Sunday, August 2, 2015

Africa-Europe 2015 Day 34. Hiking in the High Atlas

The morning was glorious, at least as seen from the depths of the Todra Gorge. Last night we were given the choice between (a) lazing around the pool until lunch time, (b) same as (a) but going for a gentle walk along the river to our lunch place, or (c) going for a 4-hour hike to the top of a nearby mountain. I chose the latter, and by 7 am a group of seven of us got ready to go walking. It was a tough climb, and visions of lounging by the pool kept going through my mind as I huffed and puffed up the trail. A month of doing a lot of sitting has definitely eroded my stamina!

Ah, but the views were fabulous, just like hiking one of the tributaries of Zion or the Grand Canyon. It was early enough that we got a lot of the morning cool, and by 10:30 we made it to the top (and not a moment too soon, if you ask me). The view was absolutely worth the effort, and I spent a few minutes showing my fellow hikers a beautiful example of a reef, a thrust fault, and a series of folds. Really spectacular geology!

One of the highlights of this hike was a visit to an old nomad who lives atop of the mountain. He is 76 years old, speaks only Berber, and welcomes visitors to his high mountain abode. We were invited to his tent, formed of heavy wool blankets, and he immediately went out to gather mountain herbs to invite us a cup of tea. Not two minutes had passed when I felt the urgent need to sneeze, and my left nostril started flowing like crazy. I borrowed a tissue (which became a soggy mess in an instant), and had to excuse myself to go sneeze violently outside of the tent. After a few minutes in the fresh air the itch calmed itself a little, and I came to join the others for tea. As soon as I came into the tent the need to sneeze came back with a vengeance, and while the others chatted with the old man, using our guide as an interpreter, my nose gushed in between the sneezing. That was the start of a miserable half day. I suspect that something in the dust of the old wool blankets brought in a severe allergic reaction, but it could also been that the first sneeze caused a small lesion in the very dry inner left nostril, and that my body is simply trying to generate enough liquid to return it to its normal moist condition.

The way down was mild torture, partly because of the sneezing and partly because by then the heat of the day was being felt in earnest. Once we made it to the bottom of the gorge we platched in the river to cool down and went to our lunch meeting place. Horror of horrors, it was a closed stuffy room lined with wool carpets, so I started my violent sneezing once again. It was so bad that I decided to skip lunch and simply stood by an open window, gulping big batches of warm but clean air.

Once in the hotel I went into the pool, and then napped under the shade, feeling worse and worse. I did have dinner but went to bed early, hoping that a good night sleep would help the healing process. It did to a certain degree, but when I woke up in the morning I had to plug my left nostril with some tissue, so at least I am not gushing as I write this message. But then again I am writing in the veranda of the hotel, looking at the steep limestone cliffs, and a beautiful sight is always a good palliative for the soul. 

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