It was early when we left our accommodation in search of a Grand Taxi to Imlil.
Petit Taxis operate inside of the city and Grand Taxis go between cities.
We struggled to find the place where the taxis depart from, and after asking several people and meandering around, we eventually found the place where they congregate. It is just inside of the Bab Agnaou gate.
We found a Grand Taxi and agreed to pay a reasonably large amount for both of us to go immediately.
The drive started in the mad streets of Marrakesh, which was understandably stressful, as the taxi weaved in and out of the dense traffic, narrowly avoiding pedestrians, scooters and donkeys as it went.
Out on the open road to Imlil, the driving was no less terrifying, with the driver overtaking slower vehicles on the wrong side of the road, with startlingly close oncoming traffic!
It was really fascinating to be out in the plains though. We passed tiny settlements and gazed out over the vast desert. The mountains rose abruptly in the distance, truly scraping the sky. It was hard to believe that they could be as big as they are.
Eventually we reached the Atlas mountains. The roads became twistier, the landscape became a red, rocky world, peppered with small towns. We rounded corners on the wrong side of the road, including blind hairpin bends, but we didn’t even have a near miss with another car.
I watched the journey intermittently on my map app, noting interesting place names and the remaining time to our destination.
I also attempted to take photos out of the window, with limited success.
Eventually, we reached Imlil. The main town was quite busy, with a massive digger-like vehicle blocking the street in the village centre – pounding the remains of a building with a neumatic drill attachment.
We we driven up the hill towards our accommodation and dropped, with the vague instructions to follow a path down and it was “round the corner”.
We made our way down the little path, past some houses and over a bridge which crossed a dry riverbed. Presumably this river flowed strongly in the spring, after the snow in the higher mountains melted.
The path took us through some knarly trees and past an orchard. Sheep filled the road in front of us, so we passed then and climbed up a hill next to what was likely a waste water run-off.
At the top of some stairs, a woman greeted us and led us into a building that was our accommodation.
We waited for our room to be made ready and chose from two – the room we chose was the fancier of the two, with an ensuite and a double bed. The other room looked a bit dorm-like.
We later realised that we had taken a room booked by a German couple. Oops!
We were given tea and snacks by the host, Jamal, which we enjoyed as he introduced us to his family.
After tea, we asked Jamal about walks in the area and he gave us a route that would take us up to the Berber village and give us great views of the mountains and the valley below.
We thanked him and headed out. The walk was hot, but not in the stifling way that Marrakech had been. The air was fresh and clean up in the mountains.
The walk took us up a steep hill, where we were greeted by Ibrahim, a man working for a Berber coop selling local crafts. The Berber people are the original peoples of North Africa.
We browsed the crafts, feeling relaxed in this shopping environment, unlike we had in Marrakech.
The coop was a large room, filled with pottery, carpets, clothing, jewellery and other assorted trinkets.
I took a shine to the carved and polished fossils. The fossils came from the dessert and were the remains of bones and shells of ancient sea creatures, from when the dessert was a sea.
Sam and I chose some to buy and had a little go at haggling. We didn’t feel like we were very good at it, but we also didn’t feel like we had over paid for what we bought.
We had a lovely chat with Ibrahim too, who also offered us tea.
We carried on up the steep hill and met two boys who talked to us a bit and told us some words in the Berber language. They also said there was a beautiful waterfall nearby which we should visit.
We carried on our climb up to the village and eventually reached a level with a gorgeous view.
There we met Abdul, another friendly store owner, who showed us his products – demonstrating a very cool little toy – a box you slide open to reveal a little wooden snake that pops out and hits your finger. He startled Sam with it, which was hilarious.
We bought some freshly pressed orange juice from Abdul and sat for a while gazing out down the valley.
We wandered on through the village, admiring the views.
Our route took us round and over another bridge, then along a basic road back towards the place where we were staying.
We took a turn off down a rugged path that zig-zagged down a scree slope.
We saw a donkey using the path too, it’s back packed with a heavy load. The donkeys are used to transport both people and goods around various areas of Morocco and they work very hard. Occasionally we saw examples of cruelty, where a donkey was forced to go faster than it sensibly could.
We carried on down the hill and realised that the waterfall we had been told to visit was just below us. We walked along next to the narrow channels that directed the water until we reached the waterfall.
There was a bar next to it and sets of tables and chairs for people who wanted to stay for a few hours. Sam and I took photos happily. Sam also decided to wander into the water, swamping her shoes, to explore and cool her feet!
We wandered slowly back through the village to our accommodation, buying some more drinks on the way.
We wanted to eat dinner at the accommodation, but we couldn’t find the family to find out how that worked, so we explored the sunny terrace, which had amazing views and met the cow that lived behind the house.
We decided to walk into the village to find food and after a false start, found a place by accident.
We were walking through the village and were asked to look in a store. Sam replied that we were actually looking for food. The store owner then led us into a restaurant.
Sadly, there wasn’t a vegetarian option there for me, so I decided to eat the chicken tagine. The food was nice and we had a beautiful view of the mountains.
We walked back up the dark hill to our accommodation. The walk was nice and relaxing, apart from the moment where I almost walking into a giant frog-like creature, which turned out to be a Berber Toad. I tried to take a photo, but it was basically impossible as the toad, understandably, wanted to leave very quickly.
We sat in the terrace and enjoyed the view of the stars. It was such an incredible place to sit at night. Imlil’s relative peace and quiet suited us much more than the mad streets of Marrakech, and we slightly wished that we had stayed in Imlil for longer.
Eventually, we headed down to bed. I slept well, apart from getting up to have a quick cold shower at one point because I was too hot – this happened constantly in Marrakech, and although Imlil was colder, it was still pretty warm.
In the morning, we received our included breakfast. We had eggs, tasty bread, butter, jams, nuts and copious tea. It was lovely.
There was a couple there two, from Germany. They were also leaving that day so we decided to get a Grand Taxi with them.
We packed up and ventured out, making our way towards the Grand Taxi station in the village centre.
We didn’t get that far, however.
We met a taxi driver coming the other way, who offered us a taxi at a tourist rate – similar to what Sam and I had paid on the way over. We really wanted to keep costs down, so we refused as we could get a much cheaper local rate in the village.
The taxi man bartered down, but we held our ground, and in the end, he told us that he would call someone he knew who would do it at the price we wanted. Success!
We waited in the heat for a while and exchanged stories with the couple. The taxi arrived and we began our windy journey away from the peace of the mountains back to the rush of the city.
We checked back in to our hotel – a different room this time. After unpacking, we went out in search of souvenirs in the souks.
This took a long long time, because I wanted to find an anklet I had seen with little camels on, which took forever to find. Like a couple of hours.
I didn’t buy it.
It wasn’t as nice as I remembered.
Sam managed to find a few things that she wanted though and we had a good explore of everything that the souks had to offer.
We also came across a man who showed us the dyes they use for cloth. He explained the process, including showing us a very dirty little room that they work in. Some of the colours were stunningly vibrant and some of the pigments even changed colour quite drastically when water was added to them.
After our semi-successful shopping trip, we returned to the hotel for another very hot night before our journey out to Essaouira.