I certainly did not expect such a beautiful country to visit or such unusual experiences, but today has broken all expectations. I write this after a day in Todra Gorge, a sight of natural and cultural beauty, in the heart of Morocco. Our hotel is outside of the nearest town and I am looking at layered red rock walls on in front and the behind me. The hotel is about 2 kilometers before the narrow gorge, which looks like the Grand Canyon closed in to a narrow space that only allows a road and rock climbers through.
It was a free day for our group and a welcome one. We’d been on the go across Morocco for the past week and welcomed the two nights in this peaceful setting and hotel-with-a-view-and-pool. Today, Dan and Carolyn, an adventurous retired couple, had chosen to climb switchback trails to the top of the gorge on their own; Judy and Jim, the fun Aussie couple, were sleeping in and sitting pool side, and Elizabeth and I were going to walk through the Palmerie towards the gorge on a much more horizontal and shaded hike and then visit a hammam, a local bath, in the afternoon.
Azziz was an experienced climber and guide and temporary manager of our hotel, guided us through the luch Palm gardens, orchards and vegetable plots that followed the river at the bottom of the gorge. Mo was with us as well – he chose to hang out with us much to our pleasure instead of relaxing on his day off. This made for a fun group.
Azziz knew about all the flora and fauna and shared stories of his Hollywood – he had played rock climbing host and trainer to Tom Cruise for his role in Mission Impossible 2, Brad Pitt for his own personal enjoyment, and the film crew of the movie Prince of Persia. The “goss” (British for gossip) was that Tom Cruise was not a strong rock climber and his director had to do movie magic to make his rock climbing look real. Brad Pitt was a strong, tall man and good rock climber (of course he is, he’s perfect). Also, Azziz had assisted on the show Man vs. Wild for the Sahara edition. The show is fake, Bear Grylls is not alone (there was a crew of 30 in the desert) and the “survival” angle is all “bullshit” per Azziz.
Before the gorge, we also walked through a ruin of a 600 year old casbah that only housed goats and served as a walkway for the nomads and villagers who lived nearby. The nomads resided in caves high in the hills, the villagers in more modern houses along the river with fantastic gorge scenery. At the base of the high red rock bluffs, Mo treated the group to coffee. It was a beautiful morning.