ve hiked in many places. Not to diminish the splendor, but our guide book tends to see flowers where there is nothing but solid rock. I am convinced that some guidebook writers get most of their information from telephone and internet, while lounging in a recliner at home.

Dade’s Gorge

Onward through Dade’s valley to the Dade’s gorge, the towns become more impressive. Boxed dwellings painted pink, clash against white rock in the background. Okay, sorry tourist guidebook industry, but we’re in Utah and Arizona once again. We appreciate this scenery, and discover a renewed appreciation of our hometown as well. Perhaps we are growing travel weary. No, check that…we are indeed exhausted. It happens when you travel. Just once, I would love to read a truthful line in a guidebook that says, “This town stinks,” or “don’t bother going here because…”

We roll through more end-of-the-world type of scenery to a Kasbah, in the town of Skoura. Off the road, through gravel and rutted dirt, (wishing we had four-wheel-drive) we’re lost in some narrow, dirt alley with typical mysterious smaller passages, where men stand in the shadows. Eventually, we find our guidebook-targeted Kasbah. I mean we are in Morocco. We must stay in a Kasbah…right? The old, tiny castle is all but deserted. The room reeks of musty rags, and despite being tired, we must pass on it. We do not rock the Kasbah. The proprietor, a very nice young man, drops the price considerably, but even we cannot stay here. Not even for free. Off we go…in search of a non-dreary room, maybe a beer, and possibly some food.

Wella! We find the off-road guesthouse of “Chez Talout,” where the view shows off a massive valley full of palm trees.

The view from Chez Talout

The towns in this area are built in an oasis, resembling Palm Springs, minus the golf courses. Abdul, the proprietor, drops his price considerably, as we explain that Abu, from Mezouaga, recommends his place to us. We get a fair deal, $100(US) that includes dinner and breakfast. But, we must drive back into town to the one and only grocery store, if we want to purchase beer. We must want beer pretty badly, because we make the drive across sharp rocks, all the while hoping to not get a flat tire. As soon as we walk into the small grocery store, the clerk says, “We have beer and whiskey.” We must look like we have escaped from rehab.

More Moroccan fare

That evening, we dine with the only other guests, Mark, and I am sorry but I forget his husband’s name, a nice couple from London. They get excited when they see our beer. So we share beers, the left over wine that Abu gave us the night before (Moonshine-tasting after a day in the heat) and travel stories over dinner. Our group dines on yet another Moroccan feast, but this time featuring chicken.

Tomorrow, “they’re taking me to Marrakesh…all aboard the train.” Go ahead, try and get that song out of your head!