Not long ago I returned back from a life-changing trip to Morocco. Over the past year I had been raising money for Hope for Children, a charity that works with children in underdeveloped countries and gives them a chance for a better future. Essentially what I did in Morocco was a sponsored walk at a momentous scale - Mount Toubkal is the highest mountain in North Africa and the trek we embarked on was 6 days' long. To say there was blood, sweat and tears is an understatement! Whilst I was trekking I kept a journal and here you can find out what we got up to on each day alongside some pretty neat photos. It was an incredible experience and I would do it all over again if I could. Kilimanjaro next? We shall see... *
15th of August 20:43pm Casablanca Airport
Another year, another adventure! Can't believe this time last year I was in stunning India working with children...and now I'm in Morocco about to climb a mountain in aid of Hope for Children! We are currently waiting to transfer to Marrakech, which is where we'll begin our long and arduous journey. The trek will take us 6 days in total, that's if we actually make it up the mountain...haha, just kidding, of course we will! (I hope) I think everything will be ok but obviously I can't help feeling a bit nervous about the whole thing. Actually, at this present moment I feel pretty neutral...and hungry. We probably won't get to sleep until like 3am tonight and then we've got an early start tomorrow so I think I'm going to be pretty knackered by tomorrow evening! I'm probably sharing a tent with Beth, which should be fun and cool because we lived together all of last year; it's also nice to be with some other friends. I think there will be a lot of banter ahead... Not much else to say really but I'm sure tomorrow will be much more eventful... Rhi 16th of August 18:16pm Tacheddirt Well. Needless to say, today has been one of the longest days ever! Technically we arrived at the guesthouse this morning and didn't get to sleep until about 4am. That was only after the longest wait EVER at passport control in the airport, another ridiculously long wait to exchange currency and a winding car journey from Marrakech to Imlil. It was really cute though because when we arrived we were greeted with tea and soup - so comforting and just what I needed after hours of no food. We got up about 9, had some breakfast out on the terrace and then prepared ourselves for the trek. The views from the guesthouse were unreal! We set off at about 1 and oh my gosh, I think I've underestimated this trek. It was hard enough without my huge rucksack so I'm very glad we have porters and mules to escort our stuff and pitch the tents! I felt bad at first because I felt like we are sort of cheating but honestly, I am so knackered that I'm very grateful for them looking after us. It has been very tough but I don't know if that's because I need to adjust or if I'm just unfit as f*ck. This was actually the easiest day and because of that, I'm pretty damn scared. Some parts were better than others and the scenery is just incredible - misty mountains and valleys and little villages dotted around. I wonder what it's like to live here. It's worlds away from what I know! My day pack unfortunately doesn't have any waist straps so there's a lot of pressure on my shoulders and I think that is what is really getting to me. My legs are fine, it's just the shoulders that are really suffering. Also, Beth and I didn't have a huge lunch because our vegetarian meal ended up being cucumber, tomatoes, red onions and green pepper. Yeah, a salad wasn't exactly what I had in mind as a pre-trek munch. There's apparently 37 of us on the trek, which includes students from Exeter uni, a couple from Leeds and a random girl. I didn't realise we'd all be trekking together but I think it's nice and comforting to have a lot of people around. I'm just in the tent trying not to conk out but dinner is in less than half an hour so food is definitely an incentive to stay awake. Tomorrow is going to be very difficult indeed. We've got to get up at 4am in order to avoid the midday heat and get 7 hours worth of trekking done. I really hope I manage to get some good sleep and will have adjusted a bit by tomorrow because I'm nervous. We can go at our own pace but I don't want to be trailing behind too much!! Hopefully everything will be ok. Ooh, the thunderstorm just stopped so that's good! Gotta stay positive. Rhi
17th of August 20:50pm Azib Likemt It's been such a long day, oh my goodness. I keep thinking that it needs to be Thursday already but the day is just refusing to end. Having said that, I will defo be going to bed after writing this because we've got another early start tomorrow. We got up at 4am this morning, were trekking by 5am and got to the camp at about half 1, hence me feeling like today has been never-ending. The start wasn't too bad. It was uphill in the dark but not too steep and it was nice to watch the sun rise. It started to get super chilly and then we had a very difficult steep couple of hours; I was feeling pretty sick and was finding it hard to breathe normally, I think because we were at quite a high altitude. Getting to the top felt like such an achievement but it's going to be nothing like getting to the summit!! We had a nice long break and toilet stop...eugh, I never thought I would be pooing out in the open but I suppose there's a first (and last) time for everything. We then had to walk down the other side of the mountain, which sounds easy but was actually incredibly difficult as there were loose rocks left, right and center. We ran into some friendly mountain goats and finally ended up in a small farming area by a stream. So yeah, we are camping right next so a stream which is cute! Had a nap this afternoon. Bloody needed it.Need to close now as I am attracting bugs with this light and need to sleep! Longest day ever.
18th of August 17:59pm Amsouzert It's been another long day but I am definitely adjusting. I had a much better sleep last night - conked out pretty quickly and didn't wake up at all during the night. We left the campsite at 6am and I felt much more lively than I did yesterday, so that was great. Today's trek was about the same length of time as yesterday's one but for some reason it felt much longer. For the first couple of hours we were walking through a valley so the terrain was fairly flat, although still littered with rocks. It was nice to have a change of scenery actually. We then did about half an hour / forty minutes of intense uphill walking but it was over pretty quickly and the views from the top were simply incredible - we got to see Mount Toubkal for the first time. From where we stood the mountain looked like some ominous beast waiting for us far away and it kinda made me feel overwhelmed because I thought to myself, I'm climbing that. We scoured the mountains for what felt like ages but we;ve all developed strategies to help distract ourselves because when you're walking it does tend to get a bit boring. Plus you're constantly looking at your feet to avoid rocks so you end up essentially missing all the stunning views. Playing games, talking or listening to music helps the time pass. I had a good long chat with Beth. The worst part of today was coming down a mountain into the village we're currently staying in. Oh my goodness, the descent felt never-ending. It was super, super hot and so intense. Once you're in the zone and are walking at a good pace you don't really want to stop abruptly and drink water; it sounds bad but it's true. I'm definitely not drinking enough water so I need to make sure that from now on I'm regularly hydrated. We are staying at a guesthouse in Amsouzert but it's very basic. Stupidly, all of us got our hopes up and were convinced that we'd be able to have banging showers, poos using actual toilets, beds and Wi-Fi. No chance. No beds, no Wi-Fi, no proper toilets and the most temperamental showers I've ever used in my life. Just about managed to wash my hair and achieve some level of cleanliness but to be honest it's better than nothing. Us girls - me, Beth, Alice, Vicky, Emma, Katie and Eve - are sharing a room. I'm not sure where our other team member Hannah is sleeping but I know our team leader Matt is downstairs with some of the other boys. We've got 4 boys that are part of our team but they stick together like glue and haven't really talked to us. Can't believe we're halfway through the trek already! I feel like each day I'm getting stronger and I believe more and more than we CAN reach the summit. I mean, I knew we'd have to but it seemed so daunting before. I thought I'd take some time out to myself and write this because there's so many of us here and these days are obviously very intense. Need to make sure I take a moment to breathe. Rhi
19th of August 20:28pm Lake Ifni For the first time, the day has flown by! In fact, time is now speeding up and it's freaking me out because we're summiting the day after tomorrow! I'm really enjoying the trip even though it is tough - I think I've definitely adjusted. The thing is, now it's going to get even more difficult and I'm worried about sickness and getting used to the altitude. I'm feeling positive though and it's very true that mentality plays a bit part in actually getting something done. Today we walked from the village of Amsouzert all the way to the lake, which only took about 4 hours. It was pretty hot but we did stop for like, an hour and were given really nice bread and tea...obviously. SO MUCH BREAD. AND TEA. Everyone talking about their poo has become a normality now. Also, there's something liberating about being dirty. This afternoon was so lovely, we got to relax by the lake for ages. It actually felt like a holiday. The porters even joined in with our relaxation; they are absolutely hilarious, especially Ismail. We sat around talking for ages before dinner as well. I'm going to miss these never-ending conversations in the tents! This trek leaves me with such bittersweet feelings.
20th of August 20:23pm Toubkal Base Camp
Today was tough but we have finally made it to base camp! We got up early this morning and walked from Ifni Lake over a mountain and down again but it's so ridiculously rocky that even walking normally on a flat surface is difficult. Once the sun came up it became challenging as we were hiking up a really steep elevation, similar to what we did on the second day. However, this time I didn't have any trouble breathing - just felt really tired and my limbs were hurting. Once we reached the top we were given food and oh my goodness, never have I been more pleased to see a tuna sandwich! Base camp is cool; there's quite a few other hikers staying and there's a place to chill and use toilets. It's something similar to what you would get if you went skiing but obviously on a basic level. It's our last night in these tents which I'm happy about but I guess I'll miss the whole trekking lifestyle somewhat. Like I said yesterday, there's something liberating about being dirt and just not giving a sh*t. Beth and I were talking about how it's so chill to be disconnected from the rest of the world and society; I feel truly happy just being with friends and not having to think about normal life. Obviously I'm looking forward to going home too but it's nice to do this kind of thing once in a while. We've got some mad day tomorrow- 12 hours of trekking in total and during the whole day we will be trekking, packing up, celebrating and conking out all the way back in Imlil. We will have summited the highest mountain in North Africa. On that note, I need to sleep! Rhi
26th of August 12:30pm Somewhere in the sky What a hectic week it's been! The trip has gone so slowly but at the same time so quickly - I don't know how that's possible but seems to explain how I feel. I've never been on a trip like this one - it's been such a unique experience and I feel like I've seen and done so much and got to know some people really well and others a little more. I'm glad to be going home because I'm missing a lot of people (and also certain foods...oh, and my bed) but it's going to feel really weird not being in Morocco anymore. We got pretty used to the place and I got pretty used to just being sweaty, dirty, wearing no make-up and staying in a different place every night. The day of the summit was good, bad and everything in between. We had to get up super, super early and the ascent took us approximately 4 hours. However, the ascent was actually decent; I had my earphones in and I think walking early in the morning is best for me as the temperature is cool and you don't think, you just march. It's kinda like you're still asleep and you are just automatically going without realising it. Also, I think because all of us knew that we would soon be summiting, we were filled with adrenaline and were really driven to get to the top. It was such an amazing feeling once we reached the top. I felt relief but also I was just so joyful and really proud of myself and everyone else - it was quite emotional to be honest. We all did so well and lots of people had so many ups and downs (no pun intended!) so it was fantastic that every single person got to summit. It was incredible to see the sun rise and the light pour over the whole mountain range. I feel it's definitely one of my greatest achievements, if not the greatest. Coming down started off well because we all felt so dizzy with relief and happiness but it did take ages and my limbs were killing by the time we got back to base camp. We packed up, had lunch and chilled for a little bit before heading out for the 5 hour walk back to Imlil. That was the worst part of the day; it was humid and we were very tired and just wanted to teleport back to the guesthouse. The walk was a bit shorter than what the porters estimated so that was good. It felt amazing to have a kip on the sofa in the guesthouse. It felt even more amazing to have a shower and sleep in a real bed! I also used the Wi-Fi and oh my goodness, I've never seen so many notifications! It kinda overwhelmed me and I've decided to use social media much less now as I feel like it was somewhat liberating just being away from that environment where everyone constantly knows what everyone is doing and you mindlessly stalk people without even really caring. Anyway, that was a very chill evening but also a bit sad because we said goodbye to a lot of people that weren't going on the extension trip.
The extension trip was really cool but it certainly was not relaxing. We did a heck of a lot of driving which sounds alright but for some reason was just really tiring. We were still getting up early everyday and travelling around so it was STILL pretty draining and I think when I get home I just need to majorly rest. We saw a lot of super cool stuff but it would have been nice to have more time in Marrakech. On Monday we drove for absolutely ages but it was not fun because suddenly everyone started to get really ill and this was kinda the running theme throughout the 5 days. Like in India, I was maybe the only person to not have got ill...just got that amazing immune system innit, haha. The highlight was definitely visiting the Sahara Desert. Again, it was a long drive but totally worth it. We rode camels into the desert and then slept outside under the stars...like, how many people can say they've done that?! We had food and then our porters whipped out these drums and started singing and playing music. It was so cool. We all got to have a go and then we stayed up for hours just singing and dancing and drumming. It was an all-round very sociable night. The next day we rode back and got to watch the sunrise whilst on the camels which was magical. We saw quite a few gorges throughout the duration of the trip which was very exciting as it was just so cool being surrounded by such incredible scenery all the time. I think mountains are truly beautiful but also overwhelming, kinda like the sea, although the sea always has mood-swings and the mountains remain tall and silent. It was then very weird going to Marrakech because we had not been in a city at all and there were just so many people. It was so hectic and took a while for us to adjust but it was also at the same time a very exciting place. There are tourists, families, travellers, snake charmers, storytellers, vendors, men with monkeys...it's just crazy. I bought a few souvenirs for Mum and the girls and myself so I tried my hand at haggling which was quite fun. Some people are just so desperate though, they will literally try to sell anything. There was a man charging people to use a weighing scale, made me laugh so hard. Such an array of things being sold though. There is a lot of handmade stuff but some of the other stuff...you just kinda wonder where it all comes from and where these sellers get it from. We went out for dinner with everyone and Ismail came along also - it was really sad because we had to say goodbye to him and he's been the best host we could ever have asked for. We gave him a big tip which I think he very much appreciated. A group of us then headed out to a nearby shisha bar which had a roof terrace - so cool! Had a few cocktails and not enough sleep but it was the perfect way to end the trip. I'm going to miss all of my friends and some of the Exeter lot and who knows if I'll ever see them again? I hate that thought even though that's just the way life goes. You can spend such an intense couple of days or whatever together and then they're gone and you never see them again. Crazy. So yeah, it's defo been an unforgettable trip and I can't forget that it was all in aid of Hope for Children! That really makes me happy - to know that so many good things have come out of this trip. It was obviously so challenging but it made me realise so many things about how good my life actually is compared to the lives of many others around the world. Yes, it's definitely put a lot of things into perspective for me and for that I'm grateful. Rhi