- Posted March 2, 2012 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Wild Weather in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco
On the previous day, Heather and I had summited Jebel Toubkal, the highest mountain in Morocco, under mainly sunny skies. However, the next morning's weather presented a very different picture. We opened the door of the alpine refuge and suddenly found ourselves in a blizzard. The snowfall soon became the least of our worries as we began to hear thunder that progressively increased in frequency and volume. Walking in this violent storm, I felt like I was inside some sort of auditory pinball machine as the sound of thunderclaps ricocheted throughout the mountains. We were at about 3000 metres of elevation and trying to descend as quickly as possible. There was a terrible feeling of exposure. I was performing a mental checklist of any metallic objects on my person that might possibly increase the risk of being struck by lightning.
After about 30 tension filled minutes, the thunder subsided and the snow turned to rain. A further hour of hiking brought us into warm brilliant sunshine. We stopped for lunch on a high ridge overlooking Sidi Chamharouch, an ancient place of pilgrimage. The very sick are often carried by donkey to this site in search of a cure.
We noticed that a small group of people had assembled in an open area behind the shrine. An august male figure gestured forcefully at a woman in the centre of the group while an assistant slit the throat of a white chicken. We sat dumbstruck and watched as the bird went through its death throes.
We subsequently resumed our journey and the weather changed again. The skies darkened and it began to hail as we approached Imlil, the endpoint of our trek in the High Atlas Mountains. Upon reaching Imlil, the cook in our party of four tied our pair of pack mules to a hitching post outside of a lodging. We then removed our muddy hiking boots at the door and went inside for a cup of hot delicious tea. This pause was savoured until it was time to move on.
A heavy downpour started as we got into a van for the final stage of our journey to Marrakesh. The previously bone dry riverbed beside the road was now inundated by a raging torrent of reddish-brown water. Our passage was hindered by landslides that partially blocked the road in several places.
The weather conditions slowly improved as we made our way out of the mountains. A brilliant rainbow could be seen off in the distance. Both of us smiled as we drove past the old ramparts and entered the medina of Marrakesh. It was great to be back in the relative comfort of this interesting city.