4 things before you climb Jebel Toubkal

Toubkal is both beautiful and accessible. It’s the highest mountain in North Africa and the highest in any arab country and in no way an easy hike. But most people who set out seem to make it to the top. When I was there I even saw a group of friends in their sixties. They weren’t the fastest, but eventually they reached the summit. Most probably almost anyone reading this will too. But in order to make the trip as enjoyable as possible, it would be good to keep a few things in mind ahead of the ascent.

  1. Leave your backpack at the refuge. A day hike from Imlil lays a group of 3 refugees. These are basically mountain huts for hikers. They are staffed and it’s possible both to eat and sleep in them. They all have the same prices. 150 dirham for a dormitory. 250-300 (I don’t remember exactly) for dormitory plus dinner and breakfast. These places aren’t really what you would call cozy and the food is only enjoyable because you just spent six hours hiking, but the places do their jobs. There are no villages or other buildings up at that altitude (the closest village being a three hour walk or so down the mountain), so there’s no reason to complain. Make use of these places not only by having a good nights rest and perhaps something to eat but also as a storage for your bags when you climb Toubkal. To bring only a daypack with some fruits, water and sandwhiches will make the hike a lot less demanding and a lot more fun. Staff are used to people leaving their bags and do not charge extra for it. The most famous refuge is Les Mouflons, which has it’s own website here.
  2. Don’t go for the sunrise. Most people visiting Toubkal try to climb it before sunrise in order to get to enjoy the view. I’m sure that the view is very beautiful, but there are a few reasons why I would recommend people to sleep in and start the ascent after sunrise. The number one reason is that a lot of people I talked to, as I met them when they were on their way dawn and I on my way up, regretted not doing just that. Yes, it’s Morocco and it’s supposed to be warm, but really, nights at 4000 meters altitude are not. And to reach the peak by sunrise you will have to wake up by 3 o’clock or so and walk the entire way up in the dark. It’s cold, it’s dark, it’s windy. And when you reach the peak you stand there for 20 minutes, waiting for the sun to rise so that you can get back down and pull a blanket over you. I met some people who were running down back to the refugee. They had not enjoyed the ascent, they had not enjoyed the descent, and they had probably not even really enjoyed the sunrise, but they had caught some nice photos of it. Make yourself a favor and go after breakfast. You body will have rested better, making it less likely to react negatively to the altitude or the physical strain of the ascent, and you will be able to enjoy the changing sceneries as you come higher and higher up the mountain. When you reach the peak you can sit up there warm and comfortable in the sun for half an hour having lunch. Then you can head back down. Also, the risk of injury will be way lower if you walk when it’s bright. There is a lot of slippery gravel on the path and some sections are very steep.
  3. Don’t worry too much. I met a few people who had wanted to go to Toubkal just to eventually decide not to. All of this ”highest in North Africa” and ”highest in any arab country” seems to intimidate people. Truth is that most reasonably fit people who give it a go will reach the top. The only thing is that while some may not find the hike very demanding, others will have to suffer a bit to reach the peak. While some can climb the mountain spending only one night in a refuge, others will perhaps be better of spending two nights in the refuges and acclimatize properly (actually I would recommend anyone to spend two nights up there). Most people will reach the peak if they are rested enough and bring some energizing snacks. And even those who don’t will get to enjoy the landscapes. It’s not as if the area is ugly except for when seen from the peak. Worst case scenario you will still encounter better views than anything you will find in Chefchaouen (or break a leg, stumbling over a rock you didn’t see, as the sun had not yet risen and you were too tired to focus).
  4. There are other hikes. If you just want to go hiking, there are plenty of options in Morocco. Toubkal is the most famous and it offers beautiful views of the surrounding landscapes. However, if altitude and views alone is not what you long for, perhaps you should consider going for another hike. Walkopedia lists different hikes and gives useful information about hiking in Morocco. Depending on what you want to do, some places will be better or worse than Toubkal. If you want to experience local culture, live in a berber village where few tourists have ever been, be close to the peaks of the mountains and eat fabulous food, perhaps the small homestay listed on this website is the place for you. It’s very different from the typical Toubkal experience in the sense that you will not stay in a refuge but in a family home in a berber village. The area rarely sees foreign visitors and most likely you and your friends will be the only non-berbers around. The peaks aren’t as high and the landscapes not as dramatic, but the area and the host has a charm entirely it’s own.
Annonser

Atlas village homestay, Morocco

Out of the blue in Agadir, I met an amazigh called Ridouane. It was by complete chance as I just wanted to ask someone for the way to the long distance taxi station. He said that it was just a few minutes away and that he would take me in his car. Not only that, but he also told me (after getting to know that I would go only a short distance with the shared taxi) that he would take me the whole way to my destination, free of charge. On the way we continued talking and he wanted to know more about my trip in Morocco. He was curious about what I thought about the amazigh culture. I told him that actually I did not know too much about it but that I would like to get to know more. He asked me ”Why not come visit my home village for a few days?” and I took him up on his offer. We went to Taroudant and spent the night with his family in his appartment before early the next day we went together with some of his friends into the countryside north of Taroudant, high up in the Atlas mountains. It’s a beautiful little village reached only on winding roads, only a few hours hike below the peaks of the mountains. Ridouane has been working on village charity projects to develop the village. Water supply has been improved and a school for the women has been opened. It’s a very special place rarely visited by foreigners. It is practically untouched by tourism and filled with curious, friendly and very hospitable locals.

After spending four days up there with Ridouane and his friends, I asked him if it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to try to get volunteers and tourists to the village. We were at that time out gathering wild growing thyme and rosemary on the steep slopes overlooking the village and started talking about different options and ideas. Ridouane was most of all interested in getting volunteers to visit, but also thought that welcoming tourists would be a good idea, as it would be a chance for them to experience the amazigh culture and a chance for the village to get some capital to invest in things such as improving education. Right now they need to buy study desks for the women’s school.

Ridouane is now a member of workaway.info, as it will enable him to find volunteers, and I have offered to try to help out finding some tourists. As always on Anthropolodgy, 100% of the money spent stays with the locals. There are no fees of any kind involved. So even if you don’t go for the volunteering option, which would be for free, you will contribute a lot to the local community.

The different options are:

  1. Volunteer. A maximum workload of 5 hours per day, 5 days per week, with two days off. Free of charge food and accomodation. Long term volunteers preferred.
  2. Tourist. 0 hours work, 7 days per week. Private room. Meals included in the price. More suitable for short term visitors. 250 dirham/22 euro per day.

Contact us through the contact form with any reservations or questions and we will get back to you soon! And if you want to earn a few easy bucks and help Anthropolodgy out with our hosting fees, you can click here.

Independent travelling in Tibetan areas

There are Tibetan areas in China outside of the Tibet autonomous region. These can be find in Xinjiang, Gansu, Qinghai, Yunnan and Sichuan. Travelling in these areas is generally a lot easier than travelling in the Tibet autonomous region, as you don’t need any special permits or tour guides to enter them. We have a host with contacts throughout the tibetan areas. If enough interest is shown in this, the host contacts will get added to this website soon. Just let me know through the contact form if it’s worth the effort.