There I was, athwart – for there is no other word for it – a sharp and rocky ridge, peering down at 2700 metres of sheer drop to either side. My quads were trembling, not with trepidation but with the sheer effort of keeping me perched in the middle of my jaggy stone. My bottom inched towards the safety of the rock.
“Alice, Alice look out. Don’t sit down. If you do, you will rip your trousers and they are good trousers,” said my guide, Omar. All very well for him I thought grimly, but I was facing a life and death situation. My quads didn’t feel like they were in it for much longer and my bottom is one of my great downhill hiking assets, but balanced against that I do love my Rohans. They’d been with me along the salt routes to Timbuktu and I am very attached. How had I got myself in this position.
It had all been going so well. Omar and I had set off at 8 am from Imlil to tackle the peak of Tawjda which involves around 18km of distance and 1000m of up. It was baking hot in the sun but the first part of the walk took us under the walnut trees below Ait Soukha and then up through the conifers behind Douar Samra. We resolutely refused all offers of tea as we walked through the hamlets but paused for the obligatory coke when we reached the Tamatert pass and the little shack owned by another Omar resplendent in a straw tifter.
Omar guide followed up his coke with a couple of sweet teas just to keep that sugar level nice and high, and then we left the shade for the heat of the midday sun and a fierce climb. The first part was zig zagging up along a tiny goat path with the pervasive scent of ifski all around us. Ifski is a small yellow flower that the goats eat and which smells like a cross between jasmin and thyme, sweet and sharp simultaneously. The path was still accessible to mules, which was obvious from the amount of poo deposited in the middle. This attracted swarms of small, vicious midge-like flies which decided that I was an even more delicious option than mule poo and surrounded me in a black cloud. Dozens of them drowned on my suncream-lathered arms but they kept on biting until I remembered I had a light jacket with me. I decided being too hot was better than being fly dinner.
Within half an hour the track had petered out and the fun bit started – a proper ridge scramble. I hauled myself up using my arms both to pull me and to balance and thanked goodness that I don’t suffer from vertigo. We passed the very last tree, covered in delicate flowers and carried on for an hour till we hit the summit.
Reaching a summit is a feeling that doesn’t get old. Omar and I high fived and then sat down to eat our picnic. Fresh bread and Laughing Cow cheese. Delicious! A group of curious goats wandered over to see if there was anything there for them but hunger prevailed and only crumbs were left.
Too soon, it was time to go back down. I always look forward to the down because it’s easier on your heart and lungs but of course, technically, it is much more difficult and it is when 90% of all accidents happens, which brings me back to my sharp ridge.
I thought of my long relationship with my Rohans; the times we had had together, the places we had seen. Then I thought about my body tumbling and crashing onto the rocks beneath. To Omar’s horror, my bottom went down on the rock and yes, I felt the jagged edges cutting through. Oh, woe!
But, on the bright side at least I was wearing knickers.
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