From the wise words of a Senegalese hostel worker in Marrakech to the rural villages of the grand Atlas Mountains to the highest peak in North Africa – it was quite a weekend. Mount Toubkal, which stands at 4,167 meters (13,671 ft), is a popular destination for hikers and isn’t too far from Marrakech, the heartland of Morocco’s tourism. With seven others and two local guides, I ventured into rural Berber territory to tackle the climb.
We arrived at our hostel in Marrakech late at night. We were to be picked up at 8am the next morning by our guides to hike the first stretch of the climb, a mere 5-6 hour ascent to the refuge.
Amadou, a NGO worker and aspiring filmmaker from Senegal temporarily working in Marrakech, greeted us in the hostel lobby. Of course, tea and cookies were served.
Amadou liked to talk. He mocked Americans’ obsession with timeliness. He taught me his tips and tricks on bargaining and he stressed the emphasis his culture puts on hospitality.
“We share everything in Senegal except women,” he said.
After nearly three hours of talking I looked at my phone. It was 3:30am. I had to be up in less than four hours but I didn’t want to go to bed. Our talk was fascinating and I didn’t want it to end, but I also wanted to be able to make it up the mountain the next day, so I said goodnight and went to my room. It still took me an hour after that to fall asleep. Reflecting on our conversation was making me restless, but then I remembered something.
In response to our hesitation about the climb and the unknown guides, Amadou told us told us, “I know the company. They are very efficient.”
We laughed, dubious of his claim, and then he said, “Don’t worry. You’re in Africa.”
Amadou turned out to be right. The guides were awesome. Hamid and Brahim were knowledgeable, efficient, generous and funny to the point that I often forgot I had to wake up Saturday morning at 5am to take a quick breakfast and begin the three-hour, uphill climb to the summit.
I don’t know what I will remember most from this excursion- my new Senegalese friend; the late-night laughs playing cards at the refuge; the unhealthy amount of tea and tajine consumption; our chanting and singing along the trail; the quaint Berber villages interwoven with mules, apple orchards, and petite Berber shops; or the incredible views at the top of Mount Toubkal of the horizon extending to the rest of the snow-capped peaks of the Atlas Mountains and beyond to the Sahara. Whatever it is, the memory will surely last.
We arrived back in Marrakech around 9pm after our 10-hour hike. My knees were already sore, my hair embarrassingly disheveled and my feet in dire need of some rest. I felt like a mountain man.
When we got back to the hostel, I promptly showered, cleaned myself up and kicked back in the lobby with some tea and cookies.
“Tomorrow I go back to Rabat, back to reality,” I thought. “But don’t worry. This is Africa.”
“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.” ~ Jack Kerouac
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">My name is Brennan Weiss and I am an aspiring international news reporter from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I am a Journalism major with French and Global Studies minors at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, New York. Since spending my freshman year of university in Florence, Italy, I’ve grown to love adventure and travel. I hope my work as an international journalist allows me to navigate the world endlessly until every culture, land, and people has been met.</span></p>