High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Written by Julia Tregaskis-Allen 09 August 2009

High Atlas Mountains, Morocco

Just back from leading an expedition with 20 Hertfordshire based students to Morocco, the High Atlas Mountains. With stories of mountain summits, riding camels, chameleon sightings, souk surfing, the rewards of manual labour and copious amounts of couscous!

Verulam School from St. Albans were a team of 19 boys, 1 girl & 2 teachers. We began our adventures by taking an early-bird flight to Morocco, North Africa which allowed us a day to relax by the hotel pool and acclimatise to the heat of Marrakesh, some 40 degrees or more! On leaving Marrakesh our team made their way across the Marrakesh plain to the High Atlas Mountains. A short acclimatisation walk there took the group to a view point where we could see the great peaks of the High Atlas, old ice and snow left from winter and the summit of Mount Toubkal, 4,167m, above sea level this was one of the teams’ objectives.

Another goal for them before the trekking phase was to help a village to build a new footpath, each student (and leaders!) took part in the community project carrying bags of, sand, stones and cutting the pathway in this remote mountain village at 2,100m. Walking up hill is hard enough in 40 degree heat let alone with loads on your back too!

The next phase of the trip was their expedition for their Gold Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. The challenge was 5 days walking and camping under remote supervision, in groups of 6, including the challenging ascent of Mt Toubkal. Mt Toubkal was successfully summited by all students even following some bouts of sickness. We all proudly stood at 4,167m above sea level, looking across to the Sahara desert. A fantastic achievement.

The final phase to the expedition was some well deserved R & R by the sea in the town of Essaouira where the students enjoyed cooling off in the pool and exploring the old town and local shops, or souks. The beach had a very unique atmosphere due to its combination of fishermen, swimmers, quad bikers, kite surfers, camels and horse riding! This is where the team enjoyed riding a camel, saw a chameleon in action and walked with an overnight camp in the dunes before heading back to Marrakesh.

Back in Marrakesh the team were once again welcomed by the overwhelming heat with temperatures of 52-54 degrees! The two days in the town allowed for further souk exploration & bartering, the enchantment of snake charmers, a little sight-seeing, relaxing respite by the pool and a final drink to celebrate a very successful expedition.

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