We played cards huddled around the fire laughing and talking until quite late. The lads did their best to speak in English and I tried and failed miserably with my less than adequate French. As the night wore on I had completely wrapped myself up like a human spring-roll in a thick woolly blanket, with just my head poking out of the top. At around 11pm I climbed into bed where The Actress had passed out, fighting off a horrid cold.
When we awoke at 8.30pm the lads had stoked up another fire and breakfast was on the go. Hot coffee, boiled eggs, cheese and honey were laid out. We waited for the sun to burn through before loading up the mule (Katerina) ready to set off from Tachdart. Abdul and Katerina were going to take the bags back the same route we came. Apparently the route we were headed for was too difficult for an animal; which made me think if a four-legged strong animal used to this environment will struggle, how on earth will a two-legged inexperienced Londoner cope?!
Had I know what I would have been faced with I think my legs might have buckled. The four and half hour trek was along switchbacks across Tizi Agresswal (very steep cliff faces) with loose gravel, rock and a sheer drop beneath us. I skidded a few times and poor old Omar kept swivelling his head to check he still had two of us. He was brilliant and did a great job of helping me stay steady holding my hand in some tricky parts. In some areas there was snow and at one point we had to jump across a fast-flowing ice-cold river.
Omar made the leap onto a large rock first.
“Do you think you can jump over here?” he said smiling and beckoning with his hand.
It brought back memories of Sri Lanka where I had slipped on a rock after my boots got wet. I went in arse first and got soaking wet. The difference this time is that the air temperature is super cold and the thought of developing pneumonia did not fill me with joy.
“Ermmm I’ll give it a shot,” I shouted back nervously.
He bounced back over. “Don’t worry I will catch you. Just jump, ok?” he said reassuringly.
I waited until he was in position with his hand outstretched and then I leapt. He caught my hand and pulled. Hurrah, made it, uninjured and dry. Both of us safely across the ascent became steep before plateauing out.
In hindsight it was a bit more than a moderate trek I’d say difficult. Whenever we hit a flat bit or some road, I breathed a sigh of relief. My knees had started to ache a wee bit. I’m not as young as I used to be. Whose idea was it to start getting into hiking at nearly 40?! But both of us are game to try things and that’s half the battle, right? I just need a bloody good dose of confidence and I’ll fly down the mountain next time.
We passed through three villages (Ouanskra, Tamguist) and one (Ikiss) hosting a big festival/ Children from neighbouring villages regularly make this journey back and forth without any trouble. They are built like mountain goats!! You should see their footwear!!
As we reached Imlil Abdul had prepared a feast for us – hot beans cooked in a tomato sauce and a sardine salad with boiled pasta. We ate heartily, draining our glasses of mint tea. What a wonderful way to spend the day – thoroughly challenged yet so very rewarding.
Snow behind me, sand lies ahead, desert here I come.